COLLEGE DEGREE IN AGRICUTURE IS HARDLY USELESS

Did you read this article?

Terence Loose says that Agriculture, Animal Science, and Horticulture are among the top five most useless degrees you can get.  And I would beg to differ.

Does this have something to do with the fact that I have an animal science degree and I also have an awesome job that I love and in which I excel?  Maybe.  Does this have something to do with the fact that I have lived my entire life in agriculture and I believe it has a very solid future?  Definitely.

But most importantly, let’s look at the facts that Mr. Loose fails to consider.

1. In the middle of an economic recession, agriculture is booming. 

While unemployment skyrockets, agricultural industries are doing well.

“For the record agriculture still is one of the few industries in which there is a positive balance of trade, with more exports than imports. For the 2012 fiscal year, outbound product values are $137 billion and inbound product values are $105 billion. In the USDA’s August Outlook for Agricultural Trade the main engines driving the positive trade balance include corn, livestock products, and horticultural products. Wheat exports are running into Black Sea competition, and general oilseed production has declined to the point there is insufficient quantities to remain a major export force.”  Farmgateblog.com

And there’s also this.  When the price of farmland goes up, it indicates that agriculture is doing well.  CBS has some recent commentary on this.

http://cnettv.cnet.com/av/video/cbsnews/atlantis2/cbsnews_player_embed.swf

I, for one, have never had to consider losing my job, being downsized, or not getting a cost of living raise for several years in a row like many of my counterparts in other industries.  Agriculture is a very secure industry for employees.

2. When everything else is gone, people will still need to eat.

There are a few occupations that I think of as indisposable.  As an example, I can’t imagine a world without teachers – I think our country and our society will always see a need to educate the population.  I can’t imagine a world without medical professionals because people will always get sick.  But even before either of those professions on the priority list are the person that grows our food and the people that sustain the industry behind him.

Can you envision a time when you will cease to be hungry?  I didn’t think so.

3. The population continues to increase and with it, the need for agricultural technology grows greater.

If we are really to consider the question of feeding millions more people without destroying the earth, we must study the genetic makeup of our crops to increase production per plant.  We must study the soils, making our plants more efficient to leave the soil composition intact.  We must study the food animals we raise, growing them more efficiently and minimizing death and illness.  We must study alternative crops, alternative best management practices, and alternative policies to maintain our food security.

And we need people to do that.

I can see that if you were a college graduate looking to work on the farm, jobs could be harder to find, as the number of farmers continues to dwindle.  But I hardly agree that a degree in agriculture is useless as careers within the industry are secure and greatly needed if Americans and others around the world still want to eat.

I trust that they do.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ISU DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE CELEBRATES ITS 100TH ANNIVERSARY

The Department of Agriculture at Illinois State University has just celebrated its 100th birthday.   The instructors, students, technology and career opportunities have changed considerably over the last ten decades but the mission of the Department has not, and that is to prepare young people to succeed and become leaders in our nation’s most important industry, agriculture. 

In 1911, Erwin Madden was hired as the first professor of agriculture at Illinois State Normal University.   Professor Madden moved quickly to establish a University Farm and by 1914 farm buildings and a house for the farm manager had been constructed.  That farm was located at the north edge of campus where the current Ropp Agriculture Building is located. The fields extended west and south where now Horton Fieldhouse, Redbird Arena and Turner Hall are located.  Enrollment in the agriculture program grew rapidly given the increase in the demand for agriculture teachers at Illinois high schools.  Because of the need to construct new classrooms, athletic facilities and dormitories near campus the ISU farm was moved to the northwest edge of campus on Gregory Street.  As the Town of Normal grew, inevitably the University farm needed to be relocated once again.  In 2000, ISU purchased the FS Research Farm near Lexington, Illinois.  Buildings at that location were renovated and new buildings were constructed.  Today the ISU Farm at Lexington provides state of the art facilities for research and teaching, and each year hosts hundreds of visitors. The Horticulture Center located just off of Rabb Road was established in 2006 and is the latest addition to the Department’s teaching and research facilities.  The Horticulture Center offers students and the general public an opportunity to view a number of gardens made up of hundreds of different plant species.

