AGRICULTURE: EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER

Agriculture is the numerous amount of hours spent harvesting corn in the September sunset, waking up at 5 a.m. to complete chores in the barn before getting ready for school, and bagging corn on that hot summer day. However, agriculture is not limited to these tasks. There are also agricultural careers related to agricultural communications, food scientists, crop scientists, and so on. When thinking of these jobs, what is the gender that comes to mind? Males.

I am a female studying Agricultural Communications at the University of Illinois. My courses talk about careers dealing with communications, marketing, and sales in the agriculture industry. Therefore, males are not alone in terms of agriculture. These office jobs contain many women (and men, but mostly women), who make it possible for the farmers to continue a successful season in the field. As I learn about the many career opportunities for women in agriculture, I am also reminded that because I am not the male in the family who will be taking over the family farm, I am still able to obtain a career within agriculture. However, is the office the only place for women?

The answer is no, and I was exposed to this firsthand as I was at dinner the other night with a friend of mine when the conversation struck about where our parents worked.

“What does your mom do again?” I asked Ellen.
“She’s a farmer” was her response.

I should not have been surprised as I heard these words, but somehow I was. It was a different response than I have ever heard. “She’s a farmer”….yes, you read that right. There is an ‘s’ before the ‘he’.

Although I was raised on a grain farm in Central Illinois, this was still uncommon for me to hear. Ellen’s mom, Janet Gillen, is a farmer in Western Illinois with her husband, Dick. Jan and Dick collaborated the two farms into the Reeder-Gillen Farms. Jan did not grow up in a family who relied exclusively on farming. She never had the experience of being in a combine for 12 hours a day, and Jan also never would have guessed that she would be farming in her future career.

Jan is not alone among the female population who operate a farm. Although the percentage of female owned farms is fairly small, it is not uncommon to see a woman helping in the field during planting and harvesting. Jan is a perfect example of the impact among women in agriculture.

As Jan is in the field planting corn to help feed the world, other women are communicating the importance of her job, developing a new types of seeds, and many other occupations to help Jan have a successful farming season. Every aspect of agriculture includes women. As a a female in agriculture, I do not see any limitations on what job is for females and what is for males. I have realized the importance of women in agriculture, and the impact that we make among the industry.

Abigail Coers
University of Illinois

FARMERS AND TECHNOLOGY

Back in the old days, a family farm would often consist of two people farming. These two independent individuals strived on increasing awareness of their farm, but did not have the right tools to do so. Social media has changed farmer’s lives from helping them make decisions about their questions to informing society about farming stories. When it comes to social media it gives farmers the opportunity to interact with and educate the public, not to mention promote their farms and their products. I came to grasp the idea, after my research, that social media is here to stay. It is becoming the primary means for connecting with the public. One of the reasons is the next generation of farmers are beginning to take the wheel from the previous generation. The average age of farm owners is steadily decreasing and with that technology is more prone to be part of the business.

A large amount of research has been done on the economic changes caused by technological innovation. The goal is to remind our readers that such change brings wealth and that technology is driving great productivity increases in our economy. From years ago to today, the amount of physical labor that farmers have had to do has changed dramatically. Years ago farmers had to go and cut the crops and bring them all in by hand, to now when you can simply drive a combine up and down the fields. Technology has benefited farmers from what they use on the fields to spreading the word about their stories.

An individual that knows his agriculture facts definitely spreads the word for our farmers. Nate Taylor, a member of the Ag Chat Foundation Board answered questions and educated me on how technology has changed farmer’s lives. Taylor spends a great deal of his time on many farms throughout the Midwest and western US. He spends time in the field collecting data like soil moisture, weather, crop stage, and crop vigor to use for agronomic models. Furthermore, Taylor is an AG genius!

I asked Nate how he thinks farming has changed and helped farmer’s lives and one key piece of technology he believes made a huge impact is GPS. “Farmers can now use guidance to plant, apply inputs, and harvest using the same “lines” each and every season,” Taylor added. Another key piece is the ISOBUS; this electronic piece allows farmers to interact on the tractor.

A piece of technology that will be released within a few years is the Variable Rate Technology. “The days of blanket applying inputs are numbered and are very costly to farmers. Using VRT helps farmers apply the right input, and the right time, in the right amount, and the right place thereby ensuring optimal yield and lowering input costs,” Taylor replied.

