#TBT: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A FARMER

Happy New Year! Although a new year feels like a new beginning, a new farming season doesn’t begin in January. Farmers across the nation have been preparing for this coming season since the end of harvest this past year.

a-year-in-the-lifeSo what exactly are farmers doing this time of year? We’ve got you covered if you aren’t near a farm. Last year, we explored what goes into a season by breaking it down month-by-month in the A Year In the Life of a Farmer series. The series’ author, Ashley, is part of a farming family and highlights important topics the needs of the crop, the maintenance around the farm, farm economics, and the roles family members play in the farming season. Take a look and see what this month and the coming year have in store for farmers!

Read the entire series here:

JANUARY
FEBRUARY
MARCH
APRIL
MAY
JUNE
JULY
AUGUST
SEPTEMBER
OCTOBER
NOVEMBER

TECHNOLOGY, FOOD, & THE WORLD: WHY DO WE LOVE iPHONES BUT HATE GMOS?

Let’s face it—our world loves technology.  Every year, the iPhone has outsold itself the year before and tablet ownership has increased by 1,400% since 2010.  In the medical world, we can now enjoy needle-free diabetic care and even treatments to halt ALS progression.  In every industry, advancements in technology give us a better quality of life at half the effort.

So why is it when technological advancements are made in agriculture—namely in biotechnology—the world immediately rejects it?

“The same companies making GMO seeds are the ones that make pesticides.  It’s unethical!”

Yes, Monsanto does produce the herbicide Roundup,  a product used to control weeds in crop production, and a variety of herbicide-tolerant crop seeds—seeds that can survive herbicide application.

However, selling complimentary products aren’t exclusive to agriculture.lightningconnectorplug-294352

Look at Apple. In 2012, Apple introduced the iPhone 5, which used the Lightning connector to charge and connect the device.  Additionally, Apple sold—and still sells—the new Lightning connector and old connectors, as well as charging port adapters.

Neither situation is more unethical than the other.

“Well, I’ve heard these GMOs have caused cancer and other diseases.”

At this point, there have been no credible and conclusive studies that have linked GMOs to cancer or other diseases.

The world has its concerns, and it should.

pi_2015-10-29_device-ownership_0-02Our health is important, and new products of any kind should be carefully evaluated for short- and long-term risks. There have been carcinogenic risks associated with cell phone usage for almost as long as they have been in use, yet smartphone ownership is more than 80% in ages 18-29 and 30-49.

There are risks in life, no matter what new product or method we use.

“GMOs have to be linked to the rising obesity rates, right?”

Wrong.

Well, right and wrong.

GMOs aren’t solely responsible for the rise in obesity—all of technology is.

In the last century, humans have made stellar advancements in technology.  From cars and machinery to grocery stores and microwave ovens to computers and smartphones, our world no longer has to work hard to work and live.

However, our diet and lifestyle changes haven’t matched these rapid changes in technology, and obesity and obesity-related illnesses are on the rise.

So why does the world seem to love technological advancements in every part of our lives, except agriculture?

Simply put, we are all selfish creatures, and we fear what we don’t understand.

Human behavior allows us to care about things that are relevant to us in our day-to-day lives.  When we don’t have to learn about something, we don’t.  When we don’t understand something, we fear it.

We all use cell phones, drive cars, and eat food daily. In the U.S., only 2% of people work to produce food daily. Those of us in the remaining 98% still want to see the red barn with a chicken, a cow, a horse, and a pig hanging out together outside.  We don’t understand why corn would need to be genetically altered, and we fear what it could do.

There is still hope.  Humans don’t stop learning from the day they’re born to the day they die.

Those of us who do understand need to communicate with those who don’t. We need to make this information relevant and available for everyone. We need to keep an open dialogue so we can stop the spread of misinformation.

Keep talking, keep asking questions, and keep using technology.  The world is a better place because of it.

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Molly Novotney
University of Illinois

WHERE THE WOMEN ARE: WOMEN’S ROLES IN AG

Traditionally men’s roles included farm work, chores, and providing the income for the family, while women have raised the kids, completed housework, and sometimes putting out the garden. The agricultural industry was no different as women weren’t traditionally part of the farming operations. But it is no longer the traditional days, and women no longer stay in the kitchen. They are making waves in all parts of the agricultural industry.

1-9-17tractorWoman farmers are becoming more common as well. According to the USDA agricultural census, 14 percent of the 2.1 million farms in the US had a female operator. This doesn’t mean women haven’t always played a role on the farm. Having helped their spouses, brothers, and fathers with crops or livestock. Never expecting to be gone momentarily when “I just need your help for a minute” happens. Women have taken their roles in stride and even created organizations for women in agriculture. The American Agri-Women Organization was created in 1974 who have been involved in creating differences in legislative and regulatory matters at all levels as well as education for students and consumers. For 42 years, these women have helped create gender equality as women made a difference in the way history was made.