The agricultural curriculum at ISU has changed to reflect the evolution of the agriculture industry. By the 1960’s Illinois State Normal University had evolved into a comprehensive university and was now called Illinois State University.  An agriculture major with specific sequences in agronomy, livestock science and teacher education was developed and in the mid-1970’s a new major, agribusiness, was offered.  In 1992, the ISU Agriculture Department established a Master’s program in Agribusiness and later launched a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Science.  The Department’s current curriculum reflects today’s wide range of specialized fields in agriculture.  Student’s can now concentrate in horticulture and landscape design, agricultural communication and leadership,  food industry management, pre-veterinary studies as well as the traditional fields of study such as agribusiness, agronomy, livestock science and agricultural education.

The Department of Agriculture’s Centennial Celebration featured a number of events for alumni, students and the general public.  These included the 1911 Dinner at the Horticulture Center that featured food commonly offered in 1911, an old fashion barn dance and Agriculture Day at an ISU football game.   The celebration culminated in a 100th Anniversary Gala that featured Max Armstrong as the keynote speaker.

While reflecting on the accomplishments of the last 100 years, the Department of Agriculture faculty and staff look forward to the challenges and opportunities agriculture will present in the next 100 years.

Rick Whitacre
ISU Professor

SPOTLIGHT ON ANIMAL CARE

You have to love Illinois weather.  It was 50 degrees last week then barely made it out of the teens. In the last week, we’ve seen sun, snow, extreme wind, cold, and later this week perhaps lightning and thunderstorms?

Of course it was only 5 months ago that we recorded record heat in the state.  Makes you stop and wonder–if it is hard on people being outside in both extremes–what does it mean for livestock?

In the latest Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom Ag Mag– LIVESTOCK–we address the issues of how Illinois Farmers take care of their animals.   Bob Ebbesmeyer, DVM discusses on the front page how farmers work to keep their animals clean, dry and comfortable.  This is followed up with farmers who specialize in raising beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, chickens and horses.   There is a common theme that we saw interviewing all of these farmers.  It isn’t rocket science, but they all care deeply about their animals.  The animals are more than their livelihood.  The care that farmers we feature in our Ag Mag is typical of those farmers across the state. 

In addition to housing and physical care for animals, our new Ag Mag also features the care that goes into animal nutrition.  We worked with Tom Deters of Effingham-Clay FS Total Livestock Services to talk about Animal Nutrition. 

What he shared amazes teachers that we work with.  They are shocked to find out how animal diets and rations are properly balanced, designed to provide the optimum diet for each animal.   Animal nutrition is a key to growth and good health, providing healthier, safer food for grocery shoppers, as well as promoting health, safety and well-being of animals. 

The Illinois Corn Marketing Board is a sponsor of our latest Ag Mag, now available in print.  It will be available on our website as an interactive on-line resource shortly.  We are proud of our collaboration with Illinois Corn, and our teacher audience learns more about the feed produced by Illinois corn farmers.   One thing teachers realize is that even if a farmer doesn’t have livestock–they are an important part of the food system for the livestock.  

Thanks to Illinois Corn Farmers for not only producing the great product that you do—but for also helping educate teachers and students about what your Corn does!

Kevin Daugherty
Education Director
Illinois Ag in the Classroom

CORN ART

Are you tired of playing the same board games with your kids?  How many times can one adult really hear “Buzz Lightyear to the rescue!” without losing their mind?  And if this is a normal saying around your house; “Moooooom, I’m bored! There’s nothing to do!”  Well, I think it might be time to break out something new to occupy the kids this winter.  Why not try out some fun corn art!   

Edible Corn Flour Paint

Ingredients

2 cups of corn flour
1 cup of cold water
4.5 cups of boiling water
Liquid food coloring

Directions

Mix the corn flour and cold water together.

Pour in the boiling water one cup at a time, stirring between each one.  Keep stirring until it turns into a custardy consistency.  

Then separate the mixture into different jars/boxes before adding your colors.

Refrigerate after using and it will keep for a few days.

Check out the Corny Recipes section of IL Corn’s website for more fun ideas!

NASCAR SPEEDS ETHANOL TO A RESPONSIVE FAN BASE

The question has been posed to the IL Corn office and farmer leaders on more than one occasion…”Why is it a good idea to get involved in a NASCAR sponsorship?”

Fair question.  The answer may seem obvious if you’re one of NASCAR’s more than 80 million fans in this country. Or maybe you’re a fan, but you’re not really sure of the answer, either.

It’s a pretty simple answer. NASCAR delivers an audience unlike any other.

NASCAR fans are more likely than any other sports fans to support sponsor messages.

