MEET PAUL TAYLOR … AGAIN!

Paul and Barbara Taylor, corn, cats, kittensWe’re already back in full swing, shooting farmer videos so you can meet the farmers growing Illinois corn.  In fact, today, we’re headed to Utica, Illinois to learn more about one of our volunteers!  For a special Friday Photo Flashback, please remember our visit to Paul Taylor’s farm in Esmond, IL and watch this video again!

Meet Paul Taylor!

IMAGINE YOUR GARDEN ON A WORLD SCALE

April is National Lawn and Garden month. That’s cool. I’ve been itching for a chance to get some dirt under my fingernails since the last of the flowers got frosted last fall. The garden catalogs that light up my mailbox feed that urge. And finally, it is, “A time to plant.”

What goes into a person’s flower and vegetable gardens is not a fair comparison to the farm-scale production of both flowers and vegetables, and commodity crops, as well.

But it’s upon that very comparison, or rather contrast, that many people are deriving their opinions of food production. Are you following me? It’s like this: “What’s good for my garden must be good for the rest of the system.”

Uh, no. That’s why it’s a garden.

Some people thrive on finding the all-organic ways to produce tasty fruits and veggies from their own plot of ground. Other people look for every method they can to minimize the work and maximize the tasty output (that’s me.) That might be some granulated seed germination inhibitor, plastic sheets to block weeds, bug spray to keep the Japanese beetles from devouring the tomatoes, and chicken wire to keep out the, well, pesky chickens that not only eat the bugs but also take a bite out of every green bean, tomato, and strawberry they can find. Oh, and they can make short work of a cantaloupe, too.

But I digress.

Back to the backyard division of organic versus conventional methodologies. Both are good, in my opinion. Both have their benefits.

Same goes in the larger scale production as capitalistic minded individuals find markets for the products they’re willing to produce.

But when one way starts getting labeled as “better,” well, that’s when I get perturbed. When one way starts changing regulation, litigation, and legislation, based on falsehoods that have become “truth” just by virtue of mass acceptance? That’s a problem.

Witness an article published online in Time magazine, New Study Says That Organic Food Isn’t As Productive as Conventional Agriculture, which makes this remark:

            “Yet a new meta-analysis in Nature does the math and comes to a hard conclusion: organic farming yields 25% fewer crops on average than conventional agriculture. More land therefore needed to produce fewer crops—and that means organic farming may not be as good for the planet as we think.”

Cue the invisible farm audience to say, “Duh.”

Why is this so hard to understand? Why must there be a black and white choice with social consciousness coming down only on the side of organic? When does conventional agriculture be just as accepted as the “ethical choice” for feeding deserving Americans and others worldwide?

Well, maybe, just maybe, it’s when we (and I mean that in the broadest sense) quit comparing what works in our gardens to what we think is appropriate for production beyond just our friends and neighbors wants. Maybe it happens when we CONTRAST the wants of our personal lives to the needs of a hungry planet.

That’s my two-seeds worth.

Tricia Braid
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director

CORN PLANTING CONCLUDES IN SOME AREAS OF THE STATE

Follow our farmer’s progress as they continue the 2012 planting season!

April 22: We have finished planting corn. The earlier fields are starting to peek out of the ground. We will probably start planting soybeans tomorrow.  Jeff Jarboe – Loda, IL

April 21: Started the Monday after Easter, things didn’t go well until Wednesday, and managed to get 1/3 in before the rain Saturday night. We received over 3 in. of rain and we’ve been sitting since. Hard frost last night; I only know of one field up over by Pearl City in this area. Hope to get back to it Monday.  Aron Carlson – Winnebago, IL

April 21: Finished corn on Thursday. First corn I planted is up and looking good. Waiting at least a week to start planting soybeans.  Jim Reed – Monticello, IL

April 21: Saturday morning brought light frost.  Mostly no work done this week up here north of Rt. 30.  We snuck peas in and sprayed them Wednesday afternoon before another light shower.  Paul Taylor – Esmond, IL

Take a look.  Nationally, corn farmers are way ahead of the previous year’s progress.

IT’S NATIONAL ZUCCHINI BREAD DAY!

It’s National Zucchini Bread Day!  According to the link, they hold this day at a time when you aren’t sick to death of all that zucchini that seems to proliferate in the garden …

I’m celebrating with this really awesome Zucchini Bread recipe, which has become my go-t0 as far as zucchini bread.  You can do anything with this recipe.  I add nuts or chocolate depending on what I have on hand.  I have baked it into cupcake pans and added cream cheese frosting (a huge hit with my neighbor!).  I have even used this same recipe with carrots instead of zucchini when I have a bunch that my kids have deemed unworthy to eat.

