Jim Kinsella will receive ICGA’s Environmental Award on November 22 in Bloomington, IL at the ICGA Annual Meeting.  The Illinois Commodity Conference will follow.  Join us!

Farming practices and methods have been constantly changing throughout history in order to make farming easier, more efficient, safer, etc. One of the biggest concerns today is achieving all of these things while caring for our environment. This is why farmers who have gone above and beyond in caring for the environment with their farming practices are being recognized.

Jim Kinsella, a farmer from Lexington, IL, is receiving an environmental award for his practice of no till, willingness to teach others about this method, and his role in the conception of strip tillage. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and a master’s degree in soil science, Jim had a full time job but eventually decided to come back to the farm and work with his father.

No till was an idea that Jim brought back to the farm with him. He thought this would be a good idea because it would save time and money in the field, but he had also learned that this practice has many positive impacts on the environment. The farm adopted this practice and had great success with it in their soybean fields, but the corn was always slow to start.

In 1983, Jim noticed how much taller and more successful the corn that had grown in the anhydrous tracks was. From this observation, Jim began working with companies like DMI and Progressive to create what we now know as a strip tiller. Today, Jim continues to practice no till with his soybean fields and uses the strip till method for his corn.

Jim did not stop at practicing no till and strip tillage on his own farm. He saw an interest in these practices from the farmers in the area, but there were few resources’ where these farmers could find information. Jim took the initiative to set up a workshop on his own farm and invite other farmers to come learn about no till and its benefits to the farmer as well as the environment. Since then, Jim estimates that 90,000 farmers have come to his workshops, including my own family who now practices no till and strip tillage on our own farm in DeKalb, IL!

The agriculture industry benefits greatly from people like Jim Kinsella, who are willing to not only change the practices on their own farm, but also to educate others about what they are doing in order to make a bigger impact on the environment. Thank you Jim for all of your hard work and willingness to help others better their farming practices!

To learn more about strip tillage, see my video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liMNPb6LLxo.

Rosie Sanderson
ISU Student



In November, American’s focus on thankfulness: for their country, their blessings, and their families.  At Corn Corps, we’re going to focus on being thankful for our FARM families and the laughs and lessons they provide. 

I was raised on a farm and very much value what I had while growing up in the sticks.  For this post I was going to share some of my cherished memories, but decided to instead focus on what my Dad and his siblings learned and the antics they were up to!

My dad, Bob, grew up on a livestock farm in McLean, Illinois, with his four younger siblings, Susan, Marcia, and twins Jack & Jill.  With my grandparents, Carl and Dorothy, they raised beef cattle, hogs, chickens, and sheep and grew corn, soybeans and alfalfa.  I can never get enough of hearing the stories they have to share, here are a few:

When I sit and think about my favorite memories, it occurs to me that most of them involve animals… and me being ornery.  One specific incident with skunks comes to mind.  I was mowing hay with a sickle mower and the tractor I was using didn’t have a good seat so we fashioned up a wadded up gunny sack for a cushion.  With every pass I made, I could see a momma skunk with her babies hanging out on one end of the field.  As it was getting close to noon, I started to drive the tractor home for dinner, I decided that those babies would make some pretty good pets, so I stopped and picked up two of them and put them in the gunny sack.  When I got home, Mom was standing on the side walk.  I walked right up to her with a big smile on my face holding the sack of skunks and said, “Guess what I got!?”  She could smell them before I even got half-way up the walk and was none too happy about it.  I put them in a rabbit cage, but the next morning they had escaped.  I’m guessing they might have had a little help. 

We had one ram that was really mean, I mean downright MEAN.  One time I was out feeding the sheep and the ram started to chase me, I jumped up on a rack of wood and was stuck, he wouldn’t let me down.  After a while, I started throwing 2×4’s at him to get him to leave and he just deflected them with his head.  I remember being up there for a long time before getting down, but I can’t remember how exactly I was finally able to.    

When I was in grade school we had a really gentle Angus bull.  He wasn’t bottle-raised but you wouldn’t have known it, he acted more like a pet than a bull.  Whenever we moved the cows I would just jump up on his back and ride him!   