NASCAR fans are more likely to purchase the products that are responsible for their sport’s sponsorship.

NASCAR fans are more likely to influence their friends to do the same thing.

The bottom line to this story is the Start/Finish line at a NASCAR race. It’s all about the fans.

Take a look at this chart. Not only do NASCAR fans deliver on their promise to support race sponsors, but the sport itself generates media coverage that can’t be bought.

In the case of ethanol, NASCAR was responsible for a huge portion of the news coverage that included ethanol, much more than what the ethanol industry or corn farmer organizations could have generated themselves.

2011 brought E15 to NASCAR race cars and trucks. 2012 will bring it to a gas pump near you. And for the NASCAR fan, they’ll be chomping at the bit to fuel up with the same high-performance fuel that their favorite driver uses.

Tricia Braid
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director

FAMOUS QUOTE WEEK! “SUCCESS IS NOT THE KEY TO HAPPINESS.”

In many ways, farmers are traditionalists. Most of the old tried and true values and systems seem to work best on the farm, with a hint of modern and technology thrown in. This week on Corn Corps, we will use famous quotes spouting historical wisdom from even more famous Americans as a platform to tell you more about Illinois corn farmers and agriculture.

”Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” -Albert Schweitzer

Cisne, Illinois – population 700. Tractors, trucks, livestock, crops, and muddy boots. If you blink while driving through Cisne, you’ll miss it. Agriculture is a key part to my home town as it is in any other rural community. We are home to many successful farmers. How did they become successful? Like the quote says, “happiness is the key to success.” Farming makes them happy as they achieve to provide everyone with food, fuel, and fiber. Imagine if a farmer didn’t enjoy what they were doing, we would all suffer.

pony, farm, little girl, farm girl, illinoisAs a young Jenna I enjoyed riding horses as I still do. My parents got me involved in a 4-H club so I could practice and show my horse against other kids my age. As time went on I added a photography project to my 4-H list as well. After my many years in 4-H I can now open the back of the horse trailer or dig through photo albums and see many different colored ribbons and plaques that I won throughout the years. Going to 4-H practice was never really a dreadful experience for me as it wasn’t for any of my other friends. It was a ‘happy time’ that we could all spend together and ride horses and do what we enjoyed.

Upon entering high school I had already decided that I was interested in FFA although I didn’t know a whole lot about it other than seeing pictures in our local newspaper. After four years of being an active FFA member I can honestly say that joining FFA was one of the best decisions I could have ever made while in high school. My first two years of high school I played volleyball and literally dreaded every single day that I had to go to practice and celebrated when practice got canceled. Once I realized my negativity towards the sport wasn’t making me a successful player I decided to just stick with FFA. Being involved in FFA was an awesome experience for me and I took hold of the horns and succeeded in many different areas.

FFA is an organization that allows students to explore different areas of agriculture as well as meet many different people. As many may or may not know, FFA is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States with over 520,000 members, in 7, 439 chapters throughout all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. FFA is the largest of the career and student organizations in U.S. schools. I don’t think there is a better program out there for young adults. At state and national FFA conventions students are being awarded for many different categories. This organization can be a big commitment but it obviously makes kids happy, so they therefore succeed.

My dad has always told me – “make sure you’re doing something as a career that you enjoy or it’s going to be a long road.” I definitely took this to heart when choosing my major in college and even the clubs that I joined.

The point I’m trying to get across is to do what makes you happy, whatever it may be…jobs or clubs. When you look forward to go to going to work, meetings, or class, (or don’t dread it at least) you will find that you will become more successful.

I wish all of you the best of luck in finding your own successful happiness!

Illinois Corn Marketing Board InternJenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student

ILLINOIS FARM FAMILY: RECONNECTING THE FARM AND CITY

This week is Farm-City Week! It’s all about reconnecting the two and making an effort to inform the public about the importance of agriculture. As an intern for the Illinois Corn Marketing Board this semester, I have made it a new goal of mine to bring together the city population and farm population and help others learn the importance of farming! This week fits particularly well to my intern project, since I am in charge of the “Friend a Farmer” Facebook page. I use this page to help facilitate conversation between farmers and an urban population- so looking at organizations that also do this was right up my ally! After looking over various different programs, I came across one which fits particularly well for this week’s purpose: The Illinois Farm Family.

