Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma State University
[Originally published from BeyondTheBarnDoor]
Summer is here…and how about a reading list for teachers? Whet your summer reading appetite with some YA and Ag Books!
Take some YA and Agriculture to the Beach!
A recent survey found that over half of the audience for Young Adult Literature (YA) are adults! Why not join the ranks and take some YA with you this summer, to the beach, the ballfield or just out to the backyard!
Young Adult Literature includes pieces you probably remember. Huckleberry Finn, The Outsiders, and even Harry Potter are considered YA, and while you might feel guilty or embarrassed about reading books designed for a younger audience, I think the summer is the perfect time to branch out! I believe you’ll find these books entertaining and fast paced. Remember the audience they are geared toward has many more options for spare time entertainment. The books are also well written and tackle tough issues but in a hopeful way. They are typically relatable and many are being made into films or television shows and most are typically shorter.
My choices for YA books with an ag flair for you to use this summer?? Take a gander!
15 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you’ve got 18 books with an ag message that will help you pass the time in the dog days of summer! Check your local library or bookstore for these items!
Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom
Jennie is a Maryland farmer. She is also a registered dietitian who speaks about food and farming systems, sustainability and family farms.
[Originally published on CommonGround]
Drive through the Midwest and you’re likely to see field after field of corn and soybeans. Head down South, there’s cotton as far as the eye can see. And of course, Florida is synonymous with oranges and other citrus groves. Why are certain crops most prevalent in certain areas? And how do farmers decide what crops to plant on their farms?
The first is often dictated by climate and season length. Crops require a certain number of days before they reach maturity and are ready to harvest. Citrus fruits, for example, need more days of warmth and sunshine, which suits them well for states like California and Florida, while crops like corn can thrive in places like the Upper Midwest, where the days get shorter and colder in early fall.
America in Miniature
My home state of Maryland is sometimes called “America in miniature” because of our diverse ecology. From ocean to mountains, we have it all, along with a typical climate that’s somewhere between that found in the north or the south. We also have well-drained soil that’s not too dense, making it good for many crops. You see a wide array of crops grown throughout Maryland – just about everything, with the exception of citrus fruit.
As I write this blog, I’m in the middle of harvesting my twenty acres of wine grapes. You may equate wine grapes with places like Napa Valley, but grapes also thrive in Maryland, New York and elsewhere in New England. We have some great wineries! We often say that grapes don’t like wet feet, meaning they thrive in soil like mine that dries quickly and where the water table isn’t high. This keeps the roots from wet soil. In addition, on our farm we grow barley, wheat, tomatoes, green beans, corn and soybeans – which we harvest in that order, from June to October.
Climate and soil type aren’t the only factors that help farmers decide what crops to grow – things like infrastructure also play a large role, and I’ll talk more about that in my next blog. But if you’ve ever wondered why there’s a Corn Belt across the U.S. and orange groves in the South, you can bet that Mother Nature is the primary reason.
Sam Deal is a local farmer in the Danvers area and serves on the Board of the Danvers Farmers Elevator (DFE) cooperative. A cooperative is a business where a group of farmers comes together to buy and sell crop inputs and commodities in bulk to obtain the best prices. Farmers make the decisions for each cooperative by electing members to their local board. Sam is one of the many farmers who serves on cooperative boards to help run the business.
DFE Cooperative is full-service cooperative with a retail business of agronomic products such as seed, fertilizer, and crop protection products. The business provides grain marketing services and grain storage for members of its business.
Cameron: What is your role as a member of the DFE Cooperative Board?
Sam: I serve on the board of the cooperative and help run the business. I help hire the general manager for the cooperative, who oversees the business. I also examine quarterly financial statements to ensure the business is profitable. From those statements, I help make decisions to spend less money or grow the business. I also have a unique role on the board where I am the Secretary. With that job, I oversee keeping the minutes of the monthly meetings of the board.
Cameron: Why did you choose to be in this role on the DFE Cooperative Board?
Sam: Serving on the board of a local cooperative allows me to help make decisions that are better for my operation, as I am a member of the cooperative itself. Additionally, it allows me to help out my neighbors by listening to their problems and fighting for changes on the local level to help their farming operation out.
Cameron: Can you tell us how the DFE Cooperative impacts the farmers it serves?
Sam: Farmers across Central Illinois utilize DFE Cooperative’s services for agronomic and grain resources. For over 100 years, the business has helped farmers get the best prices, service, and knowledge of their farming operations. Additionally, the cooperative’s grain advantage allows the business to offer higher prices for corn and soybeans due to larger amounts of commodities being sold.
Cameron: What role do you see cooperatives playing in the future of agriculture?
Sam: Cooperatives provide an outlet for farmers for their grain to get a higher price, something that will be needed as the price to a produce a bushel of corn and soybeans rises. I see the cooperative, not only DFE, but all others grow and get bigger to stay competitive.
Iowa State University Graduate
Kristen is the Issues Manager for GROWMARK. She communicates, educates, and advocates to policymakers and regulators on behalf of GROWMARK and the FS System. She is responsible for the territories of Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. She also works on certain federal legislation as well.