There are so many great memories it’s hard to just pick a few, but I do vividly remember Jack holding my hand while he held on to the electric fence, that was a real hoot!  I also remember having to bottle feed a calf that we named Bobby.  This was during the time Bob was in Vietnam, thus his namesake!

A simple, but favorite memory was playing in the haymow with new kittens.  I loved my time doing that!  Living in the country we didn’t have close neighbors, but I did like to ride my bike up to my friend’s house which was on the other end of the country block. 

A very important lesson learned was to never go near an electric fence with Bob… I can remember him sticking my foot on the electric fence when we were with our Dad out checking the fences.

Some of the days spent working were also some of the most fun, we spent many hours riding on the hayrack wagon stacking hay as we baled and then sending them up in the barn and stacking them yet again.  While this doesn’t sound like much ‘fun’, we also played up in the barn a lot.  We had ropes tied to the beams and would swing across from one bale pile to another.
I remember all of our 4-H projects.  From planting flowers in the garden, in fact they were marigolds and I planted them in the design of 4-H, to our cattle for showing.  Bob always had the one with the curly hair and mine was always straight.   I tried to make waves on mine with the curry comb.  We fed them their feed mixed with STICKY molasses.  And I of course can’t forget breaking them to lead.   Sometimes I didn’t know whether the cattle or the tractor was going to win.

Mom would always have fried chicken for us on Sunday Dinners.  I remember my Dad wringing their necks and they would be running around the barn lot, then Mom would clean them down in the basement in boiling water.  Once the feet were cut off, I would take them and stand them on the counter so I could paint their toenails.  The stinky chicken feathers were not very appetizing, but when the chicken was done it was always good! 

From playing in the hay mow to electric shocks, I think it’s pretty awesome that I have a lot of the same memories as the generation before me on the exact same piece of ground.  And for that, I am thankful. 

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant


gas, ethanol. petroluem, retailers, gas station, e85, blender pumpsThornton’s, a large, independent gasoline retailer based in Louisville, KY, has committed to update fourteen of their 60 stations in Illinois with blender pumps that can dispense E85 and other blends of ethanol.  The American Lung Association is supporting these updates through grants from the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and the State of Illinois. 

The updated stations added to the existing seven in Illinois that already sell E85 will mean that 30 percent of their stores in Illinois will carry higher blends of ethanol.

All fourteen updated stations are in the Chicagoland area and represent some of the highest gasoline sales by volume in their company.  The updates will be complete and the new pumps operational by Dec 31, 2011. 

Thornton’s commitment to update some of their highest trafficked stations equals significant potential for ethanol sales in Illinois and increased visibility of higher blends of ethanol to urban consumers.

Dave Loos
ICMB/ICGA Ethanol Guru


In November, American’s focus on thankfulness: for their country, their blessings, and their families.  At Corn Corps, we’re going to focus on being thankful for our FARM families and the laughs and lessons they provide. 

Barb Arbeiter is a member of the Jackson County Farm Bureau and active member of the Jackson County Ag in the Classroom committee from Murphysboro, IL.  Barb grew up on a cotton and dairy farm in Mississippi.

farm photo old chickens illinois farmer female woman girlBefore she was big enough to help pick the cotton by hand , Barb would ride along on the cotton sacs that her parents and neighbors were carrying or sit and watch at the edge of the field. Once she was big enough her parents made a cotton sac sized especially for her, so she could help with the picking.

When it came to the dairy farm, her family had to start off by hand milking the cows until they got electric milkers. “Our cows were very tame; they were kind of like pets to us for the most part.” Barb’s family dairy farm consisted of Jersey and Guernsey cattle.

As a young one, Barb helped feed the cattle as well as herd them to the barn when they decided to be stubborn. In high school to make money, Barb would help with the milking process. She picked vegetables out of the garden and helped with the canning process. She also fed the chickens and gathered the eggs.

