vote election november 2

I hear you when you say that it’s hard to get motivated to vote.  Not only are you so sick of the political campaigns by the time election day comes around that you can’t fathom spending another hour trying to sort through the mess of candidates, but you’re also so confused about who stands for what and who lied to whom that you aren’t sure what direction is up anymore.

That, my friends, is an unfortunate symptom to our democratic, two-party system.  Or maybe of our media only publicizing the worst story.  Or maybe of a lack of upstanding candidates.

Those quandaries are for another post.

What can’t be put off is the simple privilege offered to us in the opportunity to vote tomorrow.  Yes, we may not love the candidates and we may tire of the campaign, but we can’t put aside the millions of people outside our borders that are dying, literally dying, for the same opportunity that you will be offered tomorrow.

While I remain unsure who will ultimately get my vote, I have to admit that Congressman Mark Kirk (currently running for US Senate) did get my attention during his visit to IL Corn in August when he said that electing him to serve Illinois during the lame duck session* would change the balance of parties in the Senate during a time when one party might try to shove policies through the system before the other party gains power in January.  To think that the voters of Illinois might have that much power over policies and the federal government … well … it’s an empowering reminder of how important each vote is!

The moral of the story here is that every American citizen is important.  And to that end, every FARMER is important.  With fewer than 2 percent of the population having your profession and voting in a way that might benefit you, it becomes all the more important to exercise your right.

No one else is going to do it for you.  Don’t forget to vote tomorrow.

*current Illinois Senator Roland Burris who was seated by Rod Blagojevich just before his world blew up was ruled an unconstitutional act and now the people of Illinois get to vote for Senator twice tomorrow – once to fill the seat during the lame duck session and once to fill it starting in January.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

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Hopefully over the weekend, all our Corn Corps followers had an opportunity to check out the news.  And if you didn’t, here’s the biggest news item we’ve seen in a while.

Illinois Corn has entered into a promotional partnership with Kenny Wallace, NASCAR so that we can better tell the story of Illinois corn farmers and their families to a much, MUCH bigger audience.

At the same time, NASCAR announced on Saturday that they are moving to a 15 percent blend of ethanol to gasoline for the 2011 season.

nascar kenny wallace combineLet me tell you, if these two announcements in one weekend don’t excite you, I’m not sure what will.  According to, NASCAR is the No. 1 spectator sport — with more of the top 20 highest-attended sporting events in the U.S. than any other sport — and is the No. 2 rated regular-season sport on television. NASCAR fans are the most brand loyal in all of sports.

I think what this means is that if Kenny Wallace says corn farmers are good, NASCAR fans will believe him.  And if NASCAR says that all vehicles run well on e15, American’s will line up in droves to by it.  Looks like we’ve got a perfect test case on our hands.

Can’t wait to see the results of this dynamic partnership!

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


What does a farmer look like?  Something like this?

Or maybe more like this?

We’re exploring these answers and more in our research about the image farmers have with the general consumer.  You might be surprised to know that consumers think most Illinois farmers are the big, bad, corporate sort … but to see these photos, they’d agree that they like these farmers and have something in common with them.

Interested in this sort of research?  Contact Illinois Corn to find out more!


A woman asks a farmer’s wife, “Why are farmers so lazy?” The farmer’s wife replies, “What do you mean?” The woman says, “Well, every year they wait for the corn to get brown and die before they pick it!”

This is in fact a true story and it goes to show just how uninformed most people are about agriculture. It is important for everyone to know where their food comes. If you ask a child where their food comes from they will more than likely say the grocery store, not a farm. Because consumers are so removed from their food source these misconceptions, like farmers’ laziness, are created.

A recent study conducted by The Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Pork Association and Illinois Soybean Association set out to understand public perceptions of farmers. They found that the trust between farmers and consumers is greatly diminishing. Consumers also have very negative opinions of large scale farming. The study also found that moms are the most concerned about where their food comes from. The bottom line is that consumers want trust-worthy farmers growing healthy, safe food in an environmentally conscious manner. Now that the negative public opinions have been identified it’s time to restore the image of agriculture.

As most of us know farmers are not lazy, in fact they already have several jobs but it’s time to add one more; public educator. Negative views on the agriculture industry are readily available and it’s up to us to change that. The public would like to maintain the image of a small family farm that milks a cow and collects eggs but we know this is no longer viable. We need to maintain the family aspect of farming while promoting the benefits of modern agriculture. Farmers need to be ambassadors of the agriculture industry so the public can see that farmers are not lazy, instead they are hard-working, caring people who provide consumers with a safe, healthy food supply.

Sarah Carson
University of Illinois student
& a farmer’s daughter


It seems that those milk producers are always on the cutting edge.  Here in America, we all realize the popularity of the “Got Milk” ads.  They are almost collectables!  But in Europe, there’s a new breed of dairy farmer and they are hitting television screens for the first time in their new video for Yeo Valley.


