This past week, most of our staff was in Washington, D.C. for Corn Congress.

Some Illinois farmers as well as farmers from all over the U.S. had the change to “Rally for Rural America” and to advocate on current issues that effect the agriculture industry.

Our staff was able to capture a few great moments!


Congresswoman and veteran Tammy Duckworth delivered a moving and motivating speech at the Rally for Rural America. She reminded these farmers that they are not only fighting for their own families, neighbors, and communities, but also every serviceman and woman protecting our country overseas or laying in a hospital bed right now. American bushels, not foreign barrels.




Even Captain Cornelius was in D.C. to show support. He also took a moment to pose for a picture with a few of our board members.



This post was originally posted on our blog last July and it is still very relevant today!

Unless you have been living under a rock, you are aware that farmers and ag businesses alike have begun to have more conversations with some of our more urban consumers who have questions about the food we are putting on their tables. This is somewhat of a new concept for our industry, but it presents us with an opportunity to speak to a genuinely interested audience about what we do and why we do it. Most (if not all) of the people who work in the agriculture industry are incredibly proud of what they do, so it is no surprise that many farmers seize the opportunity to teach people about the different things that happen on their farm.

One way those interested urban consumers have been able to learn about their food is through the Illinois Farm Families program. This program, which is funded in part by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, allows moms from the Chicago area (Field Moms) to go on various farm tours to experience farming first hand and have a conversation about their food with the people who are actually growing it. Paul Jeschke, the ICMB District 5 director, and his wife Donna have welcomed multiple groups of Field Moms onto their farm for a tour and discussions about the crops they grow on their farm. Watch the video below to get a glimpse of what it is Paul and Donna are doing to help spread the word about agriculture:

If you are interested in learning more about the Illinois Farm Families program,


Rosie PhotoRosalie Sanderson
Previous Membership Administrative Assistant


When learning about where babies come from, we were all told the famous “Birds and the Bees” story to help understand the complicated truth about how babies are made.

Like other things in nature, corn also has a story about how its “babies” are made. Only this story is much easier to explain and much easier to understand.

Just to clarify, corn’s “babies” are the kernels. In sweet corn, kernels are the part you eat.

Every corn plant has both male and female parts.

7-14-15 TasselsThe male part is the tassel. The tassel is the part of the plant that emerges from the top. The tassel usually consists of several branches which have many small flowers on them.

The female part is the ear. The ear develops on the corn stalk, in which, can produce several ears but the uppermost ear becomes the largest. Before the female ear has been fertilized by the male tassel, the ear consists of a cob, eggs (that will become kernels after pollination) and silks. From each egg, a silk grows and emerges from the tip of the husk. 7-14-15 Silks(The husk is the group of leaves that cover the entire ear.)

(Here is where things start to heat up.)

Each male flower releases a large number of pollen grains, each of which contain the male sex cell.

Pollination occurs when pollen falls on the exposed silks. After pollination, a male sex cell grows down each silk to a single egg and then fertilization starts to take place.


Fertilization is the joining of the male and female corn sex cells.

The fertilized egg develops into a kernel and inside each kernel is a single embryo (corn baby.)

A single ear of corn can produce hundreds of kernels.

That is how corn is made. Now go tell all your friends!


Hannah ZellerHannah Zeller
Communications Assistant


7-10-15 GMO LABELINGWe want consumers to know what is in their food and to understand what it means. But what we don’t want is consumers to fear food based on poor marketing tactics. The safety of GMOs is firmly established by the scientific community and health organizations, therefore people should not fear them.

Chuck Spencer of GROWMARK, was quoted in AgWired yesterday. Spencer says GROWMARK is supporting the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act in the House that would create a uniform national food labeling standard for products made with genetically modified organisms. “We understand that consumers want to know more about their food and we need to be increasingly transparent,” explains Spencer. “The National Organic Standard administered by the USDA is a wonderful example of a voluntary program that is nationally consistent and recognized. We feel it could be put to use in that same framework, that USDA could have a non-GMO standard, and it would be a voluntary framework just like the organic standard.”


Tractor Sunset1. Family 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


We are throwing it back for #TBT. This post was originally posted on our blog on May 22, 2014.

There are so many myths that buzz around about the agriculture industry. It is time to put a few of those myths to a rest. Even if you are not a farmer, I can help you decode a few of these myths, and help you make better food choices.

  1. GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) are less nutritious than non-GMO products.

This myth is one of the largest agricultural movements sweeping the globe right now. Many people believe that GMO products are less nutritious that Non-GMO foods. There have been many studies conducted on GMO foods, and no evidence has been proven that GMO foods are less nutritious or unsafe. In fact, it has been proven that growing GMO crops can result in better-tasting fruits and vegetables that stay fresh longer and are naturally resistant to pests. A genetically modified organism is an organism in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. It creates an avenue to transfer genes from one organism to another. Here is a great video that explains more about GMOs.

GMO Concerns?

