A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A FARMER: JULY


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. Today is the seventh post in my one-year series which will give you an idea of a farmer’s workload throughout 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.

July
The saying “Knee high by the 4th of July” is no longer accurate this day and age. These days, the corn is likely shoulder height or taller by the 4th of July, but has probably not tasseled yet. July is a bit of a slower month for corn farmers. Somewhat of a breather where they can watch their corn grow in between prayers for rain and heat. That’s not to say there isn’t work going on at the farm – especially if they’ve got other crops and livestock to manage.

This year’s crop:

  • Monitor fieldsMonitor crop for weeds, pests, and diseases – The corn and beans are getting too tall to go through with equipment at this point, but many farmers won’t hesitate to walk into their fields…or use the latest technology – like a UAV – to monitor growth progress. There are certain telltale signs that indicate insect activity, fungal disease, heat stress, lack of or too much water, etc… and there are still measures that can be taken to prevent these from destroying the crop.
  • Spray FungicideSpray Fungicide – If you’ve ever seen a small, low flying airplane “dive bombing” the corn fields, they might be applying fungicide. A fungicide controls or prevents fungal diseases such as rust, mildew and blights.
  • Harvest Wheat – In central and southern Illinois, where wheat is more prevalent, it’s typically ready to harvest around the 4th of July. In some climate zones, the farmer can even double crop soybeans into his wheat field. This means he or she can plant a late crop of soybeans into the wheat field that was just harvested. It will be ready to harvest a bit later than the rest of their crops, and won’t yield as many bushels per acre, but in most cases, is still a profitable practice.
  • Cover Crop Consideration – It really takes more coordination than a month or two’s notice, but toward the end of July or early August is when cover crop seed purchase and application should be put in place.

Farm Maintenance:

  • Cleaning out BinsClean out bins – It’s time to make room for the 2016 harvest by cleaning out storage bins. This may require hauling loads to the elevator or climbing inside to scoop out old corn.
  • Mow ditches and waterways
  • Schedule fuel deliveries – fill up on farm diesel and propane when the price is right and before the rush of harvest begins. Also, catch any tank maintenance issues before harvest!
  • The “Machine Shed Shuffle” – rearrange equipment to easily access the pieces you’ll need for Fall. (Hint: cultivators, planters, and sprayers can be put in the back)

Next year’s crop:

  • Corn Rows - put before planning aheadPlanning ahead – It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to make arrangements for NEXT YEAR’S crop, when there’s still no tangible measurement of how THIS crop is doing. Many farmers are looking ahead to contract fall fertilizer, and considering what changes they’d like to make next year. It won’t be long before seed salesmen start coming around to take orders.

If a farmer has livestock there’s a lot more going on for them this month. Aside from daily chores and care, there’s hay-making (cut hay, rake hay, bale hay, and move/store hay) and in many cases getting show livestock ready for 4-H shows at summer fairs.

Deal_Ashley

Ashley Deal
Membership Administrative Assistant
IL Corn

AG CAREER PROFILES: WHAT DOES AN AGRIBUSINESS CONTROLLER DO?

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 incredible 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

Cowger_Dakota_IL CORN INTERN 2x3 16

Dakota Cowger
Communications Intern
IL Corn

GMOS: ARE THEY SAFE TO EAT?

I recently graduated from college with a Bachelor’s in Communication, but I never thought that my degree would take me into agriculture. The closest I ever got to “living country” was growing up with horses on a five-acre lot just outside of Peoria. However, I never really understood the importance of agriculture and how much it really plays a part in my life. It even excites me to say that there are incredible opportunities in the agriculture industry that aren’t directly related to working on a farm. The only downside I’d say about the industry is the fact that American Farmers are not appreciated for all of the hard work they do.

7-5-16progmoThere is a lot of misinformation flooding the media about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A lot of the misconception comes from luring mainstream audiences to believe that GMOs are filled with toxic chemicals that are harmful to the human body. They believe that these toxins are introduced to the plants through unsafe, laboratory experiments where a syringe is commonly seen injecting unquestionable poisons into said plant. This is not the case; in fact, the procedure to develop genetically modified organisms is a lot safer than many realize. What frustrates me about mainstream media in general is that people believe everything they see. They barely question the autonomy and authority of what they read, and they hardly go out of their way to research the claims being made.

There are countless studies and educational resources that any person can find to understand what a GMO is and how safe they are to eat. More than that, the technologies utilized in developing genetically modified organisms can benefit the growth of food for the projected population increase in 2050. It certainly wouldn’t be an end all cure, but with 9 billion coming so soon we definitely have a lot of work to do to feed those hungry mouths.

Another common misconception is that big agriculture companies that invest in the development of GMOs refuse to label genetically modified organisms because they have something to hide. This is simply not the case. The real reason that they do not label GMOs with a specific “this is a GMO” label is because of the fear that it would cause consumers. There is nothing dangerous about consuming GMOs, so there is no point to label them. There have been numerous studies done to prove that they are safe for consumption, and there hasn’t been a single reported death. If they labeled GMOs specifically, people would then think they are implying that GMOs are dangerous to eat. Instead, foods that do not contain GMOS are the ones being labeled. Labeling the foods that do not have GMOs helps consumers that want to avoid buying these products to avoid them. Using this method is sort of a “win win” for both sides.