If you have not checked out his amazing blog that is updated daily about the changes and facts about agriculture, then I recommend everyone to read the articles that are posted! A post that everyone should read is the 5 reasons he thinks Wi-Fi everywhere is good for agriculture. Taylor says that for one, farmers have access information anywhere; farmers at any time can get onto the internet and see what the best decision is for them. Also, they are able to raise the awareness of the latest news in farming through internet, because social media is what the world relies on. It allows farmers to share knowledge, share their stories to consumers who are misinformed with information, small business growth and data acquisition. This article is one of my favorite posts that really inform the public about how technology has helped farmers’ reputation in the past decades.

As time follows, social media is going to continue to grow. Farmers, who are not, should utilize the technology advancement in order to decrease the misconceptions, this way helping their reputation. Taylor spends a large amount of time using social media to reach out to consumers and correct misinformation. He also encourages farmers in his community to participate in social media activities and share their stories. But, that isn’t all Taylor does to inform consumer about farmers, he also works hand in hand with The Agchat Foundation to provide his knowledge to those farmers trying to do their part in sharing the love of agriculture. “After all, agriculture is a vast community. Global reach, local strong!”

Consumers and activists are going to continue to converse but, that does not mean we can start spreading the right facts quicker. We must help farmers share their story. Taylor added, “It is imperative to help our farmer’s reputation! We now have the tools available to use through social media to fight back with personal stories, knowledge sharing, and bridge building.” To the farmers and all their friends who help put affordable food on our tables, we say thank you and look forward to all the agricultural innovations of the future.

Megan Moore
Illinois State University student

LESSONS LEARNED IN A BLUE JACKET

Originally published on KellyMRivard.com by Kelly Rivard

It’s National FFA Week, which means that I HAVE to write a post about one of my favorite youth organizations!

I only spent one year in FFA. In many ways, I consider that year one of the best I’ve lived so far. I know that isn’t saying much, as I’m only 20. However, the lessons I took away from that FFA chapter are ones that you don’t readily forget.

Our chapter was brand new. I served as the President in its founding year. It was a wonderful, stressful, exhausting, amazing experience. It was a million different things, but it will never be something I regret.

So what lessons did I take away from my short stint in a blue jacket?

Responsibility. I had my job cut out for me, forging the way for a brand new chapter. Our advisor ran under the principle that the students should do most of the work, and learn from it. That meant I spent a lot of time dealing with adults to make things happen. Whether it was planning for trips, organizing banquets, or fundraising, we had to be on the ball. We had to be mature, because it was the only way things would get done.

Teamwork. Our chapter was a combination of three schools, all ran by one teacher. My local 4-H friends were easy to work with, but integrating a new group of kids I’d never met before, across different backgrounds, ages, and maturity levels, meant that we all had to put a little extra work into cooperating. Here’s a picture of our officer team and advisor at our first ever River Valley FFA Awards banquet.

Organization. Record books for projects, homework for class, paperwork for trips, minutes for meetings…we had to be organized.

Confidence. Nothing will boost a kid’s self-confidence like achieving something on their own. Whether it’s by successfully orchestrating an awards banquet or placing at agronomy contests, success helps shape young minds into strong leaders for tomorrow.

These are just a few of the lessons I’ll take with me from my time in a blue jacket. There are many, many more lessons that I could never possibly put into words. I could never possibly phrase them into something that means as much as they deserve. My FFA advisor is one of my heroes, and continues to be a role model for me, even well into my college career. My FFA memories will always be fond ones.

Now, rather than a blue jacket, I proudly wear a blue polo, that says “River Valley FFA Alumni.”

Kelly Rivard
College Student and Former IL Corn Intern

And we have to ask…

WEATHER GIRL TURNS TO AGRICULTURE

One day every year we allow the fate of our weather for the upcoming months to be determined by the fears of a woodland rodent.  People’s reliance on this fuzzy creature’s prediction dates back to the 1840s.  Even with advanced weather technology to warn us of upcoming blizzards days in advance, thousands still come to see Punxsutawney Phil each year. Weather plays an important role in both agriculture and the environment.  

As a little girl I dreamed of one day standing in front of a weather map telling the world what to expect.  However, as I grew older I began to develop an interest for learning about the interaction between humans and the environment.  Coming from a suburban background, my education never included the effects that an altered environment would have on agriculture.  

