Bringing agriculture into the classroom is a great idea to cultivate an assortment of topics and subjects into a theme around the school year. Agriculture and science coincide with each other, but agriculture is often overlooked in science. One unit about agriculture can crack abstract topics in chemistry, microbiology, biology, and environmental science. Here is a list of great ideas to utilize in your next science lesson:

Growing Seeds in a Jar Seed-Germination-Activity1

This experiment is easy, cost effective, and fun; a younger crowd would enjoy this compared to high school students. All you need are glass jars, seeds, and wet paper towels. Have the students wet the paper towels, put the towels in the glass jar, place the seeds inside the jar, and wait a few days to see germination! You can use this experiment for a biology lesson that talks about photosynthesis or the plant life cycle! Also, this experiment is a great segue into talking about how plants provide us resources we need to survive such as food and clothes.

Incubation and Embryonic Growth

baby chickThis experiment is a bit more common than #1; I remember doing this project in 5th grade; it’s one of the things I can remember from long ago. With this, it’s simple: nurturing eggs into chicks allows students to visualize life and to learn the importance for our lives. Chickens play a huge role in agriculture because of what they do on a farm. My favorite memory of it was hearing the chicks chirp when they eventually made their way out of the shells.

Friendly Farm Visit

kids visiting farmThis past summer I interned with my county farm bureau with Agriculture in the Classroom; each day we took the kids to a local farm to learn about various topics from plant growth to DNA. The hands on experience offered the kids something they couldn’t learn from a textbook. They got to visualize how their clothes were made (shearing a sheep) to watching their food grow six feet in a few months (corn stalks) to learning how breeds of cows differ (natural selection).

Chemical and Physical Changes

soybean crayonsThis topic can be tricky in Chemistry. As we know, a chemical change is a change of a substance with a different composition than what it started off as. On the other hand, a physical change is the change in appearance with the composition staying the same. To easily demonstrate a chemical change to students, show a bowl of soybean seeds and then show a box of crayons. Why? Because soybeans are morphed into crayons (along with other substances). In the beginning, the seed is just a seed but it’s composition and appearance change when it’s used for crayons. For a physical change, show a bowl of corn seeds, a corn stalk, and an ear of corn. Why? Well, the corn seed is morphed into a plant that grows seeds (kernels) from itself. The seed that was planted had the same composition as the kernels on the ear of corn.

Composting for Kids

A great idea to teach environmental science with agriculture is to start composting! Sounds weird, right? It’s a great hands-on experience that teaches kids a great way to be sustainable. It also shows students how we can reuse our resources and not waste products. Compost is comprised of decayed organic matter such as manure, food scraps, grass clippings, and leaves. Manure comes from farm animals, and food scraps come from humans and animals. Composting also teaches about the life cycle. Compost can help the growth of plants which helps to feed us and animals who produce the manure and food scraps that turns into compost, repeat.  No matter what grade you teach, composting is a great way to teach kids about environmental science!

If kids aren’t understanding a science concept, it’s always a great idea to step outside the box! Agriculture is a great way to spice up the science curriculum while teaching students about topics that still matter to education and to our lives.

michelle nickrent

Michelle Nickrent
University of Illinois student



Posted in Education | Leave a comment


Welp… Fall is officially here.

The temperatures have cooled off, the leaves are just starting to turn and the crop is mostly out of the ground around here.

I am still trying to figure out where September went, I woke up this morning and it was October. Not sure how it happened, but it might have something to do with the fact I just got back from my honeymoon. I left and it was 80 degree weather, we had 80+ degree weather the whole week in Jamaica, but I was welcomed home with 50 degree temps and clouds… Thanks Illinois.

Obviously the trip was amazing and we both can’t wait to go back. But while we were there, we both tried all kinds of foods that we had never had before. Including my new favorite, Cream of Lentil and Carrot Soup.

After asking around and begging the right person, I finally got my hands on the recipe. JACKPOT!

(Disclaimer: This recipe is for a large amount, but I am sure you could freeze the extra and save it for a future date.)

IngredientsCreamy Carrot Lentil Soup
1 lb. Lentil
4 qt. Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock
2 medium Onions, chopped
3 tbsp. chopped Scallion
2 tbsp. chopped Garlic
1 tsp. chopped Thyme
3 tbsp. chopped Leeks
2 medium potatoes, diced
1 lb. Carrots, diced
1 stalk of Celery, chopped
½ cup of Heavy Cream
3 tbsp. Vegetable Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bay Leaf for garnish

In a large stock pot, add oil and allow to heat up. Add onions, scallion, garlic, thyme, leeks and celery, sauté until tender.
Add lentil, carrots and potatoes and allow to cook until tender.
Remove from heat and puree.
Return to stock pot and add stock and salt & pepper to taste.
Cook for 5 minutes, then add heavy cream, cook for additional 2 minutes.
Serve and garnish with bay leaf.

