APPLES AND PUMPKINS AND PIES, OH MY!

Can you believe it? It’s already the last day of September. It still feels like summer outside with some of the weather we have been having, but the cool mornings and combines in the fields tell me “IT’S FALL!” This calls for a trip to the apple orchard this weekend!

Apple cider, apple doughnuts, apple pie, apple crisp… BRING. IT. ON.

As much as all of those delicious apple treats make my stomach growl, I should point out that most apple orchards offer so much more than enjoyable treats. I always love to see parents bringing their kids to an apple orchard because it gives those kids (and maybe even some of the parents) their first hands-on experience with farming. Picking your own apples or pumpkins, navigating through corn mazes, climbing on the straw bales, petting zoos… all of these experiences can give people a link to farming.

So many people today have concerns about their food for one very basic reason: they don’t have any connection to farming. This lack of a connection often means a lack of understanding, which, in turn, can create concern about the way their food is grown. Creating a connection to farming can be something as simple as meeting a farmer, walking through a corn field, or even picking your own apples.

Obviously farming involves far more than climbing on straw bales and checking the pumpkin patch, so people aren’t going to gain a comprehensive understanding of what we do on their trip to the apple orchard. But their experience is real, it is tangible. If we can teach a person one thing about farming and they are eager and willing to listen, that is a “win” in my book.

I’m not saying that a trip to the apple orchard will solve the dilemma we face today… but it sure doesn’t hurt! Baby steps, people.

You can find me elbow-deep in the Honeycrisp Apple bin this weekend. I hope you all get a chance to make it to your local apple orchard this fall, too!

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
Membership Administrative Assistant

HARVEST GETS STARTED IN CENTRAL ILLINOIS!

central illinois harvest, auger, cornHarvest has started in Illinois!  Farmers in southern Illinois have been going for a while, with central Illinois farmers starting in earnest this week and northern Illinois probably starting next week.

Grant Noland in Macon County reports that his yields are variable, but 175-210 bpa at 22-30% moisture would catch most of what he’s seeing. Yields in southern Macon/N Christian Co reported thus far have been big. Not hearing anything under 200 bpa. We do believe our home area is better due to additional rainfall.

Interested in more harvest updates?  We’ll have many more next week!

CELEBRATE BOURBON HERITAGE MONTH

Kentucky-Bourbon-glassThere are only five days left in September, but you still have time to kick back, relax and enjoy a smooth glass (or two) of America’s “Native Spirit”…. Bourbon!

National Bourbon Heritage Month came about in 2007 as a way to celebrate the family heritage, tradition and deep-rooted legacy that the bourbon industry contributes to the United States.  Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon, dating back more than 200 years and 95% of the world’s bourbon is currently made there.   Only Kentucky has the perfect natural mix of climate, conditions and pure limestone water necessary for producing the world’s best bourbon.

bourbon barrelsTo be considered bourbon, it must be made with a minimum of 51% corn and aged in new oak barrels that have been charred.  Because of this, it makes for a unique corn market in the state.  Each year, Kentucky’s bourbon and alcohol distillers utilize about 15 million bushels of corn annually!  You can learn more about Kentucky corn and bourbon by visiting the Kentucky Corn Growers Association.

Bourbon has a wide range of aromas and flavors… sweet aromatic (vanilla, caramel, honey and butterscotch), fruit and floral (apple, pear, fig, raisin, date, citrus and rose), spice (black pepper, tobacco leaf, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon), wood (oak, cedar, pine, almond and pecan) and grain (corn, malt and rye).  No single bourbon features all of these flavors.

bourbon-graphic

Now that you know a little bit more about bourbon, you might be wondering what the best way is to experience the complexities of it and how exactly you can celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month.  Well, that’s easy, gather up some friends, a few bottles of Kentucky’s finest, and have yourself a tasting!

THE CORN CRIB IS STILL THE PLACE TO BE THIS FALL!

While the Normal CornBelters wrapped up another successful season earlier this month, it is not time to harvest the corn around The Corn Crib just yet…

We wrapped up the 2013 season on Thursday, September 5.  On the field, the team finished the season tying the CornBelters record for most wins in a single season (46).  They won a total of 17 more games this season than they did a year ago, and they finished fifth in the Frontier League West Division.  The team also had a record number of player contracts purchased by Major League Baseball organizations.  With four active players being purchased this season alone (Casey Upperman – Baltimore Orioles / Alex San Juan – Colorado Rockies / Ryan Demmin – Philadelphia Phillies / Alan Oaks – Chicago Cubs), it brings the total to seven in the our four-year history!

Our success this season was not only on the field.  Ticket sales increased for the second season in a row!  Total tickets sold increased from 117,599 in 2012 to 126,367 in 2013, and tickets sold per-game increased from 2,557 in 2012 to 2,579 in 2013.  We finished the season with the fifth most tickets sold in the Frontier League.  We also sold 7,137 tickets for our second, stand-alone concert on Saturday, June 29 featuring Daris Rucker, Rodney Atkins and Jana Kramer.  That marked a 2,541 increase from our first, stand-alone concert in 2012 featuring Dierks Bentley, Josh Thompson and Jon Pardi!

