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 fourth 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.



Cash BidsAs mentioned before, farmers are always watching the markets and summertime markets can be pretty volatile. There may still be old crop left to sell in the bins, or the farmer may be looking ahead to contract this year’s crop. Keep in mind, this year’s crop still has a long ways to go – lots could happen over the summer like drought, flood, hail, wind, and pest or weed damage. It’s important not to get too far ahead of yourself when contracting grain for fall or winter delivery.

This year’s crop

Planting – Depending on location and weather, farmers might be finishing up planting in early June… or possibly replanting if they came into some bad weather situations.

Scouting fields – There will be lots of “drive-bys” this month. If farm country, a drive-by is when you take the long way home so you can get a look at as many of your fields as possible. When you get next to one of your fields, you go extra slow. Sometimes you even stop to walk in a few rows. Don’t forget your pocket knife – You might need to pick at the dirt or uproot a weed or two on your way out. Farmers are studying crop emergence, soil moisture, pest activity, weed populations and anything else that catches their attention.

Side DressingSide dressing – (not just for salads!) Side dressing is a best management practice used by some farmers in which Nitrogen is injected into to the cornfield post-emergence, which boots corn growth when it needs it most. There is a rather small window of time when weather conditions and corn development need to align perfectly. You can’t side dress once the corn gets too tall, or it’ll get knocked over!


Spraying – While the corn is short and easy to navigate through, farmers are spraying herbicides to prevent weed growth before it gets out of hand. Herbicides are diluted with water – and many times all that’s needed is 3 oz of active chemical per acre – the rest is water!

Many farmers feel they can breathe a small sigh of relief after all the crops are planted and have begun to emerge. Others are just as riled up as before…. praying for heat one day, and less heat the next. One field to dry out but rain on a different one. A specific kind of rain though–  a long, gentle soaker that doesn’t come with any hail or wind… about an inch and a half…. Yeah… that would be perfect!

Ashley Deal
Membership Administrative Assistant
IL Corn


Sharon Dodd began her career with Illinois Farm Bureau fifteen years ago in September of 2000.  She is a multi-talented individual with a passion for visual communication.

DEIDRA: How did you become who you are today—what did you do to get here?

6-9-16Dodd (Newton)_Sharon 2x3 11 (1)SHARON: I didn’t have an Agriculture background.  I worked at Kruger Marketing in Champaign before applying to Illinois Farm Bureau.  I worked hard to get where I am.  I paid my way through college, and I learned how competitive graphic design really is.  I worked as an Art Director, Ad Layout Artist, and a Typesetter for the Daily Vidette, a student newspaper at ISU.  I was an art major and a print management minor.  I did a lot of “spec” art, and I focused on the marketing side of the newspaper.  When I worked with Kreuger, I learned a lot about agriculture.  During meetings I would sit and listen to everything, absorbing it all.  I didn’t realize until later how much all of that would really help.

DEIDRA: What are some of the challenges and some of the rewards you face on a typical day?

SHARON: The rewards are the people in agriculture.  I like being a voice and an advocate for agriculture.  I like seeing results, seeing people smile from my work.  The challenge is that there is a lot of communication.  We’re trying to change legislative issues and the perception of agriculture.  It’s hard to see results and it can feel overwhelming.  We have to constantly keep putting that voice out there—creating and communicating agriculture.

DEIDRA: What are some of your favorite tools of the trade?

SHARON: I like Mac computers and the Adobe Creative Suite.  Photoshop is my all time favorite, and then second is InDesign.  I use Dreamweaver and other web tools, but they aren’t my favorite.  Photography is a huge inspiration.

DEIDRA: When drafting a project design, can you describe the process you go through to come up with your solution?

ag_graphic_designerSHARON: The first step is getting the content together.  If there is a marketing person involved, I really like to get the content and get a feel for how it’s being laid out.  Who am I talking to?  What is my point?  I like to be in the reader’s shoes.  How can I engage them in a brochure or a social media post?  I am a common sense designer, and I don’t like confusion.

After getting the content, I need to find out what the theme is.  I like to sit on a project for about 24 hours.  When you let your brain process you would be surprised what the next day brings in.  When I get a layout started, sometimes I will do a rough [draft] but won’t do the entire thing.  I will communicate with the marketing people and see their reactions, work with them for corrections, and try to get the right design for the project.

