HINTS OF SPRING

Spring is a magical time. Birds begin to chirp, the sun makes longer appearances, and warmer weather improves everyone’s mood.  Mother Nature, especially in Illinois, likes to tease us about when spring will decide to come and stick around, tricking us with warm temperatures one week and a snow shower the next.  Thankfully there are signs to indicate that spring has sprung!

You know it’s spring when planting begins.

3-24-16Hints of Spring- PlantingAs the weather warms up, farmers begin getting antsy to get into the field. They must wait for the right amount of moisture in the soil. If the soil is too wet, the weight of the tractor and planter may compact it. Compaction limits the flow of air and water through the soil and makes it harder for a sprouting seed to break through to the surface.  Farmers may also use a field cultivator to kill existing weeds and work up the soil. Once soil and weather conditions permit, farmers begin sowing seeds, which will hopefully turn into a bountiful fall harvest!

You know it’s spring when flowers begin to emerge.

3-24-16Hints of Spring- FlowersPlants have a variety of growing seasons. Some are perennial, meaning they live for more than two years.  Bulbs and tulips are examples of perennials. Some are biennial, meaning it takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle. Examples of biennials are carrots and onions. Summer annuals begin germinating in the spring and are mature by fall of the same year. Germination is the process of a seed beginning to grow after a period of dormancy. Carnations, pansies, and many other common types of flowers are annuals.  Spring is the time that many different types of flowers begin making their way to the surface and become beautiful for the summer months.

You know it’s spring when children begin playing outside.

3-24-16Hints of Spring- Fresh Air and SunshineLike Laura Ingalls Wilder said, “Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.” After a long winter, everyone is ready to get back outside. Spring signals the time to break out bicycles and baseball gloves, sidewalk chalk and jump ropes. Playing outside has many health benefits, such as increasing attention span and reducing stress. Playing outside also provides a chance to soak in some Vitamin D, which helps prevent bone problems, diabetes, and heart disease. Parents and children alike are thankful when the weather warms up enough to get back outside!

3-24-16Hints of Spring- DirtSpring is a beautiful time as the weather warms up, flowers begin to emerge, and fields are planted. As Margaret Atwood said, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Whether it is from spending the day in a field planting or cultivating, planting a garden, or playing in your backyard, many spring activities result in smelling like dirt, sunshine, and happiness.

 

 

 

To see other images like these, check out our Instagram page @ILCorn

Christy Allen

Christy Allen
University of Illinois

FARMERS CHOOSE GMOS, AND HERE’S WHY

Monsanto. Illustrated as an evil among many consumers, Monsanto forces farmers to plant genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and somehow the government influences farmers to comply. So how does this happen? Quite simply, it doesn’t happen. Farmers are not forced to plant GMOs and farmers certainly have no obligation to buy seeds from Monsanto. But farmers do choose to buy the seeds, and here’s why.

I recently spoke with two Illinois farmers, Paul Jeschke and Jeff Miller. Jeschke is a corn and soybean farmer from Grundy County, as well as Illinois Corn Marketing Board’s District 5 representative. Miller is a fifth generation farmer from Fulton County, who raises corn, soybeans, and beef cattle.

3-21-16seeds“Often times, the use of genetically engineered crops allows me to maintain or increase yields, along with greatly reducing the use of more toxic products like pesticides,” described Miller.

“There’s two main reasons that I like to use GMOs and do use GMOs, opposed to non-GMOs. Number one, they work a lot better. With GMOs, you’ll typically get 90-95% control of the insects you’re after. Whereas typical pesticides are weather-dependent, and maybe 50-75% control. Number two, I can avoid handling and applying pesticides with GMOs. I just as soon not use pesticides if I can stay away from them,” explained Jeschke.

Miller also added, “Though GMOs dominate the marketplace in both corn and soybeans, farmers sometimes plant non-GMOs, particularly if a premium may be involved. It is a free market system, and farmers will choose what is profitable and works in their system.”

So how does Monsanto relate to the negativism surrounding the use of GMOs? Monsanto is a sustainable agriculture company that has developed patented seeds, in which farmers must sign an agreement upon purchasing the seeds. In this agreement, Monsanto states that farmers are not allowed to save and replant the seeds from year to year.

3-21-16seedpatentMonsanto explains the concept of seed patenting by stating, “When a new edition of Microsoft Office hits the market, it’s copyrighted. You can’t buy a copy, burn it and sell it to your friends—or else it’s called piracy. It’s the same with Monsanto’s patented seeds. Patents, like copyrights, are a form of intellectual property protection that legally prohibits unauthorized duplication of a product.”

