MEET AN ILLINOIS FARMER!

Thanks to our video farm tours, you can virtually meet Marty Marr, an Illinois Corn farmer from central Illinois!

Marty is a farmer whose priority is definitely his family. He farms with two of his sons full-time and loves every second with those grandkids!!

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5 WAYS TO STAY COOL: FARM EDITION

BREAKING NEWS: It’s hot. Really hot. And humid.

Today, I am so happy that I have a job where I work inside all day… air conditioning is an amazing thing! But I can remember being a kid on these hot summer days, and air conditioning wasn’t a thing that generally got used in our farm house. Heck, some of my friends’ houses didn’t even HAVE air conditioning!

*Cue gasps and looks of horror.*

So, what did we do to stay cool when mom got annoyed with us laying on the cool kitchen floor whining about being hot? We got creative:

1. No swimming pool? No problem.
water tank
2.Homemade ice cream! If you’ve never done it, there is a lot of stirring and/or shaking involved… which is less than ideal in the heat. But when it’s done, the cool treat is so rewarding!
ice cream maker
3. I don’t mean to suggest that farmers aren’t fashionistas… but we would wear handkerchiefs around our necks for function, not fashion. Soak one of those babies in cold water before you tie it on to keep you cool!
hankerchief
4. 4-H kids spend days on end at the county fairs with their livestock (yes, without air conditioning). We would hang those big fans up to make sure our cattle stayed cool… but we could get in the stall with the cows use them, too!
cattle fans
5. If all else fails, there is nothing like a homemade slip ‘n slide.
slip n slide

Stay cool out there, everyone!

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
Membership Administrative Assistant

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ALS ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE

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MY FAVORITE PHOTOS FROM THE IL CORN FILES

In one month, I will celebrate seven years working for Illinois corn farmers at IL Corn. I have loved almost every single day.

And since today seemed like a day for nostalgia, here are some of my favorite photos from the IL Corn archives. I hope they tell a good story about what we’re passionate about and how much fun we have advocating for corn farmers in our state.

boxing 042My favorite photo from 2008 – Art Bunting (our then President) getting “beaten up by the media.”  This was a photo from a series of ads we did for a “Food vs. Fuel” campaign to help farmers understand that we felt their pain and we could all join together to do something about it.  It was one of my first big photo shoots, and it was a complete blast – Mr. Bunting is such a good sport!

corn cribIn 2009, IL Corn signed a partnership agreement with the Normal CornBelters and we named their stadium the Corn Crib!  For the press conference, I took photos of a bunch of corn cribs around the county and displayed them so the media could see the real life namesake for the new ball stadium.  This was one of my favorite photos … it’s also hanging in our board room!

Tim LenzTim Lenz was the President in 2010 and I loved this guy!  We did a quick photo shoot at his farm and this photo ended up being one of my favorites that I’ve ever taken.  Such a great guy, such a great background, such a great photo.

Jim reed NASCARThis photo just makes me smile.  Taken at NASCAR in 2011, I think it shows just how much fun we all have together.  Our President and Vice at the time, Jim Reed and Paul Taylor are obviously enjoying a wise crack and we captured the moment for posterity.  You really just don’t get better guys than these farmers!

combineHow many of us remember this exact image from our childhood?  Ok, so the people have changed and the combines are bigger, but this photo takes me straight back to being a little girl, waiting on the roadside for my turn to ride the combine.  It’s a great photo of John Shore and his son as they discuss their harvest plans.  Love this one from 2012.

cornbeltersI’ve gotta include my kids in at least one photo, right?  This is my son and his buddy, and I love the photo for just those two.  But I also love the signage in the background and I think it speaks to what I do a lot of here at IL Corn – I hope to help people learn more about farming and agriculture as they go about the course of their daily lives.  If at least one person read that sign, I’ve succeeded, right?

