EVERYONE NEEDS NEW LOCKS AND DAMS

bargeSeems like I am always talking about the need for updated locks and dams.  In case you don’t believe me, look here, here, here, and here.

But I’m gonna talk about them again today.  Because they are important.  And not just for farmers!  Our country really needs to invest in infrastructure if we want to remain competitive and a world leader.  And we need to do it fast.

Without a functional waterways transportation system, you lose $81 billion dollars of merchandise AND the economic benefit of that merchandise in our state.  This includes clothes, electronics, appliances, and other stuff – vanished from your life in a big poof if the lock and dam system were to fail.

The shoes you love, the new iPhone, your favorite Kitchen Aid mixer just might have made its way to you via the Mighty Mississippi.  And you will surely be sad when you can’t replace them because of a lock failure.

You know what else we might lose?  More than 48,000 Illinois jobs are supplied by waterways and ports.  Does it sound like a good thing to lose that many jobs in Illinois?  Because it doesn’t excite me – not one little bit.

Download this fact sheet and check out more of the stuff you’ll do without if a lock fails on the Mississippi.  And then re-watch the video below of the lock literally crumbling into the river without being provoked.

This is serious.  And it feels like no one is taking it seriously.  Would you contact your Congressman today?

Posted in River Transportation | Leave a comment

ARE FARMERS RICH?

bag of moneyNot surprisingly, it’s one of our highest ranking search terms.  Apparently, tons of people want to know if farmers are rich.

And I think the answer is, no.  They are rich in all the things that matter, but are pretty middle class.  They just deal with a lot of money coming in AND a lot of money going out.  And all that money coming in looks like a lot if you don’t know the whole story.

So here it is … the whole story.  I hope you take the time to read through what sounds confusing and get to the summary at the bottom because it’s worth it!  Promise.

INPUT COSTS

In order to grow a crop, farmers must buy things like seeds, equipment, chemicals and fertilizer (surely one of you has a bag of Miracle Gro around for the garden, right?).  And there are also the costs that you don’t really think of like land, and maybe someone to help you get the crops planted or harvested in the span of a few weeks.

N-Urea fertilizerAccording to the University of Illinois, those costs – input costs – average to about $600 per acre for corn in Illinois.  And, I should clarify: the $600 includes equipment, labor, seeds, fertilizer, and chemicals.  No land.  And land is expensive.

Using last year (2013) as an example, farmers made an average of $900 per acre on their crops.  If we subtract the input cost average, we can assume that a farmer made about $300 per acre last year.  But did you know that most farmers are renting the land that they farm?

Cash rents for land in Illinois are widely variable, depending on the soil type and productivity of the land.  A farmer might pay $60 per acre to farm it or $400 an acre.  But since we’re working in averages here, we’ll say that farmers pay $250 per acre to cash rent their land.  Subtract that from the $300 per acre and this average Illinois farmer is making about $50 an acre on the farm last year.

SO HOW MUCH DID THIS FARMER BANK?

If he’s farming 1,500 acres, he made $75,000.
If he’s farming 1,000 acres, he made $50,000.
If he’s farming 500 acres, he made $25,000.

You get the idea.

But here’s the kicker: 2013 was a GREAT year for farmers.

WHAT’S A BAD YEAR LOOK LIKE?

What does all this price structure look like in a marginal year?  Well, let’s make some predictions for 2014 because although we will set a big record on overall bushels produced, prices have plummeted so farmers really won’t make any money.

Total Input Costs = $575 per acre
Total Land Costs = $250 per acre
Total Expected Income = $800 per acre
Net Expected Income = -$25 per acre

If this farmer farms 1,500 acres, he will lose $37,500.
If this farmer farms 1,000 acres, he will lose $25,000.
If this farmer farms 500 acres, he will lose $12,500.

SO ARE FARMERS RICH?

family farmer

photo credit: Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer

Are farmers rich?  I guess it depends on your definition.  Farmers work for themselves.  They avoid florescent lights and opt for sunlight.  They understand the feeling of hard work and a job well done.  Connection with the earth and all of God’s creation is a daily part of their lives.

But farmers are not wealthy.

