FRIDAY FARM PHOTO

Today’s photo comes from Becky Smith in Northeastern New Mexico.  Like much of the country, they have been fighting bitterly cold temperatures and snow.  This calf was born in the middle of a snow storm and to protect him they had to bring him in to keep him warm and alive.  Pictured here is Becky’s daughter comforting the little guy.  In her mind, the one sure-fire way to make him feel better was to read to him for hours.

To protect and care for all His creation, God made ranchers (and ranch kids).

You can follow Becky on Twitter @PurelyMom and check out her blog Pursuit on the High Prairie!

IL CORN INVESTS IN ETHANOL AND FAMILY FARMER PROMOTION

Yesterday, American Ethanol announced that it had entered into a sponsor partnership with Richard Childress Racing and its No. 33 Chevrolet driver, Clint Bowyer, for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.  What Illinois corn farmers might not realize is that their checkoff monies has made such a sponsorship possible.

Yes, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board is one of many state corn grower groups that provided funding enabling the National Corn Growers Association to participate in this legendary partnership.  Now, your dollars will be promoting ethanol on a national level in a very big spotlight, showcasing your corn turned into a fuel as an important part of the sport.

The National Corn Growers Association President, Bart Schott, said, “Corn farmers have played a big role funding research to make ethanol production more efficient and promoting its many benefits.  Now, it is time to showcase all ethanol has to offer on a national stage.  Working with professional pacesetters like Clint Bowyer and Richard Childress Racing, NASCAR and Growth Energy is a remarkable opportunity for America’s family farmers.”

The farmers that represent Illinois on the ICMB couldn’t agree more.  We are excited for the partnership to begin.  Not only will Americans soon see that ethanol can efficiently fuel the highest performing cars in the country, but they will also be introduced to you and I, American corn farmers, and learn what we’re all about.

American corn farmers are about technology.  American corn farmers are about efficiency.  American corn farmers are about environmental stewardship, serving consumers, and energy independence.  And we believe we’ve partnered with a racer who truly understands us and can tell the world more about who we really are.

“Born and raised in the Midwest, it’s truly an honor to support American farmers as they strive to develop energy independence for our country,” said Clint Bowyer. “I look forward to representing American Ethanol both on and off the track beginning this weekend in Daytona.”

Make sure you are watching Fox on February 20 at 12 pm CST to see your checkoff dollars at work.

Scott Stirling
ICMB President
Martinton, IL family farmer

PRODUCTION AGRICULTURE: A WHITE-COLLAR CAREER?

Since there is less than two percent of the United States population living on farms, I am sure there are many people whose image of a farmer is something along the same line I had. Growing up, I always had this image of a farmer as a man in bib overalls, wearing a plaid shirt, holding a handkerchief in his back pocket and chewing a piece straw in his mouth. Maybe that was from all of the pictures in the children’s books, or maybe from my Fisher-Price farm that I played with as a child. Many people still have this image of farmers today.

Sometimes an image can be distorted. Today’s farmer is so much more that what I had previously described. Up until the last couple of years, I never really had an understanding of production agriculture careers. There is a lot more than driving a tractor through a field to plow the soil, plant a few seeds, and then use a combine to harvest in the fall. Unlike the Little People farm, there are a lot more livestock on a farm than one horse, one cow, two sheep, a goat, and a chicken. With those livestock, there is a lot more involved than giving some grain, hay, and water. In reality, today’s farmer wears both blue and white collars. The blue-collar work is the physical labor involved in production agriculture. That work involves all of the maintenance, adjustment and repair of farming equipment, the operation of the farming machinery, and the physical care and handling of livestock. The side of production agriculture that is often overlooked is the white-collar side. The white-collar work is all of the marketing of agricultural products, understanding all of the financing needed for a farming operation, business planning, developing enterprise budgets, understanding the economics of agriculture, understanding the legal aspects of farming , and applying the science involved in production agriculture.

I recently returned to school to study agriculture business at Joliet Junior College. I was encouraged to see a thriving population of Aggies there furthering their education in the agriculture discipline at a collegiate level. Moving forward in our current agricultural society, there is a need to pursue an education beyond a high school diploma. With new technologies emerging, more complex machinery, increased regulations on farming practices and emphases on productivity as well as conservation all contribute to the need for a post-secondary education.