Do you have a pile of favorite photos that tell a story about agriculture?  Share them with us on Facebook!

mitchell_lindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

 

 

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SIX WAYS YOUR SMART PHONE IS LIKE ETHANOL

Everybody knows oil is finite and dirty, and we can agree it served a purpose. Funny thing is, gasoline has been around about as long as the telephone. Like the land line, it’s 1800’s technology. What about renewable fuels? If you want to dial in what “advanced” looks like, reach into your pocket or purse and grab your smart phone. Think how far that thing you still call a “phone” has come and you’ll understand how fast biorefining is moving, too.

1. IT REPLACES DINOSAURS.

When did the first iPhone hit the market? 2007. That’s basically yesterday. On the other hand, it’s ancient history. Does anyone remember what smartphones replaced? “Dumb” phones that just made calls. Can anyone imagine going back to that telephonic Stone Age? Not by a mile. It’s funny how fast that happened, but today that old technology is only fit for a museum.

Same thing with fossil fuels. In the case of ethanol, it literally replaces dinosaurs — petroleum trapped deep underground for some 65 million years.old cell phone

Renewable liquid fuel at large scale? Like the smart phone, it could only happen in the 21st Century. That’s where we are now.

And right around 2007, the technology went nuts. Modern ethanol production is now a marvel of science and engineering that’s basically made old fermentation techniques obsolete. And that’s hastening gasoline’s march to the history museum.

2. LEAPS IN EFFICIENCY EVEN SINCE THE DEBUT OF “MAD MEN.”

As comedian Louis C.K. has said about life in the modern era, “Things are amazing!” Case in point: smart phones and ethanol. The two haven’t improved in a vacuum. Textiles for athletic wear, computer chips, non-invasive surgery, airplane wing design, hard drives, batteries, coffee makers, the Internet of Things — every technology around us is advancing at breakneck speed.

And we love it.

In a few short years, technologies have pretty much become smaller, lighter, stronger, recyclable, less carbon intensive and more productive. Same thing for crop and ethanol production. Each has armies of engineers, biologists and biochemists racing to improve them day in day out. In fact, the common denominator between our smart phones and ethanol is what we all expect from technology: more performance, fewer inputs, smaller package.ear buds

Improvements in the ethanol track almost exactly with the advancement and proliferation of smart phones, which debuted the same year as “Mad Men:” 2007. That’s also the same year the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) went into effect.

In a handful of years, water use in ethanol plants has evaporated by half to 2.7 gallons of H2O for every gallon of clean fuel; BTU’s of energy to produce a gallon of ethanol have dropped by 36 percent; and every unit of energy used to make ethanol results in 2.3 units of net energy.

Gasoline is a much different story. One gallon of gas takes 97 gallons of water to produce and delivers less net energy than it takes to make it.

Meanwhile, farmers are sustainably producing more bushels of grain than ever thought possible, using 8 percent less land and 29 percent less fertilizer since the first hand held cell phones hit the market.

No surprise: things are amazing. We’re right in the middle of one of the most explosive leaps in technology advancement in perhaps all of human history. And we’re not even close to being done.

3. IT DOES MORE THAN ONE THING.

That little rectangle in your pocket has a camera, music player, apps, the Internet, social media, games and almost anything you can dream up. It can reserve a table at a restaurant for you or tell a car-for-hire to come pick you.

Oh yeah, it makes phones calls too.

How many tricks can ethanol do? Well it displaces gasoline and petroleum — to the tune of 3.5 Bakken Oil Fields each year. That’s right, Americans get more fuel from crops than they get from the Bakken oil boom.

Yes, it cuts tailpipe pollution — eliminating 38 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2013 alone, the equivalent of 8 million vehicles. If you went to Florida and made everyone park their car or truck and walk away forever, well that’s ethanol.

But maybe you didn’t know ethanol also delivers food to your kitchen. You didn’t, did you? Here’s the thing: you don’t need an entire kernel of corn to make ethanol. You just need the starch.

