Last week, we held a spring preparation photo contest on Instagram using the hashtag #ilcplantprep.  There were a lot of great entries, and after tallying up the votes this was the winning photo:


Congratulations to Mary Beth Burtle!   She entered the contest in honor of her 87 year old Grandfather, Robert J. Burtle. He is pictured on his newly restored Oliver tractor. This was the first NEW tractor he and his father purchased together when he started farming.

We love seeing all your photos and now we are bringing the contest to Facebook!  Email your spring prep photos to ilcorn@ilcorn.org or post to Facebook and tag us @IL Corn AND use the hashtag #ilcplantprep by this Friday, April 11 and you could win a great prize just like Mary Beth!


We all know today is Tax Day, but did you also know it’s National Take a Wild Guess Day?  If you’re a fan of hunches, speculation, conjecture, or even good old-fashioned gut feelings, you’re in for a real treat!  See if you can guess what these photos are of… hint, they all are things you would see around a farm!  Leave a comment with your wild guess and check back later for the answers… good luck!

Take a Wild Guess Collage

And the answers are….

Take a Wild Guess Answers

A – Tooth from a hay rake

B – Door latch on livestock trailer

C – Tooth on bucket of back hoe

D – Gate Stop – This may have been a trick question as I have never seen one anywhere other than my dad’s farm.  It’s a homemade tool we use to keep gates open. 



In November, American’s focus on thankfulness: for their country, their blessings, and their families.  At Corn Corps, we’re going to focus on being thankful for our FARM families and the laughs and lessons they provide. 

I was raised on a farm and very much value what I had while growing up in the sticks.  For this post, I was going to share some of my cherished memories but decided to instead focus on what my Dad and his siblings learned and the antics they were up to!

My dad, Bob, grew up on a livestock farm in McLean, Illinois, with his four younger siblings, Susan, Marcia, and twins Jack & Jill.  With my grandparents, Carl and Dorothy, they raised beef cattle, hogs, chickens, and sheep and grew corn, soybeans, and alfalfa.  I can never get enough of hearing the stories they have to share, here are a few:

When I sit and think about my favorite memories, it occurs to me that most of them involve animals… and me being ornery.  One specific incident with skunks comes to mind.  I was mowing hay with a sickle mower and the tractor I was using didn’t have a good seat so we fashioned up a wadded up gunny sack for a cushion.  With every pass I made, I could see a momma skunk with her babies hanging out on one end of the field.  As it was getting close to noon, I started to drive the tractor home for dinner, I decided that those babies would make some pretty good pets, so I stopped and picked up two of them and put them in the gunny sack.  When I got home, Mom was standing on the sidewalk.  I walked right up to her with a big smile on my face holding the sack of skunks and said, “Guess what I got!?”  She could smell them before I even got half-way up the walk and was none too happy about it.  I put them in a rabbit cage, but the next morning they had escaped.  I’m guessing they might have had a little help.

We had one ram that was really mean, I mean downright MEAN.  One time I was out feeding the sheep and the ram started to chase me, I jumped up on a rack of wood and was stuck, he wouldn’t let me down.  After a while, I started throwing 2×4’s at him to get him to leave and he just deflected them with his head.  I remember being up there for a long time before getting down, but I can’t remember how exactly I was finally able to.

When I was in grade school we had a really gentle Angus bull.  He wasn’t bottle-raised but you wouldn’t have known it, he acted more like a pet than a bull.  Whenever we moved the cows I would just jump up on his back and ride him!

There are so many great memories it’s hard to just pick a few, but I do vividly remember Jack holding my hand while he held on to the electric fence, that was a real hoot!  I also remember having to bottle feed a calf that we named Bobby.  This was during the time Bob was in Vietnam, thus his namesake!

A simple but favorite memory was playing in the haymow with new kittens.  I loved my time doing that!  Living in the country we didn’t have close neighbors, but I did like to ride my bike up to my friend’s house which was on the other end of the country block.

A very important lesson learned was to never go near an electric fence with Bob… I can remember him sticking my foot on the electric fence when we were with our Dad out checking the fences.

Some of the days spent working were also some of the most fun, we spent many hours riding on the hayrack wagon stacking hay as we baled and then sending them up in the barn and stacking them yet again.  While this doesn’t sound like much ‘fun’, we also played up in the barn a lot.  We had ropes tied to the beams and would swing across from one bale pile to another.

I remember all of our 4-H projects.  From planting flowers in the garden, in fact, they were marigolds and I planted them in the design of 4-H, to our cattle for show.  Bob always had the one with the curly hair and mine was always straight.   I tried to make waves on mine with the curry comb.  We fed them their feed mixed with STICKY molasses.  And I, of course, can’t forget breaking them to lead.   Sometimes I didn’t know whether the cattle or the tractor was going to win.

Mom would always have fried chicken for us on Sunday Dinners.  I remember my Dad wringing their necks and they would be running around the barn lot, then Mom would clean them down in the basement in boiling water.  Once the feet were cut off, I would take them and stand them on the counter so I could paint their toenails.  The stinky chicken feathers were not very appetizing, but when the chicken was done it was always good!

From playing in the hay mow to electric shocks, I think it’s pretty awesome that I have a lot of the same memories as the generation before me on the exact same piece of ground.  And for that, I am thankful.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant


Photography is a big part of my life…I don’t know everything but I know some of the key points that I feel are necessary in taking a good photograph.  And for Photographer Appreciation Month, I’d love to share a few pointers that can make you a better photographer.   Check back every Tuesday this month to learn something new!

Are you wondering how to take a better picture? Well this week’s topic is a simple one that will help improve your photos tremendously.

Find clean backgrounds!

wind energy sky corn field farm farmer alternative clean Have you ever noticed a picture of a person with a telephone pole or a tree sticking out of the back of their head? Doesn’t look right does it? If you want to use a tree in the background of your picture just make sure that you place it correctly.

This simple step of having a clean background will take the most average picture and make it an awesome shot. You want to be able to see the bigger picture past what your subject is.

You might be wondering what a clean background is exactly? They are solid colors, generally without distracting power lines or anything that will draw the viewers’ eye away from what you’re shooting. You may have to place your camera at higher or lower level to achieve a clean photo background. Sometimes I stand on chairs or even lay on my belly to get a good shot, (you might look silly but at least you get a nice photo!) By getting at a lower level, you’ll make the background the sky which is more often than not clean. By raising the camera up, you’ll get clean backgrounds such as the ground.

When taking a picture, think of it as in terms of layers. You’ll have your foreground which is closest to the bottom, the middle area is the subject, background is behind the subject, and infinity is what is behind the background.

Photography is a lot of trial and error, so don’t get discouraged! A lot of times you have to play with your layers and see what works and what doesn’t. Always keep your eyes open for a better position to give you a cleaner photo. Sometimes you do want a busy photo, but always look for those clean backgrounds and it will make your photos much more appealing.

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK:  Give this tip a try. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles in search of the clean background.

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Intern

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student


Tim Lenz and beef herd

The Illinois Corn Growers Association immediate past President, Tim Lenz, manages a beef herd in what we’d call a “conventional” way.  These cows eat grass and corn, among other things I’m sure, before they reach market weight and head off to become hamburger.

These cows do not produce organic beef – and its a good thing.  Organic products haven’t been fairing real well in terms of safety lately.  Read more about that in this LA Times article.

The point?  American’s need a little more realism in their purchasing life.  Conventional food and organic food might have their differences, but safety isn’t one of them.