YOU’RE A “REAL FARMER?!”

A mutual friend recently introduced me to someone I’ll call Jane. Jane is college-educated, holds a good job and seemed to be an all around intellectual individual. In the course of our conversation and in getting to know each other it came up that I was from a farm. She literally said to me, “Oh my gosh, YOU are an ACTUAL farmer?” I explained that no, I have a full-time job, but my Dad IS a farmer and yes, I do still help on the farm when he needs it and my time allows. His operation isn’t large enough to hire full-time farmhands… that’s why he had four kids of course, built in help!

Jane was so excited to meet an actual ‘farmer’, she had a lot of questions that I was happy to answer. Some of them seemed so silly to me that I had a hard time not rolling my eyes. But then I remembered: if we as individuals who KNOW the answers to the silly questions don’t take them seriously, then who will? The people who have an anti-ag agenda, that’s who. And trust me, they are out there scattering their false statements around like a manure spreader.

After a lengthy conversation, I think Jane has a better understanding of agriculture and what farming actually is all about. She had no clue that 94% of all farms are family owned. Instead, she thought that the majority were owned by corporate entities and they just hired people to work on the farms. I asked her why she thought that and she said one of the reasons was the signs in fields. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. Those seed corn signs that are all over the countryside this time of year? Yeah, to those outside of the ag world, they think that displays ownership of the field.

I must admit there were a few of her questions that I couldn’t give a precise answer to. Like what exactly are in pesticides and how they are applied. I’m not a chemist, nor do I have an applicators license, so while I can give broad answers, I can’t give specific details. However, since I do also work in the ag industry, I told her that it would be easy for me to find the answers and would gladly do so for her if she would like me to.

I present this only as an example and a reminder of what the ag community needs to do. If urban folks that literally live in our own backyards are excited, impressed and shocked to meet an actual ‘farmer’ then we aren’t doing our jobs! For so long, farmers have belonged to an association thinking that the association would promote their industry for them. That worked for a while, but no more.

Non-farmers want to connect with farmers. They want to understand who you are, what you do and why you do it. If you don’t tell them, who will?

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

AG WEEK AT THE CORN CRIB

Last week, Illinois Corn, the CornBelters, and Bloomington-Normal celebrated Ag Week at the Normal, IL Corn Crib. The week featured theme nights celebrating Illinois commodities, special games in between innings, and farm equipment right outside the gate!

Monday was Illinois Corn Growers Association appreciation night. Illinois corn farmers were invited to come to the game at a discounted rate to see how IL Corn is using the team to educate fans about Illinois agriculture.

Tuesday was a celebration of pork with over 700 pork burgers sold. Sixty pig farmers were at the game, serving pork samples to spectators in attendance, mingling with the crowd, and answering questions about their farm. The Illinois Pork Producers Association sold t-shirts, “Peace, Love, Pork,” to fans with all sales benefitting local food pantries.

Beef Night was Wednesday night. Fans enjoyed beef brisket and kids enjoyed a special lasso-ing activity in the kids play area. Over 100 beef farmers were there, checking out the stadium and the ag education opportunities.

A special shout-out goes to Bloomington Meats who served flavored bratwursts on Tuesday night and juicy hamburgers on Wednesday night.

Thursday was Prairie Farms night, with representatives from Prairie Farms and Midwest Dairy Association in attendance. The first 1000 visitors received chocolate milk and fans enjoyed a milk chugging contest on the field.

The week ended with Friday night’s 4-H night. Livingston, McLean, Woodford, and LaSalle County 4-H chapters were represented and the 4-H pledge and Pledge of Allegiance were recited on the field. What an exciting day for 4-H education!

Ag Week was to promote agriculture as a primary industry in our state and reconnect ag with the non-farmers in our community. With that as a goal, Illinois Corn believes we have certainly provided an opportunity to learn more about where food comes from to the non-farm audience in Illinois.

FALL INTERNSHIP DEADLINE APPROACHING

Deadline for fall 2011 social media and video intern applications is this Friday, July 15.  If you are a college student looking for a paid growth opportunity, consider the Illinois Corn Marketing Board!

The social media internship is an independent project, focusing on either Twitter, Facebook, or blogs. If you love agriculture and want to promote it – or even just want to learn more about how your food is grown – join us!

The video intern will be provided with specific projects that could vary by semester or by month as new issues/needs arise.  Success will be defined by completion of the projects within the given timeframe and by accomplishing the desired outcome for each individual video/project. 

Questions?  Contact Lindsay Mitchell at lmitchell@ilcorn.org.

