Data Source: USDA-NASS
Data Source: USDA-NASS
As an Agriculture Communications major and not having much of a background in agriculture, let me tell you how much I am learning about this incredible industry, and more importantly, the leaders of this industry.
One big lesson that I have learned is that some of the most accepting and loving people come from the world of agriculture. Many people have their special talents but I’ve learned that it’s farmers that are my superheroes!
These are just some of the ways farmers are different than superheroes:
Fun fact: Did you know that for every acre of land harvested provides food for 122 people?
Next time you see a farmer thank them for all the hard work that they do!
Xavier Morgan is the definition of goal orientated. From being a chapter officer of the 3rd largest FFA chapter in the nation to being in just about every club or organization that his college has to offer, and lastly hoping to one day open up his own business he is one determined guy. Coming from a non-traditional background of Chicago he has set high standards for the agriculture community with his leadership, ideas, and morals. I was able to talk with Xavier about his passions on food sustainability, growing leaders of tomorrow, and being a young person in agriculture.
I attended Chicago High School for Agricultural Science (CHSAS) during my high school career. CHSAS has about 650 students. It is unique in that students during their junior year can pick between six pathways. Animal science, food science, and agriculture business and finance just to name a few. I was in the Agriculture business and finance pathway. During my time at CHSAS I was the chapter FFA Vice-President as well as the Section 8 President.
I’m in my second semester at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after attending two years at Joliet Junior College. My major is Agriculture Communications with an emphasis in Advertising as well as a minor in Food and Environmental Systems. I currently serve on the National Agriculture Future of America Student Board. We are currently planning the AFA Leaders Conference that will take place in November. I am also one of three student representatives for the College of ACES on the Illinois Student Government. I recently co-founded a new club called UNIFY which promotes food sustainability, food systems, and we are hoping to get our message out to more people! Those are just a couple of the highlights of things I am involved in on campus. I also was just nominated for Homecoming Court for The U of I!
I think social media is a powerful tool when used correctly and with reliable sources. I really like Twitter and Facebook. I also get many resources from the College of ACES Library on campus as well as my professors.
Before going to CHSAS I wanted to work in Computer Science. However, I soon learned that a lot of math and that sort of thing was not my thing. I soon found that agriculture business and communication was really my passion. My dream job would probably be a career that interacts with people. Through my internship with Elanco last summer helping sell product in their companion animal sales department and working with customers and veterinarians I started to really enjoy working with people. Eventually, I would want to open my own advertising firm with a focus in agriculture.
I definitely have seen a change in the consumer’s misconception on GMO’s and how they generally see agriculture. This has thankfully gotten better because of people trying to educate consumers on the agriculture industry. In the next 5-10 years, I see consumer’s perceptions get better along with advancements in technology. I think there will be a lot more automation and less labor intensive careers and fields of work.
I tell most people I talk to that agriculture isn’t going anywhere. People want to be fed and clothed. Coming from a rather non-traditional background-the south side of Chicago-my goals within the agriculture industry could be different than others. Don’t be afraid to try new things, ask questions, get involved, take advantage of every opportunity that is given to you, and find a mentor. For me it was one of my FFA Advisors, William Collins, who helped me grow personally and professionally.
Lake Land College
Harvest has just begun at my house! For our family farm, that means Dad’s in the combine, Hubs is running the grain trucks, Mom’s occasionally helping in the grain cart, and I’m… in the kitchen. I wasn’t raised on a farm – I married into it. I can’t move the trailer, dump the truck, shift the 4455 or herd the calves that are grazing my front lawn while the rest of the family is shelling corn at the field furthest away. But I can give rides… and I can cook!
“Field Meals” are my way of contributing to the harvest effort. As a farm wife who’s got a nine-to-five (or 7:30 to 4:00) in town, I don’t have time to pack the folding table, crock pot, and picnic basket full of gourmet goodies requiring full table service to eat supper. My family likes to “eat with one hand and shift with the other,” as my farmer would tell you! In order to keep up with the fast pace whirlwind of the season, I have developed a strategic game plan to conquer harvest hunger:
I’m a meal planner. I’ve always sat down on Sunday afternoon with my calendar, recipe book and shopping list — Harvest is no different. I have an idea list of main dishes, sides, snacks, drinks and desserts to keep stocked at the house. Drinks are chilling in the fridge, ground beef is browned the night before. That way when I get home from work I already know what’s going in their supper sacks – which leads me to my next tip…
I learned early on that stuff that gets sent out to the field doesn’t often make it back to the house – and if it does, three days later, it’s extra gross and moldy. To save time and sanity (and dishsoap!) I package everything in baggies, plastic sauce cups with lids, tin foil and plastic grocery sacks. The guys get plastic cutlery when required (which isn’t often) and in recent years I’ve invested in those Styrofoam take out boxes which have been a huge help. Once everything is individually wrapped, I do my best to split it out into Dad’s bag and Hub’s bag. I’ll pack a thermal bag with the hot food and a cold cooler with drinks to put together at the last minute in the back of my vehicle.
