COME ON SPRING!

It’s the middle of February and I’m tired.  I’m tired of the snow, ice and freezing temperatures.  But above all else, I’m tired of being stuck in the house.  While we get out and enjoy sledding, snowmobiling, building snowmen and making snow angels, when the temperatures are below zero, there is only a short window of time you can be outside without having to run back in the house for dry clothes and hot chocolate.

I know I’m not the only person ready for Old Man Winter to make his exit and spring to come rolling in… so today, I’m sitting at my desk and with the help of our Pinterest page, I’m thinking spring.  Who cares if it’s 3 degrees outside?  In my mind it’s 60 and sunny!

The best things about spring:

  1. Daylight Savings Time – Getting home from work while it’s still daylight?  It’s amazing!  You have time to grill out, exercise outside, kids can play outside longer and burn off some of that pent up energy, and best of all, you can do chores and actually SEE what you are doing!
  2. Baby animals – Nothing says spring like babies!  Farm babies are my personal favorite.
    baby goat
  3. Flowers and green fields – It’s very soothing to me to see long stretches of green grass and bright flowers, it just makes me happy.
    green grass
  4. Temperatures ABOVE freezing – Besides the obvious of not needing to bundle up when going outside, farmers really appreciate this because they don’t have to worry about their animals not having access to fresh water.
  5. Open windows – Saving money on your heating bill (who doesn’t love THAT?!), the fresh breeze blowing through your house, driving with the windows down so you can literally feel the sun on your face… I love all of these, but most of all, I love that it lets in the smells of spring… which brings me to number 6…
    open-window
  6. Spring Smells – You know the smells of spring, right?  Everything just has a hint of freshness.  My personal favorite is freshly turned soil.  Maybe it’s associated with a productive crop in my mind, or maybe I just have a nose for dirt, either way, it will always be one of my favorite scents!
    fresh turned dirt
  7. Morel Mushrooms – Even if you don’t like eating morels, the hunt is just as enjoyable… if not more so!
    morels
  8. Gardening – Gardening was always a family event in my house growing up.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t always love it.  It’s not easy work, but I did (and still do) always love the satisfaction of eating the food that we grew ourselves.  And now I look forward to planting my own every year.
    garden

Whether you are a farmer or non-farmer, what has you looking forward to spring?

Becky FinfrockBecky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

MY HEART’S ON THE FARM …

A small collection of the heart shaped items you might find on farms all over the world.

heart-head[photo credit: ABC]

A very sweet calf with the cutest pink tongue and a bright white heart on her head … she’s the perfect Valentine’s Day package.

swns-heart-wood-12-web

[photo credit: NY Daily News]

A loving tribute to a wife lost too soon, planted in the forest near this farm.

heart-shaped-tomato

[Photo credit: Liberty Fajutrao]

Red produce fresh from the garden is the perfect reminder of the sweetie in your life!

redbudlvs[Photo credit: Plants and People Project]

The leaves of a redbud tree around the farm house are a heart-shaped reminder of love on those long nights after spring planting!

Jim Tarmann working "heart"

And perhaps nothing shows your true feelings than a perfect heart of sweat on your chest!

FOUR GIFTS FROM A FARMER TO HIS SWEETIE ON VALENTINE’S DAY

There are plenty of things a farmer could get his sweetie for Valentine’s Day; chocolate, stuffed animals, jewelry, books. The list of “typical” gifts goes on and on.  What about channeling his resources and going that extra mile?  How about a gift that will keep her warm during the months ahead? What about something that will appeal to his love of the environment and the soil? Or maybe something that would make her smile even when he isn’t there?  Well, I’ve been looking around and found some great ideas that could do just that.  Check out these gifts that would make a farmer’s sweetie feel like one lucky gal this Valentine’s Day!

Carhartt1.       A Carhartt Jacket

We all know that farmers work despite the freezing temperatures we’ve been having. And being outside in anything other than a durable, warm Carhartt jacket would make any kind of work more trying. Just because Carhartt jackets are sensible doesn’t mean they can’t be cute too.  They come in a variety of colors from the classic tan to pink or blue.  I’m sure that a farmer’s sweetie would love that he thought about her staying warm in one of her favorite colors.

Photo credit: Costalfarm.com

Fishing rod2.       A  new fishing rod and reel

Summertime can mean long, lazy days enjoying the relaxing art of fishing so maybe a farmer could help her beat his record for biggest bass with a brand new fishing rod and reel?  Yes, she would have to wait until the weather warms up to use it, but she would be bound to appreciate that he planned ahead and is looking forward to making some great summertime memories with her. I have found a cute one here!