In our interview, Jeschke discusses how seed patents influence seed purchases saying, “We are absolutely free to buy whatever seed we want to buy, from any company. I choose to buy the majority of my seed from Monsanto, because in my area, they are the best performing seeds I can purchase. Across the country, Monsanto provides the top yielding variety, which is why they are the best-selling company. If other companies get better varieties than what Monsanto currently has, then that will change.”

“There are 3 to 4 major companies to buy seed from, and many regional type companies for corn and soybeans. Personal relationships with companies that have quality products are just as important in farming, as they are in other businesses,” Miller expressed.

As you can see, farmers study several options and take every factor into careful consideration when choosing which seeds to plant in order to harvest a safe, efficient, high-yielding crop for the market. If GMOs most suitably fit their farming operation preferences, farmers can choose GMOs. The bottom line is, farmers do control which seeds go in the ground, and which seeds don’t.

Miller_Carli

 

 

Carli Miller
University of Illinois

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO: IL FARMERS IN DC

3-18-16 Photo with Congressman FosterIllinois farmers are pictured here with U.S. Congressman Bill Foster. Illinois farmers met with Illinois delegates in Washington, D.C. over National Ag Week to discuss sustaining the profitability of farming. Illinois farmers shared messages from their home state about issues critical to farming, from the importance of the TPP and free trade to the preservation of crop insurance.

WHY WE NEED FREE TRADE

Free trade is beneficial farmers. For instance, a strong free trade agreement makes it possible for farmers to have market opportunities and meet food demands around the world. The economic stimulus from worldwide demand for American products also helps each of us feed our families.

TPP-AgricultureA study conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation o
n the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement that is already negotiated and waiting for Congressional approval, explains that the American economy benefits from a $4.4 billion revenue increase that not only sustains farming within the United States but also helps to contribute to a healthy American economy.

  • Livestock receipts with implementation are $5.8 billion higher with approval than without. For the crops sector –including fruits and vegetables—receipts are $2.7 billion higher. Net farm income is also $4.4 billion higher.
  • S. beef and pork exports are expected to be $1 billion and $940 million higher, respectively.
  • Farm prices for corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, cotton, fed steers, feeder steers, barrows and gilts, wholesale poultry and milk are all projected to be marginally higher with the agreement in place than without.
  • Net trade rises for rice, cotton, beef, pork, poultry, butter, cheese and non-fat dry milk
  • Net trade of corn declines slightly, but overall use increases and corn revenue rises as higher feed use is needed to provide for the added beef and pork exports rather than being exported as raw commodities.

HOW FARMING CAN KEEP YOU OUT OF TROUBLE

Tractors. Corn. An old man in overalls with a piece of straw hanging out of his mouth. Our world is filled with stereotypes about farmers. While some may be true, there are others that are not quite as accurate. For instance, a lot of older farmers hire younger people to do the labor-intensive work around the farm. These farmhands help with bailing hay, getting ready for planting and harvesting season, and milking cows. The list can go on and on. Although these jobs have pretty good pay and give you experience, you are worked to the bone. So, the decision between going to bed and going out with your friends is a pretty easy one. The last thing you want to do is come into work the next day hungover and have to smell pig manure. This leads to a lesser known fact about farming: it keeps you out of trouble.

How can farming keep you out of trouble?

  1. Constantly in the field or working with livestock.

As a farmer or a farmhand, you rarely have a day off. Fields always need to be scouted for diseases and pests. Livestock needs to be fed, milked, checked and maintained two – three times a day. Basically, you’re “dog tired by the five o’clock hour.

trouble1

2. Hard to have friends when you smell like manure….

At some point every single one of us has driven past a beef, swine, or poultry farm. As we pass, we get that ever so wonderful whiff of manure. Once you’ve worked around the smell for a while, it becomes unnoticeable to you. But to everyone else around you……that’s another story. Imagine that there exists a day that you actually have the energy to go to a bonfire with your buddies. Everyone is sitting around and they start making jokes that you will burst into flames from the methane coming from your clothes. Essentially, you become the butt of the joke.

trouble2

 

3. You’re too polite……your country ways

How can you be too polite?! So a good country boy takes the girl out on nice dates: to a movie, a dinner, or a county fair. Which means you pay because what guy doesn’t pay? If you are really trying to impress that one girl, money is an option! You’ll do anything you can to get her attention, but treating her to a nice dinner and concert every weekend can take a toll on your wallet. When it soon becomes empty, you have no money which means you can’t take that nice gal on dates…which can keep ya out of trouble.

In the end you simply don’t have time, but when you do, you want to spend it wisely. This means choosing friends that don’t have to see you every night to consider you a friend and finding a girl who can enjoy a nice night under the stars, instead of going to a concert every weekend. Farming life can be a challenge and you don’t get a lot of free time. That is why those who do choose the farm life have a sincere passion for it and don’t mind hanging out all day with Bessie the cow or watching the sunset in the tractor. “Do what you love, love what you do!”

cailyn

 

Cailyn Carstens
Illinois State University

 

6 THINGS ABOUT FARMING I DIDN’T LEARN IN SCHOOL

We all love our teachers, but looking back there are things we wish somebody had told us. Here are six things about agriculture that I wish were taught in school.