A two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in agriculture prepares a person to successfully work in the agriculture industry. Coursework in agricultural economics, crop production, animal science, soil science, animal nutrition, farm management, agricultural mechanization and more, provide our future farmers plenty of tools to make a great contribution to food, fuel and fiber production in this nation. A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in an agriculture discipline further equips a person to help lead our industry. With specializations in animal science, crop science, agronomy, agricultural economics, agribusiness and more, the white-collar part of our job can be done easier and more successfully.

Nearly 30 percent of today’s farmers and ranchers have attended college, with over half of this group obtaining a degree. A growing number of today’s farmers and ranchers with four-year college degrees are pursuing post-graduate studies. Quoting a contributor to the Agriculture Everyday Facebook page, “Farmers today need knowledge (or how to access it) of marketing, accounting, technology, weather, sales, animal care, soils. It isn’t just enough to say ‘I’m a farmer’….”

David Taylor
Joliet Jr. College Student and Part-Time Farmer

NEW CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP & COMMITTEE APPOINTMENTS ANNOUNCED!

Well, much more than one week later, but we finally have some new leadership positions and appointments to report from the Illinois Congressional Delegation.  A big congratulations goes out to the following members of the Illinois delegation on their new committee appointments and leadership positions.

Bobby Rush (IL-1): House Energy & Commerce Committee
Jesse Jackson, Jr (IL-2): House Appropriations Committee
Dan Lipinski (IL-3): House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee
Luis Gutierrez (IL-4): House Committee on Financial Services
Mike Quigley (IL-5): House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Peter Roskam (IL-6): House Ways and Means Committee
Danny Davis (IL-7): House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Joe Walsh (IL-8): House Small Business Committee – Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access Subcommittee Chair, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Jan Schakowsky (IL-9): House Energy & Commerce Committee
Robert Dold (IL-10): House Committee on Financial Services
Adam Kinzinger (IL-11): House Energy & Commerce Committee
Jerry Costello (IL -12): House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee
Judy Biggert (IL-13): House Committee on Financial Services – Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee Chair
Randy Hultgren (IL-14): House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, House Agriculture Committee
Tim Johnson (IL-15): House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, House Agriculture Committee – Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Ag Subcommittee Chair
Don Manzullo (IL-16): House Committee on Financial Services
Bobby Schilling (IL-17): House Agriculture Committee
Aaron Schock (IL-18): House Ways and Means Committee
John Shimkus (IL-19): House Energy & Commerce Committee – Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chair

Richard Durbin: Senate Appropriations Committee
Mark Kirk: Senate Appropriations Committee, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee

Illinois Corn Growers Association leadership will travel to Washington, DC in mid-March to meet some of the newest members of the delegation and continue our friendship with the rest.  We’re looking forward to it!

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO

After the blizzard and cold snap we’ve had this week, I wanted to warm things up a bit for this Friday Farm Photo.  This picture comes from Monica Stevens in Knox County Illinois, I don’t know about you, but it makes me long for summer! 

You can check out more of Monica’s photos on her website!

If you have a picture you’d like to submit for a Friday Farm Photo, send it to ilcorn@ilcorn.org and you could be here next week!

NO SNOW DAY FOR FARMERS

Its International Friendship Month.  To celebrate, Phil Thornton (our international trade expert) had a post planned to tell our friends all about the work Illinois farmers do to create and maintain friendships with international customers.

But we’re all still realing from the snow storm of the century, so, maybe another day.

Today, I feel like we all need a reminder about what exactly it is to be a farmer.  Because ninety percent of those reading this had the day off yesterday.  Ninety percent of us didn’t expend any effort yesterday except what it took to scoop off their driveway.  Ninety percent of us watched TV, slept, played with our kids, or read up on our friends on Facebook.

The farmers spent the day keeping hogs warm.

The farmers spent the day checking on generators to make sure your milk didn’t spoil.

The farmers spent the day helping cows give birth to calves.

The farmers spent the day chipping away at ice to ensure fresh water supplies for their animals.

The farmers spent the day plowing out their country roads and those of their neighbors.

Farmers don’t get holidays.  It’s really much too easy to critique their jobs and their devotion when you’re sitting in an office in the city with an endless water supply, a city snow plow, and only your family’s mouths to feed. 

Perhaps you’d like to check out this older blog post or this news story.  And no matter what you do, remember the hard working men and women who didn’t get a snow day.