In 2016, the College of ACES at the University of Illinois made history as they appointed their first woman dean. Dean Kimberlee Kidwell is making an impact in the industry now and prior to her role as Dean because she developed more than 20 wheat varieties for farmers in the Northwest. She is a leader in the gender equality for women. Women also play important parts in other professional roles. Eight of twelve employees in the IL Corn office are women. Most of the Illinois county Farm Bureau managers are women. These roles help equivalate men and women in professional roles. No longer part of just the kitchen and raising children. Other professional roles women have included CEOs, public relations, marketing, purchasing, risk management and so many more!

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To celebrate the more diverse roles of women in a male-dominated industry the word FarmHer was created. Often used as a hashtag on social media, this celebration of women shows how much they contribute to women in today’s industry usually through photos or videos that show the roles women play.

So where are the women? We are in pajamas feeding the cows. We are driving the combine in the fall. We are Farm Bureau Managers. We are becoming the first woman dean. We are in offices as CEOs. We are selling seed. We are hedging futures. We are making a difference with every move we make.
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Jaylynn Maxey
University of Illinois

TOP POSTS OF 2016 #10: WHAT DOES AN AG TEACHER DO?

[Originally published: May 26, 2016]

5-26-16agDoug Anderson has been an agriculture teacher for more than 30 years and has spent the majority of those years at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School (PBL) in Paxton, Illinois. He has played an instrumental role in building the Ag Program at PBL and has played an even bigger role in the lives of countless students.

AMANDA: What made you choose to pursue a career in Agricultural Education?

DOUG: I chose teaching agriculture because I love agriculture and I love young people.  Teaching agriculture allowed me to make the most of 2 interests I have.  Also, I enjoy the variety of what I do each day.  I enjoyed the practical skills that can be taught to students and being able to relate those to everyday life.  I have enjoyed the competitive aspect of Career Development Events, which I learned to appreciate well after I started my career.

AMANDA: What are some things that stand out that helped you get to where you are at today?

agteacherDOUG: I had 2 really good parents that supported me in everything I ever did.  My father farmed for the first 10 years of my life which developed my interest in agriculture.  When he quit farming, he went to work for a seed corn company and so I spent most of my older growing up years closely connected to the agronomy industry.  FFA had a huge impact on my life in helping me develop leadership skills and opportunities to compete outside of athletics.  My ag teacher really pushed me and helped me see opportunities that I would not have discovered had it not been for ag education.  Lastly, I have had the privilege of working with some great teachers, students, parents, alumni, and community members which all had a part in getting me to this point in my career.

AMANDA: Describe a typical day on the job.

DOUG: I’m not sure there is a typical day, which is a big reason why I have enjoyed my career so much.  I’m usually up by 4:30 or 5:00am and at school by 6:45am.  We often have an FFA practice for an upcoming contest or event.  I teach my classes throughout the day and 1 to 2 and sometimes 3 nights a week, we have some kind of FFA activity whether it be a contest, practice, meeting or leadership workshop, etc.

AMANDA: What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

5-26-16ag2DOUG: The most rewarding part of my career is seeing students succeed.  Success is different for nearly every student.  For some, it’s choosing a career that they really like and do well in.  For some, it is accomplishing goals in FFA.  For others, it’s finding a place to fit in and develop friendships.  It is very rewarding to watch kids mature into young adults with a purpose and goals for their future.

Anderson will be retiring at the end of this school year. He has loved the career that he has had and, if given the chance, he would not change a single thing. He is thankful for all that his career has given him and is excited to see what this next phase of life has in store.

Are you considering a career in Agricultural Education?

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Amanda Diesburg
Illinois State University
Ag in the Classroom Intern

TOP POSTS OF 2016 #9: WHAT DOES AN AGRIBUSINESS CONTROLLER DO?

[Originally published: July 7, 2016]

Mary Mackinson Faber is the 5th generation involved in her family’s farm near Pontiac, Illinois. She grew up on her family’s grain and dairy operations located about 100 miles southwest of Chicago. Currently, she is employed with Graymont Cooperative as the Controller, and she manages her family farm’s social media presence online. She graduated from Illinois State with a B.S. in Agribusiness and an MBA. She is married to Jesse Faber, Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor at Pontiac Township High School. They have two kids, Ava and Eli.

7-7-16mary2

DAKOTA: What made you decide to work in an agribusiness?

MARY: Graduating from high school, I did not know what I wanted to “be when I grew up.”  I took one area that I was and still am incredibly passionate about, agriculture and another idea that I really enjoyed, business and decided to major in Agriculture Business at Illinois State University.

