Originally posted on CountrySpirit by Karen Blatter

Erin EhnleGoing viral on the Internet was never in Erin Ehnle’s plans for Keeping it Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl project.

But, a year later, she has more than 17,120 “likes” and followers to her Facebook page.  Even though other businesses, places and movements can gain millions of fans, 17,120 is more than the farm girl, with a high school graduating class of less than 50, could imagine.

“I thought I would have 100 or so people following me – just like friends and family,” she said.  “But I never thought I would be over a 1,000 or even at 10,000.”

As a social media intern with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board in the spring 2012 semester, Ehnle created the page as part of her project.  She did weekly and daily posts using her own pictures and statistics and facts about agriculture.


Raised on a corn and soybean farm, Ehnle said her passion and heart are 100 percent in agriculture and farming.  Creating a page that showed her passion was easy.

“I just wanted to talk about agriculture and clear up some of the misconceptions that people have,” she said.  “I’m not an expert, but it’s what is most important to me.”

She started tinkering with photography in high school and bought her first camera with the money she earned while working ground on her family farm.

The hobby turned into a business as people started to see her pictures and asked her to take family pictures and others.  When she started the internship, linking her two passions into a social media concept was easy.

She said people from across the country have liked her page, which has gotten much more exposure than she ever imagined.  She said some of her posts lead to conversations about agriculture, and fans have also helped to speak the truth about agriculture.

“I wanted to give people something to think about,” she said.  “The page did that, and led to a conversation between producers and consumers.”

Even though the internship is over, Ehnle said she keeps up with weekly posts to give her fans something to “like,” while juggling school full time.  She takes the time to go home most weekends and participate in the activities of her parents’ farm, but she misses the ability to take agriculture pictures every day.

The connections she’s made through the page have given her opportunities and allowed her to get to know other people, and career paths, in agriculture.

“I don’t know what I’ll be doing, or where I will be doing it, but I know I will be an agriculture advocate,” she said.  “All of us have something ot say about agriculture.”


Originally posted on Corn Commentary

indiana-cornHoosiers are mourning the loss of Indiana Corn Marketing Council President Gary Lamie who died unexpectedly on Friday at age 52.

For the past 10 years, Lamie has served in leadership roles for various organizations including president of the Indiana Corn Growers Association and vice chair for research and business development with the National Corn Growers Association. He traveled extensively with these groups, planning strategy and conferring with elected officials in Indianapolis and Washington, D.C. He was instrumental in helping establish Indiana’s corn check-off program. Gary was also a strong champion for the Purdue Student New Uses Corn Contest that encourages college students to find innovative new uses for corn, and his farm was a frequent stop for students and international trade teams. In 2008 he was selected to represent Indiana in the Syngenta “Leadership At It’s Best” program.

“He was an exceptional farmer, leader and friend to many, and we will miss him dearly,” said Jane Ade Stevens, Executive Director of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council. “Our sincere condolences are with his wife Kathleen and the entire Lamie family.”


BowloCherriesFebruary is National Cherry Month! There are two types of cherries produced in the United States; sweet cherries and tart cherries.  Washington, Michigan, California, and Oregon are the four main sweet cherry producing states.  Michigan also has over 90 percent of the tart cherry production!  Interestingly enough the United States ranks second in the world when it comes to cherry production.  Turkey comes in first, with the United States second, and Iran at a close third.

There are a variety of ways that people enjoy cherries.  In America, the majority of tart cherries are used for processing.  They are great for making pies, cakes, and fillings of all kinds.  Tart cherries have a very sour flavor, as you can imagine from their name, and are therefore not usually eaten raw. Sweet cherries on the other hand have many ways of being enjoyed.  They are often sold by the pound in grocery stores and can just be eaten raw.  Sweet cherries can also be dried, or canned as a way to preserve them.  One major difference in sweet cherries and tart cherries is their sugar content.  Sweet cherries can also be used in some types of wines and juices.