Now, as an agricultural and environmental communications student at the University of Illinois, I’ve come to learn that the environment and agriculture are not two separate issues.  Instead, they are revolve in an endless cycle.  Last week I sat in a lecture and learned about climate change and how it can affect agriculture.  Agriculture faces long term challenges from heat stress, water stress, pests and diseases.  If carbon dioxide concentrations continue to double, the North American climate average is estimated to warm by 5 to 11 degrees Farenheit.  This might not seem like such a drastic change but that would make Illinois’ climate similar to that of Mississippi.  

Learning about the current issues agriculture and the environment face is important if we want conditions to remain the same.  Although I was never able to deliver the weather to thousands of viewers or give Punxsutawney Phil’s annual report, I was able to expand my knowledge and learn how agriculture is part of everyone’s daily lives.  

Hope you are staying warm today, despite the nasty conditions out there today!  Be safe!

Ashley LaVela
University of Illinois student

LEARN ABOUT AG CAREERS ON MARCH 4, 2011!

Women Changing the Face of Agriculture is looking forward to its second annual event!  Please join Illinois Corn and around 90 other businesses and associations who will send their women to talk with the females in your life about a career in agriculture.

Register for the event here!

Thanks to Aaron Harris for creating this video!

IF YOU NEED A FEW NEW BLOGS TO CHECK OUT …

What a fun project!  Consider sending Ryan a postcard!

An interesting take on humane horse slaughter by HumaneWatch. 

Mike Rowe was a featured speaker at this month’s American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Atlanta.  Spend a few minutes checking out his website, Mike Rowe Works.

And this new blog seems interesting with a great new post on EPA regulating dust!

TEST YOUR CORN TRIVIA

To celebrate National Trivia Day, wow your friends with some of these incredible corn facts!

  • The U.S. produces about 40 percent of the world’s corn – using only 20 percent of the total area harvested in the world.
  • According to the USDA, one acre of corn removes about 8 tons of carbon dioxide from the air in a growing season and – at 180 bushels per acre – produces enough oxygen to supply a year’s needs for 131 people.
  • Corn is produced on every continent of the world, except Antarctica.
  • In 1940, one American farmer produced enough to feed 19 people, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.  Today, one farmer feeds over 155 people world-wide.
  • The US exported 2,047 million bushels of corn from October 2009 – September 2010.
  • One bushel of corn weighs about 56 pounds.  That means U.S. farmers produce an average of more than 9,000 pounds of corn per acre.
  • An ear of corn averages 800 kernels in 16 rows.
  • Corn farmers have reduced total fertilizer use by 10 percent since 1980.

NEW YEAR, NEW HOME

Welcome!  Corn Corps is officially launching their new home at WordPress today!

For those of you that don’t like change, this might seem unnecessary. I know that you are still trying to get acclimated to the fact that we even HAVE a blog and now I’m going to change the address so that you can’t figure out where to go! There is a point to the move, I swear.

At WordPress, we will be able to customize our blog to accomplish exactly what we intend. Those customizations and changes will happen gradually over time as we learn more and more about blogs and how to best utilize them. We also have a lot more options to make our posts “searchable” so that more people happen upon us when they are searching things like “locks and dams” or “animal welfare.” This is a good thing; we should always hope that a general search will bring the empty vessels our way.

Of course, the blog is, and will likely always remain, a work in progress. Knowledge continues to grow, and with it, the changes to the blog that are necessary to keep us ahead of the game.

For those of you that have subscribed to Corn Corps via email, you’ve likely already noticed a change. You don’t need to do anything to continue receiving our updates and if you’ve clicked on any of the recent posts in your emails, you’ve probably already checked out the new page. For the rest of you that might have us bookmarked or be following us in a feed reader of some sort, be sure to update our address.

We look forward to seeiong you right here tomorrow and many more days to come! http://www.corncorps.wordpress.com/!

HOLIDAYS ARE NON-EXISTENT FOR FARMERS

There are only a few more days until Santa comes down our chimneys and the Christmas cheer is sent to rest for yet another year. Farmers have the same two things on their list each year, high crop market prices and a much needed break. That’s right a break. Many have the perception that farmers only work six to eight months out of the year, fall and spring. False; farmers have many duties which they perform when they are not physically working in the fields.