When I was enjoying this soup the first time I had the sound of waves in the background and the smell of salt water in the air. Maybe if you make the soup good enough, you will have a similar experience LOL.

Make sure to come back to get my next Jamaican recipe, Rum Punch… Just kidding!


Hannah ZellerHannah Ferguson
Communications Assistant

Posted in Food | Leave a comment


harvest no filter

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Where has the year gone?!?! I can’t believe it is October already.

I think we can all agree that with October comes a lot of other really great things, like the Fall! It is the best time of year, the temperatures are cooler (but it’s not freezing yet), the leaves are changing and the landscape is beautiful, and we can’t forget there is PUMPKIN SPICE FLAVORED EVERYTHING!

Fun Fact: Did you know Illinois was the number one producing state of pumpkins? Remember that next time you get your pumpkin spiced latte from Starbucks.

October also has, football, bonfires, s’mores, start of hunting season, my birthday, Halloween, haunted houses, many other favorite things… and of course HARVEST TIME!

In the spirit of October, I have gone back and selected my favorite posts in October from previous years.

Here are the posts I think deserve another look. Click on each title to read the full post.


““It’s harvest time in this little town, time to bring it on in, pay the loans down.”  Luke Bryan’s new song “Harvest Time” explains this time of year perfectly.  However, not so long ago, harvest was done completely different around here.  Instead of the combines, tractors, grain carts and the semi-trucks we use today, farmers harvested with much simpler tools.  Farming has seen numerous changes over the years, but none of them have been as impactful as the mechanization of harvest equipment.”Threshing Machine

This article is a fun little story about the history of farm equipment, and it has a great picture.


“Most of the corn grown in Illinois is genetically modified corn.  It’s genetically altered to withstand insect attack or to live through certain herbicide applications.  New varieties are genetically altered to perform under stressful conditions like last year’s drought.

Although this technology makes some customers skeptical, hybridization of crops has been happening for years and years.  In fact, the history of the Illinois Corn Growers Association starts before 1900 sometime when groups of farmers would come together for a fall meeting to trade their best ears of corn.  Those kernels from other parts of the state would grow and pollinate with kernels the farmer already had to continually produce the best corn – ear size, stalk quality, performance under stress were all factors when farmers selected their very best ears.

Years later, we shorten the process by choosing genes that we know are insect resistant, herbicide resistant, drought resistant and inserting them into our plants.  And some remain unsure that the research has been done to prove these foods safe.”

I cannot believe the amount is misinformation is out there about GMOs. Don’t be a fool, stay in school… and get the facts about GMOs. They are safe, science says so.


“Women have always been a part of the agriculture industry, but most the time have been overlooked. However, this trend is changing, and women are becoming more prevalent on farms today. Do you know any women in agriculture, either on farms or in the industry?

In early American history, a woman’s job on the farm typically meant bookkeeping for the farming operation. Women also tended to the family garden, which was most likely a major food supply for the farm family. Even though women did contribute to the farm, their work was never recorded by the Department of Agriculture, thus making women seem non-existent in the agriculture world.”


“We have SO MUCH CORN right now all over the Midwest.  These piles are the reason we work for increased ethanol markets and upgraded locks and dams.

Although non-farmers think that we don’t have enough corn to feed all our markets, WE DO!  These piles are proof!  We need ethanol as a growing market to use up all this corn.  We need locks and dams to get our corn to international markets.”corn pile with men

Making sure our farmers have a demand for their crop is what we are all about!


“Ethanol is always a good choice if you are concerned about the environment, energy security, and even buying local!

Illinois grows it, you should use it!”


indian corn“A symbol of harvest season, they crop up every fall— those ears of corn with multicolored kernels that adorn doors and grace centerpieces. So how does this decorative corn, known in America as flint corn or Indian corn, differ from other types of corn? How long has it been around? Also, is it grown solely to look good next to pumpkins, gourds and scarecrows in those seasonal displays, or can you actually eat it?

Corn does not grow wild anywhere in the world. Instead, this domesticated plant evolved sometime in the last 10,000 years, through human intervention, from teosinte, a form of wild Mexican grass. Originally cultivated in the Americas, corn was brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus in the late 1400s; thanks to other explorers and traders, it soon made its way to much of the rest of the globe. In America, the early colonists learned how to cultivate it from the Indians, for whom it was a dietary staple.”

