WHEN ALL THE FARMERS RETIRE, WHO IS LEFT?

I’m quite certain that if you closed your eyes and imagined a farmer in your head, these are some of the words that would describe him.

  • farmermale
  • hard-working
  • dedicated
  • tired
  • brave
  • sweaty
  • early riser
  • trustworthy
  • old

I know, because I just did this exact activity with my son’s third grade classroom.  Those are some great adjectives, right?

(And for today, we’re going to skip over the “male” descriptor because women ARE farmers and women ARE becoming increasingly important in agriculture – but that’s not where I’m going today.)

central illinois harvest, auger, cornFor just a brief moment, I’d like to talk about the fact that most of our farmers are aging.  That farmers are retiring in huge numbers every day.  That there simply aren’t enough young farmers to take over.

That those large farms that scare you so?  Those might be a function of fewer farmers to farm, because young people aren’t coming back to the farm.  And fewer farmers means more ground per farmer.  (There’s also the economy of scale thing that’s pretty important here.)

We’ve seen more young farmers come back in recent years because farming was profitable.  Corn and soybeans have fetched a very fair price in recent years thanks to good market opportunity through biofuels and exports.  But that’s about to change.

Remember this post?  Farmers are losing money this year hand over fist.  And those young guys are going to have to buckle down this year and in the coming years if they want to make a life on the farm.

So this “farmer aging phenomena” is something that ag associations and organizations are paying attention to.  They are working to help older farmers make it easy to pass their farms on to the next generation.  They are reminding farmers when great market opportunities come up that make it easy to add a son or daughter to their family farm.

And then there’s this post.  It’s a great read and the inspiration behind my few words here.  Please go check it out.  But if you can’t, here’s the part I liked best.

“So, why do we have a shortage of young farmers? Coming from one, I think I’ve got a good perspective.

1. It’s hard. It is so hard to get started farming. It can cost millions of dollars to get started, and we have to take on a HUGE debt load and responsibility of paying the bank back. So, why would you invest millions in a high risk life style/career when you could potentially make that in a lesser high risk career in the city?

2. Rural America. There isn’t a whole lot to offer compared to a larger city as far as careers, entertainment and dining options. Now, I’m lucky. In my small town we have a movie theater where the tickets are $5/ticket and we have a gas station, a locally owned coffee shop and a Dairy Queen. – It’s a hopping place on a Saturday night, let me tell you. There’s just a lot more to do in larger towns.

3. The lifestyle. Farming isn’t an occupation. It isn’t something you clock in at 9 AM and can clock out by 5 PM. Guess what time my husband woke up this morning? 4:30 AM. Guess what time he’ll likely come in for the evening? About 6:30 or 7 PM. It is hard work.”

Getting started as a young farmer is expensive.  And there isn’t a lot to offer young people who appreciate the allure of a nice restaurant or a mall close by.  The days are long and hard and you really have to be invested in making it work because you love the lifestyle.  You won’t get rich quick and every penny you earn will have been an investment in hard physical labor and exhaustion.

Kuddos to the young farmers who are excited about farming every day and who make a choice to continue growing food for our world.

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

WARM CHIPOTLE MAPLE CORN & ASPARAGUS SALAD

Easter is coming up, and you are no doubt planning your menu.  Don’t forget to add the corn!!!

maple-chipotle-spring-corn-salad-3480

 

Yes, you’ll hear no disagreement from your family when you add this to the Easter buffet.  But remember, the sweet corn in this recipe is wholly different from the field corn Illinois farmers are famous for growing!!

Sweet corn is bred for an increased sugar content and harvested in the summer.  Field corn is harvested in the fall and allowed to dry down, to be later ground for corn flour, fed to livestock, or used to fuel your vehicles.

To learn more about the difference between sweet corn and field corn, click here.

And make this salad THIS WEEK!