I think people forget that when a company has a bad reputation, they lose money. More than that, most people don’t realize how much money is spent by organizations to maintain a positive public image. Big agricultureas no reason to hide what they are providing their consumers. I encourage anyone to take the time to educate themselves before deciding what foods they will choose to avoid because of health concerns.

Sonnemaker_Deidra 2x3 16
Deidra Sonnemaker
Graphic Design Intern
IL Corn

WHAT ARE IL CORN FARMERS DOING TO CONSERVE RESOURCES?

This summer as an intern for IL Corn, one thing I am tasked with doing is visiting farmers across the state and speaking with them about their conservation practices. In the end, I’m taking their stories and uploading them to the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices’ Conservation Story Map.

Hold up. What is this Council on Best Management Practices? For short, we call it the CBMP. The CBMP is a coalition of agricultural organizations from Illinois along with a few agribusinesses. These include the Illinois Corn Growers Association, and was founded in 1999. From their website, their mission reads “Working to assist and encourage adoption of best management practices (BMPs) to protect and enhance natural resources and the sustainability of agriculture in Illinois.” So basically, the CBMP works with farmers across the state to implement practices to help conserve and sustain the environment around us.

IMG_8329As for Best Management Practices, those are practices that farmers can use to help reduce soil and water erosion, and nutrient loss in agricultural fields. These include grass waterways in fields, drainage tile, and cover crops planted before or after the normal crops like corn and soybeans.

While driving around this state, I have met farmers with numerous different practices and ideas on how they are protecting their land and water. Many farmers get a bad representation that they are constantly working up the ground, putting on too much fertilizer, and eroding the land. These are not the cases. Farmers are working hard to protect the land that they have so they can hand it down to their future generations, and keep making profitable decisions in the future.

IMG_8273In Metamora in Woodford County, Bill Christ has implemented buffer strips of grass along creeks running through his farmland. These buffer strips help stop nutrients and sediment carried by surface water from the field. They can slow down the water and allow plants to take up and use water and nutrients. He also prides himself in the buffer strips because they provide a great spot for local wildlife habitats.

In Fulton County near Adair, Gary Schmalshof has created dry dams in his fields. These dams help manage water runoff from his field. They also hold soil back during large rainfalls, while making sure to help drain water properly.

Andy Bartlow farms in Schuyler, Hancock, and McDonough Counties in Western Illinois. There, he has implemented technology where he can calculate and watch his nutrient usage. Being able to watch his nutrient usage means he can put on the proper amounts of nutrients and limit runoff of nutrients like nitrogen.

While I have visited many farmers and there are many more stories than just these three, they give a great look at what farmers in Illinois are doing to help conserve resources.

For more stories, visit ConservationStoryMap.com.

Cowger_Dakota_IL CORN INTERN 2x3 16

Dakota Cowger
Communications Intern
IL Corn

BREAKING DOWN THE MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT GMOS

“OMG, GMOs!” This seems to be the mantra of consumers everywhere on the topic of food safety. The issue is, people have no idea where their food comes from, let alone what GMOs are. The website GMO Answers describes a GMO as “a crop that has very specific changes made to its DNA. They usually have one to two genes added or silenced to achieve a desired trait. This plant breeding technique is called genetic engineering, and it enables plant breeders to take individual traits from one plant or organism and to another with the purpose of improving or changing the trait.” GMOs are not created by sticking a syringe into your fresh produce. The process is way more special (and safer) than that! Watch this video for more information.

GMO Free BreadOne of the largest misconceptions on GMOs is that the aisles at your local grocery store are full of GMOs. Have you ever seen GMO-free bread on the shelf? It’s usually more expensive than “regular” bread. Funny story, you’re paying for that “GMO Free” label. There is no such thing as Genetically Modified wheat. There are only nine GMO crops commercially available in the U.S. today: corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, summer squash, and potatoes.

Americans will soon begin to see more labels, like the one above, on a variety of food products. Due to a law enacted by Vermont in 2014 that takes effect July 1 and due to a lack of a nationwide policy, all products containing GM ingredients will require a label. These labels will cost consumers across the country roughly $3.8 billion. That’s approximated $50 per family! Those costs, however, are just the start. The switch will cost $81.9 billion annually, costing $1,050 per family per year. Over the course of 20 years, every household would be spending an extra $13,250 on food labels.

To the average consumer, a label may seem like a good idea. GMOs are scary, right? Wrong. GMOs are safe and have been tested to prove that. Here you can find a list of 1,785 long-term GMO studies. By the year 2050, farmers are going to be tasked with feeding 9 billion people. How are they going to do that? Science. Science is helping farmers feed the world and science is proving that GMOs are safe. It’s important to remember that GM isn’t a “thing.” It’s a process. What’s most important is that food safety be confirmed by thorough testing.

Blog4Kellie Blair, a farmer, and agronomist from Dayton, Iowa, says, “I would never intentionally feed my family anything that would be unsafe, and as a farmer, I would never want to produce food that is unsafe for others. I believe that on my farm, we are growing safe food, and I take that responsibility very seriously.”

If you’re looking for more information about GMOs, check out Emily Webel’s blog, Confessions of a Farm Wife! Also, be sure to check out the blog Find Our Common Ground, as well as GMO Answers. All three sources will give you a better understanding of GMOs and their importance.

Spangler_Kaitlyn_IL Corn intern 2x3 16

Kaity Spangler
Legislative Intern
IL Corn