clense foodsOn contrary to the belief, people like to believe that large corporations like Monsanto, Dupont, and Dow AgroSciences control the food market but that is not the case.  You and me are both consumers and we both choose what food we want to buy.  Our decisions have led food companies to create gluten free options, all-natural foods, and organic selections.  We, as consumers, control the market… not these big companies … but now are wanting to know more about where our food comes from.

A new bill in the United State Congress is the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.  This bill creates a mandatory Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) labeling law as well as describes what it means to be all natural.  As a consumer, I am a little nervous about this bill.  It is really great to know what my food contains but to be completely honest, there are already too many labels on a o-FOOD-LABELS-facebookfood package as it is.  I become overwhelmed when there is too much information on a package.  On the package now, there is the mandatory calorie content label, maybe a label that talks about it being organic or gluten free, as well as the marketing labels that the company uses sell their product.

I understand why this labeling law is wanted.  People are wanting to know what is in their food but I don’t believe that is the actual driving factor of this bill.  The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act will prevent a patchwork of state labeling laws from increasing consumer confusion and food prices.  There are activists that are pushing labeling in more than 20 states.  The details of these mandates vary from state to state, meaning that farmers, food manufactures, and consumers would have to navigate a very complex system.  As consumers, we should be able to have the same packing of a product no matter if I buy it in New York City or Los Angeles.

A confusing bill is the Vermont labeling bill.  Vermont’s labeling law would exempt up to 2/3 of food sold in the state.  A can of vegetable soup would have to be labeled but a can of vegetable beef soup would be exempt.  State labeling does nothing to decrease consumer uncertainty, in fact it increases confusion.  An interesting study from Cornell University found that state labeling would result in a $500 increase per year for an average family of four.

In my opinion, I think it would be easier for food that doesn’t contain GMOs to be labeled.  It would be more affordable for consumers to buy food and it still requires GMO labels on products.  The consumers who are looking for GMO free food is a niche market and they are willing to pay higher for their food.  Labeling are confusing to consumers and we need to limit labels to minimum.

perryPerry Harlow
Illinois State University student


but we have livestock

You’ve probably never really thought about it, but livestock farmers don’t get to take vacations.  Livestock need fed and watered, milked and tended every single day of the year – sometimes twice a day!

Until you have a son or daughter old enough to take over the chores for you or a neighbor that likes you a whole lot, you don’t get to take a vacation!



Directed and Produced by James Moll

This film is a documentary about the daily life of six young diverse farmers and ranchers in America.

This documentary is intended for a non-farming audience, and is intended to link the disconnection between the farmer and the consumer. It is intended to inform consumers on where their food comes from and how it gets from farm to table.

James Moll, director and producer of the film, got the idea from wondering where his food came from while shopping. He admitted that we live in a world where we are flooded with opinions on what you should eat and what you should avoid.

Throughout this documentary the farmers talk about their daily lives, tasks, concerns and struggles. Each farmer is very different from the last, but many of their concerns share the same bottom line, which is public perception.

farmlandIn the public’s eyes farmers are stereotyped as either, the man with the red barn, some animals, coveralls and the straw hanging out of his mouth, or as the person who runs a large corporation, just sitting behind and desk and has no connection to the farm.

All six of these farmers are neither of those descriptions. While this is just one issue of public perception, the farmers also talk about things such as GMOs vs. organics, animal welfare and consumer trust. All of which are currently important topics in society.

The film is successful in discussing each issue and explaining in a simplistic way for everyone to understand. I believe that anyone who is truly paying attention to the film, will have a better understanding about the food they purchase and where it comes from. Ultimately people can make their own conclusions for what they buy, but after watching this film it is easy to see that we [America] are fortunate to have a very safe source for our food.

I was impressed with the diversity of the farmers in the film, but was disappointed with the representation. Two out of the six farmers were organic farmers in the film. While this was great for diversity purposes, it is not a true representation of the ratio of organic to conventional farmers in America.

Overall, I found the film to very informative and interesting. I would highly recommend this film to anyone who is interested in learning more about today’s farmers.


