#TBT: RAIN CAN BE A HUGE PAIN

[Originally published June 29, 2015]

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?

wet field

This damage is everywhere. Farmers are starting to get nervous. THIS is one of the reasons why farming is such a risky business.

Mitchell_Lindsay
Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

SHOWING STOCK OR STAYING SOCIAL?

Without fail Father’s Day weekend includes two things in my house, a trip to the golf course with friends, their son’s, and my brother for my dad and a trip to the local fairgrounds for the annual local FFA chapter’s livestock show for me. The show is held in remembrance of a young man who passed away far too young. I was too young then to remember much about that time, but I know the family, and I will never miss a chance to support them.

Just like every year for the past six or so, I knew my job without being asked. I was to join the announcer at the stand, help keep track of what was going on and make sure the premiums got handed out to the correct people. As I walked up the show ring being wet with a sprinkler to help settle the dust, I recognized familiar members of the community setting up for their roles as well. It was comforting to be greeted by the people who had watched me grow up at those very fair grounds. I had moved a couple hours away for grad school, yet none of us thought twice about me coming home for the show.

Before long kids and animals filled the ring and our jobs started. Parents held animals for their child in the holding pen so their son or daughter could switch animals between classes. To me, this was all too familiar. I had done this all at 4-H and FFA shows for most of my life. I really hadn’t aged out of the programs that long ago and since then I have volunteered. Suddenly, this show, in particular, had new meaning to me. This is where small town support stood true.

Loyal alumni supported not only their FFA chapter but the family who had lost a beloved son so long ago. Despite the heat that had the men working the show ring sweating, I got the chills. How had nearly twenty years passed yet community support had never wavered? Then it hit me, this is a small town and that is what we do.

While the kids were busy in the ring learning the valuable lessons that could only be learned by handling livestock, the adults helping demonstrated just what those values looked like matured. The students learned about loyalty, hard work, trust, cooperation, manners, and so much more. I felt I was stuck somewhere between the two groups. I’m not ready to call myself an adult at 22 but I certainly was more mature than a high school aged kid pushing a pig around the ring. It didn’t really matter what age category I belonged to, I belonged in that small town that supported the FFA chapter and family that meant so much to me.

What was the show really about? Were we showing livestock or were we upholding social values that had been instilled in us long ago as a showman.

Shelby Carlson
IL Corn Intern

SIX REASONS FARMERS VISIT WASHINGTON, DC

  1. TO EXPLAIN HOW THEY LIVE: It’s no secret that every single year, more and more kids leave the farm and the rural areas where they’ve grown up for the bigger cities.  Flat out, there is just more opportunity in ST. Louis or Chicago for those young Americans.  Even if they want to stay in the ag industry, they have multiple opportunities to work for the Chicago Board of Trade or for Monsanto in the bigger cities than they do in the rural areas.  The result is that many of our legislators just don’t know what it is to live on the farm or even in a rural area.  Who better to explain farm family life to them, but farmers?
  2. FARMERS ARE LESS THAN 2 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION: And even among those 2 percent, a majority will never travel to Washington, DC and will never make an appointment to see their elected official.  It means so much to those elected officials to see real farmers in their Washington, DC offices – to have someone to ask questions of and to reflect on problems with.  Farmers really ought to visit our nation’s capital more often!
  3. TO EXPLAIN HOW POLICIES MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT WORK: Because legislators aren’t always super aware of rural life or of how to farm, they need farmers in their office to talk them through potential policy ideas.  While a farm bill is being debated, for example, farmers need to be available to point out successes or pitfalls of potential policy.  How will legislators who have never farmed understand how a policy might really work on an actual farm?
  4. TO SEE HOW THEY CAN HELP: Sometimes, legislators that really do try hard to represent their district and enact policies that make a difference need help too.  An elected official might be trying to do the right thing, but media or other non-supporters in his or her district are swinging the other way, which makes the right thing difficult.  Farmers often ask how they can help their Congressman on any potential issues in the district.  If a Congressman is genuinely trying to do the right thing for his district, farmers definitely want to help that Congressman so that he or she can remain in office.
  5. TO DONATE MONEY: It takes money to get elected into Congress and to remain in Congress.  Whether that’s right or wrong, farmers will often visit Washington, DC to donate funds to the elected officials who help them on pro-farm and pro-rural life policy initiatives.  Farmer leaders want to enable the best Congressman who try to understand agriculture and rural life to remain in office.
  6. TO BETTER UNDERSTAND THE DYNAMICS OF VARIOUS POLICY INITIATIVES: Often when farmers visit Washington, DC, they are able to meet with other national associations, companies, and think tanks to gather information and get a better picture of the dynamics influencing policy decisions.  For example, if farmers really want to pass tax reform, they need to meet with other impacted parties to determine how certain tax reforms might work for them.  Perhaps there’s a negative impact that the farmers haven’t considered and the policy idea can be changed.  Perhaps many associations are in favor of the same tax fix and they can all work together to show Congress why one idea is better than another.