“Growing up on a farm taught me a lot of responsibility and I learned to work hard. Growing up on a farm also allowed me to live closely with nature by raising food and animals.”

On Saturday nights Barb and her family would spend time playing cards together.

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Intern

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student


Thank you to the staff of DCLRS for their notes on the political climate of the U.S. …

The 2012 Election is just about one year away. Congress and President Obama should be grateful because if the election were today many incumbents would lose.

Obama’s approval rating is only 43.8% and no president has been reelected without being at least 50% going into the election cycle. He is up slightly in the last few weeks but is almost 12% points down from the beginning of 2011. And equally important, only two presidents have ever be reelected with unemployment over 9%. They are FDR and Reagan; the country believed these two presidents had the economy on the right track. Recent history shows most presidents with these low numbers will lose. Carter in 1980 and George HW Bush in 1992 come readily to mind.

Congressional approval is now only 9%. Whereas conventional wisdom would say this number doesn’t mean too much because all voters hate Congress but love their own member, recent history suggests a different story. For example, in the 2010 election, one short year ago, 45% of all registered voters said they would “vote out every member of Congress including their own.” In the that election, Democrats lost 63 seats, the greatest mid-term loss since 1938 over 72 years ago. Today, 54% of all registered voters say they would “vote out every member of Congress including their own.” This is not good news for Congressional Republicans. But it probably helps Republicans in the Senate since 23 of the 33 Senators up for reelection are on the Democratic side.

The real polling numbers, as espoused by registered voters who always vote, says all incumbents are vulnerable this year because the “dysfunction” in the political cycle is worse than ever. On this day, only 9% of registered voters approves of Congress. In modern times, it has never been this bad. Congressional Democrats who got beaten so badly one year ago, had an approval rating of 12%. So it is clear that registered voters do not think the change in Congress has been helpful, on the contrary, voters are more unhappy than ever.

Part of the public’s unhappiness is centered on the Tea Party and their unwillingness to compromise on anything. When Congressional Republicans threatened to default on the U.S. debt ceiling on August 3rd, voters took a dim view of their actions. When the U.S. debt was downgraded, voters liked this even less. They get that debt is the problem but they don’t like the “my way or the highway” approach. However, the almost 60 Tea Party Republicans do like this approach and claim they do not care if the government does shut down.

Voters by percentage—Today, 23% of registered voters are Democrats, approximately 20% are Republican and about 42% are independent. The independent number has been growing. Independents are really “party switchers.” This means they are not “base voters” but will change parties without having any ideological regrets and they often vote for a different party in each election cycle. They are fickle, angry, results oriented and not willing to listen to all the political bickering. They have become the most important voting bloc.

In 2006 and 2008, independents “switchers” swung towards Democrats and brought down the Congressional Republicans and swept in Barack Obama. They gave Democrats control of all three branches, and until Senator Kennedy of Mass. Died, Democrats have a filibuster proof majority. This is how we got the health care law. But the way this victory was achieved turned off the independent voter. These “switchers” did not like the lack of compromise.

In 2010, the “switchers” moved very solidly behind the GOP and defeated 63 Democrats. The Tea Party played a large role in nominating many of these new members but it was “switchers” who gave them their victory. So many new Republicans have made the Tea Party happy but have infuriated the “switchers” and are no more popular than the members they beat one short year ago. This is why the new Congress has been in trouble from almost day one.

But Obama isn’t much better off because 2 out 3 Obama voters say they are worse off than the day he took office. And only 17.7% of voters think the country is on the right track with 75.8% saying the country is on the wrong track. This is roughly the same situation that existed when voters threw out Pelosi’s Democrats and handed John McCain a defeat for the candidacy “of hope and change.” Voters were restless then and they are equally restless now. This is not a good sign for any incumbent.

These are restless times. Only 3 times in American history have voters thrown out 20 or more incumbents for three straight elections. They did this around the time of World War 1, just as America was coming out of World War 11 and the last three elections. It is likely to happen a fourth time for the first time ever in 2012. Each era had a period of international turbulence, social turbulence and economic turbulence and our era has all three. Between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab Spring, the terrible economy and the lack of opportunity for the recent college graduates and older workers that have been unemployed for almost three years, there is a hopelessness that is the worst in decades. Even the Occupy Wall Street group reflects this discontent and a feeling that they are getting further and further behind.