Warm Chipotle Maple Corn and Asparagus Spring Salad
makes about 4 servings

2 ears fresh corn, kernels shaved off
1 bunch asparagus, chopped into one inch strips
3/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar + 1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard (combined)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup chopped nuts, mixed (roasted salted)
optional: 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast – thickens and adds a rich savory flavor
optional: 2 Tbsp raisins

2 tsp oil for saute (I used safflower)

Directions:

1. Add oil to saute pan over high heat.
2. Add in the asparagus. Cover with lid and allow to cook for about 1-2 minutes.
3. Lift lid and add in the corn, 1/2 tsp chipotle powder, pepper and salt. Cover with lid again and shake pan to disperse steam and oil.
4. Add in the apple cider vinegar and Dijon mustard mixture. Allow to continue to cook – now uncovered until the liquid has absorbed into the veggies – or steamed off.
5. Toss the nuts in the maple syrup and remaining chipotle powder and then add them to the hot pan. If adding raisins, add them now as well. Toss with the veggies and cook for a minute or so.
6. Do a taste test and make sure the veggies are well seasoned and cooked to a tender state. Try not to over cook.
7. Remove from heat and toss with optional nutritional yeast. Plate and serve.

Read more from Kathy on her blog, Healthy. Happy. Life!

OF COURSE CONSUMERS HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW …

Foods should be labeled.  Customers have a right to know what they are eating.  Yes.

But what happens when the labels customers demand don’t make purchasing decisions easier?  What happens when what you think you want actually backfires and makes everything harder?

Farmers and the food industry are not trying to hide ingredients from you.  We support your right to know information about your food.  But we also support your right to understand information about your food, for labels to make sense and be based on scientific information.  We support affordable food for all, and not drastic price increases for the folks that didn’t care about labeling to begin with.

It’s all about balance.

So IL Corn supports the Coalition for Safe, Affordable Food, a group pursuing a very common sense approach to your desire to know more about your food.

We already have a model for this: the USDA’s Certified Organic label.  What if there were also a Certified GMO Free label?  Something clearly defined and policed that would tell you exactly which foods were GMO Free so you could buy food you felt comfortable with.

And you would be the only one paying the premium for that food, not the lower income or food stamp program families that need to simply buy fruits and veggies no matter their production methods.

To us, this makes sense.  And that’s why we’re supporting the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 which sets up a Certified GMO Free label just like the Certified Organic label.  A label that actually DOES tell you something about your food and is easy to understand.

You know what else this bill does?  It prevents state by state labeling laws that make interstate commerce nearly impossible.

And it defines the term “natural” so that when you see “natural” advertised on something you’re considering buying, you can really understand what that means.

cfsaf-righttoknow-infographic-updated-v3

 

Consumers definitely have a right to know.  And we want them to know AND UNDERSTAND what is in their food.

This is a good bill and a great effort to make food labels more clear, meaningful, and easy to understand.  IL Corn is proud to support this effort.

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT FARMING TODAY? TECHNOLOGY!

This video shares just the tiniest glimpse into the technology today’s farmers use on a daily basis. Gone are the days of farmers who knew little beyond how to put a seed in the ground and watch it grow. Today’s farmers are using massive machinery, complex computers, and mind-blowing genetics to grow crops more efficiently and with less environmental impact.

It’s amazing!

Read more at www.watchusgrow.org!

SOMETIMES IT’S HARD TO BE A FARMER’S DAUGHTER

1. Everyone that you talk to thinks that you’ve never seen a Starbucks and you only eat what you grow.

6-13-11 grocery-storeContrary to popular belief, farmers are pretty much exactly like you.  We may not have a Starbucks on every corner, but there’s definitely one in the next town.  And we shop at Walmart, Kroger, Schnucks, or Hy-Vee just like you.

In college, I had someone ask me once if I had food flown in to our house via helicopter.

Uh, no.

2. Everyone thinks that your wardrobe consists exclusively of overalls, Carhartt, and maybe cowboy boots and skimpy dresses like they see on CMT.

overallsFact: farmers shop at the same stores that you do.  The farm women I know show up looking like a million bucks with their knee high boots and cute infinity scarves.

Farm girls DO have two complete wardrobes though.  While I have rarely seen a country girl in overalls, there’s no way she’s wearing her nice boots out in the field.  She’s got work clothes and dress clothes, but she won’t look like a country bumpkin when she heads to town.

I bet you couldn’t even pick out the farm women in a crowd in Chicago!

3. Everyone assumes you must grow a small plot of vegetables because you’re too sweet to be one of THOSE farmers.

Rain  storm soaks field of corn on an Ohio farm.Today, the socially acceptable sort of farmer to be is the small, farmers market or road side stand sort of farmer.  But I didn’t grow up on a farm like that.