In good years, farmers can make decent money.  And some short sighted people look at one good year and think that farmers are making a killing and have become big business.

In bad years, farmers lose big money too.  The trick is, good budgeting and saving.  And, of course, a healthy dose of faith.  Because the good years get you through the bad years and at the end of the day, you’ve committed yourself to a life with your family, in touch with the earth, doing the very thing that you love.

And there’s a lot of value in that.

mitchell_lindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

Posted in Who are Illinois Corn Farmers? | 77 Comments

FOUR FALL SMELLS FROM MY FARM LIFE

Often times the words “farm” and “smell” are negatively associated together. As a farm kid, I won’t disagree that there are certain smells on a farm that I wouldn’t put in a candle. But there are also many farm smells that I have taken for granted in my life. These smells trigger fond memories of my childhood; such as long summer days playing outside, a field of fresh cut hay, diesel exhaust from farm equipment, newly laid wood chips at county fairs, pastures with wildflowers, and especially the smells of fall. When I think of fall on the farm, I think of harvest, home cooked meals, fall festivals, and freshly turned soil. Each of these memories is associated with a distinct smell that only farm folks can recognize. (You know you’re a farm kid when you can drive past a farm and depict which livestock species it is based on its manure smell-and you take pride in it!)

Because these smells of fall are so dear to me, I will share with you my life as a farm kid in fall:

harvest sunset1. HARVEST

First and foremost, is the smell of harvest. The smell I associate with harvest is the smell of dried grains. It is a sweet and powdery smell which brings satisfaction to any farmer. This is the time of year that farmers can finally collect their crop that they’ve worked hard all year to prepare. I also think of diesel exhaust with harvest. Although this may not sound like an appealing smell, for someone who has grown up with it, it is one of those odd smells that simply reminds you of home on the farm. During harvest, many machines break out of the barn for the first time in the year. One of these is the combine. The combine is a large machine that cuts the stalk of whatever crop it is harvesting and brings it in to separate the grain from the plant. The grain is then collected on top of the combine which is transferred to the hopper when it is full, as shown above.  One of my favorite memories of farm life is riding in the little makeshift seat of a combine with a loved one on a full day of harvest.

burgoo2. HOME COOKED MEALS

I think every farm family knows the smell of a good hearty meal. The smell that hits you when you walk into a candle store is similar to the smell of a farm house kitchen. A mix of fruits, spices, meats, homemade bread, and stews are staples in the kitchen during fall. Many families take roles in harvest. Some are responsible for delivering these delicious warm meals to the other family members while they are out harvesting. One of my favorite meals that screams farm life is burgoo. Burgoo is a very hearty stew with beef, potatoes, and many other vegetables. We even have a festival for it here in Illinois!

fall festival3. FALL FESTIVALS

Small town rural America is littered with fall festivals during the months of September, October, and November. These festivals bring smells of pumpkins, apples, homemade pies, and candies. Small towns are so beautiful in fall and nothing beats the sight of a fall festival in an old barn. One of my personal favorite fall festivals is the Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive in Fulton County, Illinois. This takes place every year in the first two weeks of October. Roadside stands of pumpkins, gourds, and Indian corn pop up everywhere. Crafts and antiques are put up for sale and these small towns welcome visitors.

field4. FRESHLY TURNED SOIL

There is no way to put in words the smell of soil. A healthy soil has a very distinct smell due to the microorganisms that help bring nutrients to the crop and maintain a good soil structure. All of these are components farmers have to take in consideration when choosing farm ground. Good fertile farm ground is a prized possession in rural towns. Small towns are known for their “nosiness” in everyone’s business. But one subject that is always discussed at the local donut shop is the different types of soil other farmers own in their community. A farmer can spend hours discussing the way their soil responds to tillage, flooding, and erosion. In fall, many farmers till the ground for preparation of next year’s crop after harvest. The smell of a field of dark, rich, healthy soil is a gift that farm kids learn to appreciate early on.