WEATHER GIRL TURNS TO AGRICULTURE

One day every year we allow the fate of our weather for the upcoming months to be determined by the fears of a woodland rodent.  People’s reliance on this fuzzy creature’s prediction dates back to the 1840s.  Even with advanced weather technology to warn us of upcoming blizzards days in advance, thousands still come to see Punxsutawney Phil each year. Weather plays an important role in both agriculture and the environment.  

As a little girl I dreamed of one day standing in front of a weather map telling the world what to expect.  However, as I grew older I began to develop an interest for learning about the interaction between humans and the environment.  Coming from a suburban background, my education never included the effects that an altered environment would have on agriculture.  

Now, as an agricultural and environmental communications student at the University of Illinois, I’ve come to learn that the environment and agriculture are not two separate issues.  Instead, they are revolve in an endless cycle.  Last week I sat in a lecture and learned about climate change and how it can affect agriculture.  Agriculture faces long term challenges from heat stress, water stress, pests and diseases.  If carbon dioxide concentrations continue to double, the North American climate average is estimated to warm by 5 to 11 degrees Farenheit.  This might not seem like such a drastic change but that would make Illinois’ climate similar to that of Mississippi.  

Learning about the current issues agriculture and the environment face is important if we want conditions to remain the same.  Although I was never able to deliver the weather to thousands of viewers or give Punxsutawney Phil’s annual report, I was able to expand my knowledge and learn how agriculture is part of everyone’s daily lives.  

Hope you are staying warm today, despite the nasty conditions out there today!  Be safe!

Ashley LaVela
University of Illinois student

CELEBRATE NATIONAL HISTORY MONTH

Originally posted on Rural Route Review

Today officially kicks off National History Month and there is a lot to celebrate! A few generations back, in 1930, my family could provide for 10 people (according to Crop Life Ambassador Network) and today my dad could feed 130 people (I’m not sure how many cows that equals). However, this month is not just about celebrating where we are today but celebrating where we come from.

I come from Benjaminville, Illinois-founded by my great-great-great grandfather John R. Benjamin. While Benjaminville, known today as Bentown, is an important part of my family’s history-it does not define our history.

My family’s history is defined by their beliefs. Benjaminville was founded as a Quaker Community. Quakers do not believe in war. They also believe in equality for different races and women, even at a time when this was a rarity. Therefore, black people lived in Bentown because they knew they would be treated well. Women were respected leaders within the Quaker church. These are important values that my family has preserved to pass down to me.

My family’s history is defined by kindness. A poor gypsy family buried their son on our land because they could not afford a burial plot at the cemetery. My great-grandfather would adopt an orphan boy from the community. My grandmother would call a widower across the way each morning to keep him company and have him over for Sunday dinner each week.

Ingenuity is also an important part of my agrarian heritage. John R. Benjamin, the founder of Benjaminville-regardless of what Wikipedia says, once got lost coming home in the sea of prairie grass (or perhaps it was just dark). He found his way home by following the familiar bark of his dog and later would plow a “road” to Bloomington, Ill. so that it wouldn’t happen again…. as family legend goes t this was essentially the Oakland Ave. Bloomington knows and loves today. Also, my grandfather was an early adapter of terraces and contour plowing. My dad can remember the USDA hosting a tour from Washington DC to see his farming practices.

And yes, my family even has small claims to fame: John R. hired a German immigrant to work for him and in return gave him a tract of land. One day this land would be farmed by his nephew-George J. Mecherle, founder of State Farm. John R’s brother, Rubin, was given his bar exam (to practice law in Illinois after the family relocated) by none other than Abraham Lincoln! The local history museum states that Rubin Benjamin was instrumental to antitrust legislation that limited the power of railroads. Bentown also was home to a semi-pro baseball player at one time.

This list is just a small cross section of the values and stories that make me proud of my family’s agrarian history. I also posted some of the pictures of the last two generations of Benjaminville. I hope to post other pictures throughout the month as well.

This is a picture of my dad, George Benjamin, in front of our old combine. It might not be the newest or shiniest but it gets the job done and there is something to be said for that. There is also something to be said for worn out blue jeans and dirty shirts that represent a hard days work.
This is our tractor, in the back you can see some of our outbuildings on the original farm. We call the red building pictured the shop building. My brother and I used to explore it to see what family treasures we could find, including an old fashioned horse drawn sleigh!
Two generations of Benjamin siblings at Napa Valley.

Claire Benjamin
University of Illinois Student
Author of Rural Route Review