I’m trustworthy, very normal, and excited to advocate for farmers.  And I’d argue that there aren’t really THESE farmers and THOSE farmers.  There are just farmers.  Some are big, some are small.  Some are conventional and some are organic.  Almost all are family owned and almost all are farmers you could feel comfortable buying from.

I did grow up on one of THOSE farms.  And I’m proud of it.

4. Everyone wants to come and visit.

11-19-12 FarmerPerhaps the best part of being a farmer’s daughter is that everyone wants to see a farm first hand and its exciting to be a part of their excitement.

There is nothing quite like a farm on a clear night.  City folks have never seen that many stars.  There is nothing so awe inspiring as the sight of all those acres of land that my dad farms and cares for every single day.  To be given the task to steward God’s land is an amazing blessing.

How exciting is it to share this with the world?

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

FARMERS WITH FEET ON THE HILL

IMG_2106

A quick visit to Washington, DC this week for these farmers, a visit that included lobbying for a national GMO labeling bill, advocating for Congress NOT to open up the Farm Bill, and asking for funding for pre engineering funds for locks and dams.

Coincidentally, we were there for Aaron Schock’s announcement that he’s resigning from Congress!

In this photo, Congressman Rodney Davis gave us a moment of his time.

#TBT PROPOSAL DAY: FARM KID STYLE

Hey guys, did you know tomorrow is Proposal Day? If you need some sweet ideas, check out our post from last year:

For those of you who don’t know, today (March 20th) is proposal day. This also happens to be the first day of spring. FINALLY! I was beginning to worry…

To be honest with you, my lovely readers, I have no idea why there is such a thing as “proposal day”. I would be less than thrilled if my soon-to-be fiancé decided on such a cliché day to pop the big question. We want to be surprised and completely oblivious to the time/date/location. Am I right ladies, or am I right?

Regardless, proposal day is quickly approaching and I wanted to give some pointers to all my fellow farmers out there who are planning to propose in the near future. If you need a little inspiration, you came to the right place!

Top 5 ways to propose to your lovely lady: Farm Kid Style

1.)    Take her for a ride on your big GREEN tractor. I’m serious; if your tractor is red this is no good. She will most likely decline your marriage proposal and you will be left with a broken heart and an unimpressive piece of farm equipment.

Okay, okay. I was mostly kidding. Any tractor will do, I suppose. Spend the day with just the two of you in the combine and take some time to tell her how special she is to you. Just when she’s wondering what you are up to- park that bad boy, get on one knee, and ask that pretty girl to spend the rest of her life with you!

tractor ride

2.)    Take her fishing or hunting for the day. Or for a walk in the country if killing Bambi and Nemo isn’t your thing.

 If you have been together for a while, you probably have similar interests and like to do these things together. It is a great way to have some alone time and easy to plan. She will be too busy enjoying your time together to realize that anything is out of the ordinary.

fish hook

3.)    Make your livestock ask her to marry you. Yes, I’m aware that this sounds extremely silly and most of you are probably wondering if I am insane at this point. The answer to that is of course no, not officially anyways…

But seriously, most of us who grew up on a farm have a profound appreciation and love for livestock. Maybe your girlfriend has had a specific horse her whole life or has grown considerably close to one of your heifers; use this to your advantage! Hand make a sign to hang around the animals neck that says, “Marry Me?”, then lead her to the barn where her favorite animal with the sign will be waiting for her! She’ll love your creativity and be excited to see her four legged friend.

ear tag proposal

4.)    Make her search everywhere for that ring! I’m not kidding, literally make her find it.

Create some sort of meaningful scavenger hunt around the farm or town where you are from. Have various clues or notes placed in meaningful spots. For example, up in the hay loft where you had that ever-so-awkward first kiss; lead her there and have a clue that will bring her to the next place. The last clue should lead her to a spot of your choosing where you will be waiting on one knee and ready to make a new memory with her!

kissing by the barn

5.)    Put her in the truck, do NOT tell her where you are going, and drive to a secluded back road in the middle of nowhere. Contrary to where you think this is going, I can assure you I am not about to tell you to murder the woman you are thinking about marrying.