Photo credit: Fishing-tackle-manufacturers.com

tree growing kit3.       A tree growing kit

Although planting a tree means waiting for the ground to thaw, she would love that it could be planted together and it is a symbol of their ever-growing love.  (I found a kit for a dawn redwood here). Enhancing farmland land and being environmentally conscious are just great added benefits for the farmer. The tree could be there for years to come and every time she looked at it she would smile and think of him.  (Even if she’s annoyed that he’s been late to dinner all week because he was plowing the fields).

Photo credit: Gifts.com

Open when...4.       “Open when…” Letters

These letters would be great for her to have when she’s annoyed, frustrated, missing you, sad, or upset and he isn’t there to let her know how he really feels. Some ideas I had for putting on the envelopes are “Open when… you wish I’d come in for dinner at a decent time.” “Open when… yet another one of our date nights was spent in the tractor because it’s harvest season.” “Open when… you’re sick of me tracking my muddy boots through the house.” “Open when… you’re mad that I forgot your birthday because it’s right in the middle of busy season.” “Open when… you’re sick of planning vacations around cattle shows.” Opening these letters would definitely make her happy she’s got a man like him!

Photo credit: GirlCalledJulie, Twitter.com

Finding a Valentine’s Day gift for a farmers’ sweetie may not always be easy, but hopefully these ideas would help find something meaningful and unique for a farmer’s special girl.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ellie SeitzingerEllie Seitzinger
Illinois State University student

WHAT MY KIDS LEARN WHEN THEY DO THEIR CHORES

I’m a farm kid.  And I probably had much fewer chores than the average farm kid, but I guess because I grew up in the country as a child of two farm kids and I find myself surrounded by farm kids-turned-adults all day, every day, I must have absorbed the mindset.

My kids work.  They work hard.  And while my mom is sometimes reminding me that there aren’t many eight year olds out shoveling the driveway for their mother at 6:30 am so I should probably cut him some slack, I think making my kids work is the exact right thing to do for us.

In response to this article, I’d like to offer up the five things my kids and our family gain because they have jobs around the house.

Note: My kids do not have a chore chart or a list of things they are supposed to complete every day.  I just know what they can do and I assign tasks ad nauseam.  They probably get the short end of the stick compared to kids with a designated chore chart, but … life isn’t fair.  They’ll get over it.

washing dishes1. Teamwork: Sometimes, I think it’s ok for my kids to work together against me.  And when I assign them a job that is too big for one of them, they figure out that if they work together, it will go faster and they can return to their fun quicker.

Yesterday was a snow day for us and after the myriad of snow days we’ve had recently, we are all getting on each other’s nerves a little bit.  So when I announced at 2 pm that they had two hours to play together while I decompressed alone, I wasn’t shocked when 15 minutes of fighting followed.  I solved the fighting with an announcement that we were going to clean the living room.  They weren’t happy, but they vacuumed, cleaned under furniture with the swiffer, washed windows, helped me move furniture, and in one hour when the three of us had deep cleaned the living room, I reminded them that the job would have taken me three hours alone.  And then they quickly retreated to playtime together – minus the fighting – and we all lived happily ever after.  Everyone is happy when we work together.

2. Charity & Kindness: I am forever asking one or the other of my kids to pick up the school bags and coats that were thrown in the doorway after school.  Or please empty the lunch boxes.  Or pick up the dirty clothes in the hallway that didn’t quite make it to the laundry basket.  I am often met with “I already picked up MINE, those are his/hers.”  To which I usually reply, “Then I’m only cooking dinner for myself tonight.  What are you planning to eat?”  Or “I guess I’ll wash my clothes then … would you like to learn how to wash yours?”  I think it’s a wonderful lesson for my kids to learn.  Its “Love your neighbor as yourself” in action.

shoveling3. Family Solidarity: When we have a big job to do and someone complains, I remind them that we are all in this together and we are a family.  Sometimes things just have to be done.  We rake leaves together, we shovel snow together, we clean together, and we paint together.  And yes, sometimes its sad to watch the neighbor kids riding bikes or sledding while we’re still trying to clean off the drive, but I like thinking that they are learning a lesson about family responsibility.  It’s our house together and some things just have to come first.

raking4. Delayed Gratification: In my head, our society has a huge problem with instant gratification.  I hope I’m doing my part to ensure that at least two members of our future will understand delayed gratification and use it to live a happy and prosperous life.  Is it fun to have to put away your clean clothes before you can play outside?  Nope.  Is it fun to have to put away your clean clothes a second time when your mom realizes you’ve messed up your drawers in your haste to get outside?  Nope.  But over time, I hope they will understand the value of working hard THEN playing hard when they are making a decision to study for their final exam or go out with the guys instead.