A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

As the Communication Interns, part of our tasks includes creating videos that tell Agriculture’s story that slips through the seams of mainstream media and society. We recently attended Illinois’ FFA State Convention in Springfield and interviewed several bright individuals.

Lauren: I was never involved in FFA in high school, so this was a whole new experience for me. I quickly learned how dedicated and passionate these individuals are to their trade.

Jenna: Our FFA video has been my favorite video that we’ve put together. I was actively involved in FFA in high school and know what a big impact it had on my life as well as others. I felt that is was important to get the positive message about FFA out to everyone.

The Kernel video is our corny (okay, pun intended) imitation of “The Onion” satirical news spoof series.. We really enjoyed creating this video because it offers the message of corn’s importance in our economy and daily lives through humor.

Additionally, we’re running a weekly photo contest on Facebook to encourage IL Corn’s fans to share snapshots of their everyday lives with other Facebook users.  Each week has a various agriculture related topic, ranging from Farm Animals to Water.  

Lauren: Here is one of my favorite pictures that won the weekly photo contest for “Corn Farming”.

Jenna: Photography is a big part of my life so I thought it would be fun to have this contest so everyone could see agricultural related pictures through someone else’s ‘eye.’

They say a “picture is worth a thousand words,” and we wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Most people, even here in the heart of the Midwest, do not understand the daily tasks required to keep all cylinders running on the farm. It’s important for the farmers and those involved in that life to share their story in any way they can, and we feel that showcasing these photos and videos we created through social media applications tells their story… with and without words.

Jenna Richardson and Lauren Knapp 
Illinois Corn Communication Interns

SHARING MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT CORN

My name is Brittany Hosselton, the current Ag in the Classroom intern for the Illinois Corn Marketing Board/Illinois Corn Growers Association. During my internship I have had the wonderful opportunity to travel throughout the beautiful state of Illinois and share my passion for agriculture, more specifically corn production, with teachers at various summer agriculture institutes.

Sharing the message of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board/Illinois Corn Growers Association with all levels of educators has been especially exciting for me, due to my background in agricultural education. I recently spent three months student teaching in a high school agricultural classroom, and from that experience I realized who students rely on to receive a majority of their information; their teachers. From this realization, I find it vital to first reach out to teachers and expand their knowledge on the importance of agriculture and corn production.

Even though it is still early in the summer, I have met some wonderful teachers, who have been very receptive to the message I have shared as an intern. My main focus this summer is to talk about common myths when it comes to corn production and then share the facts. With this approach, I spend a majority of my thirty minute presentation talking to teachers about high fructose corn syrup and ethanol production. Before speaking about the facts on either topic, I ask teachers to share with me what they have heard, what they believe to be true, or what they are unsure about when it comes to corn production. At every summer agriculture institute, I get the response that “high fructose corn syrup is bad”. Teachers have also shared their thoughts that “ethanol production is taking away from livestock feed sources” and “the production of ethanol consumes more energy than it produces”. Although these are the responses I sometimes hear at the beginning of my presentation, teachers respond very well to the facts I share with them and have a positive outlook on corn production by the end of my presentation.

There are numerous misleading advertisements out there about corn production, and the responses I hear from teachers at the beginning of my presentation confirms that people are listening to them. In my opinion, the only way corn producers can change these negative thoughts is to educate the public on the facts of corn production, which has been my mission this summer. Again, I feel that teachers are a wonderful first step in this education process because they have the opportunity to share their knowledge with multiple children at one time. However, I am a firm believer that education can reach any person at any age. I have been given the opportunity to share the positive aspects of corn production at summer agriculture institutes, but I believe corn has very powerful message that should be continually shared by all of those who are passionate about corn production.

Brittany Hosselton
ICMB Ag in the Classroom intern

Educating Consumers About America’s Farmers

The “Professor” for the America’s Farmers Mobile Experience is Allan Ciha, pictured here with some NASCAR race fans who came out for the inaugural Nationwide Series STP 300 race. The Monsanto traveling education center was on display in Champions Park at Chicagoland Speedway.

Allan says they talk about the expansion of the world population, farming today and biotechnology that will allow farmers to feed that growing population. He says that people are surprised at the technology being used in farming today. He says that the educational effort has been very well received by both consumers and farmers themselves.

STP 300 Nationwide Series NASCAR Weekend Photos

Chuck Zimmerman

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired

I EAT. YOU FARM. SO WHAT?