This is a cute one, I promise. Country girls love to sit in the bed of our boys trucks and just have life chats. If it’s a hot summer night and there are tons of stars that’s even better! Bring her out on a back road or somewhere you two can be alone. Pack your truck full of blankets and make a night of it. (Word to the wise- check the forecast beforehand. Mother Nature does not care about your proposal plans.) When you feel like the time is right, bust out the bling you stashed in your pocket and ask her to spend many more summer nights with you!

truck

One more quick tip before I cut you all loose: HIRE A PHOTOGRAPHER! Shoot, they don’t even have to be a professional. Make your mom do it or even your cousin’s ex-husband’s sister do it. Just have someone there to capture this moment; the proposal is almost as important as the wedding day. We want to look back at pictures from this day and if you can set up a secret photographer to capture all the tears and excited expressions we will love you for infinity!

In all seriousness, I hope you gained some helpful tips from this list or at the very least got a chuckle in. I’m a wedding-obsessed, twenty-something year old with a passion for the agriculture industry that came from my small farm town upbringing. It was fun to bring those two together in this blog post. Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a very Happy Proposal Day, whatever the heck that is.

ashley wagnerAshley Wagner
Illinois State University Student

5 WAYS TO CELEBRATE AG DAY

In case you didn’t know, today is the greatest day of the year: IT’S NATIONAL AG DAY! Whether you are directly involved in agriculture or not, here are 5 ways that you can celebrate today:

  1. Thank a farmer! Even if you don’t know any personally, social media makes it pretty easy to reach out and thank a member of the farming community!handshake
  2. Learn 1 fact about food or farming today. There is a plethora of information out there, go take advantage of it! (Just make sure you are getting your info from a credible source.)read-books
  3. This is as good a reason as any to bust out your best pair of overalls and wear them to work! (Extra points if you have a straw hat, too.)5449df6c911ebb8cadb63d5f6b8289ee
  4. Read the label at the gas pump when you’re getting fuel! Are you filling up with a 10% blend of ethanol? If you have access to E-15 (and your car is newer than 2001), fuel up with that higher blend! That comes from the corn you see growing right here in Illinois!e15-label
  5. When you’re eating dinner tonight, say a little thanks. We are so lucky to have access to a safe and abundant food supply, it can be easy to take it for granted. Take a moment to reflect on that today and be thankful!10394327084_c32f00c3bd_c

Happy Ag Day!

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
Communication Assistant

DAILY LIFE OF AN AGRICULTURE COLLEGE STUDENT

Ag TeacherI’ve always have wanted to tell someone what a typical day in the life of a college student is… especially an agriculture student. I find that I and other agriculture students have a different outlook on life than the typical college student would if they were from another department on campus.

For example, a typical day starts off when I walk into the classroom at 8 a.m. knowing if I don’t attend, the professor will jokingly say something to me during the next class to remind not be a “skipper” again. After that happens, we then learn the ins and outs of how our major will impact 9 billion people by 2050 and it is our job to make a difference.
Whether it is the ag student sitting to the right of me building the cutting-edge combine, or the student to the left finding ways to be more efficient with milk production on his small dairy farm, we are all taught we have a profession that will impact lots of people in the future.

As class ends, we stroll out to the lounge where students are sipping on their morning cup of joe, studying, and catching up on the latest department news. There is normally a student chatting with another at the main table in the foyer trying to convince them to buy a ticket.

In today’s case it happens to be for the Sigma Alpha Professional Women’s Sorority Agriculture Basket Auction. My friends and I find ourselves buying these tickets…I don’t mind because they go to a great cause and help our department become better!

We all stand in the hallway having conversations about who’s going home for the weekend to work at their farm or staying to watch the Mr. Agriculture event happening that night. We talk about the candidates who will be doing dances and educational activities in order to be called Mr. Agriculture of the department for the year.Zeta Alpha

After chatting with other students, the procession begins to our soil conservation and animal science class. The afternoon comes to a close when my friends and I pile into the car and head to the Bowman Auditorium for the Mr. Agriculture event Mr Ag Winnerput on by Alpha Zeta Fraternity in the agriculture department. We watch friends be
escorts, handing out pamphlets, and laughing as the candidates/classmates get on stage to strut their stuff. The winner is announced and the students go crazy over Mr. Agriculture in the department.

This is only a small taste of what a day in the life of an agriculture student is like.
Student becomes expert, friends become family, and agriculture becomes our life. … and it happens on a daily basis for an agriculture college student. Life is good!

 

THEAThea Fruhling
Illinois State University