When I make a concept, I try to look for anything that can help.  I’m not afraid to ask questions to get the right idea, and I am comfortable drafting a concept in person.  I feel like a channel between the people and I have a good idea of what they are thinking and communicating.

DEIDRA: What would you say has been one of your biggest accomplishments as a graphic designer?

SHARON: The next generation excites me, they are savvy and in it together; I am excited about young leaders and “Ag in the Classroom.”  I know there are legislative issues, but I feel like I am making a difference here.

DEIDRA: What kind of advice would you give to an aspiring graphic designer?

SHARON: The number one thing is to be a good communicator and a good listener.  If you’re negative, or if people can’t brainstorm with you, or if you are afraid of change then it will set you back.  You need to be adaptable because technology is constantly changing.  The second thing is you have to be creative.  If advertising, photography, or art inspires you, if it’s driving you, then all you need is to communicate.

Are you considering a career in agriculture?
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Deidra Sonnemaker
Graphic Design Intern


Originally published: June 2, 2015
1. Tractor SunsetFamily farmers start working at sunrise and don’t stop until well after sunset.Corporate farmers work a 9 to 5 job.

2. Family farmers enjoy a family picnic in the field. Corporate farmers eat lunch with executives and other co-workers.

3. Family farmers work all summer to prepare for harvest. Corporate farmers have the time to take a vacation anywhere they desire.

Boy caring calf 4. Over half of family farmers have a full-time job and farm as a hobby because it’s their true passion. Corporate farmers make plenty “farming.”

5. Family farmers are interested in the good of the animals and the community. Corporate farmers are interested in money and profits.

6. Family farmers try to put an emphasis on conservation practices. Corporate farmers focus mainly on business practices.

7. Family farmers know that Paul Harvey was correct about why “God Made a Farmer” Corporate farmers believe that it was just a Super Bowl commercial meant to sell trucks.

FFA Awards8. Family farmers know the importance of FFA to allow students to develop “premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.” Corporate farmers only see a group of kids in a blue corduroy jacket.

9. Family farmers are able to diversify themselves with many crops or animals to manage the risk of the prices dropping. Corporate farmers usually deal with only one area of the market.

10. Family farmers live a lifestyle, versus corporate farmers only have a job.

As you can see there is no such thing as a corporate farmer that actually does the farming. There are corporate owned farms, but the farmers actually doing the planting, harvesting, and maintenance are the down-to-earth family farmers. According to the USDA about 93% of farming operations in the United States are family run, leaving only 7% being owned by corporations. How many times have you seen a man in a suit planning corn? If you can’t think of any you probably never have because that would be memorable!

Jessica ProbstJessica Probst
Missouri State Universtiy


If you trust your government they are!

While it is good to always wash fruits and vegetables before eating them, the pesticides that farmers use are strictly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before they are allowed to be conventionally used.

Walking through the EPA’s website on pesticide registration can be tricky, so I am going to try to boil down the important facts. First off, what are pesticides? The EPA states that, “a pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances used to destroy, suppress or alter the life cycle of any pest.” Pesticides can include baits, repellents, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, bactericides, and rodenticides, used to kill harmful insects, fungus, weeds, or anything else causing harm. These different methods of pest control work by interfering with the normal behaviors of the pest and can be lethal or non-lethal.

Using Pesticide

While these pesticides are intended to rid a crop of its pests, they are first assessed on their human health and environmental effects. They are evaluated on their potential to harm humans, wildlife, fish and plants. They are also tested on their potential to contaminate surface or ground water from leaching, runoff and spray drift. The potential human risks that are looked at include short-term toxicity, such as the residues on fruits and vegetables, as well as long-term effects such as cancer and reproductive system disorders.

When a company is looking to register a new pesticide, or alter an existing pesticide, they must submit an application for registration of that pesticide. This application includes service fees; labeling to include the contents of the product, directions for use, and appropriate warnings; data on potential risk to human health and environment, including potential for pesticide residues on foods (if applicable); and evidence of meeting all legal and financial obligations.