While cherries have always been popular, recently cherry consumption has grown.  In the last few years the health benefits of cherries has been a main focus that has undoubtedly helped to boost their popularity. Cherries are a great source of antioxidants which help to lower risks of cancer and heart disease.  They also are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E.  Another cool fact is that cherries are known as a brain food, meaning that they aid in brain health and memory loss prevention. Along with brain health, cherries are proven to have some anti-inflammatory benefits which make them a great snack after a workout to help reduce muscle and joint soreness.

The cherry industry has also been a great source of ag-tourism. “You- pick” cherry orchards are very popular in some states like Michigan and Wisconsin.  A typical you-pick cherry orchard allows guests to walk through the orchard, pick the amount of cherries they want, and pay by weight on the way out.  Every year, Traverse City Michigan holds the National Cherry Festival.  With Michigan being a leading producer, it seems like a great place for it to be held!

Thanks to the National Cherry Festival for this great recipe on Classic Cherry Pie!

cherry pieIngredients:

1 package refrigerated pie crust for 9-inch pie
2 (20 or 21 ounce) cans cherry pie filling
1/2 teaspoon almond extract


Line a 9-inch pie pan with pie crust. Trim crust along pan edge. Pour cherry pie filling evenly into crust. Sprinkle with almond extract, if desired.

Place second crust over filling. Wrap excess top crust under bottom crust. Press edges together with a fork. With a knife, cut slits in top crust.

Bake in preheated 400-degree oven 35 to 40 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Cover edge of crust with strips of foil, if needed, to prevent overbrowning.

Note: If desired, 1 cup of dried cherries can be mixed with the cherry filling before baking for added cherry flavor.

Makes 6 to 8

Leslie AnnisLeslie Annis
Illinois State University Student


February is “National Wedding Month” and in order to plan your special day be sure to immerse yourself in agriculture! Not many brides have that thought on their mind. However, if you consider everything that goes into wedding planning you realize how your day is centered around the industry that feeds, fuels and clothes the world. From the meal to the dress, agriculture is a key component to your day.

I want to focus on one area of your wedding day in particular, FLOWERS! Horticulture is not only an important sector of the agriculture industry but also your wedding day. The type of flower, color and way it is arranged are all details any bride is sure to pay close attention to.

HostaOne of my personal favorites in regards to wedding flowers are when brides are able to tie in other unique plants into their arrangements. For example, not many people would think a shade plant would make a very good bouquet. However, incorporating hosta into your bouquet adds a fresh, green look. Tucking a few little blooming flowers within the hosta make an elegant bouquet out of a simple plant.

suculantOn the opposite side of hostas, succulents are cactus like plants that withstand sunny and dry climates. Some succulents flower and all have unique shapes. As you can see in the pink bouquet, the succulent “hens and chicks” are tucked in with the flowers adding a touch of green to the pink.

Flowers are not the only part of a bouquet. The ribbon binding the flowers and plants together are another creative outlet for brides to incorporate the style they are going for. For a country twist, burlap is a cheap alternative to the traditional ribbon. As you can see from this bouquet, the burlap has been made into a bow surrounding the flowers adding an elegant country twist to any bouquet.


Fall_FlowersFlowers are not only in the bouquets but also on tables and often at the ends of the church pew aisles. For a quaint look, try keeping the long stems on baby’s breath and make small bouquets by tying raffia around them and in a bow. Attach to the end of the pews for a simple, elegant flower touch. Don’t forget the reception tables! Depending on the season you can incorporate other agriculture products to add a seasonal, country look to any wedding.  Ditch the vase and instead place flowers in a carved out pumpkin and place on tables to tie in colors and the season!

The ways to make your special day unique are endless when it comes to decorating with flowers! My best tip for you would be to ensure it is what you truly want and accomplishes your vision for the day. The day is not about flowers or the industry that produces them, it is about you and your special someone!