What does this mean for farmers?  More non-farmers seeing your messages and learning about corn production in Illinois!  We have several opportunities for non-farmers to connect with agricultural messages including kids’ activities (hop scotch and “are you as tall as corn”), educational signs (what are tassels and silks?  What’s the difference between sweet corn and field corn?) and video messages that play during the games.  If you haven’t checked out the Corn Crib, you really need to see this in person!

HCC Baseball Practice (09.23.13)And though our season has come to an end, there is still plenty going on at the ballpark for you to see and for non-farmers to experience.  Heartland Community College (HCC) baseball, men’s soccer and women’s soccer are again utilizing The Corn Crib for practices and games.  For more information on HCC athletics, including schedules, please visit:  http://www.normalbaseball.com/heartland-athletics/.  There are also several special events set to take place at the ballpark, highlighted by the IHSA Class 1A Boys Soccer State Finals on Friday, November 1 and Saturday, November 2.  For more information on all events at The Corn Crib, please visit:  http://www.normalbaseball.com/stadium-events/.

Our fans often ask me what the CornBelters staff does during the off-season.  The answer to that is simple…  We execute our plan for the 2014 season!  We have several full-time, front office staff members at The Corn Crib all-year-round.  Our jobs consist of numerous tasks, from selling tickets to attending community events throughout Central Illinois.  In fact, full season tickets are already on sale for next season!  For more information on full season tickets, please visit:  http://www.normalbaseball.com/full-season-tickets/.  If you are interested in purchasing full season tickets, please visit the Mid-Illini Credit Union Box Office at The Corn Crib anytime during normal business hours, or call (309) 454-2255 (BALL).

If you are looking for something to do this fall, I strongly encourage you to stop by The Corn Crib to check out a HCC game, or a special event, before winter is upon us and it is time to harvest the corn around the ballpark.  Of course, make sure to secure your full season tickets for the CornBelters 2014 season when you do!

kylekregerKyle Kreger
CornBelters

SEVEN REASONS WHY FARMERS ARE GRATEFUL

In honor of World Gratitude Day, I thought it would be interesting to see what todays farmers are grateful for. I asked a few friends who have helped out on their family’s farms since they could walk and here’s what I found:

#7 Good Market and Consumers

Farmers are thankful for the demanding market and its loyal consumers that stabilize it. They know that they are not only producing food for their family to eat but others across the state, country and even world. The average American spends 9.5% of their income on food-less than any other country. So return the favor and thank a farmer for their efforts in making healthy food always available.

farmeroptimist

#6 Technology

In order to keep up with the growing population and demand, Farmer’s use of GPS for precision planting and biotechnology for efficiency is something very important and highly valued. Today’s farmers are producing twice as much as their parents did while using less land, water and releasing fewer emissions.  They grateful because as the farm is passed down to future generations they are confident that their sons and daughters will have an even better opportunity to produce then they did.

#5 ZZZ’s

During peak planting and harvesting seasons, farmers are out in the field from dawn to dusk for days on end, sometimes the labor is rigorous and requires extreme concentration. Farmers don’t sleep till the job is done and plan their schedule off the land and weather. Some farmers even pick up other jobs during the winter months such as snow plowing to support their families. So a nice nap, if they have the time, is much appreciated.

#4 Fertile Soil

Before the dinner table, the food we eat grows in the soil and nutrient-rich land is the key to healthy plants. Farmers understand that we have some of the most fertile land here in the U.S. and more specially Illinois. They are thankful to be given the opportunity to be the stewards of the soil that produces food for so many people world wide.

#3 Crop Insurance

We all know that natural disasters like droughts, hurricanes and tornados happen and devastate homes and families. Just like you would want to protect your home from a potential loss farmers want to insure their crops and most importantly their livelihoods. As my farmer friend explained it sometimes all it takes is a bad year to put a family farm out of business and crop insurance secures their way of life for future generations as well.

#2 Rain

Like Luke Bryan said, rain is a good thing and can influence a farmer’s actions. They evaluate previous years weather patterns and use that to make their decisions for the future. Weather ultimately decides if a crop survives-too much rain can cause flooding that could uproot the plant while too little rain will cause it to die. The right balance of rain and sunshine is crucial to a healthy crop.

familyfarm

#1 Family

97% of farms are family owned, passed down from generation to generation. Farmers are grateful that they have family to support them during the long days out in the field and also help out on the farm. When I asked my farmer friends what they were grateful for without hesitation each one said family always comes first. They know they’ve learned many values like responsibility and hard work by helping their parents with the farm, and they couldn’t be more excited to eventually be the same role model for their children.

sombeckEmily Sombeck
Illinois State University student

FARM BILL, FOOD STAMPS, AND DEADLINES … OH MY!

This week, the House is considering a Food Stamp bill – the companion to the farm only Farm Bill passed earlier this summer – that calls for a reduction in the food stamp budget.  If the bill passes with the budget reduction, it will pass right along party lines.

foodstamp0413The cost of the federal food stamp program has exploded over the past decade, according to the Department of Agriculture. In 2001, the program served 17 million people at a cost of just over $15 billion. By 2012, there were  46 million people enrolled in the program at a cost of a little under $75 billion. Democrats say the program has grown because the economy tanked; Republicans argue much of the expansion is attributed to states giving benefits to people who do not qualify.

