WHEN ALL THE FARMERS RETIRE, WHO IS LEFT?

I’m quite certain that if you closed your eyes and imagined a farmer in your head, these are some of the words that would describe him.

  • farmermale
  • hard-working
  • dedicated
  • tired
  • brave
  • sweaty
  • early riser
  • trustworthy
  • old

I know, because I just did this exact activity with my son’s third grade classroom.  Those are some great adjectives, right?

(And for today, we’re going to skip over the “male” descriptor because women ARE farmers and women ARE becoming increasingly important in agriculture – but that’s not where I’m going today.)

central illinois harvest, auger, cornFor just a brief moment, I’d like to talk about the fact that most of our farmers are aging.  That farmers are retiring in huge numbers every day.  That there simply aren’t enough young farmers to take over.

That those large farms that scare you so?  Those might be a function of fewer farmers to farm, because young people aren’t coming back to the farm.  And fewer farmers means more ground per farmer.  (There’s also the economy of scale thing that’s pretty important here.)

We’ve seen more young farmers come back in recent years because farming was profitable.  Corn and soybeans have fetched a very fair price in recent years thanks to good market opportunity through biofuels and exports.  But that’s about to change.

Remember this post?  Farmers are losing money this year hand over fist.  And those young guys are going to have to buckle down this year and in the coming years if they want to make a life on the farm.

So this “farmer aging phenomena” is something that ag associations and organizations are paying attention to.  They are working to help older farmers make it easy to pass their farms on to the next generation.  They are reminding farmers when great market opportunities come up that make it easy to add a son or daughter to their family farm.

And then there’s this post.  It’s a great read and the inspiration behind my few words here.  Please go check it out.  But if you can’t, here’s the part I liked best.

“So, why do we have a shortage of young farmers? Coming from one, I think I’ve got a good perspective.

1. It’s hard. It is so hard to get started farming. It can cost millions of dollars to get started, and we have to take on a HUGE debt load and responsibility of paying the bank back. So, why would you invest millions in a high risk life style/career when you could potentially make that in a lesser high risk career in the city?

2. Rural America. There isn’t a whole lot to offer compared to a larger city as far as careers, entertainment and dining options. Now, I’m lucky. In my small town we have a movie theater where the tickets are $5/ticket and we have a gas station, a locally owned coffee shop and a Dairy Queen. – It’s a hopping place on a Saturday night, let me tell you. There’s just a lot more to do in larger towns.

3. The lifestyle. Farming isn’t an occupation. It isn’t something you clock in at 9 AM and can clock out by 5 PM. Guess what time my husband woke up this morning? 4:30 AM. Guess what time he’ll likely come in for the evening? About 6:30 or 7 PM. It is hard work.”

Getting started as a young farmer is expensive.  And there isn’t a lot to offer young people who appreciate the allure of a nice restaurant or a mall close by.  The days are long and hard and you really have to be invested in making it work because you love the lifestyle.  You won’t get rich quick and every penny you earn will have been an investment in hard physical labor and exhaustion.

Kuddos to the young farmers who are excited about farming every day and who make a choice to continue growing food for our world.

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

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

WARM CHIPOTLE MAPLE CORN & ASPARAGUS SALAD

Easter is coming up, and you are no doubt planning your menu.  Don’t forget to add the corn!!!

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Yes, you’ll hear no disagreement from your family when you add this to the Easter buffet.  But remember, the sweet corn in this recipe is wholly different from the field corn Illinois farmers are famous for growing!!

Sweet corn is bred for an increased sugar content and harvested in the summer.  Field corn is harvested in the fall and allowed to dry down, to be later ground for corn flour, fed to livestock, or used to fuel your vehicles.

To learn more about the difference between sweet corn and field corn, click here.

And make this salad THIS WEEK!

Warm Chipotle Maple Corn and Asparagus Spring Salad
makes about 4 servings

2 ears fresh corn, kernels shaved off
1 bunch asparagus, chopped into one inch strips
3/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar + 1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard (combined)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup chopped nuts, mixed (roasted salted)
optional: 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast – thickens and adds a rich savory flavor
optional: 2 Tbsp raisins

2 tsp oil for saute (I used safflower)

Directions:

1. Add oil to saute pan over high heat.
2. Add in the asparagus. Cover with lid and allow to cook for about 1-2 minutes.
3. Lift lid and add in the corn, 1/2 tsp chipotle powder, pepper and salt. Cover with lid again and shake pan to disperse steam and oil.
4. Add in the apple cider vinegar and Dijon mustard mixture. Allow to continue to cook – now uncovered until the liquid has absorbed into the veggies – or steamed off.
5. Toss the nuts in the maple syrup and remaining chipotle powder and then add them to the hot pan. If adding raisins, add them now as well. Toss with the veggies and cook for a minute or so.
6. Do a taste test and make sure the veggies are well seasoned and cooked to a tender state. Try not to over cook.
7. Remove from heat and toss with optional nutritional yeast. Plate and serve.