AmieBurkeAmie Burke
Illinois State University Student


Illinois Farm FamiliesWhat better way to facilitate the discussion between farmers and consumers than to bring those consumers out to some of our Illinois farms?! Well, Illinois Farm Families’ “Field Mom” program does just that. They have just announced the names of the new field moms that will go on tours of farms in Illinois in 2013! This will be the second year that Illinois Farm Families has taken a group of Chicago moms on farm tours. Thanks to last year’s success with the program, there are twice as many field moms this year!

These field moms are women from the Chicago area who are interested in seeing first-hand where their food comes from and how it is produced. I think discussions like these are the key to bridging the communication barrier between rural farmers and urban consumers. The farm tours that these field moms take reach more interested consumers than just the field moms themselves; the Illinois Farm Families website posts photos and videos of the tours so others can follow along from home!

The 2013 farm moms will be taking their first farm tour at an Illinois pig farm this Saturday. To see a fill list of this year’s field moms, farm families, and keep up with their tours go to the Illinois Farm Families website!

rsandersonRosie Sanderson
ICGA/ICMB Membership Secretary


This week is National FFA Week.  According to the National FFA Organization’s website, it gives members a chance to educate the public about agriculture. During the week, chapters host teacher appreciation breakfasts, conduct “Ag Olympics” competitions, speak to the public about agriculture, volunteer for community service projects and more.

In honor of this week, we wanted to share this video of the history of FFA.


Each person may have a different definition of the word “pet”.  The Webster dictionary defines the term as “a domesticated animal kept for pleasure rather than utility”. Many people have the discussion on a horse being considered as a pet, or companion animal, or livestock specie like cattle, pigs, and sheep are thought of.  To me, a pet can be considered as any animal that you may have a personal bond or connection with, and not just the typical cats and dogs.

Growing up with a farm background, I was introduced to a whole different environment. I showed animals at various fairs, and raised them as well. The very first animal I ever owned, I had that special connection with it. The more years I put in to working with the animals, the closer the connection got. I remember the first time we had sows farrowing, or cows calving (process of giving birth to their young), I was so excited about it and would spend hours out in the barn to see the little ones! The first calf that my cow had, I had a halter on her in less than a week to walk her around and have her used to being around me. I have always told people that my animals are like my babies, always tame and always partial to only wanting to be around me.

cattle, show, fair, illinois farm girlThe picture to the right is me with one of my heifers at our last show of the summer. She and I definitely had our ups and downs in getting halter broke (being able to lead on a halter) and getting ready for the show season. I would walk her every day around the pasture to get her used to walking on a halter and walking with me, and she would be washed every day as well to keep her cool and clean.  As you could probably see though, we ended up getting along pretty well in the end.

I have heard many other people tell similar stories like my own with their personal connections with their animals. Many producers treat their animals with respect and can be seen as their pets too. I’m sure many of you watched the super bowl this year, along with all the new commercials as well. The Budweiser commercial with the Clydesdales, titled “Brotherhood” was one of my personal favorites, and really showed how producers truly can view their animals as pets. The horse and the owner have a connection since it was a little colt (a young male horse) and kept that connection as the horse grew and got older, to even after he left on the Budweiser trailer, the horse still recognized him when he saw him.

Naomi CooperNaomi Cooper
University of Illinois


The used of chemicals and crop protection products has allowed the United States to become a dominant supplier of agriculture products across the world and has allowed us to sustain this status.  If we stopped using crop protection we would forgo the higher yields that we are now able to obtain because of crop protection, and the American farmer would no longer be able to produce almost ten billion bushels of crop. John F. Kennedy once said, “Our farmers deserve praise, not condemnation; and their efficiency should be cause for gratitude, not something for which they are penalized.” Why do we ignore what one of our greatest Presidents said, and instead criticize our farmers for using crop protection, which allow them to produce 40% of the world’s corn while only using 20% of the land?

corn and soybean cropWe need to stop altogether the disapproval towards our farmers and applaud them for using new technology that allows them to supply all of us with food and jobs. Countless people carry the notion that chemicals are bad or harmful but they fail to understand how essential they are for farmers. Crop protection products are defined as any substance or mixture of substances intended to prevent or control any pest. But what actually is a pest? It’s any living organism that threatens ours crop or livestock. These definitions demonstrate to us that crop protection products are not in fact poisonous or toxic they are essentially liberators for our crops and livestock from any and all threats.