Corn protein, which is about one third of the kernel, stays in the food chain in the form of high quality livestock feed called “distillers grains.” As a feed it’s actually superior to straight corn because it’s concentrated protein, which is healthier for cattle, poultry and hogs.

The distillers grain that the U.S. ethanol industry produces is basically the fourth largest source of corn in the world — meaning that ethanol plants deliver the equivalent of more corn to the food industry than any country except the U.S., Brazil and China.

Hashtag multi-talented.

4. IT USES LESS ENERGY TO DELIVER MORE POWER.

Another term for “ball and chain?” Phone charger. Battery life has been the biggest bugaboo to smart phone performance.

Only recently have manufacturers been able to improve electron-sipping hardware and combine it with batteries that have the endurance of a triathlete.

Welcome to the club, smart phones. 
usb plugs

Ethanol biorefining has made steady, even radical leaps in efficiency over the last several years. Today’s ethanol is significantly “net energy” positive. That means it delivers more BTUs of energy than it takes to produce. It takes 24,000 BTUs of energy from a variety of sources to make a gallon of ethanol. Each gallon of ethanol delivers 77,000 BTUs of energy.

Farmers are doing more with less too. In 2013 they produced nearly 160 bushels of corn per acre of land, twice as much corn per acre of land than when the first hand held phones were introduced in the 1980s.

Some critics cling to production data from the Stone Age, when the industry was basically Ethanol 1.0, to judge the energy performance of the fuel. You wouldn’t do that with smart phones. Why do it with biorefining?

But while we’re at it, why not compare the efficiency of ethanol production with that of petroleum refining? If you did, you’d discover something crazy. According to the Argonne National Laboratory, it actually takes more energy to make gasoline than you get from it: to get 1 BTU of energy form gas, you need to spend 1.23 to produce it.

5. IT SPARKED INNOVATIONS NO ONE SAW COMING.

Watch video in the palm of your hand pretty much anywhere you go. Instantly share a photo, spreadsheet or a PDF. And never mind Uber or Instagram.

Go back less than 10 years and there’s no way you could have predicted what smart phones can do. Alexander Graham Bell would fall over in disbelief.

The modern ethanol industry would do the same to Johnnie Walker. People have been distilling ethanol — spirits — for centuries. But the refinement of the industry in the last decade has touched off a revolution in biotechnology, engineering and community building. Those inventions, especially in the world of biotechnology, have opened up entirely new industries that just didn’t exist at the start of the millennium: enzymatic hydrolysis, corn fractionation, drought resistant seed technology, fermentation technology. And the best part? These are all breakthroughs in sustainable technology that take us closer and closer to a post-petroleum future.

Perhaps the most striking innovations come from agriculture. Since 2007 – thanks to the technology revolution known as “Precision Farming” and to breakthroughs in seed technology – farmers have been able to reap an additional 20 bushels of corn per acre while simultaneously reducing inputs like fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides. The combination of information technology, biotechnology and implement engineering has boosted production.

6. IT BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER.

Connectivity. Social media. The “share” button.

You already know how smartphones bridge every conceivable divide to bring together far-flung friends and family — not to mention people who have never met but share common interests. It’s a miracle of digital media that took less than a decade to permanently reshape human society. Arab Spring, anyone?

You know what, ethanol unites people too. Most people outside the industry don’t realize how ethanol has not only brought neighbors together, but actually rescued entire communities.

That’s because the industry was built by ordinary people in small towns who banded together in the aftermath of an economic catastrophe: the “Farm Crisis” of the 1980s.

Ethanol began in the late 1990s as a kind of economic emergency response. But it didn’t come from a huge corporation, and it didn’t start with the government either. It began with thousands of regular people investing their own money to build the majority of the 200-some ethanol plants scattered across the U.S. They tied their fortunes to each other in a way that had never been done before.

That’s why we call this clean fuel “Power by People.”