Planting and harvesting may be the simplest components to farming. One drives back and forth through hundreds to thousands of acres, which takes patience and mental awareness to get the job complete. But, once the field work is done they immediately start the next step to their never ending process to feed America. For instance, when the crop is harvested and the combines are put away, farmers begin to analyze data. This data includes information on crop yields, understanding which seed varieties worked and those that failed, and discovering which fertilizers and techniques worked best. They use this information to prepare and finalize a plan for the upcoming spring.

Farmers have a constant desire to become more educated. As technologies advance, companies are working to create the most efficient and most productive farming applications. To learn about these, farmers attend meetings and conventions as well as read farm reports. Recently, Chicago held a DTN (Data Transmission Network) Progressive Farmer Ag Summit which was a three day seminar including topics on finance and the economies affects on grain prices. Along with understanding the business aspects of farming, the farmer must be educated in the agronomical side. Meetings and classes are held to teach farmers and introduce them to new practices and available supplies to better soils and increase crop growth. During harvest, farmers typically meet with sales representatives from various seed companies to compare results and determine which varieties and fertilizers to use.

An often multi-daily activity for farmers is to watch the grain markets. Monthly reports are sent out with updated information on demand, allowing farmers to make decisions as to when they should sell their crop. The government delivers these supply and demand reports and submits updated farm policy reports. As a farmer it is crucial to follow and understand the government amendments. Along with following North American supply and demand, farmers must look at other continents like South America, which has a planting season at the time of our harvest. If South American countries experience a drought that will greatly affect the American commodity prices. Market pricing reflects on the economy and prices depend on storage capacity. Another factor includes America’s relationships with foreign countries and the frequency of exports and imports. If a country overseas decides to purchase billions of bushels of corn, our prices will rise due to the principles of economics.

This Christmas, as you gather with your family and eat a wholesome meal make sure to take a minute to thank to people who allow you to be able to eat, be dressed, and in warmth. Unlike many other professionals, holidays are nonexistent for farmers. Their minds are constantly worrying about the idea of a sudden downfall in prices, accidents with equipment, and having the ability to provide for their families and country.

Traci Pitstick
Illinois State University student

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THE CHRISTMAS GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING

  While the rest of us are stressing over Christmas packages, errands, and holiday feasts, our high school and college students are stressed over finals, research papers, getting home for the holidays, and … what in the heck they are going to do for the rest of their lives.

Yes, while we may remember college as the best time of our lives, let us not forget the weight of your entire life resting on your shoulders during those years. High school and college students have tough decisions to make, life-altering decisions, and they hardly get a break from those during a few weeks in the winter.

Fortunately, the Illinois Agri-Women have one solution to all that worry and stress. Women Changing the Face of Agriculture will be held on March 4, 2010 at the Bone Student Center at Illinois State University. Early registration deadline is December 24, so be sure your high school or college daughter, granddaughter, or cousin are signed up before heading off to cook the holiday ham.

The inaugural Women Changing the Face of Ag (WCFA) event was held last year and it was a huge success. More than 100 students from Illinois high schools and colleges attended the event, learning about agricultural careers first-hand from women in various agricultural fields.

Maybe you have a senior thinking about ag communications? We’ve got women talking agriculture from several different companies with careers ranging from social media to news writing to marketing. Does your sister enjoy politics? Come visit with some of our female ag lobbyists to find out how they got where they are within their companies. Maybe her teachers have indicated that she has real talent in chemistry or biology. We have women who are soil scientists, plant breeders, and chemical reps that may help you along in your journey.
women in agricultureThis event isn’t exactly a job fair, although she is sure to meet some really great women and make some wonderful connections. It’s more of an opportunity for dialogue and mentoring. The event will help her understand how the women leading agricultural today got where they are and how they would advise her to accomplish her goals in the agricultural field. For Illinois Agri-Women, it is an investment in the future of our industry and in the well-being of our daughters.

Attendees can register online at www.womenchangingthefaceofagriculture.com and can also look up the Illinois Agri-Women on Facebook. Students are urged to talk to their ag teachers about bringing all the females in the ag program. Teachers are urged to contact Illinois Agri-Women to find out how we can help get your women to Bloomington for this event.

Give the high school and college students in your life a real gift this holiday season – some valued insight into their future, wherever they hope to end up, and how to get there. Consider registering for Women Changing the Face of Agriculture.

women changing the face of ag

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

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