The Illinois Farm Family strives to follow their three commitments: (1) Showing you how they grow food. (2) Answering your questions about farms, farmers, and farming. (3) Sharing with you what really happens on today’s Illinois farms. Their website features a variety of different resources such as a “Meet Our Farmers” portion where visitors can read more about different farm families and view videos about their experience. Viewers can also visit their blog and check out their videos of farm tours. The public is welcome to send in their questions and get them answered by someone from the organization.  Speaking as someone with a smaller agriculture background, I found this site to be incredibly interesting and helpful for some unanswered questions I had.

After thoroughly investigating the site, I think the coolest part that I found was their “Field Mom” program. It features groups of city moms that are selected to tour their farms and share their experiences. They use videos, pictures, and stories about what they learn. It allows a different point of view to share their opinions on farming and brings together the farm-city aspect! Moms can even apply to be a “Field Mom!” It was so interesting to see where each of these moms comes from and what their agricultural background was like. It shows a completely different point of view on farming.

Programs such as the Illinois Farm Family, are exactly what we need to help educate others on the importance of farming and where our food comes from. Living in a more urban environment, as made me realize how few people from the city have a basic knowledge of farming and agriculture. It’s up to us to help build a relationship between the two groups.  We have to utilize organizations such as these and help them grow. By spreading the word about agriculture and farming and getting more involved in organizations such as these, we are greatly helping the farming community. I encourage each and every one of you to have conversations with others about your views on farming and why you view it as important. Get involved with the Illinois Farm Family and make a commitment to bettering our community! Be sure to visit their website to learn more: www.watchusgrow.org

Lauren Gress

Northern Illinois University Student

CONFRONTING THE FARMER MISCONCEPTIONS

Growing up in Central Illinois has given me a certain respect towards farmers. I feel as if I have a pretty basic understanding on the importance of farming and building a relationship with your farmers. Although my stance on different agricultural issues is one that is a bit hazy, I feel like I could describe to someone the role which farmers play.

farm, farmer, field, run down, shed, red, brown, boardsOne can only imagine the cultural difference from moving from the small town of Mansfield, Illinois to attending Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois- a large university with a majority of its’ students from suburban areas. Northern is not a university one would normally attend to gain a better agricultural education.  Ever since receiving this internship and working more closely with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, I have begun to start a conversation with many of my fellow students on what farming means to them or how they see farmers. Throughout my discussions, I have come across five common misconceptions on how some suburban or urban students view farmers—some of those being quite humorous.

1. All crops that farmers grow are for the population to consume.

yum, butter, husks, corn on the cobMany of the students I spoke with believed that all of the corn fields grown around the area were edible—as if they could walk into the field and bring home the corn for some delicious corn on the cob. Obviously this is not the case. Most corn grown is for livestock rather than for consumption. In fact, according to the National Corn Growers Association about eighty percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is consumed by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry, and fish production. The crop is fed as ground grain, silage, high-moisture, and high-oil corn.

2. Farmers don’t have college educations.

intelligent, farmers, farms, college, university, smartThis statement is one which I find to be rather humorous. The amount of farmers gaining a college degree and higher education is continuing to grow. According to the USDA, in 2009, a quarter of farmers graduated with a four year degree or more. See their website for more information.

http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/wellbeing/demographics.htm

3. Farming is a dying profession.

Although data from the U.S. Agriculture Department does show that the average age of the U.S. farm has been increasing for decades and the overall percentage of young farmers continues to fall. However, people within the movement say these numbers can be misleading. They claim that more and more young people are going into farming. This may be a grey area, I would definitely disagree with the statement that farming is a “dying profession.”

4.computers, tractors, combines, GPS Farming is a low tech industry.

That’s got to be a joke! Some of the most high technology is currently invading farms across the country. What about yield monitors, variable rate technology, GPS systems, and more? See this post on the Singularity Hub website for more information: http://singularityhub.com/2011/03/13/precision-agriculture-high-technology-invades-the-farm/

 5. All farmers are men. 

ladies, girls, farmers, farm, womenThis seems to be a very common misconception with the students I spoke with. They believed that the typical farmer was a male. According to the 2007 USDA Agriculture Census, Of the 3.3 million U.S. farm operators counted in 2007 Census, 30.2 percent — or more than 1 million — were women. And that was JUST in 2007—the number is still growing! 

Starting conversations with suburban and urban students about farming is exactly what we need to do to educate others and put an end towards these misconceptions. I hope to continue to have conversations such as these and get the word out about farming!