5. Do It Right the First Time: One thing I’m very strict about – my kids always make their beds and I like for them to look perfect.  They don’t always look perfect, but when they make their beds and I can tell they didn’t even try, they get the opportunity to do it again.  This is about a once a week occurrence, and it doesn’t make anyone happy, but I don’t see anything wrong with doing a chore over and over until you get it right.  When they vacuum, they sometimes get to vacuum again if I can tell they’ve done a crappy job.  When they fold towels, they fold them again if they don’t meet my expectations – after all, an eight and a nine-year old can totally fold a rectangle in half and in half again without messing it up.  And someday, when the stakes are higher than folding towels and are, instead, finishing that report for the boss, I hope they are less tempted to half-do it.

If I were living in the country, these jobs might look like feeding the animals, helping in the garden, mowing, or even following dad to the field to give him a ride home.  But I think the lessons are the same.  And just because I’m a city dweller now, doesn’t mean I don’t rent my kids out to help the neighbors spread a truckload of mulch or help carry lumber for a deck or something.

Trust me.  That sort of work builds character.

Mitchell familyLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND FARMING, YOU’RE NOT ALONE!

listen with the intent to understandMaybe it’s human nature … but we understand that agriculture sometimes has difficulty listening with the intent to understand.

The thing is, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do here at IL Corn.  We want to engage in conversation with people who don’t understand farming and want to learn more.  We want to answer honest questions – no matter how silly they seem to us – and we want to ask our own.

FACT: Did you know that when I first moved from the farm into town, I spent my first evening without power trying my hardest not to use the restroom?  That probably sounds silly to a non-farmer, but in the country, our water comes into the house by means of a well and that well requires power.  Therefore, no power = no water.  And no flushing.

It’s maybe too much information, but it’s true!  There are just as many things that we don’t understand about city living as things that you don’t understand about rural living.

Can we be friends?  Can we engage in true conversation?  Can we learn from each other?

Start by getting plugged in to the places where IL Corn exists.  We have a Pinterest page that is about so much more than farming and we’d love to answer questions there.  We are on Instagram where we share facts about agriculture as well as the beautiful scenery that farmers enjoy every day.  We’d love to bring you along on our drive to work every morning.

We’re on Facebook, answering any questions about corn that you might ask.  We’re also right here on CornCorps.

And we’re a part of the Illinois Farm Families coalition – found at www.watchusgrow.org – where conversations between farmers and non-farmers are happening every day!

Seek us out and talk to us.  We can’t WAIT to meet you … and to really listen to you.

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

WHY EXACTLY ARE YOU FEEDING YOUR KIDS ORGANIC PRODUCE?

strawberriesYou owe it to yourself to read this article.

Just in case you’re one of those parents that is buying organic – because any amount of extra dough is worth minimizing the risks to your sweet little mini-me – you should read this article.

If you’re buying organic produce believing that organic farmers do not use pesticides, you’ve been believing a lie and you should read this article.

Maybe you’re buying organic produce to pack in Junior’s lunch box and to take to playdates to escape the scorn and guilt from other mommies in the pack; you should read this article and then maybe print it out and distribute it at the next playdate.

And in case you don’t have time to read this article, here’s the main point:

What all this means for parents is that we should stop worrying so much about whether the apples we buy are organic or conventional—we should just start giving our kids more apples. (And, sure, wash them when you can.) The Environmental Working Group agrees: In the first sentence of the executive summary of its 2013 Shoppers Guide to Produce, the organization points out that “the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.” What’s more, irrational fears over conventionally farmed produce can introduce dangerous trade-offs.As University of Michigan decision psychologist Brian Zikmund-Fisher put it to me, “If you don’t feed your kid the ‘right strawberry,’ what do you feed him?” I’ve walked into markets with a hungry kid and been so afraid to buy the conventional apple that I’ve gotten him a snack pack of Annie’s Crackers instead. And I know there are parents who buy the Peter Rabbit Organics Fruit Pouches at Starbucks because they don’t know whether the bananas on display are organic. These aren’t smart moves. It is far, far better for your kids’ long-term health to get them in the habit of eating whole fruits and vegetables, regardless of what type of farm they came from, than to give them pretty much anything else to eat, no matter how organic or all-natural it may be.

But seriously … read this article!