The sun is up, the milk is chilled, it’s gonna be a good one, yo yo

Farmer 1
Yo I’m rolling in my Massey on a summer’s day
Chugging cold milk while I’m bailing hay
Yeo Valley’s approach is common sense
Harmony in nature takes precedence
My ride’s my pride
That’s why you’ll never see it dirty
And I love it here man
That’s why I’m never leaving early
I’m so girt
In my cap and my shirt
I’m representing for west
So hard that it hurts

Farmer 2
We make this look easy
Cause we’re proper modern with this farming believe me
Wind turbines they’re shining baby
And solar farming no buts no maybe’s
Ye, when we’re down with the soil association
And we do lots of what, conservation
Sustain, maintain it ain’t no thing
We set the bar
Real leaders by far

Yeo Valley Yeo Valley
We change the game, it will never be the same
Yeo Valley Yeo Valley
Big up your chest and represent the West

Farmer 3
This isn’t fictional farming
Its realer than real
You wont find milk maidens
That’s no longer the deal
In my wax coat and boots
I’m proper farmer Giles
Now look
You urban folk done stole our styles
I’m not a city dweller,
Me I like to keep it country
The air is clean and
All those cars will make me jumpy
It’s different strokes
For different folk, my man
Just enjoy the results
Of what we do on the land

Farmer 4
Check out Daisy she’s a proper cow
A pedigree Friesian with know how
Her and her girls they have there own name
We treat them good
They give us the cream

Yeo Valley Yeo Valley
We change the game, it will never be the same
Yeo Valley Yeo Valley
Big up your chest and represent the West
Big up your chest…
Represent the West…

Interesting that these European farmers are addressing exactly the same questions we’re trying to address.  They mention that they are sustainable and environmentally conscious … and that they treat their cattle well.  Also, I love the line “Different strokes for different folks, Just enjoy the results of what we do on the land.”

Are Illinois farmers ready to get out there and do something like this that is entertaining and informative?  Does this push the bar too far or just far enough?  Is this the way to get consumer attention and give them permission to get farmers farm?

What are your thoughts?

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to visit one of our partner sites in the City Produce Program, the Cook County Jail.

It was exciting to see all the fresh produce being gathered which will then be distributed to families without access to fresh veggies in inner city Chicago.  It was equally exciting to see the inmates at Cook County Jail learning about horticulture, becoming certified Master Gardners through the University of Illinois Extension program, and adding a trade to their resume to use as they rebuild their future.

But I’m interested in the new connections being built between urban and rural citizens of Illinois.

This project is about nutrition and goodwill towards our neighbors, but its also about awareness.  How often do the farmers in Illinois consider those without access to a grocery store other than the local gas station convenience store?  I can guess that its not often.

Likewise, how much do Chicago residents understand about farming as an occupation?  About the ups and downs of the market, the vulnerability of the weather, the long hours and sneaky insects that equal risky paychecks?  Not much, I’m sure.  And through this program, volunteers that simply want to contribute to the fresh vegetable access are seeing first hand what it really is to be a farmer.

There is a gap right now between the reality for urban Illinoisans and the reality for rural Illinoisans.  That gap causes distrust and confusion because of a mutual lack of understanding between the two.  What the Chicago Produce Project seeks to do for Illinois corn farmers is create understanding.

Become a Facebook fan of the City Produce Project, Illinois Corn, and Monsanto (all partners in this effort) so that you can learn more about the good we are doing in urban Chicago.  Check out Crain’s coverage of the project here.  Consider getting involved.

Rodney Weinzierl
Executive Director, ICGA/ICMB


Becky Finfrock and I spent the day at Illinois State University’s Ag Career Fair today, recruiting for our spring and summer ag communications internships.  We had a great time chatting with ISU ag students, some of which were interested in ag communications and some of which weren’t interested at all!  But everyone seemed to want to know more about Illinois Corn and what exactly we do on behalf of corn farmers.
We advocate for them.  In case you were confused as well.


Here’s hoping that the fruits of our labors today will be intelligent, motivated college students who are passionate about agriculture and the image of farmers and modern food production!
Students, if you’re out there, we need more of you to step up to the plate and get active on behalf of Illinois agriculture.  Consider an internship with Illinois Corn for the spring or summer semester.  Spring semester interns will be focused on the social media application of their choice (Facebook, Twitter, blogging) and will independently populate, manage, and collect data on that social media tool.  Illinois Corn wants to know what motivates different audiences to interact and dialogue via social media!
Our summer interns are also focused on social media, but are expected to work in our office all summer and are more heavily focused on YouTube videos and other video applications.
Interns must be Illinois residents.
To apply, email me at
mitchell_lindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


Farmers and “agvocates” from around the country met in Chicago recently to fine tune their social media skills.

As a board member on the AgChat Foundation, I was so impressed to see the instant camaraderie amongst the group as we clearly had some things in common: a love for American agriculture and a willingness to engage non-farmers on issues.

I was one of the speakers at the conference and I focused on basic communication skills. Don’t let the “social media” part of social media get in the way. I’m talking about moving the coffee shop to your laptop. Here are some of my tips and tricks regarding communication that I sent home with the more than 50 attendees:

If we were to summarize what non-farmers are saying to us, it is this:
• I don’t know much about what you do.
• You do something very important to me.
• You raise the food my family eats.
• The most important thing to me is protecting my family and ensuring their health.
• I know you work hard.
• I want to trust you.
• But I’m concerned based on what I see and hear.
• Give me reasons to trust you.