Mix it up!  And enjoy!

Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 whole Eggs
  • 1 cup Oil
  • 1-¾ cup Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 2 cups Grated Zucchini
  • 3 cups Flour

Preparation Instructions

1.  Preheat oven to 350

2.  Grease and Flour 2 loaf pans

3.  Mix ingredients together in the order shown, mixing well between each ingredient.

4.  Pour equal amounts of mixture into each loaf pan.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes

Makes 2 Loaves

NASCAR GREEN INITIATIVE FEATURES ETHANOL FOR EARTH DAY

green fuel, ethanol, renewable, race car, american ethanolThis Sunday, NASCAR, Kansas Speedway and several of NASCAR’s Official Partners will showcase the environmental sustainability programs that take place each week at racetracks across the country in celebration of Earth Day.  These efforts, taking place every day and at NASCAR races year-round, are part of the sport’s NASCAR Green initiative which shows the value NASCAR places upon the environment through real-world, sustained action.  Illinois Corn is part of this effort through their partnership with NASCAR, making the sport a more earth friendly one through the use of corn-based ethanol.

STARTING YOUR VERY OWN FRUIT GARDEN

Have you ever had the chance to go to an orchard or a strawberry patch? Having those fresh fruits sure beats anything you can buy in a can at the store. For those avid gardeners already, or for those who just want fresh fruit, why not start your very own Fruit garden?

Fruits by definition are the (often sweet and fleshy) part of a plant that surrounds the seeds. Thus, fruits are the ripened ovaries of the plant. Basically, anything that has seed in, it is considered a fruit, including what most would think are vegetables: like tomatoes, pumpkins, peapods, and avocados just to list a few. To keep things simple, I’m going to stick to the traditional fruits like berry’s and fruit trees.

Some things to consider when picking what fruits too grow

Climate: Consider the area you live in. Different varieties are better than others in certain climates, therefore, consider going to Greenhouse Nurseries and talk to someone about the best varieties to plant for the area you live in.

Space: Space is a major issue for a lot of people and planting fruit trees might not be the best option. Consider planting strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberry’s, or if you have room a dwarf cherry tree.

Time: Many fruit trees can take several years before they can produce any fruit. Many Greenhouse Nurseries offer trees that have already been growing for several years and will even help you plant them. Berries on the other hand can typically bear fruit in their first or second seasons, depending on the plant.

Lastly, find your local Greenhouse nursery or garden store. They can typically answer most questions about what fruit varieties grow best and may even have some for sale.

Maintaining your fruit garden

Fruit trees are by far the hardest to care for and maintain, but the benefits are worth the time and money. Pruning is a vital part of growing fruit trees and even berries in some cases. Pruning is the trimming or cutting away of overgrown branches or stems in order to increase the fruitfulness of growth. Fertilizing your plants is extremely important when maintain fruits. When and how much fertilizer you should apply depends on the plant and the type of fertilizer that is used. What is Fertilizer? It’s typically an organic or inorganic material that is full of vital nutrients a plant needs to grow. Insecticides are extremely important to control insect pests. Fruit trees tend to be a good home for insects of all kinds that can cause diseases and even eat the plant. Safe insecticides for plants and used to control those pests can keep the plant healthy and fruitful, no pun intended. Lastly, using a form of mulch around your trees or plants is a very effective way to control weeds that may come. By reducing that weed pressure, it allows the plants you want to grow thrive even more.

When it comes to fruit gardening it takes some basic knowledge and time on your part to maintain. However, when you harvest the fruit and get a chance to eat it you’ll almost never want to go back to the store canned fruits. For advice on how to grow fruits and about gardening in General check out the National Garden Association website.

Eric King
Western Illinois University

WHAT DO NON-FARMERS REALLY WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE FARM?

“As farmers and ranchers, we’ve raised pretty much everything. Except our voices.”

This is the slogan of a farm and ranch coalition – the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.  They say, “For too long the voice of farmers and ranchers has often been missing in the conversation about where food in America comes from. That changes now. USFRA is inviting all farmers and ranchers to join us in leading the conversation with Americans. Raise your voice and share your story. Together, we can begin a dialogue with Americans about where their food comes from, the importance of today’s agriculture and our commitment to continuous improvement.”

They have already done some great work in this regard.  In particular, this infographic showing the disparity (and sometimes the similarity) between what farmers and ranchers think consumers should know about the farm and what consumers are actually wondering about.  Perhaps the differences here are one reason it’s hard to dialogue?

