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


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


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.


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 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 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


I grew up in a small town in east-central Illinois.  Actually Hindsboro was bigger 20+ years ago, but I went to school in Oakland—another small town.  When I went to the University of Illinois, had to explain to some of my fellow freshmen that I could really get into the big U with a graduating class of 32!    We even had chemistry!   Who knew that one day–with a  History and English Teaching Degree–I’d be talking about Chemistry in Agriculture?  Well, Mr. Sullivan (my HS Chemistry Teacher!), this one is for you!!

October 16-22 marks National Chemistry Week!  Yes, you will find chemistry in Agriculture!   Not just the Arsenic (yes it IS an element! Symbol As; Atomic Weight 33) that Dr. Oz was talking about a couple of weeks ago!   The Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association has some excellent resources related to our three main chemicals related to agriculture N, P and K. 

As harvest continues across the state, you’ll soon notice many farmers incorporating nitrogen into their field in the form of anhydrous ammonia (NH3) and ammonium sulfate ([NH4]2SO4).  Farmers take special precautions when using these materials that are used as an aid to replenish nitrogen used in the growing process.    The concept of adding fertilizer is old, real old!   Since 1849, mixed fertilizer has been sold commercially, and even long before that, the legend says that Squanto (or Tisquantum) taught the Pilgrims to fertilize their corn with fish.  The practice of replenishing the nutrients of the soil is something consumers do as well as they begin to prepare their lawns for the winter.

The Virginia Ag in the Classroom program has developed some outstanding middle school and high school chemistry applications using the periodic table.  My favorite is a lesson on what percentages of each element N, P and K are in various size bags of fertilizer.  For example a 10 pound bag of  10-10-10 fertilizer contains 10% of each N, P, and K.   30% of the bag (3 pounds) is actually the nutrient, the remaining 70% (7 pounds) are filler, which allows those using the fertilizer to spread it over a large area without the threat of over-fertilizing. 

Our own Illinois Soil Ag Mag features a great look at N, P and K and how Illinois farmers work to protect our most precious asset, our great soil!

So as we celebrate National Chemistry Week next week–what about watching a farmer, and thanking him for taking care of the land and the water we all share–and learn a little chemistry along the way!

Kevin Daugherty
Illinois Ag in the Classroom


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!

Lighting is a big key to producing a quality photograph. The color, direction, quantity, and quality of the light you use determine how your photo subjects will appear. If you take pictures in a studio with artificial light sources, you can control your lighting; however, most of the agricultural pictures you take are shot outdoors. Daylight and sunlight are tricky to work with because they change hourly and with the weather, season, and location.

farm, soybeans, field, Illinois, photography, lighting, evening, farmerThis photo was taken at 7:45 am and I love the soft light.  The soybeans almost seem to be glowing!

Some people think that taking pictures during the middle of the day is the best time with the best lighting, but the morning and evening light will produce the nicest image. Strong, direct sunlight is difficult to work with because it produces dark, well-defined shadows as I’m sure some of you have experienced.  Also, a live subject will have to squint to see in direct sunlight making for a less desirable photo.

Taking pictures on a cloudy day is one of the best days because there will be no shadow. Next time you go out to take pictures, especially of people, I encourage you to use the morning and evening lighting and see if you can see a difference.

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK:  Photograph someone on your farm prior to 9 am or after 5 pm.  Do you like the results? 

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 InternJenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student


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!

First, I’d like to share a composition rule of thumb: the Rule of Thirds. I first learned about this rule when I was a beginner in 4-H. 

NOTE: Some rules are meant to be broken and if you don’t follow the Rule of Thirds it doesn’t mean you’re going to produce a bad image!

The easiest way to look at the Rule of Thirds is to break down an image into thirds, vertically and horizontally so that you have 9 parts to your picture.

Next, when you look through your camera, mentally your picture into the Rule of Thirds. Position the main focus of your image to one of these four points where the lines intersect.

Basically what this rule is trying to get across is that you don’t want a ‘bull’s eye’ photograph where your subject is dead center in the middle of the frame. If you place your points of interest on the intersections or along the lines, your picture will become more balanced. I’ve been told that when a person is viewing an image their eye is automatically drawn to one of the four points rather than the center of the image.

In this photo, my subject is along one of the “thirds” lines while the apples are along another.  I’m hitting three out of four of those intersecting points making this a more visually appealing photo than if my subject were dead center!

Like I said earlier, this rule can be broken and may lead to some nice shots but it definitely is something to incorporate into your photography.

Sometimes I completely forget about the rule of thirds. If you do forget and end up with a “bull’s eye” image don’t hesitate to do little editing. With all of the editing software that is available you can always crop your picture to make it follow this rule.

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK: Take a photo using the Rule of Thirds and take the same photo with your subject dead center.  Which one do you prefer? 

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 InternJenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student