I hope you enjoyed experiencing my farm life through the smells of fall and get a chance to appreciate some of these rural ways of living. I know I couldn’t picture my life any other way.

grace foster

Grace Foster
Western Illinois University Student

 

 

Photos by:
http://fc07.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2010/262/6/d/harvest_sunset_15_by_cthacker-d2z1o5r.jpg
http://www.epicurious.com/images/articlesguides/holidays/kentucky_derby/burgoo.jpg
http://05.static.wehaaserver.com/illinoistimes-com/images/art9018.11093.widea.0.jpg
http://girlsgorunning.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/dsc_0128.jpg

Posted in Food, General | 1 Comment

HARVEST IS HANGING IN THE AIR

harvest memePhoto credit: Ryan Durham

I’m passionate about the farm, but I work in the IL Corn office.  And I have to tell you, all these #ILHarvest14 photos are going to be the death of me.  Looking at them, I can just smell the harvest in the air!

If you’d like to check them out, head on over to our Facebook page and virtually experience the IL Corn harvest for yourself!

 

Posted in Field Updates, Friday Farm Photo | Leave a comment

YOU’LL BE SHOCKED TO LEARN THIS ABOUT TODAY’S FARMERS!

We’ve talked a little bit about technology on this blog (here and here), but when I stumbled across this video featuring our own Illinois Corn Marketing Board member, Paul Jeschke, I just had to share.

The stereotypical farmer is a country bumpkin with less than a high school education, making a living doing physical labor and not really needing to use his head. Nothing could be further from the truth in today’s agriculture!

Farmers today must be computer scientists, crop scientists, water quality experts, chemists, stockbrokers, economic analysts, and so much more.

This video will show you some non-farm moms from Chicago whose minds are reeling from the vast amount of technological information they are receiving this day on the farm. You will be shocked too!

Posted in Technology, Who are Illinois Corn Farmers? | Leave a comment

FIVE THINGS FARMERS DO IN SEPTEMBER

This September is going to be pretty busy month on the Taylor farm in Central Illinois.  The late summer/early fall time frame always has us hopping, trying to get ready for harvest, and I wanted to share some of the goings on around our place this month.  Enjoy!

1putting up a grain bin. WE’RE ADDING GRAIN STORAGE

The biggest event happening on our farm this September is the assembly of a grain bin.  Panel by panel, bolt by bolt, this life-size erector set is coming together under the direction of my husband, Bart.  Many friends have lent a hand and a crane has been brought on scene to aid in the awesome undertaking.  Picture, if you will, the top portion of the bin being lifted off the ground by the crane as nine guys scramble to attach the legs.  Three hours or so later, the crane is able to boom down as the legs are attached and ready to be tied-off so a passing storm doesn’t blow over the work in progress.  Many x-braces and over 2,000 tightened bolts later, it will soon be permanently attached to its concrete base and ready for years of use.

2. WE’RE DOING PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE

Not everything on the farm is brand new; in fact, with the exception of the grain bin and the auger attaching the bin to the grain dryer, all of our other equipment is used (some pieces MUCH more than others).  And, with so many moving parts on this used equipment, one might think that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  However, many hours this September will be spent trying to prevent the squeak in the first place.  Wheels will be greased, tires will be aired, belts will be tightened, oil will be changed, filters will be replaced, and the list goes on.  These actions are less costly and oh so much less stressful than an untimely breakdown.  And in order for our operation to run like a well-oiled machine, this planned maintenance is essential.

3. mowingWE’RE STILL MOWING!!

Talking about maintenance, how could I forget to mention sharpening blades?  Because of rainfall, the roadsides are going to need to be mowed again this September.  Unlike yards that have been mowed weekly or even more often this summer, our roadsides will have been mowed only three times in total.  Less about appearance and more about safety, the mowed strips will provide visibly-safe spots for farm equipment to ease over onto when meeting autos and semi drivers will be better able to gauge where to pull alongside to get loaded.

4. WE’RE STOCKING UP ON FUEL

Whether mowing, combining or transporting, it takes fuel.  So, another preparedness act in September involves filling the on-farm fuel tanks.  The equipment runs on diesel, and lots of it!  The combine, for example, holds over 200 gallons at a time, and during full blown harvest, it will need to be filled every day and a half.  So, yep, you guessed it… we see a lot of our fuel man throughout harvest, and it all begins with that initial fall fill.

