Harvest has just begun at my house! For our family farm, that means Dad’s in the combine, Hubs is running the grain trucks, Mom’s occasionally helping in the grain cart, and I’m… in the kitchen. I wasn’t raised on a farm – I married into it. I can’t move the trailer, dump the truck, shift the 4455 or herd the calves that are grazing my front lawn while the rest of the family is shelling corn at the field furthest away. But I can give rides… and I can cook!
“Field Meals” are my way of contributing to the harvest effort. As a farm wife who’s got a nine-to-five (or 7:30 to 4:00) in town, I don’t have time to pack the folding table, crock pot, and picnic basket full of gourmet goodies requiring full table service to eat supper. My family likes to “eat with one hand and shift with the other,” as my farmer would tell you! In order to keep up with the fast pace whirlwind of the season, I have developed a strategic game plan to conquer harvest hunger:
I’m a meal planner. I’ve always sat down on Sunday afternoon with my calendar, recipe book and shopping list — Harvest is no different. I have an idea list of main dishes, sides, snacks, drinks and desserts to keep stocked at the house. Drinks are chilling in the fridge, ground beef is browned the night before. That way when I get home from work I already know what’s going in their supper sacks – which leads me to my next tip…
Make it disposable.
I learned early on that stuff that gets sent out to the field doesn’t often make it back to the house – and if it does, three days later, it’s extra gross and moldy. To save time and sanity (and dishsoap!) I package everything in baggies, plastic sauce cups with lids, tin foil and plastic grocery sacks. The guys get plastic cutlery when required (which isn’t often) and in recent years I’ve invested in those Styrofoam take out boxes which have been a huge help. Once everything is individually wrapped, I do my best to split it out into Dad’s bag and Hub’s bag. I’ll pack a thermal bag with the hot food and a cold cooler with drinks to put together at the last minute in the back of my vehicle.
It must be 1-handed.
Some farm families I know take the time to sit down and eat in the car with regular dishes and silverware. Not us. This is where you have to know your farmer… As I mentioned before, my husband likes to eat while he drives, therefore it can’t be anything too complicated (no spaghetti, no chilli, no packets of mayo and mustard to put on his own sandwich). He’s running the grain trucks to the bins and can barely keep up with the combine. His dad, on the other hand, doesn’t mind taking a break from combining to sit in the car with me and eat “like a civilized human being.”
I’ve come up with some pretty creative one-handed meals – some more successful than others. You’ve got your classic, hamburgers & brats, to the more contemporary pigs in blankets, pork chop on the bone, and grilled ham & cheese with a tomato Soup-At-Hand. Fresh fruit is always a win and veggie sticks with dip works out well. Some epic fails include Salad wraps (think: veggies wrapped up in lettuce leaves with dressing inside), go-gurt, and those kid-friendly applesauce pouches. Apparently food packaged in tubes is inappropriate for anyone over the age of 12.
Keep it clean.
Don’t forget to pack plenty of napkins, paper towels, and something to wipe their hands on before eating. My mother-in-law always sends out a wet rag in a plastic baggie for the guys to wipe their greasy, dirty hands with. (She too has learned the hard way not to send out her good washcloths – they won’t come back). I’ve tried to substitute the cloth for a wet-wipe but they just can’t withstand the rough, farmer, man-hands. Trust me on this one, just send an old sock or chunk of t-shirt.
Don’t forget Dessert.
This may or may not go noticed by my farmer, but I always try to include a treasure at the bottom of the bag. Whether it’s homemade chocolate chip cookie, a couple Reese’s peanut butter cups, or a cold silver bullet, it’s my way of making him smile as he works late into the evening.
So what’s on my upcoming menu, you ask?
- Stuffed French Bread sandwiches with carrot and celery sticks, ranch dip, grapes, and a pudding cup. Tea/water/soda
- Bratwurst on the grill, individual bags of chips, steamed veggies, apple slices, and banana chocolate chip muffins. Tea/water/soda
- Breakfast sandwiches (fried eggs with bacon and cheese between buttered English muffin halves) Rosemary roasted potatoes & onions, orange slices. Tea/water/soda… chocolate milk?
- Corn dogs, French fries, fruit cup, steamed veggies, drinks
- Aaaaaand probably a fast food run to Arby’s or Subway a couple times in between!
If you have any recipes that fit my criteria, I’d love to hear from you.
