While I’ll apologize up front for less meaty content on our blog the past couple weeks, I’ll also offer you that we’ve all been in meetings, at the state fair, and now in our Illinois Corn Marketing Board and Illinois Corn Growers Association Board meetings just drumming up fabulous content and thought provoking concepts for you to mull over in the coming weeks.
During our board meeting today, Senate Candidate and current US Congressman Mark Kirk addressed both boards with your standard campaign speech and then opened the floor for questions. During that portion, one board member asked that all the family farmers in the room raise their hand. Of course, the view for those 5 seconds was all hands.
This perception that the majority of farms are owned my corporations like Monsanto, Pioneer or ADM is one of the things the Corn Farmers Coaltion is trying to change. There’s this ad that we’ve had in DC metro stations, at Reagan National Airport, and in Washington, DC publications like Congressional Quarterly and Politco …
But there’s also a need to create awareness in the homes of farmers throughout IL that this really is a problem. So there’s also this ad that was published in FARMWEEK on Monday, August 23 and will appear in AgriNews on Thursday, August 26.
This is our effort to let Illinois farmers know that this is a real problem – a HUGE problem – and that we are trying to fix it. After all, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board was one of the first funders of this effort and is still one of the largest funders in the coalition.
We’ve made more than 100 million positive impressions (to clarify the marketing lingo, an impression is one viewing. So these ads have been seen 100 million times, maybe sometimes by the same people, but rarely does one viewing actually hit home anyway.) with our legislators, thought leaders, and others in the DC area and now we’re bringing these ads back to IL to put a face on Illinois corn farmers.
Remember this? These Corn Farmers Coalition ads are now all over the Normal, IL Corn Crib, teaching people the truth about the agriculture all around them and introducing them to the family farmers that feed them everyday.
Check out the Corn Farmers Coalition website to learn more about what we’re doing to set the record straight about corn farmers and US agriculture. I’m confident that you won’t be sorry that you did.
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director
Kristie: My county fair was the McLean County fair, the biggest 4-H fair in the country, and I was a member of the Blue Ribbon Kids 4-H group from Colfax. Although I grew up on a farm, I never showed any animals at the fair. All of my friends had cattle, swine, goats, or chickens, but the biggest animal that I ever showed was my cat Buttercup, who was not the most cooperative of all animals.
Kristie: My 4-H experience was much different from my friends’, but I would never say that I missed out on anything. I learned many different skills that I continue to use today, and 4-H allowed me to try out as many skills and ideas that I wanted so that I could figure out which things I was good at and what I liked the most. If it weren’t for 4-H, I wouldn’t have been able to make the decorative throw pillows and oil paintings for my new apartment, I never would have found my passion for cooking or learned how to wire a trouble light or turn a wood lathe, and my stressed out cat probably wouldn’t have lost as many years off of his life.
Kelsey: I can imagine that showing a cat is considerably harder than showing a cow. You have my sympathies.
Kristie: Thanks, but I don’t envy you walking around the fairgrounds in heels.
Kelsey: Still, 4-H is such a valuable program because it has something to offer every kid in every walk of life. Like Kristie said, these are experiences you always remember, family memories that you would never want to forget, and life skills that you take with you when you grow up.
Kristie: The fair is the culmination of all those activities. When you bring your hard work from the fields or the sewing machine and have it evaluated, you feel a sense of accomplishment, but you also learn to appreciate constructive criticism.
Kelsey: So from two farmer’s daughters that spent the afternoon at the fair yesterday and can’t wait to get back, get involved in 4-H and participate in your county fair. You’ll never be sorry that you did.
ICGA/ICMB Summer Intern
Illinois State University student
We’re finding all kinds of ways to share information about corn and the family farmers that grow it at The Corn Crib, professional baseball’s newest ballpark. The Corn Crib is home to the Normal CornBelters. If you visit you’ll see messages like this one, reminding non-farmers that their friends and neighbors are the family farmers producing Illinois’ highest valued crop. If you sit through a game, you’ll hear conversations about corn and farmers happening between people that otherwise never would have talked about corn. Spontaneous shouts of “Let’s Go Corn!” echo through the stands, and Corny, the CornBelters mascot, is high-fived wherever he goes. It’s opportunities like this that can make a huge difference as more and more challenges to agriculture are being promulgated by detractors.