The use of crop protection for farming is not a new invention; as a matter of fact it dates all the way back to 7000 BCE, where the Sumerians used elemental sulfur to preserve their crops from the insects. While times have clearly changed since the Sumerians first started using crop protection products, we still require pesticides for farming but we have been able to evolve our crop protection to become safer and more energy efficient. As our crop protection has evolved so has the rules and regulations that go along with them.  Each state is sanctioned to regulate the use of crop protection and the quantity that is distributed each year.

Now that the clock has struck 2013 and our world population has now escalated to over 7 billion people, how will we be able to continue feeding a population that is developing infinitely? We have an obligation to continue using crop protection because they permit us to save our precious fuel, remain energy efficient, and last but surely not least, obtain higher yields allowing us to feed our world’s population.  As we celebrate President’s Day we should remember what John F. Kennedy said and stand up for our American farmers and thank them all for supplying the globe.

Kevin mcmullanKevin McMullan
Illinois State University


They say February is the season for love … and we’re celebrating by giving you a glimpse of five Illinois farm couples throughout the week!  These couples practice their love for each other and the land every day on their farms.  Get to know them and the work they love to do!

farm wedding, valentine's day, illinois farm familiesJim and Nancy Rapp were “re-rapped” (reunited in marriage) on Sept 16th 2012.  Their story actually began over 35 years ago when they met at a small restaurant where Nancy was working while she was going to  school to earn a nursing degree and Jim was a young, eager farmer.  They fell in love and were married June 3, 1978.

They were very busy for the next several  years raising 3 children, a daughter, Amy and two sons, Nick and Ben.  Sadly, the marriage ended after 18 years.  Jim and Nancy always maintained a good relationship by being together with the children for all significant events and holidays.

In 2012 the communication between Jim and Nancy became more frequent with Jim making more phone calls “just to talk.” During one of those phone calls, Jim suddenly invited Nancy to join him in Portland, OR in July for a little vacation while he was attending an ag meeting.  She accepted the invitation.  While in Portland, Jim and Nancy enjoyed the time they shared while dining, shopping and sight-seeing together.  After several days, Nancy confronted Jim by asking him “what is going on?”  They were having a wonderful time together.  He had been very thoughtful, kind and generous. Jim responded by saying that he just wanted to be with her. Of course, that just brought Nancy to tears and they  hugged each other. That was when their relationship changed and they reconnected by daily phone calls after their trip.

In September, Nancy returned to Illinois  to enjoy the Homestead Festival in Princeton with family and friends. On the first evening in town, Jim and Nancy got together, when Jim popped the big question – “Would you marry me again?” – and Nancy replied, “Of course I will.”   They both decided to keep their relationship a secret until they could tell the whole family  when they were all together during the Festival weekend. They were really going to shock them by telling them that they were planning on tying the knot again.

Illinois farm family

To  surprise the family, Nancy planned to get the children and grandchildren together for family pictures. When Jim walked in for the family pictures, Nancy announced that she wanted Jim to be in the picture – because he was in the picture again.  Everyone had a confused look on their face until Jim walked over to Nancy and presented her with a beautiful engagement ring. The room exploded with happy tears, shouts of joy and many hugs.

The wedding was planned for one week later at the family home with a very  happy family present. Two months later Jim and Nancy celebrated their happy reunion with their family and friends for a “Re-Rapped Celebration.  The celebration was a time for Jim and Nancy to show their appreciation to all their family and friends for their love, caring and support of their reunion.

Nick and Ben have joined their father in the farming operation and now their family is a true “farm family.”

The Lord truly works in mysterious ways and in His own time.

This wonderful story of love submitted by Nancy Rapp.  THANK YOU NANCY!