Lauren Gress
Northern Illinois University student

PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS: CLEAN BACKGROUNDS

Photography is a big part of my life…I don’t know everything but I know some of the key points that I feel are necessary in taking a good photograph.  And for Photographer Appreciation Month, I’d love to share a few pointers that can make you a better photographer.   Check back every Tuesday this month to learn something new!

Are you wondering how to take a better picture? Well this week’s topic is a simple one that will help improve your photos tremendously.

Find clean backgrounds!

wind energy sky corn field farm farmer alternative clean Have you ever noticed a picture of a person with a telephone pole or a tree sticking out of the back of their head? Doesn’t look right does it? If you want to use a tree in the background of your picture just make sure that you place it correctly.

This simple step of having a clean background will take the most average picture and make it an awesome shot. You want to be able to see the bigger picture past what your subject is.

You might be wondering what a clean background is exactly? They are solid colors, generally without distracting power lines or anything that will draw the viewers’ eye away from what you’re shooting. You may have to place your camera at higher or lower level to achieve a clean photo background. Sometimes I stand on chairs or even lay on my belly to get a good shot, (you might look silly but at least you get a nice photo!) By getting at a lower level, you’ll make the background the sky which is more often than not clean. By raising the camera up, you’ll get clean backgrounds such as the ground.

When taking a picture, think of it as in terms of layers. You’ll have your foreground which is closest to the bottom, the middle area is the subject, background is behind the subject, and infinity is what is behind the background.

Photography is a lot of trial and error, so don’t get discouraged! A lot of times you have to play with your layers and see what works and what doesn’t. Always keep your eyes open for a better position to give you a cleaner photo. Sometimes you do want a busy photo, but always look for those clean backgrounds and it will make your photos much more appealing.

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK:  Give this tip a try. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles in search of the clean background.

Upload your challenge photo to IL Corn’s Facebook page for a prize!  Farm challenge photos get better prizes than non-farm photos!

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Intern

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student

PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS: CAPTURE A SILHOUETTE

Photography is a big part of my life…I don’t know everything but I know some of the key points that I feel are necessary in taking a good photograph.  And for Photographer Appreciation Month, I’d love to share a few pointers that can make you a better photographer.   Check back every Tuesday this month to learn something new!

Today’s tip is how to shoot a silhouette image. Silhouettes are a great way to capture drama, mystery, emotion, and mood to the people viewing your photo. They also allow you to use your imagination on the image since they don’t give you a very clear picture of everything.

Basically what you have to do in order to produce a silhouette image is to place your subject in front of some source of light and force your camera to set its exposure based upon the brightest part of your picture which would be the background and not the subject of your image. This will under expose your subject and turn it very dark.

First you need to choose a strong subject to photograph. Pretty much anything can be made into a silhouette, although some subjects are better than others. A subject with a strong, identifiable, and distinct shape will make a good silhouette image.

Then you need to turn your flash off. If shooting on your automatic mode your camera will most likely want to use its flash, which will ruin your silhouette image.

In shooting silhouettes, instead of lighting the front of your subject, you need to make sure there is more light coming from the background than the foreground of your image. Basically you want to light the back of your subject instead of the front. The perfect time to shoot a silhouette image is either at sunrise or sunset, but any bright light will do.

A plain bright background is the best for shooting a silhouette image. A bright cloudless sky with a sunset will make one of the prettiest images. If you have more than two subjects in your picture, make sure that they are separated so that you can distinguish the subject, and then let your imagination wander. If you are shooting a profile picture I recommend that you don’t shoot straight on, turn your subject to more of an angle so you can distinguish their features.

Most digital cameras have automatic metering which are good at sensing how to expose the picture so that everything it lit. The problem you might face is that your camera will want to try and light up your picture instead of underexposing it. What you can do to trick your camera is aim your camera at the brightest part of the picture, push your shutter halfway down and don’t let go. Then move your camera back to frame the shot you want with the subject where you want it and finish taking the photo.

If that doesn’t work on your camera give the manual setting a try. Your shutter speed and aperture is what you are dealing with in manual photography, (if you aren’t familiar with shutter speed and aperture I recommend looking in your camera book).

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK:  Can you capture a silhouette?  Farm animals, machinery, children, and produce can all make good subjects.  Or use your imagination and experiment with others!

Upload your challenge photo to IL Corn’s Facebook page for a prize!  Farm challenge photos get better prizes than non-farm photos!

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Intern

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student