Jacey: What inspired you to want this type of career?
Kristen: When I was a senior in high school, I attended the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture Conference and met two women who worked for Illinois Farm Bureau educating urban legislators about the importance of agricultural issues. Up until that point, I did not know that I could combine my passion for agriculture with my interest in politics and government. I added a Political Science minor when I got to Illinois State the following August and set my sights on a career in Government Relations for an agriculture organization.
Jacey: What are some of your main job duties?
Kristen: I research issues and determine the impact on GROWMARK and our member cooperatives. I then work with legislators or regulatory officials to provide input on these proposals and try to shape the outcome of the process. I develop position papers and written comments as well as provide legislative updates to various stakeholders.
Jacey: How easy or difficult is it to promote agriculture agendas to legislatures who don’t come from an agriculture background?
Kristen: It can be a challenge at times, but I have found that most legislators and their staff want to understand more about the agriculture industry. They seek out opportunities to visit one of our facilities or a farm in their district and see the impact of a piece of legislation firsthand. A part of my role is organizing these types of educational opportunities. In fact, this August is our annual congressional staff tour that we coordinate in conjunction with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and the Illinois Soybean Association Checkoff Board. The tour is a great opportunity for staff members of the Illinois delegation to learn more about agriculture issues and have the chance to talk to farmers one-on-one.
Jacey: What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to pursue a career in agriculture?
Kristen: One piece of advice I have is to take advantage of every opportunity to learn more about our industry. I did not grow up on a farm and my parents do not even work in the agriculture industry, so I had a lot of learning to do. Farmers and agriculturists want to impart their knowledge on the next generation, you just have to listen and now be afraid to ask questions when you don’t know something. Never stop learning either. One of my favorite parts about my job is learning about different agricultural crops and growing practices. I grew up surrounded by corn and soybeans, so I enjoy learning about the production of cranberries, tomatoes, potatoes, and even ginseng while traveling throughout my territory.
Illinois State University
May 2 through 8 marks Children’s Book Week AND Teacher Appreciation Week . Why not celebrate both with a touch of Agriculture? Students across Illinois continue to face an emphasis on reading and literature, so linking agriculture would be a natural fit. Several new books are featured on the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom website […]
This post originally published May 5, 2011. For #TBT, maybe you’d like to surprise one of your teachers with a little bit of agriculture? This year, Teacher Appreciation Week is May 8-12, 2017.
Students across Illinois continue to face an emphasis on reading and literature, so linking agriculture would be a natural fit. Several new books are featured on the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom website and I wanted to share some highlight with you here!
As a former History teacher, one of my favorites is Farmer George Plants a Nation by Peggy Thomas. This is the story of George Washington’s life as farmer, and the impact agriculture had on his life. We have a companion lesson plan guide featuring lessons related to Soil, Trees, Horses, Agricultural Mechanization and Wheat all of which are featured in the book. This book is published by Caulkins Creek–an imprint of Boyds Mills Press–featuring historically accurate information. The book features beautiful oil painting art work, and although the reading level is listed as grades 3-6, it would be an excellent “Coffee Table Book” for audiences of all ages.
Who Grew My Soup by Tom Darbyshire takes a look at how agricultural products become consumer products, specifically soup. Most importantly the book introduces readers to farmers who raise the crops that become soup. It is a great look at healthy, nutritious food and where it comes from. Written at a 3rd grade level, the art and pace appeal to audiences of all levels!
Little Joe by Sandra Neil Wallace is a chapter book written for 3rd grade. I like this book, especially for ‘reluctant’ young boy readers. This is the story of Eli who is gaining experience raising his first show animal. It is very agriculturally accurate, and addresses the issue of a ‘pet’ versus livestock.
The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts is very similar to Little Joe, but is written for a slightly older (grades 5-7) female audience. As a father of 2 daughters, I like this book with its strong female main character, actively engaging in agriculture. Libby Burns walks in the shadow of her older brother and tries to prove her agricultural skills to her father and grandfather. Her ‘nerdy’ best friend helps her as she struggles with some unique challenges surrounding the county fair. This might be my favorite agriculture book on the market. Michelle Houts is a Junior High teacher in Ohio and also actively engaged in farming with her husband!
The Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry is set on a ranch in eastern Oregon. While both Little Joe and Beef Princess have many “Illinois” related topics—the books could be set here–This book describes ranching in Oregon. I like this book because the main character has to face many challenges of agriculture on his own, as his father is shipped off to the middle east with the National Guard. This is an outstanding book for all -especially targeted to grades 5-7.
Some other books worth checking out include: Seed, Soil, Sun by Cris Peterson, Clarabelle by Cris Peterson, The Hungry Planet by Pete Menzel, and Corn Belt Harvest by Ray Bial. Your county agriculture literacy program may have a number of books in a lending library to preview. Check your county program at http://www.agintheclassroom.org or for more suggestions check out the Illinois AITC website or on the AFBF Website you can look at their Authentic Agriculture book list and even nominate a candidate for their book of the year!!