Once the application has been completed, it goes through an evaluation process performed by the EPA. These different pesticides are tested on a number of risks including:
• Human health risks including food, water and residential uses; cumulative risks from pesticides with the same effects; and occupational risks for those applying the product.
• Environmental risks including potential ground water contamination, risks to endangered and threatened species and potential for endocrine-disruption effects.
• Risk assessment peer review: health and environmental risk assessment undergo a process of peer review by scientific experts.
After these risks are reviewed, the EPA then considers the results of the risk assessments and scientific peer reviews. They research and compare alternative pesticides that are already registered, and discuss any modifications to the product or labeling that might need to be made.

fruits and veggiesAlthough there may be pesticide residue detected on a fruit or vegetable, this does not mean it is unsafe to eat. Under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), the EPA must ensure all pesticides used on food in the United States meets the FQPA’s strict safety standards. FQPA requires a clear determination that pesticides used on food is safe for infants, children and adults.

Pesticides are not here to cause harm to humans or the environment; they are here to help make farming, gardening, landscaping, and many other jobs easier and more productive. All pesticides are under strict safety regulations.

Source: US Environmental Protection Agency

Kathryn_BohnerKathryn Bohner
Illinois State University student


5-26-16agDoug Anderson has been an agriculture teacher for more than 30 years and has spent the majority of those years at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School (PBL) in Paxton, Illinois. He has played an instrumental role in building the Ag Program at PBL and has played an even bigger role in the lives of countless students.

AMANDA: What made you choose to pursue a career in Agricultural Education?

DOUG: I chose teaching agriculture because I love agriculture and I love young people.  Teaching agriculture allowed me to make the most of 2 interests I have.  Also, I enjoy the variety of what I do each day.  I enjoyed the practical skills that can be taught to students and being able to relate those to everyday life.  I have enjoyed the competitive aspect of Career Development Events, which I learned to appreciate well after I started my career.

AMANDA: What are some things that stand out that helped you get to where you are at today?

agteacherDOUG: I had 2 really good parents that supported me in everything I ever did.  My father farmed for the first 10 years of my life which developed my interest in agriculture.  When he quit farming, he went to work for a seed corn company and so I spent most of my older growing up years closely connected to the agronomy industry.  FFA had a huge impact on my life in helping me develop leadership skills and opportunities to compete outside of athletics.  My ag teacher really pushed me and helped me see opportunities that I would not have discovered had it not been for ag education.  Lastly, I have had the privilege of working with some great teachers, students, parents, alumni, and community members which all had a part in getting me to this point in my career.

AMANDA: Describe a typical day on the job.

DOUG: I’m not sure there is a typical day, which is a big reason why I have enjoyed my career so much.  I’m usually up by 4:30 or 5:00am and at school by 6:45am.  We often have an FFA practice for an upcoming contest or event.  I teach my classes throughout the day and 1 to 2 and sometimes 3 nights a week, we have some kind of FFA activity whether it be a contest, practice, meeting or leadership workshop, etc.

AMANDA: What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

5-26-16ag2DOUG: The most rewarding part of my career is seeing students succeed.  Success is different for nearly every student.  For some, it’s choosing a career that they really like and do well in.  For some, it is accomplishing goals in FFA.  For others, it’s finding a place to fit in and develop friendships.  It is very rewarding to watch kids mature into young adults with a purpose and goals for their future.

Anderson will be retiring at the end of this school year. He has loved the career that he has had and, if given the chance, he would not change a single thing. He is thankful for all that his career has given him and is excited to see what this next phase of life has in store.

Are you considering a career in Agricultural Education?

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Amanda Diesburg
Illinois State University
Ag in the Classroom Intern



Have you ever been curious about farming life? Illinois Farm Families is partnering with WGN radio personality Patti Vasquez and Illinois farmer Justin Durdan to get a close-up look at farming using Periscope and Facebook Live. Justin will be fielding questions from viewers to help us better understand America’s farmers as he works on his farm. Thursday’s the day to get real-time answers! Be sure to tune in at 11:30 am CT on Illinois Farm Families’ Periscope account. You can also view it on their Twitter at the time of the broadcast! At noon, Illinois Farm Families will be continuing the event on their Facebook page through Facebook Live.

To learn about Periscope and Facebook Live and how they work, read our introduction here.

IL Corn will be on Justin’s farm, updating our new Snapchat account with clips from the event. Follow us on Snapchat for updates!

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