TAKE A RIDE ON MY BIG GREEN TRACTOR!

Country music has been around for quite some time, and generally every artist seems to follow the same underlying themes. One such theme that is often sung about is farming and agriculture. Everyone who grew in farm towns knew how easily you could relate to these hits.

One song that always struck up interesting debate was Jason Aldean’s Big Green Tractor. In the song he says “I can take you for a ride on my big green tractor. We can go slow or make it go faster. Down through the woods and out to the pasture. ‘Long as I’m with you it really don’t matter.” Note that he calls it a green tractor, insinuating that it is a John Deere. This song can sometimes start a heated dispute between John Deere and Case IH fan boys/girls. People tend to be pretty loyal to the brand of tractor they farm with, and can get infuriated when a naysayer comes along.

Of course there are other brands such as AGCO and Caterpillar, but none have quite the magnitude of rivalry that Deere and Case do. Most of the time, brand usage and loyalty are passed down from the prior generations. In some cases one trade name may work better in a certain application, but usually horsepower and torque ratings are pretty close to identical throughout the models.

jd caseFounded in 1837, John Deere has been around for quite some time. The company has adapted over the years with the constantly driving technological force. They have embraced those changes and have tried to help those connected to the land. John Deere’s core values are integrity, quality, commitment and innovation. Founded in 1842, Case IH became a global leader in agricultural equipment. Case IH is a brand of CNH, which is a majority owner of the Fiat Group. Their values are developing the most powerful, productive, reliable equipment to meet today’s needs. When looking to buy a tractor, you have to keep your family’s lineage in mind. Where they came from, where they are going and how they are going to get there are all very important factors

Both offer great machines and have many excellent benefits. John Deere’s keep their value particularly well. So, if you plan on selling the tractor down the line, it is always a good choice. That being said, Case IH tends to have a considerably lower price tag, making it attractive to the smaller or beginning farmer. Both brands are widely available across North America and parts are readily obtainable.

When it comes down to the brass tax, it is all about personal preference. Although, rarely do you see the next generation of farmer disown a brand that has been in their family for years. Ancestry in my opinion is the leading factor for which make of tractor the farmers choose.

What do you think? John Deere or Case IH .. and why?

Nick Rumbold
 ICMB social media intern

Check this out!

Here is an interesting chart that shows you where each company started and where they merged with another corporation.

history of machinery companies

AGRICULTURE TAKES SOCIAL MEDIA BY STORM!

My hope is that we have a least a couple of non-farmers lurking over this blog, wondering things like “I still don’t understand why farmers would choose to plant GMOs?” and “How am I supposed to trust that my food is safe?”

If that’s you, I hope you’re ready to connect with us on Facebook, because there are some meaningful experiences there just waiting for you to check in.

(By the way, farmers do get the CHOOSE to plant genetically modified seeds – Monsanto does not force them on us.  Also, we choose them because they require less inputs for maximum yields.  Because Bt corn naturally protects itself from bugs, we don’t have to spray chemicals on it to kill the bugs.  We also use less fuel because we make fewer trips over the field and we produce a higher quality product.  We believe its safe and we have no qualms whatsoever about planting it.)

(And, in answer to the other question, farmers understand that they’ve done a poor job of talking to you about how your food is grown.  We want to be more transparent because we have nothing to hide about what we’re doing on our farms, but at this point, the fear has gotten bigger than we know how to handle.  Would you please do us the honor of finding us on Facebook, Twitter, or some of our websites to learn more?  Give us the benefit of your time and a small bit of your effort?  Thank you so much!!)

Here are those experiences you’ve been waiting for!  Please “like” some of these pages and feel free to ask questions in the comments.  We really do want to talk to you about your fears and answer all those questions you have floating around in your head …

a mile in her shoesA Mile in Her Shoes – This Facebook page does a great job of meeting moms of all sorts where they are and encouraging conversations.  There are some farm moms on here so ask away and see if you can get an answer to your questions from a real life farm mom!