Hannah ZellerHannah Zeller
Communication Assistant


This is a post from last year during Garden Week. We love reading about real life experiences from those we know, which is why we thought this one definitely deserved to be shared again!

paul and barb taylorAs a farmer’s wife, I worked full time off the farm. My job was challenging and time consuming as many farmers wives probably can attest to. Part of my job was spent driving to and from appointments which led me through country sides and neighborhoods with beautiful gardens and landscaping. I’d like to think that my appreciation for these, and maybe even the fact that I noticed them at all, was part of my heritage! My grandmother was a farm wife and a gardener so maybe this was the genetic part of my passion to know more about “all things green.”

One year at an annual review for my full time, off-farm job, my boss asked me what my goals were for the year. I am absolutely sure by the look on his face that the answer he got was not what he expected.

“I want to learn to play the piano and I want to be a Master Gardner.”

Ok, I had to renege on that and get serious! He did get some more appropriate goals out of me, but gardening was what I really wanted to do.

I finally became a Master Gardener when I retired. I love it! I will never know all those Latin names for everything, but meeting and gardening with likeminded lovers of the soil and blooms is wonderful thing.

summer-flower-garden-with-rocksBeing a farm wife, I had visions of what my farmer husband would do to help me with his “big bucket” and all those tractors. Sadly, he is more concerned about planting our fields and making a living for us before the next rain, so I got that out of my mind pretty quickly! But it is ok, I work around all those glorious ideas of large rocks and he likes gardening enough to help me when he can. I sometimes leave photos or drawings around the house exclaiming my next idea so he understands what he’ll be working on as soon as the crops allow.

Being a Master Gardener is a lot like farming. Planning, buying your seeds, preparing your soil, caring for your mature plants, and enjoying or eating your harvest … and then you start over again. I find that my love for the garden and my husband’s love for his fields helps us understand each other just a little better!

If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener you can get the details here. Your Extension Office will be happy to help you with any questions you have.

Being a Master Gardener is knowledge that will grow into a need for more, as you create, experiment, and learn about the love of our beautiful Midwest summers and “all things green.”

Barb Taylor
Farm Wife and Master Gardener


In honor of Garden Week, we’ve decided to compare growing a garden in the city versus growing a garden in the wide open spaces of rural America.

City dwellers, or those without a good gardening spot in the yard may find gardening indoors to be very useful. The important things to remember for indoor gardens are; making sure you have adequate space for the type of garden you want, and that your plants are going to get the proper amount of sunlight to flourish.Indoor Garden

For many indoor gardens, having your plants next to a window or other outside light source may not be enough. You may also want a gardening light. In order for a plant to survive and produce, it will need to photosynthesize, and plants cannot do this without proper light.

A gardening light is much different than a regular light bulb. The light must match the same wavelengths as the light from the sun. There are many different types of gardening lights, more information can be found here.

When deciding on a space for your indoor garden, you can choose something small such as a windowsill, or something larger, like a bench. Container gardens are also a fun way to add color and decoration to your home by choosing containers of different colors, shapes and sizes. Indoor Window Garden

Container gardens are also great for those who want to start their garden indoors, but eventually move their plants outdoors.

For starting an outdoor garden, the initial process is very similar, how big of a garden
do you want, and where will it get enough sunlight? You must pick a spot in your yard that has direct sunlight all day.

With outdoor gardens you will also need to check your soil. You will need to check things like, does it have the proper drainage, is the soil too sandy or have too much clay? If your soil has one of these issues it can often be fixed by adding compostOutdoor Garden

Before you can start planting, you will need to work the ground to loosen up the soil, this can be done by hand or with a tiller. Now is the time to add your compost and work that into your soil.

With either type of garden be sure to choose the right type and variety of plants for your growing conditions. This information can be found in a seed catalog.

Indoor and outdoor gardens overall do not differ greatly. Both need proper sunlight, water and love to grow to their fullest potential.

It doesn’t matter what type of garden you have, either can be beneficial and fun for you and your family.

Hannah ZellerHannah Zeller
Communications Assistant


I did not grow up on a farm.

I was raised in a rural setting with no immediate access to agriculture, especially, livestock. As an elementary school student, a lot of my friends raised cattle, hogs, chickens, goats, etc. and were involved in 4-H. I didn’t think I would be able to enjoy 4-H organization since my folks would NEVER allow me to raise chickens, hogs, goats, or cattle in my backyard.