5. corn truckWE’RE PROMOTING AGRICULTURE

A few of our neighbors have been able to start harvesting their crops this month.  However, it will probably be October before we begin.  And since I cannot yet pick corn, I promote it.  Several times throughout the Broom Corn Parade in Arcola on September 6th, the onlookers burst into applause as the ethanol promoting, E-85 truck rolled by.  It could have been because of the cute farmer driving it…LOL… or the fact that I was throwing candy.  However, I have to believe folks are simply tired of the expense at the pump and they are excited about a cheaper, locally grown fuel.

Well, since not every day can be a parade, it’s back to work for me… September is a busy month on the farm!

glenna taylorGlenna Taylor
Oakland, IL farmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Who are Illinois Corn Farmers? | Leave a comment

DR. OZ AT IT AGAIN: SHOULD YOU LISTEN TO HIM?

Dr OzDr. Oz is at it again, sensationalizing another “hot topic” issue to scare his viewers and ultimately get more views. You have to hand it to the man, he knows how to make his show successful. But the problem is we seem to live in a world where we all forget that his goal is to get more views, not educate his viewers using the most sound and reliable information possible. It’s the same concept as various ads created by  companies such as Chipotle that use fear and/or entertaining concepts that bash farming to accomplish their ultimate goal: To sell you burritos. Again, their goal and job here is not to present accurate information to you.

So why do we let these marketing schemes affect our opinions or understanding of something? Why has a talk show host become a more reputable source to us than the people who are out in their fields every day working with GMO crops or pesticides? Why do we use an ad for burritos as a primary source of information upon which we form our opinions? We live in a time where we have information about everything imaginable at our finger tips… but maybe it has become too much. How can we expect anyone to be able to sort through all of the bad information to find the real stuff? I wish I had the answer.

For now, the best I can do is respond to this clip from the Dr. Oz show with the best information I have. Hopefully, some of the people who have the same incorrect information will read this and decide to do more research or ask an actual farmer to get a better understanding of what’s going on here.

  1. Dr. Oz and the mother in this clip keep saying more pesticides are used on GMO crops. That is just completely false. GMO corn, for example, is naturally resistant to the most common and dangerous pests that threaten it. Therefore, farmers have no need to spray pesticides on those crops. Among other reasons, this is why GMO crops were created! To allow us to use less chemicals because the plants are naturally resistant to the pests we used to spray for! Somehow, that fact has been lost in translation between the farming world and urban consumers.
  2. At the beginning of the clip, Dr. Oz shows a graphic of weeds being sprayed and killed in corn fields and talks about the harsh chemicals that accomplish this. Actually, due to the natural “canopy” of shade created by the leaves on a stalk of corn, farmers don’t really need to spray for weeds very often. Once again, this is something that a farmer could easily tell you about, but Dr. Oz obviously hasn’t even taken 5 minutes to ask for their side of the story.
  3. The mother in the clip “discovered” that non-GMO crops are sprayed with pesticides, too. Of course they are, see point number 1. They are sprayed with pesticides MORE OFTEN than GMO crops, that’s why so many farmers choose to plant GMO crops! Less pesticides!
  4. The mother also says she decided to start buying organic so that she could avoid pesticides altogether. If she really believes that, I hope she finds this article because unfortunately she has been terribly mislead. Organic farmers can still use approved pesticides on their crops! If they didn’t, when you bit into an organic apple, you would likely find a beautiful juicy worm inside there waiting for you!

These are just a few of my thoughts after watching that clip. I find it incredibly discouraging that this mother has gone to the measures that she has based on incorrect information. I am 100% supportive of everyone making the right choice for themselves and their families at the grocery store, be it organic or not. I just wish everyone would take the time to wade through all of this “hype” caused by shows like this one to get to the best sources of information on these issues.

PLEASE keep in mind what someone’s ultimate goal is when presented with information like this! Dr. Oz sensationalized this to make it scary because THAT will hook his viewers and ultimately get him more views! Chipotle wants to make you feel like the farms they buy their food from are all sunshine and rainbows so that you will buy more burritos from them. If we could all just keep these things in mind, I think it would make a huge difference in our ability to take things with a grain of salt and wade through all of the sensationalized, fear-based stuff and find reality.

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
Membership Administrative Assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments