HOW TO BECOME A FARMER: LIVESTOCK COULD BE KEY

Periodically, I review the list of terms that bring people to our blog.  Among the front-runners, every single month, are searches of people wanting to become farmers.

“How to become farmer”
“How to start farming”
“Can I buy a farm”

I’m guessing what they eventually find is that it’s super hard to “get started” in farming.  You don’t just quit your job one day and decide that you want to be a farmer because the startup income you’d need is prohibitively large.

To start farming, a young person typically needs to begin working for a farmer and learning the ropes.  After all, there’s so much about taking for the land and animals that is intuitive and based on years and years of experience.  A first-time farmer needs a few years of experience under his or her belt AND the wisdom to listen to his farmer employer and learn from her experience as well.

But after you’ve put your time in, building a livestock barn could be the key to becoming a farmer if that’s what your heart desires.

In the pig farming industry, there are several larger companies that are often looking for “pig spaces,” or barns to house their pigs and farmers to care for those pigs.  If you are interested in starting a farm and you can get the bank to loan you the money to build a barn, you just might be able to secure a contract with a larger company to fill that barn and guarantee you enough income to get started.

That’s exactly what Chad and Julia Krogman did when they opened their first wean-to-finish pig barn earlier this month.  (Wean-to-finish means that they will take piglets into their barn as soon as they are weaned, and the pigs will grow and live there until they are harvested for meat.)

Chad and Julia grew up and rural communities and have worked on farms and in the ag industry their entire lives.  They have saved their pennies and eventually moved some pigs into an existing empty barn in their community.  Further saving meant that they were able to build their own barn.

“We enjoy raising and caring for livestock and the environment. As first-generation farmers, we see raising hogs as an opportunity to work in an agricultural realm that is very capital intensive.  We feel blessed to have the opportunity to pursue our goals in agriculture and desire to be good stewards of what we’ve been given,” said Chad.

So, if you are really interested in becoming a farmer, first find some seasonal work for a farmer and learn a few things.  Then, consider livestock.  It’s hard work that never quits, but worth it for a life you love.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

TECHNOLOGY IMPACTING AGRICULTURE: GRAIN YIELD MONITORS

The world is constantly changing. New technology is introduced daily that makes people’s lives easier. The agriculture industry specifically uses new technology in many ways. Farming technology has come a long way from the horse and steel plow to autosteer tractors. Farmers take advantage of technology to help them be successful.

One specific piece of technology that helps farmers is a grain yield monitor. {Insert picture of grain yield monitor} A grain yield monitor is a device with sensors that calculates and records the crop yield or grain yield as the combine operates. The monitor measures the harvested grain mass flow, moisture content, and speed to determine how much grain is being harvested.

A grain yield monitor can be very beneficial to a farmer. Jeff Austman, a farmer from Livingston County, shared with me his thoughts on technology in agriculture and how it has helped his farming operation succeed. “I started farming in 1993 with minimal technology.” As time progressed and new technology emerged, Austman began using a grain yield monitor. The yield monitor collects data while the combine is running and automatically sends the yield map to Austman’s iPad for him to analyze.

By looking at the yield map, Austman discovered that a pond hole was causing lower yields in one part of the field. To fix the problem, he tiled the area. “By tiling that specific area,” explained Austman, “yields increased so much that the tiling project was almost completely paid off in one year.” The grain yield monitor allowed him to find areas that brought in the highest yields but also allowed him to improve areas that were less productive.

Austman is just one the of many farmers across the United States using technology in his farming operation. Technology plays a key role in enabling farmers to farm successfully. As time goes on, more and more technology will be introduced that will allow farmers to continue improving their operations.

Laine Honneger
University of Illinois

A YEAR-LONG FARMING SERIES

A new year begins next week. Did you know farmers are already thinking and planning for the next crop year? However, they’re not the only ones. Farm family members all have a part to play in the ecosystem of their family farm. Read a series that explores the farming year from a different perspective – from the spouse of a farmer.

A Year in the Life of a Farmer:

January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November

TAKE A VIRTUAL TOUR OF A FARMING SEASON

It’s the day after Christmas and we’re already thinking about the next farming season. Want to know what goes into a farming season in just a few short minutes? Check out virtual video series on farming!

#360Corn is a series of 360-degree videos featuring our own Illinois corn farmer, Justin Durdan.  Justin lets us plant corn with him, spray for pests, fertilize those little baby corn plants, and even harvest and sell his crop – all while we can look 360 degrees around the tractor cab, the farm and even the field.

Check out the entire experience here.

ETHANOL & YOUR CAR: A PRIMER

Have you ever stopped to think about the science that goes behind the gasoline that drives your car? If you’re anything like me- gears, engines, and any sort of chemistry don’t make the slightest bit of sense. When I go to the gas station, I swipe my card to get my ‘fuel points’, then always get the gas that is the cheapest. But, I’ve never really sat and thought about what makes up gasoline. How does this make my car run?

We’ll start simple. Corn is fermented to create a gasoline mixture. This is called ethanol. Most gasoline is made of 10% ethanol, and the majority of US cars can run on this amount. But, some cars are now being produced that can run on 100% ethanol fuel, which is better for the environment and uses less energy. Ethanol is a renewable source, unlike regular gasoline.

PEMBROKE PINES, FL – NOVEMBER 15: Gas pumps with a sign indicating the gas is containing up to 10 % ethanol are seen at Victory gas station on November 15, 2013 in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Today, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal to ease an annual requirement for ethanol in gasoline. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Ethanol is also known to have high amounts of octane. Octane is the power that makes your car go. The more octane you have, the more power there is for your car to run. Higher blends of ethanol offer more octane for the same amount of money. The Department of Energy states that having higher octane fuels are required for larger engines or ones that use more force.

The oil companies obviously want you to pay the ‘big dollars’ for high-dollar ‘aromatics’, which is a petroleum-based synthetic octane enhancer. They increase the octane, but are extremely harmful to the environment and are very expensive.

But, this is why we have ethanol.

The higher the ethanol content in your gasoline, the higher the amount of octane you have. This increases the power in your car, while also helping the environment. If car manufacturer increases the engine capacity of cars to be able to handle more ethanol content in cars, this can really help our environment. We can stop unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and increase the efficiency levels in our vehicles.

This only goes to show that agriculture really does “drive” everything forward. Ethanol is cheaper than gasoline, so why not try to produce more vehicles that have the capacity to not only help the environment but help us save some money at the pump every week.

Ashley Hauptman
Illinois State University

IS SNOW BAD FOR CROPS?

With the last few years of dry springs and summers, our crops are having a hard time getting the water they need. Just like us, they need water to prosper. Winter is coming (as they say in Game of Thrones) and with this comes usually heavy amounts of snowfall. In the Midwest last winter (fall of 2016 and spring 2017) we did not receive as much snow as years past. A lot of people wonder about dry fields does snow help the future crops or hurt them. 10 inches of snow only equals 1 inch of rain, it would take a lot of snow to make an impact. Just like driving to grandmas on Christmas to celebrate, snow can have some inconveniences too. (Insert photo of snowy field)

Snowfall can really dictate how things happen not only in agriculture but in life as well. Causing snow days and late days to work for parents is a huge impact. The snowfall can really help farmers during the spring. Even though snow can cause lots of issues for people getting to work and change of plans, it has helped farmers, especially during dry summers and fall.

Usually after harvest is complete most farmers till their fields to remove reused from other crops. Tilling is when farmers use a piece of equipment to dig into the land. When driving by fields you can tell if the field is tilled if the soil looks loose and more scattered across the top. (Insert photo of tilled field) This is a common thing to do once harvest is over to remove what is left from the crops before. The farmers who do not till their crops are at an advantage in this, the snowfall is better to be absorbed into the soil. This is important when thinking of crops such as winter wheat and how they need rainfall too. This is something that increases the water for the spring that will already be in the soil to help crops.

With snowfall comes tricky times for families. When living on a farm you have trouble with keeping animals warm and food out for them at all times. When you live in an urban area you have trouble with getting your car to work and making it to the store. We all face issues with snow big or small but they do impact agriculture. An industry that is very dependent on weather is easily disrupted by heavy amounts of snowfall and it can change the next season of crops.