Originally published on the Gate to Plate Blog by Michele Payn-Knoper

A recently overheard conversation at a suburban grocery store between a person buying food with comments from a farmer who was visiting and knew how to meet people on common territory instead of talking “ag.”

_______

Here’s the thing; I don’t really get why farmers are on the warpath. Really! We can get our food from anywhere. I just care that our family has food that’s affordable and safe. And I’ve heard some pretty bad things about you farmers.

You are poisoning water and soil by using pesticides and insecticides. Our family plays in the creeks and ponds on our land. Our kids chase fireflies through soybean fields, while playing hide and seek in corn fields. Do you really think we’re going to pour poisons in fields that surround our family home?  By the way, our well for water is between the house and the field. We understand that it’s not cool to use bad chemicals, which is why we rely on a whole lot of science, research and technology to ensure we’re using the right products.

Big farms are bad, and you all seem to be getting bigger. What size of school does your child go to? There are many different sizes of schools that offer options and choices for families. Likewise, we have a mix of large and small businesses in America due to our free marketplace. The same is true for farm families; some choose to farm a large number of acres or work with many animals, while others have small operations.  97% of farms in the U.S. are still owned by families; they deserve a right to choose the best option for their family and business like other Americans, don’t they?

Animals are abused on today’s farms. I’ve worked with animals my whole life. If you’ve seen the sensationalized videos from animal rights groups, I want you to know they probably impact me even more than you.  Animals that live in barns are actually in a lot better conditions – they get to stay at one temperature, avoid predators and have a environment that’s customized to their every need. Barns do look different today than in 1970, but isn’t the same true of computers, doctors offices and stores? Yes, animals die to feed humans, but we respect their sacrifice and care for them in the best way possible.

I’ve heard farm subsidies are making you rich on our tax dollars. There are a lot of mixed opinions on this, even within agriculture. However, the big thing people don’t realize about the “farm” program is that 86% of it is for mothers and children in need of food assistance. And I’m not asking for a handout from anyone, but we manage millions of dollars of risk every year – sometimes the safety net has kept our family in business – and is a tiny part of our national budget.

Biotechnology is evil. Do I look like Satan? Sorry, just joking. Our family chooses biotechnology because it’s the right tool for our farm. But more importantly, there are a lot of hungry people around the world, a problem that’s getting worse with a growing population. I was on a mission trip last year to Africa and saw some this myself. Have you ever looked into the eyes of a hungry child? It haunts me – and that’s why biotechnology is a tool that we choose.

Hormones are making our kids develop way too soon! I have a daughter, so I get your concern – we don’t want to have kindergarteners in bras. Kids are growing more and faster because our diets are better.  Did you know there’s more hormones in a serving of broccoli than in a steak? People need to remember that all food has hormones – and it always has.

It’s been interesting to talk with you.  Are you on Facebook or are there ways we can stay connected? Sure, would be glad to connect with you. Our farm’s Facebook page has a lot of pictures to give you an inside look on what’s happening.  I’m also on Twitter and will put up some videos to show you what we’re doing during harvest. I’d also suggest you check out these websites…

Cool. I like that we share the same values. We may not always agree, but I appreciate what you do as a farmer a lot more after we’ve talked.  And I’ll remember you when I shop for our food.

______

If you’re buying food, when have you sought out a person involved on a farm or ranch? Same for those in agriculture… when was the last time you truly made an effort to relate on human terms instead of ag terms?

NASCAR Promotion Works

Past Chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Jim Rapp, visited the Marquis Energy Appreciation Day. He’s pictured on the far right next to NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace and Jim’s sons, Nick and Ben. Jim says that the NASCAR promotional opportunity that the industry has become involved in proves that a fifteen percent blend of ethanol works. He’s a major advocate for the renewable fuel that’s good for our country! As a family farmer he’s thrilled to have Family Farmers emblazoned on the #09 car that will be driven in the STP 300 Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

You can listen to a short interview I did with Jim here:

Marquis Energy Appreciation Day Photos

Chuck Zimmerman

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired

CAN’T WAIT FOR THE ILLINOIS STATE FAIR!

Welcome to Photo Week on Corn Corps! To celebrate National Photography Month, we’re bringing you one photo every day this week that celebrates Illinois agriculture, corn production, and farm family life!

The Illinois commodity groups (Illinois Corn, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Pork Producers Association and others) worked together on a new exhibit at the Illinois State Fair last year that provides children a rural life educational experience!  Here, two boys learn how to plant a seed.

Illinois Corn is excited to update the exhibit and provide another farm experience this summer!