  1. Meat is full of antibiotics and other drugs.

There are times that antibiotics are used in livestock production, when needed. They are never used in meat production. The FDA (Federal Drug Administration) does not allow farmers and ranchers to medicate livestock prior to taking them to market. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) monitors meat processing plants where they test animal carcasses and organs to insure there are no traces of antibiotics or other drugs. The fact is that there are rarely any violations of drug contamination. You can now rest easy, knowing that your meat is antibiotic and drug free.

  1. Labeling our foods creates healthier food options.

gluten free saladFood labeling can be deceiving to shoppers in the store. Many food labels are used as marketing techniques to influence a buyer’s decision on a product. The majority of Americans will be influenced to buy something that is “gluten-free”, “GMO-free”, and “Antibiotic-free”. When in fact they most likely do not know what gluten, or better yet what a GMO is. The movement make our food labeled by law is a way for companies to use marketing techniques to influence your buying decision. As you can see a low carb gluten free salad in the picture, however it is not necessarily healthy.

  1. Gluten is unhealthy for humans to eat.

Gluten has recently turned to one of the largest health and wellness myths in America. Many people today hear the word gluten, and automatically place it as the new food evil. The interesting thing is, most people don’t even know what gluten really is. Check out the video below to see people who support a gluten-free diet, yet have no clue what gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and related grains. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it raise and keep its shape. This protein can be harmful to people if they suffer from celiac disease, which is an intestinal disorder that causes you to be sensitive to gluten. Don’t just cut gluten out of your diet, it can cause you to become deficient in fiber and many other essential vitamins and minerals. If you feel you are sensitive to gluten, be sure to do your research and see your physician.

What is Gluten?

The next time you hear of a new fad that demotes conventional agriculture, make sure to do your research. You can find out answers to many of your food questions here at Common Ground, or just ask a farmer.


Jesse Cler PicJesse Cler
Southern Illinois University Carbondale



After the long stressful days of watching the weather, avoiding as many break-downs as possible, and moving equipment from field to field are over a grain farmer’s work is over, until harvest, right?

Think again!

That is just the beginning.

Planting is a stressful and vulnerable time for farmers, not only because Mother Nature does what she wants when she wants to, but because they are about to risk a large chunk of change by planting little seeds into a big black field of soil. Many weeks, if not months, go into prepping for planting. Farmers must pick their seed variety, purchase the seed, cultivate their fields (unless they no-till), and eliminate all the weeds they can before nestling the seeds into a cozy bed.

Here’s a list of what farmers do after their planting is finished. As you will see a Farmer’s work is never truly finished.

Check for sprouting/ swelling seeds

Farmers must keep a close eye on their seeds and the amount of moisture they are taking in. If a seed takes up water it will begin to swell and if temperatures aren’t high enough the seed will not germinate and will rot in the ground.

“The seed will take up water with soil temperatures cooler than 50 degrees. The seed imbibes the water, takes it in, but doesn’t germinate because it’s too cold,” says Jim Fawcett, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist in eastern Iowa.

If it has rained, check the soil for crusting

If it has rained, check the soil for crustingA soil crust forms after rain droplets cause the soil to break into individual particles. The small particles then get washed together and join together into a hard crust, preventing moisture from going in and seeds from going out of the ground. Farmers need to be aware of a crust forming and will have to use appropriate tillage equipment to break the crust if necessary.

Confirm the seed population

Many pocket knives are used for this job. I remember watching my PawPaw get down on one knee and dig through the rich dark soil to look for seeds. Farmers do this to authenticate that their planters released the right about of seeds, not to overcrowd the plants or not use the land to its full potential.

Monitor plants for insect damage

Insects want to munch on the corn and there aren’t many options to prevent this, except spraying pesticides. Check out what this farmer has to say about using pesticides to protect his yield.

Look for weed pressure-if present decide if spraying is necessary

Spraying cornWeeds are a huge hindrance on the growth of a farmer’s crop. Therefore monitoring the amount of weed growth is important, if they are overcrowding and stealing nutrients from the plants a farmer will need to consider spraying his field.

Check color of plants

Corn colorThis may seem strange but the color of the crop will tell you a lot about how it is maturing. Yellowing crops aren’t healthy and need attention, or possibly less rain.

Take a deep breath and relax

I doubt this will be very easy for farmers as they follow grain prices on the roller coaster until the crop is ready to harvest. They can take this down time to get all of the equipment ready for the approaching fall.


jessica tJessica Telgmann
University of Illinois


Jim Reed Emerging CornThis picture was taken from Jim Reed in Piatt County Illinois.

This corn was planted on 4-15-15 and emerging on 4-29-15. Conditions for planting in his area of Piatt County have been excellent. Most in the area are done planting corn and beans. Virtually all the corn has emerged and looks very good with little to no stand loss due to poor germination. Many bean fields have emerged and also look very good. He said they are starting to feel a little dry as of 5-7-15 so they are hoping for a little rain over the next several days.