When IL Corn farmer leaders travel to Washington, DC, there is almost no free time!  By the time we schedule in meetings with other interested associations and companies, by the time we background ourselves on what’s going on in Washington, DC and meet with our elected officials (all 20 of them!), and by the time we participate in fundraisers for the Congressmen who have helped us, we’re running from 6 am til 9 pm and that’s no exaggeration.

But the work farmers do in D.C. is so important to protecting farm families and rural life.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH FFA?

If you live in Illinois and are even remotely involved in agriculture, you have most likely heard the Illinois Association FFA convention took place this week. In the agriculture world, that’s a big deal. It’s more than just tons of high school kids walking around in blue corduroy jackets and dress slacks, it is high school students picking the future leaders of American agriculture.

This time of year, nostalgia hits as I begin to reflect on my own FFA days and what those experiences meant to me. Too often people explain FFA as the former title of “Future Farmers of America”, but that is no longer an accurate description of the organization. FFA provides leadership and growth opportunities for high school youth, even those who don’t want to farm.

Throughout my time in FFA, I learned more about myself than I ever could have in a classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dismissing a classroom education, I wouldn’t be pursuing a Master’s degree right now if I didn’t see the value in it, but I think there is much more to be learned about oneself that can’t be figured out until you enter the real world.

I knew what I wanted to do as a career when I was a sophomore in high school, but I wouldn’t have been able to narrow that down without the experiences that FFA allowed me. I had always enjoyed talking, ask anyone who knows me, but I loved presenting to groups. In FFA I could speak to groups about agriculture and opportunities within it. At this point, I knew I had found my life calling, something I had been born to do.

Not everyone has college aspirations, and that is something else I was able to learn through FFA. There is a shortage of skilled workers in the country and FFA is a place where students can try their hand at these skills. In my own family 3 out of 4 kids were headed straight to a four-year university, but the youngest had a different plan, he wanted to weld. Never for a moment were my parents in the least disappointed in his choice. They knew that his skills as a welder were needed the same as mine as a communicator and my sisters’ as teachers.

We aren’t the only family like this, the only ones whose lives had been shaped by opportunities given to us by FFA. Competitions in FFA range from livestock judging to public speaking, business management to forestry, mechanics to parliamentary procedure, and much more. Students can easily find their niche in at least one Career Development Event (CDE) or become a veteran at competitions like myself. In FFA, you learn it isn’t about winning, but getting to experience a taste of the real world in a way that would otherwise not be possible.

At the 89th Annual Illinois Association State FFA Convention that took place this week, officers were many state level CDE competitions were held. In addition, the new major state officers elected will tour the state over the next year on behalf of both Illinois FFA and agriculture. FFA turns students into leaders and gives those leaders avenues to represent the agriculture industry that they hold near and dear.

Shelby Carlson
IL Corn Intern

TAKE SOME YA AND AGRICULTURE WITH YOU TO THE BEACH

[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 FinnThe 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!

  1. A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck or anything by Richard Peck!
  2. ….and now Miguel  by Joseph Krumgold 1950’s Newberry Medalist with a sheep theme
  3. War Horse by Michael Morpugo…great movie, even better book
  4. Kristina Srpinger’s Just Your Average Princess…. Illinois Author, set in central IL, can’t miss book.
  5. Steering Toward Normal by Rebecca Petruck…life beyond the show ring.
  6. Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s Dairy Queen It is YA….so for the HS crowd and up!
  7. Crosswire by Dotti Enderle…I read it and saw it as a Walker Texas Ranger Flashback!
  8. Chigger by Raymond Bial another Illinois Author, I am positive those 40 and 50 somethings will see your childhood!
  9. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. A very popular YA author and a Yellow Fever outbreak in colonial times.
  10. Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee. Nutrition, friendship, a quick read
  11. Peeled and Squashed by Joan Bauer. Simply great books!
  12. Seedfolks by Newberry Winner Paul Fleishman. Urban gardening at its finest.
  13. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Certainly some coming of age  and civil rights era mixed in with pollinators
  14. The Year Money Grew on Trees by Aaron Hawkins. In the 1980s it was hard work, now it is STEM Careers!
  15. My Louisiana Sky by Kimberly Willis Holt. Nationa Book Award Winning Author.  GREAT Book!
  16. Taylor Honor Award Winner Black Radishes by Susan Lynn Meyer. Food, Hunger and WWII France.
  17. Pura Belpre Award Winner Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez. A look at immigrant labor in agriculture.
  18. National Book Winner The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata. Wheat and Wheat Harvest.  You’re going to hear more about this!

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!

Kevin Daughtery
Education Director
Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom

APPLES TO ORANGES: WHY CROPS THRIVE WHERE THEY DO

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.

Amy Erlandson
CommonGround