ORGANIC OR CONVENTIONAL?

Are you one of so many moms that can’t decide which food is best for her family?  Do you burst the grocery budget to buy organic because it’s healthier or safer?  Or do you stick to the budget and buy conventionally grown food and splurge taking the kids to the pool?

The fact of the matter is that both choices are good choices.  Both foods are safe for you and your family.  But if you’d like to hear a farmer break it down for you, you’ll definitely want to check out this video:

And when you’re done, look for more resources about organic and conventionally grown foods, straight for the farmers, right here at www.watchusgrow.org.

Or, watch one of our Illinois farmers apply a herbicide and some fertilizer to his growing corn in a cool 360 degree video.

Enjoy!

TAKE SOME YA AND AGRICULTURE WITH YOU TO THE BEACH

[Originally published from BeyondTheBarnDoor]

Summer is here…and how about a reading list for teachers?  Whet your summer reading appetite with some YA and Ag Books!


Take some YA and Agriculture to the Beach!
A recent survey found that over half of the audience for Young Adult Literature (YA) are adults!  Why not join the ranks and take some YA with you this summer, to the beach, the ballfield or just out to the backyard!

Young Adult Literature includes pieces you probably remember. Huckleberry FinnThe Outsiders,  and even Harry Potter are considered YA, and while you might feel guilty or embarrassed about reading books designed for a younger audience, I think the summer is the perfect time to branch out! I believe you’ll find these books entertaining and fast paced.  Remember the audience they are geared toward has many more options for spare time entertainment.   The books are also well written and tackle tough issues but in a hopeful way.  They are typically relatable and many are being made into films or television shows and most are typically shorter.

My choices for YA books with an ag flair for you to use this summer??  Take a gander!

  1. A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck or anything by Richard Peck!
  2. ….and now Miguel  by Joseph Krumgold 1950’s Newberry Medalist with a sheep theme
  3. War Horse by Michael Morpugo…great movie, even better book
  4. Kristina Srpinger’s Just Your Average Princess…. Illinois Author, set in central IL, can’t miss book.
  5. Steering Toward Normal by Rebecca Petruck…life beyond the show ring.
  6. Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s Dairy Queen It is YA….so for the HS crowd and up!
  7. Crosswire by Dotti Enderle…I read it and saw it as a Walker Texas Ranger Flashback!
  8. Chigger by Raymond Bial another Illinois Author, I am positive those 40 and 50 somethings will see your childhood!
  9. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. A very popular YA author and a Yellow Fever outbreak in colonial times.
  10. Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee. Nutrition, friendship, a quick read
  11. Peeled and Squashed by Joan Bauer. Simply great books!
  12. Seedfolks by Newberry Winner Paul Fleishman. Urban gardening at its finest.
  13. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Certainly some coming of age  and civil rights era mixed in with pollinators
  14. The Year Money Grew on Trees by Aaron Hawkins. In the 1980s it was hard work, now it is STEM Careers!
  15. My Louisiana Sky by Kimberly Willis Holt. Nationa Book Award Winning Author.  GREAT Book!
  16. Taylor Honor Award Winner Black Radishes by Susan Lynn Meyer. Food, Hunger and WWII France.
  17. Pura Belpre Award Winner Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez. A look at immigrant labor in agriculture.
  18. National Book Winner The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata. Wheat and Wheat Harvest.  You’re going to hear more about this!

15 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you’ve got 18 books with an ag message that will help you pass the time in the dog days of summer!  Check your local library or bookstore for these items!

Kevin Daughtery
Education Director
Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom

APPLES TO ORANGES: WHY CROPS THRIVE WHERE THEY DO

Jennie is a Maryland farmer. She is also a registered dietitian who speaks about food and farming systems, sustainability and family farms.

[Originally published on CommonGround]

Drive through the Midwest and you’re likely to see field after field of corn and soybeans. Head down South, there’s cotton as far as the eye can see. And of course, Florida is synonymous with oranges and other citrus groves. Why are certain crops most prevalent in certain areas? And how do farmers decide what crops to plant on their farms?

The first is often dictated by climate and season length. Crops require a certain number of days before they reach maturity and are ready to harvest. Citrus fruits, for example, need more days of warmth and sunshine, which suits them well for states like California and Florida, while crops like corn can thrive in places like the Upper Midwest, where the days get shorter and colder in early fall.

America in Miniature

My home state of Maryland is sometimes called “America in miniature” because of our diverse ecology. From ocean to mountains, we have it all, along with a typical climate that’s somewhere between that found in the north or the south. We also have well-drained soil that’s not too dense, making it good for many crops. You see a wide array of crops grown throughout Maryland – just about everything, with the exception of citrus fruit.

As I write this blog, I’m in the middle of harvesting my twenty acres of wine grapes. You may equate wine grapes with places like Napa Valley, but grapes also thrive in Maryland, New York and elsewhere in New England. We have some great wineries! We often say that grapes don’t like wet feet, meaning they thrive in soil like mine that dries quickly and where the water table isn’t high. This keeps the roots from wet soil. In addition, on our farm we grow barley, wheat, tomatoes, green beans, corn and soybeans – which we harvest in that order, from June to October.