But then I went to my first 4-H meeting and realized that I didn’t have to raise those large animals to enjoy 4-H!  There were other options and one of those options were to raise rabbits.

Florida White RabbitSo, I found a breed (Florida White) on the internet that my parents agreed to let me raise in our garage. I started out with just two, one male and one female. Their cages were only about 3ft x 3ft and took up little to no room in our two car garage.

I would come home every day after school to water, feed, change their bedding, clean out their cages, and work with them to get used to me holding and showing them. This was great experience at a young age.

I learned how to take care of something other than myself as they both were my responsibility.  I learned the importance of patience when dealing with animals.  I improved my work ethic and desire to feel accomplishment, and most of all I was able realize that hard work and determination does pay off.

That summer I competed in the local county fair and took home the Grand Champion prize for a buck rabbit (male).  The patience, the responsibility, and the hard work paid off!

I strongly recommend any young person to reach out to your local 4-H Club and get involved. It will be a great experience to meet new friends, try new things, and have a lot of fun! AND you don’t have to have a pasture to do so!

Happy Easter!


Hannah ZellerHannah Zeller
Communications Assistant


“Nothing brings a community together like their team making it to the high school basketball state championship game. Rural communities can get pretty serious about their sports. They are also very serious about their agriculture. Community pride and agriculture go very seamlessly together, and you almost can’t have one without the other.” 

This article originally posted here, in the High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal by Holly Martin.

It was the state 1A, Division II championship basketball game—two small town teams battling in a big arena. The last time the two teams played was in the state championship game last year: Wallace County, Sharon Springs vs. St. John’s, Beloit-Tipton. To say the feeling was electric, was to diminish the excitement.

The previous year, St. John was able to win by two points. The rematch had all the makings of a good sports story.

I, however, am not a sports writer. I write about agriculture, and that’s where I saw more going on at the game than the 3-point shots and steals.

A few rows below me, the Wallace County student section was going wild. They had crazy blue wigs, neon zebra print headbands and signs—the kind of signs that said things like, “Hammer Time!” in support of my friends’ son who just happens to have the last name “Hammer.”Seed Sign at Basketball Game

As they waved the signs at the court, I laughed. Not because of the clever saying on the front of the sign, but because of the back of the sign. It was a seed sign that had been repurposed.

If that doesn’t scream small-town, rural-living at its best, I don’t know what does.

On the court were two teams from small towns in Kansas. By day, the boys go to school, play sports and horse around with their friends. By night, they feed pigs, breed cattle and plant sorghum or wheat or corn. They lift weights, but they lift seed sacks as well. They run drills on the court, but they run wheat drills in the field. They study game film, but they also study cattle pedigrees.

The families in the stands drove back and forth to the games every day, not because they wanted to—but because everyone wanted to go to the game and there were farm chores to do. And while they were at it, they stopped in the big towns along the way to pick up parts, supplies and seed.

And the hometowns? It was rumored anyone could have stolen anything in the county he wanted the day of the championship game—because there surely wasn’t anyone around to see it stolen.

At halftime, cheerleaders from Greeley County High School performed. They didn’t have a dog in the hunt because Wallace County had defeated them to advance to the state playoffs. They didn’t have to stick around. And they certainly didn’t have to join their neighboring county rivals in the stands, cheering them on. But they did. And I’m sure there were similar stories on the other side of the court.

It never ceases to amaze me how agriculture and community go hand-in-hand. A sense of community pride is so interwoven into the agriculture industry, it is hard to separate the two.

When you grow up in community, where generations of your family have tended the land, and your neighbors have done the same, there’s a bond that cannot be denied. When you grow up being taught to respect God’s creation, and what it will provide, you can’t help but have the same respect for a community across the state.

In the end, the seed sign did the trick, and Wallace County came out on top this year, winning its first-ever state boys’ basketball championship. As medals and trophies were passed out, applause on both sides of the court for both teams showed more about community respect and pride than the score.

When our friends from urban areas wonder what is so important about rural America and keeping it viable, I vote we send them to a 1A state championship basketball game and hand them a seed sign.

Holly Martin can be reached at 1-800-452-7171, ext. 1806, or hmartin@hpj.com.