Current poll numbers show that 59% of “switchers” voted for Obama in 2008, then voted Republican in 2010. About 16% of them will back Obama, about 25% say they will back the Republican nominee (regardless of who it is) and 59% say they are “up for grabs and potentially switchable again.” In 12 crucial battleground states including Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia and North Carolina, the “switchables” are supporting Obama and the Democrats by a 44% to 43% margin, which is to say they are evenly split.

Republicans have lots of bad news too. For instance, 50% of all voters agree with the goals of Occupy Wall Street, 70% of voters say Republicans favor the rich, 89% do not trust the federal government and 75% of voters say that Congress will not create jobs. Furthermore, they say that Mitt Romney is the most electable but he only has the support of about 25% of Republican primary voters. If the election were today, Romney would possibly win a very close race, Nancy Pelosi would become Speaker again and Republicans would win a bare majority of the Senate.

This current split of a Republican House, Democratic Senate and Democratic president with low approval has not existed since Reconstruction in the late 1860’s—70’s.

The election is still a year away so much can change. But much will have to change not only with the economy but with how voters judge the effectiveness of Congress and their ability to work with President Obama. And President Obama has to show he is effective in working with a Congress that does not favor him. If these judgments do not change, the voters will once again “switch.”

All information courtesy of the staff of
DC Legislative and Regulatory Services


Today’s Friday Farm Photo comes courtesy of Amy Dowell Thompson and features her son in his Halloween costume from 2008.  It may be a few years old, but we love it so much we wanted to share with everyone! 

Since he had been spending his afternoons in the combine he thought that this homemade costume would be perfect.  After 20 hours, they had the finished product!  The hopper was filled with corn. The blinking lights and the SMV sign on the back were a must – safety first! The photo still hangs in the local John Deere dealership where the decals were purchased. It was a lot of fun to make and he was so proud to be a farmer/combine for Halloween!


In November, American’s focus on thankfulness: for their country, their blessings, and their families.  At Corn Corps, we’re going to focus on being thankful for our FARM families and the laughs and lessons they provide. 

Thanks Emily of Confessions of a Farm Wife for reminding us that farming is NOT all snips and snails and puppy-dog tails!

Our story may seem predictable: Young farm family has three little girls and then a fourth…a boy.

Can you hear the comments after the baby boy was born?

“Well, the name can live on!”
“His dad needed a farmer!”
“Tried for that boy, huh?”

Those from the outside may think, in a world of pink, Barbies, dress up and dolls, Farmer Joe needed a buddy.

Although a son brings a totally different dynamic into our family, the women of our house are blurring the gender boundaries that I myself have believed to be true only until just a few years ago. Before I became truly involved and enveloped by farm life as a farm wife, I believed that farm families lived like they did in the 1950s: Dad did the heavy lifting while Mom brought food to the field in pearls.

Not so fast, June Cleaver.

I learned very quickly that our daughters would not necessarily be cookie bakers and house cleaners alone. A pair of chore boots for each daughter sits in our plastic boot tray at the front porch. My six year old knows more about gates and fence and calving than I probably ever will. My littlest daughter, who is two, has a favorite expression, “I check cows, Daddy?”

My girls love to be outside, slogging through the mud and checking cows. A Saturday morning is not for watching cartoons, but for early morning runs to the grain elevator during harvest and chores with Dad in the truck.

While I wonder if this excitement will continue once the girls get older, and if Jack, our son, will be a sidekick to Daddy as well, I know that the lessons on our farm go beyond learning what to look for when you’re checking cows, and how to drive a stick shift. They are out there, spending quality time with their dad, learning as he did from his dad. They are figuring out how to be respectful of the land, animals, and elders while they ride alongside with him, checking fence. They are learning how to be safe around heavy equipment, and while I know we’re not immune to dangerous situations, the safety lessons they learn, standing in awe of the big equipment, carry a lot heavier message than what I learned as a town kid.