Tap into the Emotions that drive trust: Authenticity (openness, transparency, the “truth”) Shared Values (“you” care about what “I” care about; Protecting me, my family, and my world) Responsibility

Engage in a dialogue, not a monologue

3 F’s: Feel, Felt, Found
• I appreciate the way you Feel
• Others have Felt the same way
• Here’s what I’ve Found

Squint With Your Ears!
• Know why you are listening
• Focus on content and the non-verbal messages
• Organize what you are hearing through observation, reflective listening and note taking
• Give your attention; if you cannot, say so
• Avoid giving advice, moralizing, predicting the future
• Avoid interrupting
• Listen with your heart as well as your head

Watch this video to get a flavor for what brought the group together.

Tricia Braid
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director


Among other things, one important activity our board engaged in last week was the Illinois Ag Legislative Roundtable’s Candidate Forum.  We heard from Governor Pat Quinn, his opponent Representative Bill Brady, Congressman Mark Kirk who is running for Senate and his opponent and current Treasurer of the IL Alexi Giannoulias.
It really was a great night.  The weather was lovely as we listened to them from the middle of a cornfield in McLean County and the food was good.  Any farmer knows that the quality of a meeting can be partially judged by the food, right?
But this post isn’t really about the candidates.  Nor is it about the food.  It’s really about just plain voting.
I came home from the Candidate Forum and I was energized.  Actually, I was less energized and more motivated.  The candidates probably don’t really inspire me as much as they motivate me to want to control government spending.  Will any of our candidates do that?  I’m not sure … but the fact remains that I’m going to vote simply because I want someone that might control spending to get into office.


And as motivated as I was, as I spoke to my neighbor, she was equally unmotivated.  She doesn’t care.  She doesn’t think her vote matters.  She believes that all the candidates on every side of the aisle are biased and uncaring about the American/Illinois public.  She believes that they are all seeking election for the wrong reasons.

She can’t find a candidate that she can believe in.  She can’t find a candidate that she mostly agrees with and she doesn’t understand how she can prioritize to just one topic and vote according to candidate positions on that topic.

I’m sure I can find fifty other people in the span of the next fifteen minutes that agree with her.

In the chronicals of our history I’m sure there are also millions and millions of letters, articles, stories that aim to inspire people to vote.  Will I do any better than any of those?  Likely not, but I can’t ignore it all the same.

Perhaps the problem with our country is not so much the politicians as it is the plain old citizens – the ones that are uninspired, apathetic, and too busy to care or notice what’s happening.  Perhaps the problem with our state is that its citizens aren’t demanding more accountability, more access, and more information.  Perhaps the problem with our democracy isn’t the vote, but the voters themselves.

To paraphase something Treasurer Giannoulias said in his address, things in Washington aren’t going to change until elected officials quit serving their party and themselves and recognize that they are serving the American public.

Perhaps things in Washington (and Illinois!) aren’t going to change until each and every ordinary citizen does exactly the same.


Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


While I’ll apologize up front for less meaty content on our blog the past couple weeks, I’ll also offer you that we’ve all been in meetings, at the state fair, and now in our Illinois Corn Marketing Board and Illinois Corn Growers Association Board meetings just drumming up fabulous content and thought provoking concepts for you to mull over in the coming weeks.

During our board meeting today, Senate Candidate and current US Congressman Mark Kirk addressed both boards with your standard campaign speech and then opened the floor for questions.  During that portion, one board member asked that all the family farmers in the room raise their hand.  Of course, the view for those 5 seconds was all hands.

This perception that the majority of farms are owned my corporations like Monsanto, Pioneer or ADM is one of the things the Corn Farmers Coaltion is trying to change.  There’s this ad that we’ve had in DC metro stations, at Reagan National Airport, and in Washington, DC publications like Congressional Quarterly and Politco …

But there’s also a need to create awareness in the homes of farmers throughout IL that this really is a problem.  So there’s also this ad that was published in FARMWEEK on Monday, August 23 and will appear in AgriNews on Thursday, August 26.

This is our effort to let Illinois farmers know that this is a real problem – a HUGE problem – and that we are trying to fix it.  After all, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board was one of the first funders of this effort and is still one of the largest funders in the coalition.

We’ve made more than 100 million positive impressions (to clarify the marketing lingo, an impression is one viewing.  So these ads have been seen 100 million times, maybe sometimes by the same people, but rarely does one viewing actually hit home anyway.) with our legislators, thought leaders, and others in the DC area and now we’re bringing these ads back to IL to put a face on Illinois corn farmers.

Remember this?  These Corn Farmers Coalition ads are now all over the Normal, IL Corn Crib, teaching people the truth about the agriculture all around them and introducing them to the family farmers that feed them everyday.

Check out the Corn Farmers Coalition website to learn more about what we’re doing to set the record straight about corn farmers and US agriculture.  I’m confident that you won’t be sorry that you did.

mitchell_lindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director