On this day in 1790, Samuel Hopkins was issued the first U.S. patent for a process that improved the making of potash.  But what is potash exactly and why in the world would this matter?

potash-fertilizer-2Potash refers to potassium compounds and potassium-bearing materials, the most common being potassium chloride (KCl).  Farmers use potash as fertilizer to feed their plants and continue producing more food for the growing world population.  Potassium is the third major plant and crop food, after nitrogen and phosphorus.

Potassium has been used since antiquity as a soil fertilizer … and agriculture still comprises about 90 percent of its use today.  Potash is important for agriculture because it improves water retention, yield, nutrient value, taste, color, texture, and disease resistance of food crops.  In addition to corn fields, potash is also used to grow fruits and veggies, rice, wheat, and other grains.

Demand for potash has increased in recent years, as the need for food has increased.  Specifically, rising incomes in developing nations are now demanding more protein which means more animals and more feedstocks to feed those animals.

But farmers aren’t just applying potash and other fertilizers haphazardly.  The tractors and implements farmers own today utilize GPS and the soil testing that farmers do on their ground to identify the exact areas where fertilizers are needed for optimum plant growth and they only apply fertilizers there.  This minimizes runoff in the water system and also cost to the farmer to purchase the fertilizer.

Would you like to know more about potash and other fertilizers used on farm ground today?  Check out this FAQ from the Fertilizer Institute!  Fascinating!

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


The IL Corn exhibit in Joliet at the Chicagoland Speedway this past weekend featured quite a few stories of agricultural history.  Is history your thing?  It might just be worth your time to stop in and see us.

model T at NASCARWe featured an old Model T Ford in the center of our exhibit.  Did you know that these first vehicles were made to run on 100% ethanol?  In fact, most homes used ethanol for fuel prior to the Civil War.  When President Lincoln needed to fund the war, he placed a tax on alcohol (including ethanol) that first allowed petroleum based fuels into the marketplace as they were cheaper comparatively than ethanol.

In later years, when Henry Ford built the first vehicles, they ran on ethanol fuel.  But a different sort of war, a war of riches and influence between Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller, developed and Rockefeller with his oil fields won.  Thus, petroleum as a vehicle fuel was born.

corn shellerWe also feature an old fashioned corn sheller in our exhibit, right next to the brand new New Holland combine that farmers use today to harvest their crops.  In the 1920s and 1930s, farmers would walk through the fields, harvesting the corn cobs from the plants, placing them in bags, baskets, or wagons, and hauling them to the corn crib (grain storage) on their farm.  As needed for livestock feed, the farmers would use the corn sheller to remove the kernels from each ear of corn.

Today, a combine travels through the field, cutting off the mature corn plant about 4-6 inches from the ground.  The entire plant (stalk, leaves, corn cob, husks, etc) travels through the machine, where every bit of it is separated from the corn kernels.  The kernels end up in a hopper at the top of the machine, while all the rest of the plant is dropped out the back of the machine back onto the field.  This “trash” as farmers call it, will decompose in the field and add organic matter to the soil.  The kernels remaining are augered from the combine into a waiting grain cart or semi to be hauled from the field.

In 1920, farmers grew about 35 bushels per acre.  Today, we grow about 165 bushels per acre.  Efficiencies in our equipment and farm management have allowed us to be much more productive, providing food and fuel for our growing world!

If these stories interest you, definitely check out the video below and consider stopping in to see our tent during the September 14-15 weekend at the Joliet Chicagoland Speedway!  We’d love to share more stories of agricultural history with you in person!

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


During the 2013 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, IL, attendees will have the opportunity to geocache the entire location for a chance to win an iPad! Download a geocache app to your smart phone prior to your arrival at Farm Progress Show and check out more details here or by visiting www.ilcorn.org/corncache.

Good luck!


You’re an educator in a school that does not support an agriculture program or any agriculture based curriculum.  You ask yourself, “How does agriculture even relate to anything in my classroom anyway?” Think again.  Agriculture is everywhere in your students classroom, from the clothes on their back, to their lunches, crayons, glue, pencils, etc.  Agriculture can be incorporated into any classroom lesson whether it is the science behind DNA in plants, mechanics behind an engine, history of American agriculture, or even a simple math problem with agricultural ties.

Ag EverywhereTop 5 Reasons to Incorporate Ag into the Classroom:

  1. People need to know where their food comes from.
  2. Agriculture plays a HUGE role in our daily lives.
  3. Agriculture is everywhere you go.
  4. There are many misconceptions about the industry as a whole.
  5. By learning about agriculture, students are able to hinder miscommunications before they are introduced to social media, T.V., etc.