When you think of Fall decorations, you think of Indian corn, so obviously this one is a staple. I even learned something new when I read this post, and that is a good reason to have it in my number two spot on this countdown.


“Pop Quiz!! Take our quiz and find out how much you know about Illinois corn and then leave a comment with what you scored!”corn quiz

This post was my number one favorite post from all previous October posts. It is a fun interactive quiz to test your knowledge of how much you know about corn. I took the quiz and on my first try scored a 9,683. No big deal. (*Brushes shoulder off*)


Hannah ZellerHannah Ferguson
Communications Assistant




Posted in Agriculture, General, Throwback Thursday | Leave a comment


This year more than others, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own memories of harvest time on the farm.  It could be because this is our first harvest season without both of my grandpas as we lost both within two months this winter.  It could be because I have found myself dating a non-farmer and it seems that so many of the references I take for granted need explaining to him.

Most likely, it’s just a series of things I’ve read and comments made that spark recognition as I travel through these harvest days.

And, weird though it may be, I don’t have a lot of memories of taking supper to the field.  I know that it’s a common childhood memory for most farm kids, and I do remember taking a sandwich out to the field now and then, but mostly I remember us eating at 4:30 or 5 and mom waiting because she was going to eat at 10 or later when dad came in.

But these – these are a part of my childhood.  My mom called these “Goodbars” and I remember her making them and taking them out to the field.  They were an amazing snack to get the guys through long hours sitting in the combine or tractor.



goodbars1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 1/2 cups oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

BEAT butter and sugars in large bowl until creamy. Add eggs, milk and vanilla extract; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Stir in oats, morsels and nuts; mix well. Press dough onto bottom of ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

BAKE for 30 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack; cut into bars. Store tightly covered.

iced teaAnd, although I’m sure most people would enjoy these with a glass of milk, our guys always ate them with a glass of iced tea from an old Nestea canister with a green lid like this one.

Goofy, isn’t it?  These little memories made up the fabric of our childhood and come barreling out when you least expect it.

Maybe you’ll consider celebrating harvest with me by enjoying my family’s harvest traditions?

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

Posted in Food | 1 Comment


As an Agriculture Communications major and not having much of a background in agriculture, let me tell you how much I am learning about this incredible industry, and more importantly, the leaders of this industry.

One big lesson that I have learned is that some of the most accepting and loving people come from the world of agriculture. Many people have their special talents but I’ve learned that it’s farmers that are my superheros!

farmer superheroThese are just some of the ways farmers are different than superheroes:

  1. They don’t wear their underwear on the outside of their pants.

2. They don’t have an alter ego to hide their super-heroness-they just own it. Farmers aren’t anybody but themselves and they’re proud of it!

3. They feed the world, instead of fighting crime.

4. Their capes are actually farmer hats

5. Their mode of transportation doesn’t fly but has four-wheel drive. Farmers need four-wheel drive to pull and load heavy farm equipment

john deere case6. Farmers work past bedtime to make sure the days work is done. Being a farmer is a lot of hard work! A farmer works around the clock to make sure daily chores are accomplished. This isn’t no nine to five job!

7. Their kryptonite is the battle to choose between red or green. Will it be John Deere or Case International? Which one is better?

8. Farmers don’t wear tights they wear fashionable flannel.

9. Their idea of a vacation is coming back with a farmers tan. A farmer’s tan refers to the tan lines developed by a working farmer regularly exposed to the sun. The farmer’s tan is usually started with a suntan covering only the arms and neck. It is distinct in that the shoulders, chest, and back remain unaffected by the sun.

10. Their partners in crime may cluck or moo but they will always be there for you. There is no greater bond than an animal and it’s caretaker!

Farmers are so much more than just superheroes. They are one of a kind. I have so much respect for theses men, woman and families who work around the clock to provide each and every one of us food, and other vital resources. Where would we be without these producers?

Fun fact: Did you know that for every acre of land harvested provides food for 122 people?

Next time you see a farmer thank them for all the hard work that they do!

melissa satchwellMelissa Satchwell
Illinois State University student


Posted in Who are Illinois Corn Farmers? | 1 Comment


fall corn

As of September 20, Illinois corn harvest is about 13% completed, compared to a national average of 10% and a five year average at this time of 15%.  We’re right on track!

And with minimal rain in the forecast, I predict a smooth and fabulous harvest season!

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