Read more from Kathy on her blog, Healthy. Happy. Life!

Posted in Food | 1 Comment

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO: INSTAGRAM

Capture

Have you followed us yet on instagram? @ILCorn

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OF COURSE CONSUMERS HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW …

Foods should be labeled.  Customers have a right to know what they are eating.  Yes.

But what happens when the labels customers demand don’t make purchasing decisions easier?  What happens when what you think you want actually backfires and makes everything harder?

Farmers and the food industry are not trying to hide ingredients from you.  We support your right to know information about your food.  But we also support your right to understand information about your food, for labels to make sense and be based on scientific information.  We support affordable food for all, and not drastic price increases for the folks that didn’t care about labeling to begin with.

It’s all about balance.

So IL Corn supports the Coalition for Safe, Affordable Food, a group pursuing a very common sense approach to your desire to know more about your food.

We already have a model for this: the USDA’s Certified Organic label.  What if there were also a Certified GMO Free label?  Something clearly defined and policed that would tell you exactly which foods were GMO Free so you could buy food you felt comfortable with.

And you would be the only one paying the premium for that food, not the lower income or food stamp program families that need to simply buy fruits and veggies no matter their production methods.

To us, this makes sense.  And that’s why we’re supporting the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 which sets up a Certified GMO Free label just like the Certified Organic label.  A label that actually DOES tell you something about your food and is easy to understand.

You know what else this bill does?  It prevents state by state labeling laws that make interstate commerce nearly impossible.

And it defines the term “natural” so that when you see “natural” advertised on something you’re considering buying, you can really understand what that means.

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Consumers definitely have a right to know.  And we want them to know AND UNDERSTAND what is in their food.

This is a good bill and a great effort to make food labels more clear, meaningful, and easy to understand.  IL Corn is proud to support this effort.

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

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WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT FARMING TODAY? TECHNOLOGY!

This video shares just the tiniest glimpse into the technology today’s farmers use on a daily basis. Gone are the days of farmers who knew little beyond how to put a seed in the ground and watch it grow. Today’s farmers are using massive machinery, complex computers, and mind-blowing genetics to grow crops more efficiently and with less environmental impact.

It’s amazing!

Read more at www.watchusgrow.org!

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SOMETIMES IT’S HARD TO BE A FARMER’S DAUGHTER

1. Everyone that you talk to thinks that you’ve never seen a Starbucks and you only eat what you grow.

6-13-11 grocery-storeContrary to popular belief, farmers are pretty much exactly like you.  We may not have a Starbucks on every corner, but there’s definitely one in the next town.  And we shop at Walmart, Kroger, Schnucks, or Hy-Vee just like you.

In college, I had someone ask me once if I had food flown in to our house via helicopter.

Uh, no.

2. Everyone thinks that your wardrobe consists exclusively of overalls, Carhartt, and maybe cowboy boots and skimpy dresses like they see on CMT.

overallsFact: farmers shop at the same stores that you do.  The farm women I know show up looking like a million bucks with their knee high boots and cute infinity scarves.

Farm girls DO have two complete wardrobes though.  While I have rarely seen a country girl in overalls, there’s no way she’s wearing her nice boots out in the field.  She’s got work clothes and dress clothes, but she won’t look like a country bumpkin when she heads to town.

I bet you couldn’t even pick out the farm women in a crowd in Chicago!

3. Everyone assumes you must grow a small plot of vegetables because you’re too sweet to be one of THOSE farmers.

Rain  storm soaks field of corn on an Ohio farm.Today, the socially acceptable sort of farmer to be is the small, farmers market or road side stand sort of farmer.  But I didn’t grow up on a farm like that.

I’m trustworthy, very normal, and excited to advocate for farmers.  And I’d argue that there aren’t really THESE farmers and THOSE farmers.  There are just farmers.  Some are big, some are small.  Some are conventional and some are organic.  Almost all are family owned and almost all are farmers you could feel comfortable buying from.

I did grow up on one of THOSE farms.  And I’m proud of it.

4. Everyone wants to come and visit.

11-19-12 FarmerPerhaps the best part of being a farmer’s daughter is that everyone wants to see a farm first hand and its exciting to be a part of their excitement.

There is nothing quite like a farm on a clear night.  City folks have never seen that many stars.  There is nothing so awe inspiring as the sight of all those acres of land that my dad farms and cares for every single day.  To be given the task to steward God’s land is an amazing blessing.

How exciting is it to share this with the world?

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

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

FARMERS WITH FEET ON THE HILL

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A quick visit to Washington, DC this week for these farmers, a visit that included lobbying for a national GMO labeling bill, advocating for Congress NOT to open up the Farm Bill, and asking for funding for pre engineering funds for locks and dams.

Coincidentally, we were there for Aaron Schock’s announcement that he’s resigning from Congress!

In this photo, Congressman Rodney Davis gave us a moment of his time.

Posted in Friday Farm Photo, Politics | Leave a comment