Ludwig  dairy farmLike mentioned above, agriculture is everywhere.  From the clothes on your back, food on the dinner table, and batteries in your TV remote, it plays a large role in our daily lives.   You may be asking yourself where to find information to teach.  Wait! There are unlimited amounts of resources for educators and people just like you around the state.  A few resources are listed below:

Listed above are numerous websites with hundreds of lesson plan options for you to take into the classroom.  Even better, commodity groups such as Illinois Corn, Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Pork Producers , and Illinois Soybean Association also have free resources.  There are many other ways to incorporate agriculture into your classroom by simply visiting a local farmer, seed dealer, grain elevator, hog farm, and many others.  This allows students to see firsthand daily operations in the agriculture industry.  You can also incorporate agricultural careers into your classroom by having students do a simple research project.  After all, jobs in agriculture aren’t all that different from careers outside of agriculture.  The same concepts are offered; just different subjects and rules may apply.  Your students may learn that careers such as horticulture are highly influenced by agriculture.  They may also learn they have an interest in an agricultural career.

Miles of OpportunityIn conclusion, agriculture is everywhere and any student can benefit from having it in the classroom.  Our country was founded with agriculture being the main ideal, so why wouldn’t we teach about it? Go explore, educate, and inspire your students to learn about agriculture. There are miles of opportunities waiting, what are you waiting for?

Danielle BrownDanielle Brown
IL Corn Ag in the Classroom Intern


I was talking with a coworker earlier today about yet another celebrity who has made a statement supporting the humane treatment of pigs on farms, and it perplexes me when celebrities (or people in general) do this. Of course you support the humane treatment of animals, what kind of a person wouldn’t? Do people think farmers have quarterly meetings to come up with terrible ways to treat animals just for the heck of it?

I grew up on a farm, and I am all for animals being treated humanely. As a matter of fact, my personal experiences have shown me that many farmers have a greater respect and understanding of animals than a person who has spent little time with livestock. So I find it odd when people declare their support of the humane treatment of animals, because… so do we.

It is frustrating to me, and I assume to other farmers, when people start attacking you for how you raise your animals when the extent of their research has been watching a story about it on the news. Gestation stalls in pork production are a great example. The media shows you pictures of these and portray it as a negative thing, so you automatically form a negative opinion about them. When people talk to me about it, I ask them, “Did you know that pigs are surprisingly aggressive animals? They have a need to establish a pecking order, and in order to do so, they fight with each other leaving gashes and bite marks all over their opponent.” Of course, they don’t usually know that, nor do I expect them to. After all, the only reason I know that is because I have experience working with pigs and studied them in college.

The methods we use to raise livestock were put in place for a reason, believe it or not. We didn’t just decide that it would be easier to put each pig in their own stall and start implementing it. Extensive research showed us that it created a more ideal living environment for a pregnant sow. Are farmers always right? Of course not, no one is. But we spend a lot of time and money on research and we are always trying to grow, learn, and improve.

So, the next time you think farmers are doing something wrong, just remember that we are people, too. We care. We are doing things the best way we know how with the information and resources we are given, just like anybody else. Maybe, just maybe, there is reason behind our actions.

As always, I am a huge advocate of engaging in farmer-consumer conversations. If you don’t understand why we are doing something, just ask! I bet you will walk away with a better understanding and more trust in the people who grow your food.

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
ICGA/ICMB Membership Administrative Assistant


normal cornbelters logoI guess time really does fly when you’re having FUN!  Believe it or not, the Normal CornBelters officially wrapped up the first half of the 2013 season on Sunday, July 14.

The Washington Wild Things will host the Frontier League All-Star Game, presented by 84 Lumber, on Wednesday, July 17 at 7:05 p.m. (ET) at CONSOL Energy Park in Washington, PA.  CornBelters left-handed pitcher Ryan Demmin, right-handed pitcher Drew Provence, first baseman Michael Schwartz and shortstop Pat McKenna were named West Division All-Stars.  Both McKenna and Schwartz were selected as starters at their respective positions.

The team is currently 26-22, only four games behind the Gateway Grizzlies in the West Division and two games back of a wild card playoff berth.  They’re 17-10 at The Corn Crib and 9-12 on the road.  That’s a stark contrast to a year ago, when they finished the season with just 29 wins!

Off the field, we’ve sold 62,253 tickets to our first 27 home games (26 openings), and we’re currently averaging 2,394 tickets sold per-game.  Plus, over 7,300 fans recently attended our second stand-along concert on Saturday, June 29 featuring Darius Rucker, Rodney Atkins and Jana Kramer!

If the second half of the season goes anything like the first half of the season did, one thing’s for sure…  That is, our fans will continue to have some FUN!

The CornBelters will kick-off the second half of the season on Friday, July 19, as the team takes on the Evansville Otters at 7 p.m. at The Corn Crib.  It is “CEFCU Fireworks Friday / Facebook Friday.”  Gates open at 6 p.m., parking is just $2 per-car and tickets start at only $5 each!

To purchase tickets, simply visit the Mid-Illini Credit Union Box Office at The Corn Crib, or call (309) 454-2255 (BALL), during normal business hours (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. / Saturday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.).  You can also purchase tickets on-line anytime at:  https://www.ticketreturn.com/prod2/team.asp?SponsorID=4098#.UbjDC_lQFid.

kylekregerKyle Kreger
CornBelters baseball