  1. Food is not easy to grow.

farmer in fieldOn TV you always see farmers portrayed as a bunch of uneducated hillbillies, but that is not the case! There is a lot more to growing food than most people realize; farming is a science. Farmers have to be masters of chemistry, agronomy, physics, mathematics, economics, and meteorology. In fact, there are over 70 colleges across the country that offer degrees in Farm Management. Who knew?

  1. Most of the corn we see in the fields isn’t sweet corn.

There are several different types of corn grown in the US, but the main type is field corn, also called dent corn. This corn is used for animal feed and also processed into ethanol, corn syrup, and other products like makeup and plastic. Less than 1% of the corn grown in the US is sweet corn! Check out this math lesson teachers could use to teach students about corn.

  1. Dirt is not the same everywhere you go.

soilHave you ever wondered why Arizona soil is so much redder than the dark black soils we have here in central Illinois? It turns out there is much more to dirt than meets the eye. All soil is made up of a combination of three components: sand, silt, and clay. The way a soil looks, feels, and even how well crops can be grown in it can all be predicted by looking at the age of the soil (some soils are thousands of years old!), mineral composition, topography of the land, and what the native vegetation was. There are even people whose whole job is studying soil!

  1. Hamburgers and milk don’t come from the same place.

eat mor chikinEveryone has seen the Chick-fil-a commercials where the black and white cows are telling you to eat more chicken, but besides being a cute marketing strategy it doesn’t actually make sense. Holsteins, like the Chick-fil-a cow, are one of hundreds of breeds of dairy cattle that are milked to make cheese and ice cream, but very rarely used for meat. A more accurate commercial would have a Black Angus because they are the most common beef breed in the US. These are the cattle that are raised for their meat to be processed into steaks, roasts, and burgers.

  1. Farmers do care about the environment.

The media is always pointing its finger at the agriculture industry for polluting the atmosphere or causing global climate change, but farmers really do care about the environment. In fact, they are effected even more than the rest of us by global climate change. As the climate patterns change over time, new pests invade our fields that they are not equipped to handle. This in turn lowers their yield and actually costs them money!

  1. There are chemicals in your food. Gasp!

Pyridoxine, Natamycin, and Carboxymethylcellulose, oh my! Find out what these chemicals are. Just because something has a long name doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, all food is naturally made out of chemicals called vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A chemical-free diet would mean that you couldn’t eat anything!

elizabeth brownElizabeth Brown
Purdue University

10 PINTEREST BOARDS WITH BIG INFO ON FOOD

Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and birthdays all have something in common, and it isn’t just time for celebration. All of these events host some of the most anticipated meals of the year! For my family, food is the centerpiece of gatherings and makes everyone come together to enjoy the time with each other.

A question I always have is “Where does all this food come from?” I know I have that certain outspoken cousin that would be first to give the know-it-all answer of “Well, Walmart of course!” That is not the answer I am looking for, however. Where was that food before it is on the shelves of Walmart? What should I know about that food that the shelves and labels don’t tell me?

Fear not fellow question-askers! There are Pinterest boards out there with answers to all these questions and more. Here are my ten favorite Pinterest boards with some great information on the foods we love!

  1. Best Food Facts

This board is very true to its name. From fun recipes to food safety knowledge, this board has a broad range of information to look at even if you do not have a specific question about foods. If you are looking to just browse and learn a little about the food you eat, this is the best board out there!

  1. MN Food Facts

The shelf life of different types of food is something I do not know off the top of my head, so that is why I like this board! There are pins that give that information about shelf life and also some kitchen and cooking tips. Also, my favorite food of all time is fruit, so I love Blueberriesthis pin about what fruits are in season at certain times of the year!

  1. Infographics

The Pinterest account that created this board is called Where Food Comes From, so it is a great account to look at overall. This board specifically caught my eye because I love a good infographic! I think they are so fun and easy to read, so it is easy to learn things from them. Look at this part of an info-loaded graphic about blueberries!

  1. Food for Thought

The description of this board gives the best explanation about it! You can read the description below, but basically this board is a conversation between farmers and consumers about anything that one would want to know. I like this board because it is a great source of farmer input for information about the food they grow!Screenshot 1

  1. Fact vs. Fiction

Answers to every answer there could be about GMO’s! What are GMO’s? They are simply organisms that have been modified to have certain traits or be more productive. This board does a great job of making distinctions between what the media portrays genetically modified organisms as and what they really are. The truth is they are a useful tool for farmers and everyone should know as much about as possible.Screenshot 2

  1. All About Beef

As you can guess from the name, this board gives answer about beef and where it comes from. Some things you may have heard of in the beef industry, that this board answers questions about, are hormones and grass fed beef. Both of those practices are safe and more can be learned by visiting that board!Screenshot 3

  1. All Things Dairy

Every fact about dairy cattle and the milk they produced is explained and described on this board. There are pins about what milk does for the body, how milk gets from the farm to the table, and even instructions on how to make your own butter!