Revenues from ethanol plants stayed in the communities where those investors lived and where the crops were produced. They helped revitalize countless dying communities, re-populate schools, and in the process established a durable, sustainable new industry. The success permanently tied these people together. In this way, ethanol is a very special and powerful kind of social medium. And that’s worth sharing.

Thanks to American Coalition for Ethanol for this blog post!

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ADOPT A CLASSROOM – AND FORGET THE PENGUINS!

Penguin2Ask anyone that knows me……I have a problem with penguins. Really. I do. I guess they are cute and all, but I am greatly disturbed that many elementary students know more about penguins than the agriculture and natural resources around them! Think about it. Walk into any elementary school, and at some point this year you’ll find penguins. There is no penguin conspiracy group out there looking to promote penguins. Instead, the cuteness factor has been used to help discuss the concept of mammals in a different location. But what about the stuff that really matters, like where our food and fiber comes from?

This is where Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom can help! We can assist in this effort. Leonardo da Vinci said nearly 500 years ago, “we know more about the movement of celestial bodies than the soil underfoot.” There is a world of wonder waiting just outside the doorsteps of every school in the state! Why not harness that wonder to teach students about agriculture? With the continued focus on food security, as well as locally grown foods and knowing your farmer, we have an opportunity to strike while the iron is hot!

The continued efforts of the Illinois Farm Family program is a great step. At Ag in the Classroom, we offer a program that is similar, but involves the students! Our Adopt-A-Classroom program matches farmer writers with students. The farmers and students exchange letters several times a year. It can be as often (monthly!) or as little (we encourage quarterly at a minimum) as the farmer and the classroom want. Here is your chance to be that one-on-one spokesperson with a group of students, teachers and parents that are curious about what happens on the farm!

We are currently seeking volunteer farmer writers to act as pen pals to classrooms of students in the Chicagoland area. From harvesting to planting, discussing simple machines that make the complex machine for each process, the importance of reading, interpreting data, multitasking, using practical applications in math, computer tech work, mechanical work, sales projections, cost analysis, and understanding the science behind when you market a project—those are some of the topics students are interested in. The students and teachers want to know more about agriculture. Who better to share this information with them than the farmers themselves?! You can help teachers spark that creative wonder in each student. An easy beginning letter is to have students go home and read the labels on the foods they eat. Tell them to find 5 items that contain corn (starch or syrup) and 5 that contain soybeans (oil or meal) and have them write back to you about what they found.

The world of Illinois agriculture provides just as much ‘wonder’ as the penguins! What our Adopt-A-Classroom program lacks in the cuteness factor of penguins, it makes up for in the quality of friendship and knowledge that every farmer can pass on to a group of students.

Are you up for the challenge? Can you express your passion for agriculture, your livelihood, to the next generation of consumers? We’re looking for a few good men, women, families or groups (could be 4-H clubs or FFA chapters!) to ‘adopt a classroom.’ Those classrooms will be adopting a farmer.

The more folks we provide with accurate and authentic information about agriculture, the more knowledgeable and informed consumers there will be. We have the opportunity to showcase the wide and varied world of agriculture, and show students how interesting it is…..just as interesting as penguins or celestial bodies. Most importantly, we can show them how it happens right here in Illinois!

If you’d like more information about the Illinois Ag in the Classroom Adopt-A-Classroom program check out http://www.agintheclassroom.org/TeacherResources/adoptaclassroom.shtml.

Daughtery_Kevin 2x2 10

Kevin Daugherty is the Education Director for the Illinois Ag in the Classroom program….and really, don’t get him started on penguins in schools!

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ILLINOIS LOCKS AND DAMS ARE FALLING APART WHEN TOUCHED! OUCH!

Congressional Staff TourHere’s where some of our staff were this week – showing staffers of the Illinois Congressional Delegation how our locks and dams are literally falling apart to the touch!  Hopefully this will help Congress understand why we desperately need funding to finally fix this issue!!

 

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