Climate and soil type aren’t the only factors that help farmers decide what crops to grow – things like infrastructure also play a large role, and I’ll talk more about that in my next blog. But if you’ve ever wondered why there’s a Corn Belt across the U.S. and orange groves in the South, you can bet that Mother Nature is the primary reason.

Amy Erlandson
CommonGround

SOIL LOSS: A CASE FOR REDUCED TILLAGE

Agriculture is a large portion of the economy in Illinois.  Every farmer in Illinois has their own method of planting and raising their crop.  Every farmer must make decisions on what is the best way to raise their crop with the conditions and location they have.  Tillage, which is when farmers dig into the soil and mix it, is one decision that farmers make every year.  Three types of tillage exist conventional tillage, reduced tillage, and no tillage.  This blog is going to focus on why farmers are utilizing reduced tillage.

Reduced tillage is sometimes referred to as conservation tillage and is just what it sounds like, less tillage than conventional tillage, but more tillage than no tillage.  Farmers may choose to utilize reduced tillage for a variety of reasons including prevention of soil loss, reduced soil compaction, improved soil’s organic matter, and decrease in labor cost.

Soil loss is a growing problem today. The soil is vital for agriculture, and we are losing our soil faster than our earth can make it.  It takes the earth 500 to 1000 years to create an inch of topsoil.  When we are losing an inch of topsoil every 20 years.  With the reduced tillage practice, we can reduce the soil erosion because of the crop residue and the roots. Think about weeding a garden, when you pull a weed usually soil will come up with the weed.  This is because the roots hold the soil.  With reduced tillage, the previous crops roots are still buried beneath the ground and are still able to anchor the soil in place to prevent loose particles from running off through water or the wind.

There are three sizes of soil particles, listed from largest to smallest, sand, silt, and clay.  Over time these particles can squish tighter together.  This causes a problem for the crops because the crops need air spaces in the soil to absorb water and other nutrients from the soil.  Heavy machinery such as tractors can compact the soil over time, and because reduced tillage requires less preparation for planting the soil is not driven over as much, and results in a decrease in soil compaction.  Look at this triangle showing the different steps and machinery needed for the different styles of tillage.  (Insert Tractor triangle photo)

Reduced tillage can increase organic matter because the decomposition process is slower when the residue is left on the top of the soil and will cause an increase in nutrients on the top layers of the soil, and overall increase soil health over time.

Less labor is another great advantage of reduced tillage.  Because there contains less steps in the process for reduced tillage less time will need to be invested as well as less money will be needed for equipment or labor cost.

Reduced tillage is a great option to help reduce soil erosion, reduce soil compaction, increase organic matter, and reduce time and labor. If you are interested in learning more about different soil tillage management systems, please review this document linked here: Soil Management and Tillage.

Mary Marsh
University of Illinois

AG CAREER PROFILES: COOPERATIVE BOARD MEMBER

Sam Deal is a local farmer in the Danvers area and serves on the Board of the Danvers Farmers Elevator (DFE) cooperative. A cooperative is a business where a group of farmers comes together to buy and sell crop inputs and commodities in bulk to obtain the best prices. Farmers make the decisions for each cooperative by electing members to their local board. Sam is one of the many farmers who serves on cooperative boards to help run the business.

DFE Cooperative is full-service cooperative with a retail business of agronomic products such as seed, fertilizer, and crop protection products. The business provides grain marketing services and grain storage for members of its business.

Cameron: What is your role as a member of the DFE Cooperative Board?

Sam: I serve on the board of the cooperative and help run the business. I help hire the general manager for the cooperative, who oversees the business. I also examine quarterly financial statements to ensure the business is profitable. From those statements, I help make decisions to spend less money or grow the business. I also have a unique role on the board where I am the Secretary. With that job, I oversee keeping the minutes of the monthly meetings of the board.

Cameron: Why did you choose to be in this role on the DFE Cooperative Board?

Sam: Serving on the board of a local cooperative allows me to help make decisions that are better for my operation, as I am a member of the cooperative itself. Additionally, it allows me to help out my neighbors by listening to their problems and fighting for changes on the local level to help their farming operation out.

Cameron:  Can you tell us how the DFE Cooperative impacts the farmers it serves?

Sam: Farmers across Central Illinois utilize DFE Cooperative’s services for agronomic and grain resources. For over 100 years, the business has helped farmers get the best prices, service, and knowledge of their farming operations. Additionally, the cooperative’s grain advantage allows the business to offer higher prices for corn and soybeans due to larger amounts of commodities being sold.

Cameron: What role do you see cooperatives playing in the future of agriculture?

Sam: Cooperatives provide an outlet for farmers for their grain to get a higher price, something that will be needed as the price to a produce a bushel of corn and soybeans rises. I see the cooperative, not only DFE, but all others grow and get bigger to stay competitive.

Cameron Jodlowski
Iowa State University Graduate

AG CAREER PROFILES: ISSUES MANAGER

Kristen is the Issues Manager for GROWMARK.  She communicates, educates, and advocates to policymakers and regulators on behalf of GROWMARK and the FS System. She is responsible for the territories of Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio.  She also works on certain federal legislation as well.