Farmers Are Hot! – Yes, its maybe a silly concept, but we’ve noticed over time that there is occasionally some interesting farm and food related information here.  You just have to weed through some of the attractive men and women farmers featured and really … is there a problem with that?!

The Hitching Post – If you are planning a farm wedding or anniversary party or birthday party or even just enjoy farm facts, you will love this page.  It has fun ideas and pretty pictures to look at that almost always come with some informational item about life on the farm.  It’s entertaining and educational.  Look it up!

Beyond the Label – This Facebook page will really help you establish a meaningful connection with your food.  There are cooking tips, factoids, nutritional information, gardening tips, and even more info about how your food is grown.  It’s definitely work checking out.

il cornDon’t forget to “like” IL Corn on Facebook and Twitter (@ilcorn) so that you can always hear more about what’s going on in Illinois on the farm!

WHEN YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO …

It’s the constant “get to know you” question.

Depending on the circumstances of the meeting, it might follow “Which kids are yours?” or “How long have you gone to church here?” or even “So, how do you know John?” if John has just introduced us.  But inevitably, the conversation arrives at “So what do you do?”  And that’s a question I love answering.

Because I honestly, legitimately love what I do.

It’s a sad fact of life that there are MANY who do not love what they do.  Some who are living the majority of their life in a cubical when they’d rather be outside; some that despise driving and are forced to drive hundreds of miles every week.  But for me, aside from the inevitable pain of waking up too early on a Monday morning, I actually enjoy going to work.

For starters, I enjoy writing.  I have a creative mind (which always seemed at odds to me with my animal science degree) and even my free time is spent crafting, sewing, crocheting, and writing.  Coming to work every day and writing is second nature for me.

Secondly, I love the people I work with.  Yes, every group of people has its problems, whether it’s the local softball team you play on or the small group at church.  Our office is no different.  But at the end of the day, I actually find myself wanting to spend time with the people in my office AFTER WORK.  I like them that much.  And I’m no fool; I realize that this is a rarity.

CornFieldBut mostly, I just love farmers.  I love agriculture.  I love the feeling of being a small part of the fact that people all over the world are eating because of our industry.  I love the idea that this industry actually creates something from nothing using only the soil and water and air.  Think about it … you plant one kernel of corn, and through some miracle, you get hundreds.  It’s a little bit like experiencing all the miracles of having a baby every single year without the morning sickness or the swollen ankles.

The farmers that I work for are good people.  Honest people who believe in work ethic and treating people right and preserving their heritage.  They appreciate old farm houses and they work in the barn that their great grandfather built.  They wear dirt and oil and grease with pride because they understand the value of blood, sweat and tears.

They stop in at our office just to say hello (and we’re actually happy to see them!)  They bring their granddaughters and grandsons along because they decided on an impromptu lunch date with the next generation.  They leave here with said grandchild on their lap, letting them steer the vehicle out of the parking lot before strapping them into the carseat behind.

CORN HARVEST HAS ARRIVEDOur farmers get stressed, but they are faithful people and they all understand that God has their back and that they WILL live to farm another day.  And when it’s stressful in the office, it’s usually because we realize that 99 percent of our job is to deliver for them and make sure that they DO live to farm another day.

They toil and sweat and work and stress over each little plant.  Over the water and whether there’s enough or too much and are they keeping it clean?  Over the soil and their farming methods and are they doing the best they can so that their kids can farm?  Over new technologies that are hard to understand but are in the best interests of the future generation.  So they toil and sweat and work and stress some more.

In the fall, they pray for bounty.  For the fruits of their labor.  They yearn for the smell of harvest, for a glass of iced tea in a mason jar, for retired farmers who stop by in a pickup truck to watch and chat and relive the miracle again and again every year.

Who doesn’t want to be a part of this miracle?  The miracle of life and nature, of bonding with the earth and the next generation, of knowing where true value in this life lives.

I love farmers.  I love this industry.  I love my job.  And I’m grateful.

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

GROWING A CORN CROP

There’s so much more to growing a corn crop than you might think. Significant financial investment, for one, including millions of dollars for seed, fertilizer, equipment, storage, and more. And when factors (like the flooding we’re getting here in Illinois) create less than optimum growing conditions, farmers start kissing a portion of their already small margins good bye.