Some farm families I know take the time to sit down and eat in the car with regular dishes and silverware. Not us. This is where you have to know your farmer… As I mentioned before, my husband likes to eat while he drives, therefore it can’t be anything too complicated (no spaghetti, no chilli, no packets of mayo and mustard to put on his own sandwich). He’s running the grain trucks to the bins and can barely keep up with the combine. His dad, on the other hand, doesn’t mind taking a break from combining to sit in the car with me and eat “like a civilized human being.”
I’ve come up with some pretty creative one-handed meals – some more successful than others. You’ve got your classic, hamburgers & brats, to the more contemporary pigs in blankets, pork chop on the bone, and grilled ham & cheese with a tomato Soup-At-Hand. Fresh fruit is always a win and veggie sticks with dip works out well. Some epic fails include Salad wraps (think: veggies wrapped up in lettuce leaves with dressing inside), go-gurt, and those kid-friendly applesauce pouches. Apparently food packaged in tubes is inappropriate for anyone over the age of 12.
Don’t forget to pack plenty of napkins, paper towels, and something to wipe their hands on before eating. My mother-in-law always sends out a wet rag in a plastic baggie for the guys to wipe their greasy, dirty hands with. (She too has learned the hard way not to send out her good washcloths – they won’t come back). I’ve tried to substitute the cloth for a wet-wipe but they just can’t withstand the rough, farmer, man-hands. Trust me on this one, just send an old sock or chunk of t-shirt.
This may or may not go noticed by my farmer, but I always try to include a treasure at the bottom of the bag. Whether it’s homemade chocolate chip cookie, a couple Reese’s peanut butter cups, or a cold silver bullet, it’s my way of making him smile as he works late into the evening.
So what’s on my upcoming menu, you ask?
If you have any recipes that fit my criteria, I’d love to hear from you.
That time of year is quickly approaching. You know the time of year where the air becomes colder, the food you eat becomes warmer, and the sunset comes sooner. It’s the time of the year that you look forward to every year because you get to finally see the combine going in fields nearby and maybe just maybe you get to ride in the tractor to the elevator to drop off some freshly harvested grain. But what no one really tells you is that sometimes these can be really hard because you might not get to see your mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa like you are used to because they have to get the crops out of the field. Take it from me, a farm kid whose dad not only farms but also runs multiple grain elevators. During harvest, I barely see my dad for around six to eight weeks. My dad has missed endless amounts of concerts, sporting events, birthdays, and literally any event during the months of September through November. Having a dad that would go to literally everything you had to him not being there all the time was and is still super hard to deal with. But this is what I have learned through all of the harvests that I have been through:
When you get the chance to ride/drive in combine or tractor with them, do it!
Though this might be a “well duh” moment to you, remember that this might be the only time during the week that you get to see them. Enjoy the ride. Stay off your phone. And actually, talk to them. I have found that some of my conversations ever have happened in either a combine or tractor.
It hurts them not being able to see you as much as it hurts you!
Though they may not come out and say it, they miss you as much as you miss them. Though they might like harvest, the endless hours can sometimes get to be too much for them. Know that they miss not being at every event that you have in life. They really do. But know that they want to be there cheering you on and even though they might not be there physically they are still cheering you on.
Help make a meal to take to them in the field.
Nothing. And I mean nothing (okay maybe no equipment breaking down) is better during harvest than a home-cooked meal. If you know or are able to, make something for that someone that you miss that you can take to them in the field or wherever they are. The way to someone’s heart is through their stomach (I think that’s how that saying goes, LOL) and I am sure they will get the hint loud and clear that you love them, miss them, and care for them.
Remember this doesn’t last forever.
Harvest (hopefully) only lasts between six to eight weeks. Though it can, and sometimes does feel like a long time, know that it will end. Life will go back to how it normally was. They will be found on the sidelines of your games, sitting in the auditorium waiting for your performance, and tucking you into bed like they normally do.
You are not alone
It’s going to seem like you are alone. Like no one else is going through this. But that is not true. Even though people around you might not be saying all the time that they miss _____ because of harvest, they really do. Know that there are so many people, people you might not even know that are going through this time of missing someone because of harvest, but like I said earlier harvest does not last forever.
To all of the Farm Kids and Farm Families gearing up for harvest, I wish you nothing but a successful and smooth harvest season. Always remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that harvest does not last forever. Enjoy this season!
Illinois State University
Friendly and low-key, Paul Taylor is abundantly proud of the way he grows corn, and he wants you to be proud of it too. He knows that the decisions he makes go far beyond the farm. His choices end up on shelves at the store, in pumps at the gas station, and even in the carpet underfoot. Corn has plenty of uses from table to tank and beyond.