DAKOTA:  What is your day to day role in your job?

agribusiness_controllerMARY: I am the Controller for Graymont Cooperative Association a local agriculture cooperative that is a grain storage facility, agronomy input supplier, feed mill and internet provider. My job responsibilities include human resources, customer credit and collections, and accounts payable. I oversee the sale and purchase of common and preferred stock and patronage pay-out and redemption. I take great pride in the reconciliation and presentation of department and company-wide monthly and fiscal year-end financial statements. In addition to making sure that all of the numbers balance, I enjoy serving and engaging with the local farmers. I am extremely proud to work for a company that has been owned by hard-working farm families for more than one hundred years.

DAKOTA: Explain your role on your family’s dairy farm.

MARY: I am the 5th generation to grow up on Mackinson Dairy Farm.  Mackinson Dairy is a dairy and grain farm located north of Pontiac, Illinois or about 100 miles south of Chicago on Interstate 55.  Mackinson Dairy Farm is home to around 165 milking cows and over 150 head of heifer and calves in addition to roughly 2,000 acres of cropland where we grow corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa.  Growing up, while I loved the cows and agriculture, I knew I was not cut out to be on the farm every day.  As I entered college, I started to realize the disconnect between consumer and farmer and soon discovered my passion for advocacy.  I have been trying to bridge the disconnect ever since but truly became active advocating on social media after I became a Mom.  Today, I am responsible for managing the farm’s social media presence.

7-7-16mary1DAKOTA: To someone outside of the agriculture industry, why should they join in on the careers involved in agriculture?

MARY: As more agriculturists start to tell their amazing stories, people will see agriculture is more than just plows, cows, and sows. The image of what an agriculture career looks like needs to be updated. The image should include the farmer, but also a nutritionist, food scientist, machinist, mechanical engineer and social media expert. Agriculture needs to embrace the diverse opportunities available and build enthusiasm for these types of careers. My husband and I are fortunate to have amazing jobs in the agriculture sector, and it is a wonderful industry for raising a family.

You can find Mary on her blog at MackinsonDairy.com, and their Facebook at facebook.com/MackinsonDairyFarm

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Dakota Cowger
Communications Intern
IL Corn

TOP POSTS OF 2016 #8: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A FARMER – JANUARY

How fitting! As we head into the new year, make sure you read this series to see what’s in store for farmers and their families!

[Originally published: January 19, 2016]

As a farmer’s wife I can’t tell you how many times I have answered the question “Where’s your husband?” when attending social functions by myself. Depending on the time of year, I typically respond with “in the fields… hauling grain… working cows… baling hay… in the shop…” etc. Farmers are just BUSY — All the time!

Some people think that the only busy times of the year are planting and harvest and the rest of the year farmers spend their glorious amounts of free time vacationing or tinkering with antique tractors. This may be true for some, but not the majority. I’m beginning a one-year series that will give you an idea of a farmer’s work load. Watch for my monthly article to stay up-to-date with what farmers might be up to at different times of the year. Keep in mind that all farms operate differently and I am just providing one example of a year in the life of a grain farmer. There are several factors that contribute to the seasonality of the farm such as size and scale of the operation, crops grown, location, livestock, management style and general upbringing or personal work ethic! I hope this provides some insight to what versatile businessman farmers are.

Year in the life of a farmerStart at the beginning!

FEBRUARY
MARCH
APRIL
MAY
JUNE
JULY
AUGUST
SEPTEMBER
OCTOBER

Bookkeeping

The agriculture fiscal year-end is December 31st meaning that January is a very busy month for bookkeeping and tax preparation. Farm taxes are due a little earlier than other individuals’: March 1st. Between now and then there will be several meetings with accountants to go through the business’s income and expenses from the prior year. Most farmers do not pay into incomes taxes through the course of the year, because there’s not regular paychecks to deduct taxes from. This means a (big?) payment to Uncle Sam is due by March 1st.

Hauling grain

Hauling grainJanuary is a big month for hauling last year’s stored grain to the local elevator. Up until now, the farmer may have been keeping last fall’s harvest in bins at his own farm. This saves him from paying a storage fee to the elevator for holding it there. The elevator constantly puts out corn prices for certain delivery months and at any time the farmer can call up his elevator to lock in a sale price for that month. The thing is, he doesn’t get paid until he delivers it to the elevator. This requires him to unload the grain out of his bins, put it into a semi or grain truck and drive it to the elevator.

Planning ahead for next year’s crop

Planning aheadFor a lot of farmers, as soon as last year’s crop has been harvested, it’s time to start considering decisions that need to be made in preparation for next year’s crop. Depending on which fiscal year the farmer wants his expenses to go in, December and January are a prime time for deciding which field will be planted in what seed variety and locking in input costs like seed, fertilizer and chemicals. Many dealers offer discounts and the earlier you lock in their product/price the better the discount.

Meetings

MeetingsAg groups host a lot of meetings in the winter because they know they’ll have better turnouts in the off-season. There will be association meetings, chemical training courses, annual reports from elevators and other co-ops, market outlook discussions and other industry-related get-togethers.