On a side note, I love this pin that leads to a farmer’s wife’s blog about her cute calves! Meet #308!

  1. Growing Sweet Corn

SweatshirtA summer food favorite for many, including me, is a nice ear of sweet corn. While you may get your sweet corn from a grocery store, there are many sweet corn farms that grow a lot of this delicious treat and provide it to that grocery store! This board belongs to one of those farms and has many useful tips and information about sweet corn.

As a sweet corn grower myself, I really appreciated this sweatshirt from the board. Sweet corn needs a minimum of 1 inch of water per week for normal development!

  1. Family PictureFood Families

Food on the shelves of grocery stores not only came from a farm at one point, but there was also a family that dedicated their life to the successful production of that food. This board highlights some families that have great stories about the foods they grow. How precious is this family that has a pork operation?

For more farm family stories, you can visit this bonus board and read all about Illinois farm families!

  1. Cheesecake PictureEndless Recipes

A post about food information on Pinterest would not be complete without including an account full of wonderful recipes. When I say endless recipes, I mean you could cook a different meal every day for decades if you used these farm fresh boards! My favorite boards are Colorful Veggies above the Ground, Fruit, and, of course, Dessert Recipes.

If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments.

 

Amanda RollinsAmanda Rollins
Illinois State University

5 THINGS ABOUT THIS PHOTO: WHAT IT MEANS TO DRIVE A FLEX FUEL VEHICLE

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!

What it means to drive a Flex Fuel vehicle

IMG_00561.This is a photo of a Ford F-150 Flex Fuel truck that one of our board members currently drive. Flex Fuel means the vehicle can run on an array of combinations of gasoline and ethanol. The blends you will most likely see at your local fuel station range from E10 to E85. This acronym indicates the percentage of ethanol blended with the gasoline, 10% to 85%.

2.What is ethanol? Ethanol is an alcohol made from renewable resources such as corn and other cereal grains, food and other beverage wastes and forestry by-products. The corn-based substance is added to gasoline to reduce oil imports, reduce emissions, increase performance and reduce overall costs of transportation fuels.

3.Illinois Corn supports higher blends of ethanol in our gasoline because the higher blends create a higher demand of corn ethanol. Ethanol is made in the USA. Because ethanol is homegrown, every time you purchase it, you are buying local and supporting our farmers right here in Illinois.

4.One bushel of corn produces 2.8 gallons of ethanol in addition to several valuable food and feed co-products. Using only the starch from the corn kernel, the production process results in vitamins, protein, corn oil fiber and other by-products that can be used for food, feed and industrial use.

5.Ethanol is also cleaner burning and environmentally friendly. It reduces pollution risks for the environment and since ethanol has cleaner emissions, there are less greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that are responsible for climate change.

5 THINGS ABOUT THIS PHOTO: CONG QUIGLEY ON THE FARM!

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!

Congressman Quigley on the Farm

quigley on farm1.  In this photo, Congressman Mike Quigley (IL-5) visited the farm to learn more about the primary industry in Illinois.  Congressman Quigley does this very cool “Undercover Congressman” program where he visits Illinoisans and tries to learn more about even the most menial jobs in our state.  I think it shows a real desire to learn – and we couldn’t have been happier to let him farm for a day

2. Connecting Illinois farmers, IL Corn staff, and elected officials is one very important job that IL Corn performs for its members.  As voters, every single American would do well to make at least one connection a year with the people that represent them!  That priority gets lost in the busyness of all of our days – so one job of our association is to help our members connect with elected officials and help elected officials understand as much about farming as possible.

3. The Congressman is standing in front of the machine that harvests corn – called a combine.  A combine is a VERY expensive piece of equipment (just under $500,000!) that a farmer simply can’t do without!  Learn more about combines here.

4. Congressman Quigley was likely shocked to learn about the very technical nature of a modern combine.  Combines monitor yield per acre, utilize GPS to minimize fuel usage and maximize efficiency, and employ a ton of other modern conveniences to make U.S. farming the most efficient food and fuel production industry in the world.

5. As farmer Steve Ruh was harvesting this field in October 2015, he was likely making around 200 bushels per acre.  (A bushel is about the size of a large bag of dog food and an acre is about the size of a football field.)  In October 1980, this same field would have yielded only about 100 bushels per acre.