THE IMPORTANCE OF RECORD KEEPING

In every single business no matter the industry, record keeping is a must. Keeping track of your receipts, expenses, and of course don’t forget taxes, is vital to success. But one challenge that business owners and companies often come to face is trying to find employee’s with experience in the simple task of record keeping. It’s not just business owners either, entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses definitely need to know how to keep books of their finances and inventories. Luckily, organizations like the National FFA are taking steps to help young people gain experience with record keeping.

So what exactly are students doing to help them prepare? They are completing their own records on their own enterprises or employment. Each member of the FFA completes a Supervised Agricultural Experience Program otherwise known as an SAE. Through an SAE, FFA members start their own agricultural business or seek employment in an agricultural business. Currently there are 52 areas of record books a student can enroll in. Each area is specific to a certain area of the agricultural industry, for example, wildlife production & management, crop production, horticulture, diversified ag production, and agricultural sales. Once a student begins his/her business or becomes employed, they start their record books. Record book keeping includes taking inventory, keeping receipts and expenses, completing taxes, writing down safety activities they complete, and hours worked. Basically, the same information business owners need for their records. After a year’s worth of records books have been completed by an FFA member, they can continue to build their books year after year and also have the chance to compete against other members.

The SAE is a part of the three circle model of agricultural education. It is a very integral part of agricultural education so that the end result after students graduate, is a workforce that is now trained and ready. But not only do FFA members who complete record books learn how in the classroom, they learn through real-world experience! They actually start a business or work for an employer and keep physical records of their actions. What better way to help students learn the system than actually immersing them in what they are learning! This is what the FFA is all about, agricultural education through real world experience in competition and classroom!

Mike Shively
IL FFA PRESIDENT

PLANTING PROGRESS

Farmers like to talk about field conditions and planting progress.  In fact, agriculture is such an art form, that it is interesting to read about different farmer philosophies.  You’ll notice below that our board members like to update each other on planting conditions all over the state and they also over commentary on what other farmers in their areas are doing.

In reality, there is a lot behind each and every farmer’s decisions on when to plant, how to manage their crops, what varieties to plant, and more.  Research plays a huge part in decisions like crop rotations and timing, but the farmer’s past experiences are important too.  Read on for some insight into the mind of an Illinois farmer.

April 7: “Planting pace has been pretty steady in Southern Illinois. We have a little over one third of our corn planted. Lots of folks down here are done with corn. A few beans have went in I heard but the cool weather will hold us out. Wheat has headed and doesn’t want to be below 30 for more than 2 hrs. Wheat harvest should be in the first week of June, about two weeks early.”  Jeff Scates – Shawneetown, IL

April 7: “As of this evening I am half done with corn. A couple of neighbors are done an several are waiting till Monday after Easter to start. Our high ground is very dry but decent moisture most places. Some of those that cultivated out winter annuals or leveled corn on corn ground now must wait for rain before planting as that ground really dried out. Radar shows rain here now but there is nothing getting to the ground.”  Jim Reed – Monticello, IL

(Some farmers plant winter annuals or leave corn stubble from their previous year’s crop in their fields to help hold in moisture and keep top soil from eroding.)

April 8: “We are 15% completed on the Hudson Farm. I planted my partner’s corn first – he is done.  I heard of one farmer that is done with corn and beans.  We were too dry also, until Thursday. We got 1/2″ to 1 1/4″ of rain. This was quite a relief to those that planted in dry dirt.”  Gary Hudson – Hindsboro, IL

(Soybeans are a little less tolerant of cold weather and easily die if a frost hits, so most farmers will still wait to plant soybeans even though the corn is being planted so much earlier than usual.)

April 8: “People are just starting here. I started a field today, but had the usual bugs to work out of the operation. I am hearing most people will hit it hard on Monday.”  Jeff Jarboe – Loda, IL

(When your equipment has been in the shed for the winter, sometimes it takes a day or two to get equipment running properly.  Even a farmer’s hired help – if he or she has them – might need a day to get back into the swing of things!)

April 8: “We plan to start Monday. We really need a little rain.”  Rob Elliott – Cameron, IL

April 10: “Tuesday now & I saw my first planter in the field this morning.  I know planting had been done but I had not seen a corn field planted until today.  Most of my buddies are waiting; not sure for what.  Very dry.  No significant rain here for past 3 1/2 weeks.  Below freezing last two mornings.”  Paul Taylor – Esmond, IL