 

Household and farm odd-jobs / repairs

If anything’s been needing fixin’ now’s the time to finally get to it! Clean and organize the work bench. Sweep out the empty grain bins. Patch a bad spot in the barn. Make sure the generator is in good working condition. Get a load of gravel delivered for the lane. Rearrange the equipment in the shed so you can get the snow blower to hook onto the right tractor.

When you’re ready for a break from farm things, make sure to ask your wife what you can check off of her honey-do list… Then take her out to dinner because she’s been patiently waiting for this little breather as well! The closer planting season gets, the busier the farmer becomes!

ADeal_Ashleyshley Deal
ICGA/ICMB Membership Assistant

TOP POSTS OF 2016 #7: A LETTER TO MY FUTURE DAUGHTER

[Originally published: April 11, 2016]

Have you ever thought about what you would tell your daughter if you haven’t had the chance to meet her yet?  You expect that she will be great and take after you, but have you made any mistakes that you definitely do not want her making?  What scares you for your children’s futures?  I could go on for days thinking and writing what I would want her to know.  Women’s roles in society have changed so much in the last century.  Just think how much it will continue to change and evolve into something that today’s moms are not even expecting.

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Dear Daughter,

In your lifetime you will experience many new things.  Societal, agricultural, technological, and many other advances will be made.  Sometimes it will be cool and other times it will be scary.  The best advice I can give you is to try to keep up with the advances, but do not let them consume you.  People will always grow, change, and develop.  I wish for you to follow your heart, chase your dreams, no matter how cliché that may sound.

When it comes to agricultural advances, there will be fads, practices, and trends.  Traditions that will all change during your lifetime as it did mine.  I encourage you to become well-educated in areas that may concern you.  Articles published through different media outlets may not be the most reliable.  Check multiple reliable sources and take away your own ideas from your research.

Technology: isn’t it a great thing?  What has changed since you were a little girl?  Keeping up with technology is a job within itself.  Some words for the wise: technology consumes you if you let it.  You are only as advanced as you allow yourself to become.  Sometimes technology can make life easier but sometimes it makes life 10 times more difficult.  Social media are great for keeping up with friends who you do not see very often, yet it takes away from those you are with on a daily basis.  Find a way to balance your life and don’t let one piece consume you.

In conclusion, have fun with life. After all, you never know how long you have to live.  You are the youngest you will ever be right now and the oldest you have yet to be.  As many people say, “live well, laugh often, love much” quoted by Bessie Anderson Stanley.  This quote within itself means a great deal because it reminds us to live life to its fullest, while still having time to laugh, and always love like there is no tomorrow.  I challenge you to set extreme goals and even if you do not accomplish them they will take you to great places.

With much love,

Mom

I encourage all moms who have read this, write a letter every so often to your daughter and then give them to her when she moves out.  These letters can be whatever you choose to make them.  You can talk about things that have happened since the last letter you wrote or they could write them on big occasions.  The task is up to you, let me know what you think of this.

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Elizabeth Lewis
Southern Illinois University

TOP POSTS OF 2016 #6: 5 THINGS ABOUT THIS PHOTO-HUGE PILES OF CORN

[Originally published: January 15, 2016]

We’ve got some great photos in the IL Corn library – photos that speak volumes about what we do and who we are as an organization as well as who the farmers are that we serve! This week, we’ll feature a few of those photos as well as share the lessons you can glean from them!

Huge Piles of Corn!

corn pile with men

  1. When corn comes out of the field, farmers put it into semi trucks (or other sorts of trucks, but usually semis) and haul it to the elevator.  The elevator is a company that buys, sells, and stores grain.  It is called an “elevator” because the corn is elevated into huge silos for storage.
  2. But in some years like 2014, we produce more corn than we have room to store.  So the elevators put up temporary storage, like the piles you see above, just to keep grain moving out of the field.  To maintain the grain in the same quality in which it arrived, these piles will be covered with huge tarps to keep moisture from getting in.  The piles were also poured on top of huge tiles that will circulate air under the pile and prevent spoilage, damage, and mold
  3. Elevators must apply for a permit from the state to create temporary storage like this – and they can only leave this corn laying here for a short time.  So as they sell the corn, the corn in these piles will be the first to go.
  4. Corn leaves the elevator via train, truck, or river barge to go to other states (like Texas) or other countries to feed livestock.  In Illinois, just under half of our corn leaves the state to feed livestock.
  5. Many people who aren’t familiar with farming understand that the yields we get per acre are pretty static, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Every year, because of superior seed genetics and more efficient crop management practices, our potential yields increase.  Weather or pests sometimes challenge the yields, but the fact remains that our yield potential has a significant upward trend.  We are producing more corn every year than the year before!  That’s great news for a growing world population!