Last night I took the long familiar drive home with added company in my car. I had fellow Corn Intern, Kylie, and her roommate in the car with me and we were making casual conversation about our days at work. The three of us are friends outside of work but come from various backgrounds that all led us to the University of Illinois agriculture program.
As we drove, the conversation began to lull and from the back-seat Kylie offered, “You know, I never really paid much attention to corn until I started my internship.” The sentence took me a bit off guard before she continued, “Of course we had some corn, but it was just there.” I understood what she meant, but to me, corn had never “just been there.”
Continued reflection on the topic had me curious how one could just assume corn was nothing more than passing scenery on the interstate. It was so much more than that to everyone I knew growing up and I have never known anything different. Corn was never “just there”, it was seed selected carefully, planting done late into the night praying the rain held off, then praying for rain a few weeks later. Corn was your classmate or teacher missing an afternoon because the field really needed to be picked and someone had to get it done. No, corn wasn’t “just there”.
I then thought about how the office had reacted the recent rain we had got. It was easy to tell who had been raised with farmers and whose family farm was in what parts of the state. Some were quick to groan at the thought of more water in their already sodden fields while many rejoiced at the chance for their plants to get a drink. All of the meaning was lost on Kylie, she had never paid much attention to corn. She didn’t know what the year of the drought was like. To her, the corn was still “just there”.
After having slept on the subject, I have reached a new mentality. Most people will never pay attention to the corn along the side of the roads. They will not see the food, fuel, and fiber that keeps the country turning, the backbone of the American economy, the pride of Illinois, they will see corn. That’s okay. It would be impossible to ask Kylie to appreciate corn in ways that I do, she wasn’t raised with corn as her nearest neighbor. Rather than be annoyed, upset, or frustrated, I am inspired. The fact that others think corn is “just there” means that I get to be corn’s voice. Those in agriculture have a passion that can’t be squelched. Share that passion. Spread the word. Others don’t have to pay attention to corn as long as you do.
IL Corn Intern
It’s getting to that time of the year where the corn is growing a mile per minute. With advancements in technology, corn is growing quicker and taller sooner than ever before. With these advancements, we wanted to caution drivers who are cruising the countryside to be very aware of their surroundings.
- Drive the Speed Limit
People tend to think that their vehicle magically becomes a racecar when going down a country road. With corn growing there becomes a huge visibility issue and it’s harder to see other drivers on different roads. Go the speed limit because you have no idea what might or how fast things down other roads can be going.
- Slow down at every corner, even if there is no stop sign
Like I just said, when corn is growing there becomes a huge visibility issue. Even if there is not a stop sign at every corner decrease your speed or even stop. Many people feel the need to roll through stop signs in the country, even when the corn is high. Be the proactive person and ensure everyone’s safety and slow down at every corner and intersection you can.
- Use caution & double check when you see equipment coming down the road
Though it is not the time for harvest right now, it will be soon. Ground Rigs are still able to get into the fields and before we know it harvesting equipment will be roaming the country roads more. Lots of this equipment takes up space that fills up the whole road. Most of this equipment is also designed to go a lot slower than your average vehicle. Most farmers try to be courteous to others not in equipment and allow them to pass when it’s safe for both of them. Before passing the equipment ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK to see if there is anything coming. Sometimes farmers are just getting over to let oncoming traffic through.
Though you should always be cautious while driving anywhere, please be extra cautious during this, and any other corn-growing season!
Illinois State University
It’s that time of the year where we are going to start seeing those yellow (not always seen as yellow) airplanes flying around from field to field from sun-up to sun-down. What was once known as crop dusting is now referred to as Aerial Application and they for sure have a great importance to boost plant and field health. Here are 5 fast facts about the agricultural aviation industry that you should know!
- Airplanes weren’t the first mode of aerial application
A hot air balloon with mobile tethers, flown by John Chaytor in 1906 in Wairoa, New Zealand is the first recorded aerial application flight. It was said that John flew over a swamped valley floor and spread seed over it.
- Ag Pilots are in high demand but require a lot of aviation training
Those pilots in those airplanes are not the same ones that take you to your favorite vacation spot. Though both require extensive amounts of training, agriculture pilots have to go through specific agriculture training that not most commercial pilots have. To become an ag pilot you have to get your private pilot license, a commercial rating, a tail-wheel airplane endorsement, and more agriculture training. They also go through extensive pesticide and entomology training use as well.
- Hefty price tag
Those airplanes that buzzing around aren’t just something that can be cheaply replaced. Planes used for aerial application can range in price from $100,000 to $1.5 million. Many of these pilots that fly them on average have over 20 years of experience and over 94% of them own their own business.