All of our kids have unique personalities, but all of them seem to have place on the farm. This is the joy of being a farm kid. We are so fortunate to be here, and although there are times that I wish Joe had a 9 to 5 job (especially during the long harvest hours), with a company vehicle and health benefits, I wouldn’t trade the precious time he gets to spend with our kids because his “office” is located outside our front door. I need to remember this in ten years as I’m yelling up the stairs to my teenagers to wake up and get going on their chores!

Emily Webel
Illinois family farmer
author of Confessions of a Farm Wife


Dear Blog Reader,

It’s National Communications Day, or Week, or maybe it’s World Communication month…? Somebody’s communications failed, otherwise we’d all know the right answer.

We have Communications Plans, Communications Departments, Communications Strategies; we have communication devices, communication tools; we have communication styles, communication problems, communication conflicts; it’s nonverbal, it’s verbal, it’s oral, it’s written and it’s even as simple as 🙂 …but with all that communication mish-mash, do we even have any communication skills left as individuals?

How is it that in nearly every gosh-darn job posting out there, “excellent written and oral communications skills required.” Duh. Is such a skill so hard to find that it has to be explicitly defined rather than assumed?

And what exactly is this blog post supposed to be communicating, anyway?

Look folks, here’s the thing. Communicating wouldn’t be such a big deal if most of us didn’t suck at it. So, be better communicators, and you’ll instantly elevate yourself above the masses.

This is a skill that is cross-industry, cross-culture, cross-political party…it’s the chameleon of life skills. Yet it’s something that we continue to put off on improving. Why? Because there’s no recognizable ROI or instant gratification for doing it right.

It’s just the right thing to do.

So, if you needed an officially recognizable day/week/month to give you a kick in the butt, here you go.

Conversations are not something that can be outsourced or passed off to your commodity organizations, as an example. We can help. But the message starts and stops with you.

The question is, are you the start or the stop?

Kind regards,

Tricia Braid
Illinois Corn Communications Director


In November, American’s focus on thankfulness: for their country, their blessings, and their families.  At Corn Corps, we’re going to focus on being thankful for our FARM families and the laughs and lessons they provide. 

Thanks Jenna for bringing us part of your heritage today, an interview with your mom, Cheryl Richardson.

heritage, farm family photo, horse, sisters, siblings, old, sepia

My mom grew up on a livestock farm in Geff, Illinois with her parents, an older sister Kathy, younger sister Melany, and younger brother Todd. Their livestock farm consisted of cattle, hogs, and horses. The cattle and hogs were bred, raised, and sold for meat, and my grandpa traded the horses. Not only did the family farm raise livestock, they also grew corn for silage to feed their animals.

Along with growing corn they also grew red top for the seed to resell. They would first combine the red top into the back of a grain truck and then the four kids would scoop the seed out of a truck into bags, sew the bags shut and pack them in another truck where they would be sold at a store.

On Sunday afternoons the family would enjoy riding their ponies and horses together.

“When I was younger and it was time to move cattle from field to field the four of us kids and my mom would walk the fields and work gates while my dad & his hired hands would ride horses. Once I got a little older I got bumped up to a horse as well,” Cheryl said.

The four siblings had many important chores around the farm. My grandpa would buy bulk feed and on Saturdays the younger ones would scoop the feed into bags where they were then stacked into the barn and later fed to the cattle with it. They also got to help work cattle, castrate pigs and cattle, worm and sort the animals.

My mom feels that all the hard work she and her siblings did as kfarm family, sisters, siblingsids brought them closer together. “We definitely got to know each other since we spent so much time together, whether it was family time or chore time.” Today the family all lives pretty close to one another so they enjoy getting together for cook outs and just to spend time together. Upon occasion my mom will also help her brother Todd sort cattle on his farm.

“Growing up on a farm taught me a lot of responsibility and that hard work never hurt anyone…it builds character!”

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Intern

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student