I heard it again just yesterday … the general manager of a local hotel told me that he prefers smaller 600-700 acre farms over larger farms of several thousand acres. He couldn’t tell me why, just that he liked the idea of a small farm over a large one.
We chatted about it and I tried hard to listen to his concerns – something that farmers don’t do enough of, and I admit, was difficult for me. The problem is that I didn’t walk away from the conversation understanding exactly why he preferred smaller farms. Either I did a horrible job at listening or he really wasn’t sure himself.
Because of that recent conversation, this video really hit home for me this morning. Enjoy … and share!
Throughout time we have seen struggles in American Agriculture. Every segment of the American Agriculture Industry has its distinct issues. From animal rights groups to the use of genetic engineering to develop better hyrbrids, agriculture is always under scrutiny. However, a more significant and prevalent challenge exists.
When I served as the Illinois State FFA President I was always asked the question, “What is the most important issue in agriculture?” Working for the Illinois Beef Association this summer, I realize the answer is still the same: Awareness and knowledge of agriculture in the American public. As more and more people become removed from where their food supply comes from, the basic understanding of our industry slowly diminishes.
We are all in this struggle together. From the landscaper in the Chicago suburbs, the central Illinois Corn Farmer, the Beef Producer in western Illinois and the southern pork producer, we must unite together to advocate our industry and EDUCATE the public. These people are more than our customers; they are our friends, neighbors, employers and fellow human beings. Cooperation and action will be the solution to this struggle, and will ensure the future of American Agriculture for generations to come!
Illinois Beef Association Summer Intern
Former FFA State President
(Follow me on IBA’s FACEBOOK page!)
On Friday, June 26, the Illinois Corn Growers Association hosted their annual golf outing at Fairlakes Golf Course in Secor to show appreciation to their many partners.
This event is a time to relax and recognize the time that all of us spend on behalf of farmers in Illinois throughout the year. County corn grower organizations, members of agribusiness, and others in the industry are invited to bring a team and join us for a leisurely afternoon.
If you’d like to see some of the fun that participants enjoyed this year, check out our clip below!
Recent research and focus groups tell us that the average Joe on the street in Illinois believes that more than half of his food is grown by corporations. Of course, that prompted Illinois Corn and other state corn associations to come up with messaging like this that focuses on the fact of this matter:
Still, this doesn’t prevent critics from simply not believing what is true.
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley
This weekend, while at a graduation party in a friend’s garage, I had an interesting conversation about corn. It’s the sort of conversation that I know is happening all over our state, at graduation parties and little league games and the local watering hole. The highly educated, extremely intelligent man that I was chatting with, someone that I look up to and listen to, doesn’t really like corn all that much.
He doesn’t like corn-based ethanol because he believes we’re taking food out of people’s mouths to make it. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. He didn’t believe me when I said that 95% of all corn farms in America are family owned.
His own experience has taught him otherwise. He works for a university who has increasing interest in agriculture because more and more of their endowments are coming via crop land. He sees the farms owned by the University and wrongfully assumes that corporate owned farms are the new face of agriculture.
To him and to anyone else that questions the family farm facts Illinois Corn provides, I say this: even the farms owned by the University are farmed, operated, and managed by family farmers.
Let me make this more clear. The University owns the farm, but they rent it to a family farmer who makes a payment for use of the land and then tries to make a living growing a crop on it. The University doesn’t decide to put more or less chemicals on the ground regardless of environmental impact. The University isn’t dictating tillage methodology that would cause increasing soil erosion. The University isn’t asking that only GMO seed be used on this land to increase profits. The University is only interested in receiving the rent and the farmer is making every decision to raise the best crop he can, to conserve the natural resources that will allow him to raise a crop next year and the next on that land, without corporate oversight.
To say that the University was managing that land poorly with only profit in mind would be similar to saying that the landlord that owns your apartment is managing your household and telling you what groceries to buy or what cleaners to use.
My point? Even land that is not owned by a family farmer, like University endowment land, is still FARMED AND MANAGED by a family farmer. And the family farmers that rent this sort of land are still living nearby, drinking the water and raising their families off that land. They are good stewards of land that they farm, even if it doesn’t belong to them.
Family farms are the face of corn production in America. They are trustworthy men and women who do their very best every day to provide food and fuel for our country in a sustainable manner.