- Pilots are pretty tech savvy
There are not just a steering council and paper maps in those airplanes. Plenty of high-tech GPS, GSI, flow controls, and well-calibrated spraying equipment is in them. Lots of time and training goes into knowing what and where controls are.
- There are two main products being applied
Though all aerial application planes can be used to spray water on wildfires and etc., the ones you see here in Illinois are usually applying insecticides and fungicides. Insecticides are used to control insects in the fields and fungicides are used to kill and/or control fungi or fungal spores. Without spraying for these things fields can get out of control and produce a lower quality product and a lower yield.
Though those yellow planes are super fun to watch fly low onto the fields, please always remain cautious and not get too close to those fields being treated. To all the Ag pilots out there, have a safe and happy application season!
Illinois State University
If you took a drive down a country road, you would probably see corn and a lot of it. That is my drive to work every morning. It is a part of life in central Illinois and a scene as familiar as the leaves turning in the fall. Without a doubt, those who have grown up in this region have also heard the phrase “knee-high by the 4th of July.” Let me tell you, I could get lost in a corn field more easily than find one that meets only my knee.
Once the standard for a good corn crop was that it should be as tall at the farmer’s knee by early July. This no longer applies to a modern crop for a variety of reasons ranging from a change in planting date, a change in seed genetics, fertilizer, and increased technology. A central Illinois cornfield in early July can completely conceal my head from view. Head high just doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?Why have we changed up the tried and true methods of the past? Simple, we know more than we did before. No longer do we have to settle growing only 20 bushels on an acre like in 1912. The national average was 175 bushels an acre in 2016. This is important because farmers are expected to feed more people than ever before, and on less land.
Why have we changed up the tried and true methods of the past? Simple, we know more than we did before. No longer do we have to settle growing only 20 bushels on an acre like in 1912. The national average was 175 bushels an acre in 2016. This is important because farmers are expected to feed more people than ever before, and on less land.With increases in technology and knowledge, scientists have been able to select varieties of corn that can be planted earlier. This allows them to grow longer and results not only in more of the beautiful golden
With increases in technology and knowledge, scientists have been able to select varieties of corn that can be planted earlier. This allows them to grow longer and results not only in more of the beautiful golden kernels but a taller crop that is definitely not just knee high. More recently, the traits can be combined with others such as drought and bug resistance in a genetically modified crop that is much hardier and can feed more than ever before.Can you imagine your house plants staying green without a little “plant food”? Neither can corn! These nutrients that the plants need to grow big and tall can now be applied in ways that were never before possible in the form of fertilizer. Corn that might have once grown short and wimpy in a location if it grew at all can now grow tall with the help of scientists and farmers applying the right kinds of fertilizers in measured amounts.
Can you imagine your house plants staying green without a little “plant food”? Neither can corn! These nutrients that the plants need to grow big and tall can now be applied in ways that were never before possible in the form of fertilizer. Corn that might have once grown short and wimpy in a location if it grew at all can now grow tall with the help of scientists and farmers applying the right kinds of fertilizers in measured amounts.Knee high by the 4th of July, while still a clever rhyme that was a once useful, simply isn’t good enough for the modern corn crop. Farmers have to up their game to feed the world. Through the use of modern technology and a careful selection of seed genetics, a farmer today feeds 155 people. As you celebrate the 4th of July, watch the fireworks from somewhere other than a cornfield, you won’t be able to see over those big green leaves.
Knee high by the 4th of July, while still a clever rhyme that was a once useful, simply isn’t good enough for the modern corn crop. Farmers have to up their game to feed the world. Through the use of modern technology and a careful selection of seed genetics, a farmer today feeds 155 people. As you celebrated the 4th of July, I hope you watched the fireworks from somewhere other than a cornfield, you wouldn’t be able to see over those big green leaves.
We love this parody by Ohio Ag Net’s Ty Higgins. Rain IS a big pain all over the Midwest.
On Friday, after leaving IL Corn’s rained out golf outing, I took this quick video (below). You can see clearly see the damaged caused to this corn by standing water and inadequate drainage. The dark spots are higher ground where the corn wasn’t trying to grow in standing water. The lighter green spots are lower ground where the corn is struggling to survive.
Here’s a photo I took today on my way back to the office after lunch. See how the corn is lighter colored where it’s excessively wet?
This damage is everywhere. Farmers are starting to get nervous. THIS is one of the reasons why farming is such a risky business.