Taylor started growing corn when he was four years old. He planted a little patch in the yard in northern Illinois where his family has owned a farm for nearly 100 years. Now at age 65, he is still committed to corn. He and his wife, Barbara, have a little extra time now for traveling in their new camper with their poodle, and creating art in a hog-barn-turned studio. But they’ll always be a farm couple. Taylor’s story is the story of Midwestern corn farming and its real world benefits to the economy, rural jobs and environment.
Taylor speaks with the earned wisdom that comes from decades of working the soil, as well as from a lifetime of study and thought. He cites the use of biofuels as one of the greatest benefits of corn, especially on local economies. The conversion of field corn into fuel and other goods such as bioplastics, has resulted in an environmentally responsible relationship between industry and community. “I always think of sustainability as a three-legged stool,” Taylor says. “Economic, environmental, and social.”
Ethanol has perhaps done the most to support those three legs. “We use biofuels on the farm,” Taylor says. “We put it in our cars and our pickup trucks. It gives us clean air, and it helps reduce our emissions.” He points out the nearby city of Chicago as an example of how the use of biofuels has helped with air quality in the past 25 years.
More recently, the ethanol boom — which has supported a greenhouse gas emissions reduction equivalent to removing 9.3 million cars from the road — has done a lot, says Taylor, to bring young farmers back to the farm. In addition to ethanol, abundant corn has helped make everyday items safer and more sustainable.
Society’s focus on petroleum for fuel and other products has, in Taylor’s view, unfairly drawn focus away from homegrown, locally produced, renewable corn. “The reality is that just about anything petroleum can be refined into, corn can be.” Corn is being used by today’s innovators to create more sustainable products – from construction materials to medical supplies. Increasingly it’s also a petrochemical substitute in tires, sneakers, cups, cutlery, bags and more. Taylor has even had lap throws and a polo shirt made from cornstarch; the shirt wore well, he reports.
Bioplastics have become widely used in containers and food packaging – even Taylor’s trusted morning coffee cup — and they have the advantage of being biodegradable without releasing toxic substances. It takes less energy to produce bioplastics than petroleum-based plastics and they contain no toxins.
“We raise a wholesome product, an environmentally friendly product,” says Taylor.
Taylor admits that there are other important elements of sustainability besides the land, including water and relative energy costs. “I fully understand that,” he says. “Nobody thought they needed an iPhone before Apple told them they did. What I tell my friends is, ‘Do your best and encourage people, think outside the box, think about the value of corn production for our local communities, how it puts money in our school systems, and so on. That’s part of the sustainability too.”
With downsizing over the years, Taylor now farms about 800 acres. He has a son who works in the seed industry, another son in construction, and a daughter in the food industry. He and his wife hope that even if the children aren’t farmers, they’ll at least retain ownership of the farm and thus keep the family tradition alive. “I’m proud of what we do,” Taylor says, “I think we’re good members of the community.” And corn has played a key role: “It’s adapted well to the soils and to the climate, and it’s been a consistent crop for more than 150 years.”
America’s corn farmers, like Taylor, are committed to sustainable and innovative uses of corn for a better future, both for the environment and their families and communities.
Originally posted on National Geographic.
Paul Taylor is a former Illinois Corn Growers Association Director, most recently stepped down as a Director for the National Corn Growers Association, and is generally one of the most genuine, likable farmers you will ever meet.
I had the opportunity to meet Christopher Flood last year as we entered our first year at Lake Land College in Mattoon, IL. At first glance, Christopher is a very quiet reserved guy, incredibly smart, and genuinely a nice person to be around. As we have gotten to know each other more and more I find it fascinating to listen to him, as he knows a lot about various aspects of agriculture. I sat down with Christopher after class one day to talk about being a 6th generation farmer, a student, and a young person in the agriculture industry.
We run a 1300-acre corn/soybean/wheat crop operation along with 3000 wean-to-finish hog operation and 400 head Holstein and Jersey steer operation. We used to be a farrow-to-finish operation but because of disease and some other factors, we decided to become a wean-to-finish. We found it was cheaper to buy weaned pigs than to treat all the sick ones. Feed for our steers is a silage ration and for the hogs, we grind bulk loads and put in some supplement packs.
I am currently an Agriculture Transfer Student at Lake Land College. After Lake Land, I plan to transfer to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and major in either Crop Science or Soil Science.
My goal is to be an Agronomist for a Seed Company or the USDA.
My uncles and my dad definitely have given me a lot of insight in different areas of agriculture and life.
Whenever I hear my grandpa, dad, or uncles talk about changes in agriculture the first thing I hear is 2012…meaning the drought of 2012. I was still a kid, but I remember it not being a good, profitable year. Other changes I have seen especially lately are the changes in machinery and GPS usage in machinery.
There’s probably going to be a huge focus in technology, more than what we have already. Drones and better field mapping will happen. There are going to be larger farms with fewer farmers doing it.
Work hard, know there is a lot of room for movement if you want to work for it. Know that if college is not your thing there are jobs that require as little as a certificate all the way up to 8+ years of schooling. So, see what fits with you.
Lake Land College