[Originally published: May 26, 2016]
Doug 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?
DOUG: 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?
DOUG: 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?
Illinois State University
Ag in the Classroom Intern
[Originally published: July 7, 2016]
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.
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 incredibly 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?
MARY: 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.
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.
How fitting! As we head into the new year, make sure you read this series to see what’s in store for farmers and their families!
[Originally published: January 19, 2016]
As a farmer’s wife I can’t tell you how many times I have answered the question “Where’s your husband?” when attending social functions by myself. Depending on the time of year, I typically respond with “in the fields… hauling grain… working cows… baling hay… in the shop…” etc. Farmers are just BUSY — All the time!
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. I’m beginning a one-year series that will give you an idea of a farmer’s work load. Watch for my monthly article to stay up-to-date with what farmers might be up to at different times of 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.
The agriculture fiscal year-end is December 31st meaning that January is a very busy month for bookkeeping and tax preparation. Farm taxes are due a little earlier than other individuals’: March 1st. Between now and then there will be several meetings with accountants to go through the business’s income and expenses from the prior year. Most farmers do not pay into incomes taxes through the course of the year, because there’s not regular paychecks to deduct taxes from. This means a (big?) payment to Uncle Sam is due by March 1st.
January is a big month for hauling last year’s stored grain to the local elevator. Up until now, the farmer may have been keeping last fall’s harvest in bins at his own farm. This saves him from paying a storage fee to the elevator for holding it there. The elevator constantly puts out corn prices for certain delivery months and at any time the farmer can call up his elevator to lock in a sale price for that month. The thing is, he doesn’t get paid until he delivers it to the elevator. This requires him to unload the grain out of his bins, put it into a semi or grain truck and drive it to the elevator.
For a lot of farmers, as soon as last year’s crop has been harvested, it’s time to start considering decisions that need to be made in preparation for next year’s crop. Depending on which fiscal year the farmer wants his expenses to go in, December and January are a prime time for deciding which field will be planted in what seed variety and locking in input costs like seed, fertilizer and chemicals. Many dealers offer discounts and the earlier you lock in their product/price the better the discount.
Ag groups host a lot of meetings in the winter because they know they’ll have better turnouts in the off-season. There will be association meetings, chemical training courses, annual reports from elevators and other co-ops, market outlook discussions and other industry-related get-togethers.
If anything’s been needing fixin’ now’s the time to finally get to it! Clean and organize the work bench. Sweep out the empty grain bins. Patch a bad spot in the barn. Make sure the generator is in good working condition. Get a load of gravel delivered for the lane. Rearrange the equipment in the shed so you can get the snow blower to hook onto the right tractor.
When you’re ready for a break from farm things, make sure to ask your wife what you can check off of her honey-do list… Then take her out to dinner because she’s been patiently waiting for this little breather as well! The closer planting season gets, the busier the farmer becomes!
[Originally published: April 11, 2016]
Have you ever thought about what you would tell your daughter if you haven’t had the chance to meet her yet? You expect that she will be great and take after you, but have you made any mistakes that you definitely do not want her making? What scares you for your children’s futures? I could go on for days thinking and writing what I would want her to know. Women’s roles in society have changed so much in the last century. Just think how much it will continue to change and evolve into something that today’s moms are not even expecting.
In your lifetime you will experience many new things. Societal, agricultural, technological, and many other advances will be made. Sometimes it will be cool and other times it will be scary. The best advice I can give you is to try to keep up with the advances, but do not let them consume you. People will always grow, change, and develop. I wish for you to follow your heart, chase your dreams, no matter how cliché that may sound.
When it comes to agricultural advances, there will be fads, practices, and trends. Traditions that will all change during your lifetime as it did mine. I encourage you to become well-educated in areas that may concern you. Articles published through different media outlets may not be the most reliable. Check multiple reliable sources and take away your own ideas from your research.
Technology: isn’t it a great thing? What has changed since you were a little girl? Keeping up with technology is a job within itself. Some words for the wise: technology consumes you if you let it. You are only as advanced as you allow yourself to become. Sometimes technology can make life easier but sometimes it makes life 10 times more difficult. Social media are great for keeping up with friends who you do not see very often, yet it takes away from those you are with on a daily basis. Find a way to balance your life and don’t let one piece consume you.
In conclusion, have fun with life. After all, you never know how long you have to live. You are the youngest you will ever be right now and the oldest you have yet to be. As many people say, “live well, laugh often, love much” quoted by Bessie Anderson Stanley. This quote within itself means a great deal because it reminds us to live life to its fullest, while still having time to laugh, and always love like there is no tomorrow. I challenge you to set extreme goals and even if you do not accomplish them they will take you to great places.
With much love,
I encourage all moms who have read this, write a letter every so often to your daughter and then give them to her when she moves out. These letters can be whatever you choose to make them. You can talk about things that have happened since the last letter you wrote or they could write them on big occasions. The task is up to you, let me know what you think of this.
Southern Illinois University