Jacey: What inspired you to want this type of career?

Kristen: When I was a senior in high school, I attended the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture Conference and met two women who worked for Illinois Farm Bureau educating urban legislators about the importance of agricultural issues.  Up until that point, I did not know that I could combine my passion for agriculture with my interest in politics and government.  I added a Political Science minor when I got to Illinois State the following August and set my sights on a career in Government Relations for an agriculture organization.

Jacey:  What are some of your main job duties?

Kristen:  I research issues and determine the impact on GROWMARK and our member cooperatives.  I then work with legislators or regulatory officials to provide input on these proposals and try to shape the outcome of the process.  I develop position papers and written comments as well as provide legislative updates to various stakeholders.

Jacey:  How easy or difficult is it to promote agriculture agendas to legislatures who don’t come from an agriculture background?

Kristen:  It can be a challenge at times, but I have found that most legislators and their staff want to understand more about the agriculture industry.  They seek out opportunities to visit one of our facilities or a farm in their district and see the impact of a piece of legislation firsthand.  A part of my role is organizing these types of educational opportunities.  In fact, this August is our annual congressional staff tour that we coordinate in conjunction with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and the Illinois Soybean Association Checkoff Board.  The tour is a great opportunity for staff members of the Illinois delegation to learn more about agriculture issues and have the chance to talk to farmers one-on-one.

Jacey:  What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to pursue a career in agriculture?

Kristen:  One piece of advice I have is to take advantage of every opportunity to learn more about our industry.  I did not grow up on a farm and my parents do not even work in the agriculture industry, so I had a lot of learning to do. Farmers and agriculturists want to impart their knowledge on the next generation, you just have to listen and now be afraid to ask questions when you don’t know something. Never stop learning either.  One of my favorite parts about my job is learning about different agricultural crops and growing practices.  I grew up surrounded by corn and soybeans, so I enjoy learning about the production of cranberries, tomatoes, potatoes, and even ginseng while traveling throughout my territory.

Jacey Wickenhauser
Illinois State University

GRILLING WEEK:GRILLED CITRUS SEASONED TILAPIA

As we officially head into summer, enjoy the recipes of grilling week!  We’ll be featuring opportunities for you to get more delicious pork, beef, and chicken into your diet and sharing some fun facts about livestock farming in Illinois & and the U.S.!

Fun Fact: Globally, aquaculture supplies more that 50 percent of all seafood produced for human consumption – that percentage has been and will continue to rise.  Conventional wisdom holds that traditional fisheries are producing near their maximum capacity and that future increases in seafood production must come largely from aquaculture.

Today’s Tip: Use a grill for foods that might fall through the grill rack or are too cumbersome to turn over one by one (vegetables, fish, tofu, fruits, etc.).

Today’s Recipe: Grilling Week: Citrus Seasoned Tilapia

What You Need:

What To Do:

  1. Mix butter, juices, seasoned salt, parsley and pepper in small bowl until well blended. Place fish fillets in center of large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil or grill pan. Brush with butter mixture.
  2. Grill over medium heat 12 to 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Sprinkle with additional seasoned salt, if desired.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

GRILLING WEEK: GRILLED CHICKEN SANDWICHES WITH PESTO, BRIE, AND ARUGULA

As we officially head into summer, enjoy the recipes of grilling week!  We’ll be featuring opportunities for you to get more delicious pork, beef, and chicken into your diet and sharing some fun facts about livestock farming in Illinois!

Fun Fact: A poultry farm worker who separates chicks into males and females is known as the sexer, and can separate 1,000 chicks per hour with almost 100% accuracy.

Today’s Tip: Even on a clean grill, lean foods may stick when placed directly on the rack. Reduce sticking by oiling your hot grill rack with a vegetable oil-soaked paper towel: hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. (Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.)

Today’s Recipe: Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Pesto, Brie, and Arugula

What You’ll Need:

1 pound thin cut chicken cutlets
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

8 slices crusty sourdough bread
1/4 cup basil pesto (may use purchased)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large tomato
4 ounces Brie, thinly sliced
1 cup packed baby arugula (a good handful)

What You Do:

  1. Combine all ingredients for marinade and pour into a plastic Ziploc bag. Add chicken, seal, and marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat grill on high. Add chicken, grill for 2-3 minutes, turn, and grill for another 2-3 minutes or until chicken registers 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove and reserve.
  3. Spread each piece of bread with 1/2 tablespoon of pesto. Slice the tomato into 8 slices. Place chicken on four of the bread slices. Top chicken with Brie slices, arugula, and 2 tomato slices. Top with prepared bread slices, pesto side toward the tomato.
  4. Brush the outside of each sandwich with about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Place on grill, reduce heat to medium, and grill for 2-3 minutes per side or until bread is nicely toasted with grill marks. Cheese should be melted.
  5. Remove from heat, cut each sandwich in half, and serve. Serves 4.

Nutrition Information, Per Serving:
940 calories; 38 g fat; 11 g saturated fat; 99 g carbohydrate; 6 g sugars; 52 g protein

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director