Alison Heard
Southern Illinois University

YOUNG PERSON IN AG: KATIE BURNS

If you see Katie she probably has a camera in hand ready to snap that great candid photo of FFA members livestock judging or giving a speech. See, that’s her passion. Telling the story of agriculture and all it entails. Connecting the producers to consumers. Her passion for agriculture started pretty much at birth, coming from an agriculture community and family. Which makes her a great Young Person in Ag.

  1. What is your ag background?

I am originally from Coulterville, Illinois in Randolph County. There, along with my family, we grew corn, soybeans, wheat, as well as registered Polled Herefords. I was able to show those Herefords at the local, state, and national level.

  1. What were some of your high school experiences/involvement in ag?

I was a 10 year 4-H member and a 4 year FFA member. I attended Sparta High School. I was an officer for both my chapter and section in FFA. I was fortunate enough to receive both my State and American FFA Degree there. I was also very involved in the Illinois Junior Hereford Association and was the 2013 Illinois Hereford queen and went on to compete for National Queen and I received 2nd runner-up in Miss Congeniality.

  1. What college did you attend and what is your major?

I first attended Lake Land College where I was on the Livestock Judging team. After LLC I went on to the University of Illinois where I was on the judging team there as well. I majored in Agriculture Science and Leadership Education.

  1. What was your involvement at the U of I?

The Livestock Judging team kept me pretty busy, but I was also on the Meat Evaluation team. I also was a part of Sigma Alpha as the Ag in the Classroom Chair, Ag Ed Club, and Hoof and Horn Club.

  1. What were some of your internships?

For the first two years of college, I went back to the family farm and worked because that was where I was needed. In between my junior and senior year, I interned for Gale Cunningham at WYXY Classic 99.1 as a farm broadcasting intern.

  1. What is your current job?

I am the Communications Specialists for the Illinois FFA Center. I wear a lot of hats with that position. Not only do I work with the Illinois Association FFA, but I also work with FFA Alumni, FFA Foundation, IACCAI, PAS, IAVAT, ILCAE, and ICAE. With that, I have learned to wear many hats. I am responsible for the communications and promotion of all those organizations.  That is anything from up keeping their websites, posting for their social media pages, and designing graphics for them. Another part of my job is for the Foundation. The Foundation helps pay for all those entities I mentioned and fund things that we do. I work with businesses in Illinois and surrounding areas to establish relationships that are then used for donations to help fund all the different leadership and CDE events that we do for FFA members.

  1. What is your dream job?

I can’t pinpoint one dream job that I want to do for the rest of my life. However, my dream is to tell the story of agriculture and the people involved in it. I was very lucky that I was born into this industry and surrounded with people in the agriculture industry. But I want to tell those stories and experiences to other people who maybe aren’t in the industry and connect them to what we are trying to accomplish.

  1. Do you have any mentors?

Growing up my parents and grandparents had a big impact on my life. They allowed me to have many opportunities like go and showing all over the nation in cattle shows. In college, I had different people who were always there with advice and encouragement. My judging coach at Lake Land, Ryan Orrick really believed in me. A small-town girl from Southern Illinois who had never given reasons before. I really credit Livestock Judging to much of my success. At the U of I, Dr. Korte and Dr. Keating were both two people who really helped me develop my leadership skills.

  1. Do you remember anything that has really changed in the agriculture industry?

There are two things that instantly come to mind whenever I hear that question. When I was little riding in the tractor with my dad and grandpa, we didn’t have GPS in the combines and tractors. The technology movement has been amazing. I am so excited to see what it will continue to do. More at home in Illinois, I think one thing that changed many farmers was the drought of 2012. It didn’t rain the entire month of July. I remember digging out ponds and our corn that year didn’t make anything. It was really a hard thing to overcome. But it is so good to see the bounce back that our industry can and has made. 

  1. You work for and advocate for FFA members every day, do you have any advice for them to become more involved or those who are thinking of going into the agriculture industry as a career?

I know it is so cliché and obvious, but get out of your comfort zone. You don’t know if you like something until you try. Take advantage of all the opportunities that are presented to you. There were many times I could have said no to an opportunity, but if I had they would not have helped me become the person I am today.

  1. What do you think sets the agriculture industry apart from other industries?

We as an industry can network and make connections, which will only make our industry better. Meeting those people at conferences and workshops and exchanging ideas is what is going to keep our industry thriving.

Lacie Butler
Lake Land College