Regardless of the outcome of the budget line for this bill, farmers need SOMETHING to pass in order to get the farm programs they rely on passed … and it might be confusing why this is so.

The number of Congressmen who serve agricultural districts is dwindling.  This is a direct response to the number of farmers who are also dwindling.  Our representation system is designed to work this way, so it should come as no surprise.  What isn’t dwindling is the number of people employed and affected by agriculture … though many of them may not even realize that their food is grown and not simply wished into being by the grocery store.

Because the number of elected officials with a direct connection to the farms and rural areas is smaller, and because the people in the urban areas of America don’t understand their connection to the farm, the number of Congressmen who are bought into a farm bill that really works for America’s farmers is small.

Enter the food stamp program.

Though there are several reasons why the food stamp program and the farm bill became legislatively linked over the years, the most important one for our purposes today is that more Congressmen are interested in food stamps than are interested in farm programs.  And we need the Congressmen interested in passing a workable food aid program to vote for the bill in order to get a farm program bill passed.

That the House is struggling so much to pass the full farm bill is testiment to our current political climate – which isn’t a ocean we really need to dive into today.

The Senate already passed a more traditional farm bill, which included both farm programs and food aid, and that bill waits for a House version in order to conference a final bill.  The House will struggle to get the final portion of the farm bill – the food stamp portion – through this week.  Some experts predict they are still 10-12 votes short.

As for the farmers, we will all be on the edge of our seat, praying for the food stamp portion of the bill to pass the House this week so that we can continue to move to conference committee and hopefully end up with a workable farm program for 2014.  We’re already too late to acheive this before the current extension expires on September 30.

Sometimes, there’s nothing left to say so I leave you with this:

“If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us in these acceptance speeches
there wouldn’t be any inducement to go to heaven.”  ~Will Rogers

mitchell_lindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

SIGHTINGS FROM THE SILO …

I grew up on a fifth generation grain and livestock farm in central Illinois with my dad, mom and two brothers.  Our farm has a beautiful white farmhouse surrounded by vibrant red barns, a white wood fence, grain bins, trees, pasture and the acreage.  The highest point on the farm is the silo. The silo is a concrete, vertical structure made to hold silage, chopped corn, with iron ladders on the sides.  Our silo stands 61 feet tall, and I have climbed the silo only once with the help of my brothers. The view from there was amazing.  You can see every inch of the farm right around you to the miles that extend to Christian and Shelby Counties.  When giving direction to our friends on how to get to the farm, it was always stated with “Look for the silo!” because it stood out and was the only farm with a silo around us, so it was a landmark for many.Sightings from the Silo

My parents were working parents as my brothers and I grew up. My mom was a full time farm mom. She made sure that meals were on the table and my brothers and I had our homework and farm chores done. She was also a small business owner of Prairie Lady Productions, a business that made her flourish as a well-known agriculture historian allowing her to travel around Illinois singing and telling stories about living in the 1800’s on the historic prairie as the Prairie Lady. I can remember traveling with my mom as she performed at different festivals or churches all over the state.  (I also remember dressing up in prairie time period costumes and helping her in a few shows when I became older.)  When I was in the first grade she took on another job in Assumption, IL , at an insurance office.  At the end of her workday she would head north towards the silo to start our evenings on the farm.

My dad was a full time farmer, part-time livestock trucker and sale barn employee.  I remember going on short cattle hauls with my dad and taking the livestock to the sale barn to be sold.  The sale barn is where hay or straw can be taken to be sold and where livestock is sold to another farm or slaughtered for our food. Every Tuesday during my summer breaks I would go to work with him at the sale barn.   He would work in the back with the livestock and I would work in the café, either as a waitress or dishwasher (depending on what needed to be done).  When I was in high school my dad took a job as the assistant road commissioner where he would help maintain the roads and bridges in the township. He also was in charge of plowing snow in the winter and picking up debris after severe thunderstorms.  The entire township that he helped to maintain could be seen from the silo.Sightings from the Silo 2

It wasn’t until I was older with a job of my own and farm responsibilities that I truly understood how much time my parents dedicated to work.  My parents worked both outside of the farm and on the farm to help provide for the family.  To most that would be two jobs, to our family it was a job and a way of life. They would leave work to head home to the farm to work more.  In the evenings after school, my brothers and I would help Dad around the farm working on equipment, with livestock, or just doing regular daily maintenance on the farm, while Mom would be inside making a meal.  My mom always valued eating one meal during the day as a family. On typical nights like these when we were around the farm, it was easy for my mom to simply ring the dinner bell for us all to come in for family dinner.  However, during the Spring planting or the Fall harvest, a family meal meant Mom and I taking the meal to the field so we could all be together. Even though the dinner table was now a tailgate, what truly mattered was that we were all together with the silo still in view.

Alicia GullidgeAlicia Gullidge
Illinois State University Graduate Student