TAKE A WILD GUESS DAY

We all know today is Tax Day, but did you also know it’s National Take a Wild Guess Day?  If you’re a fan of hunches, speculation, conjecture, or even good old-fashioned gut feelings, you’re in for a real treat!  See if you can guess what these photos are of… hint, they all are things you would see around a farm!  Leave a comment with your wild guess and check back later for the answers… good luck!

Take a Wild Guess Collage

And the answers are….

Take a Wild Guess Answers

A – Tooth from a hay rake

B – Door latch on livestock trailer

C – Tooth on bucket of back hoe

D – Gate Stop – This may have been a trick question as I have never seen one anywhere other than my dad’s farm.  It’s a homemade tool we use to keep gates open. 

 

PLAN YOUR GARDEN!

“Inch by inch, row by row.
Gonna make this Garden Grow.
All it needs is a rake and a hoe
and a piece of fertile ground”

Whenever springtime would come around I would help my mom plant the seeds in the garden.  It was quite a joy to be able to plant the land, tend it and watch it grow to the point where it bared fruit or flowers.  The reason I put those lyrics up is because we also use to sing this song while we were planting.  It made the hard work more enjoyable.

There is quite a bit of planning that goes into the care of one’s garden.  There is the choice in the plants you wish to use, if they are the seeds of the plant or a start that is already growing, but still very young.

After your seeds or start plants have been chosen then it comes to the tending of the land.  In most parts of the Midwest there has been snow covering the ground over the winter season.  The ground has become very compact and some tilling is needed to loosen up the soil before the seeds can be planted.  That way the plant has the best possible environment to grow in.

Once the land is loosened up it is time to plant your seeds!  The packaging usually tells you proper depths and space needed for the plant to expand while it matures.  After the plant is in the ground a person needs to decide if fertilizer needs to be added to the plant to help it grow.  There are a number of options such as the use of compost, Miracle Grow® or specific hormones for that plant.

There is a difference in the types of fertilizers that you might use from what farmer’s use in their fields.  They are adding Nitrogen and Phosphorus, which has been depleted from the soil from the previous harvest.  You might need to add fertilizer too in order to make your garden healthy and strong; it will depend on what types of plants you are growing and if you grew anything in that location last year.

Agrarian crops are usually harvested in a dried or dead state, like a farmer harvests corn.  This allows for better storage and can be fed to livestock for added protein.  Horticulture crops, such as those produced in the garden are harvested in a living state.  They usually have higher water content and are very perishable.

If you are still considering if you are going to plant a garden and don’t feel like you have the space to do it, remember to always start small. You can grow your favorite kind of tomatoes in a flower box and then expand the next year.  Just remember to plant with a little love and watch it grow into something amazing and delicious!

blindt ellenEllen Blindt
Illinois State University student

CORN PRODUCTION IN THE UNITED STATES

MQuigley_InfographicThe United States is the leading producer of corn in the world, and as could be assumed, corn is number one in America’s crop production. In fact, corn production is approximately two times the amount of any other crop in America. While the U.S. leads in production, some areas of the country, predominantly the Midwest, have more fertile lands that are full of nutrients that support the growth of crops, like corn. The expansive area of fertile land is known as the Corn Belt, and it is responsible for producing more than one third of the nation’s corn. Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Indiana are the top five producing states in the U.S. They, among seven other states (Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, and South Dakota), make up the Corn Belt of America.

CornField

Corn is not as simple as corn. There is a clear distinction between field corn and sweet corn. Both are grown in America, but field corn is more widely produced and accounts for approximately 90% of the nation’s corn growth. Therefore, when you see a corn field, it is likely field corn that is being grown. Visually, field corn that has matured has a distinctive dent in each kernel. Perhaps not as well known, field corn plants are quite tall, dark green in color, and are harvested when the plant has matured and the stalks begin to yellow. There are a number of uses for field corn, including exports, ethanol, and food ingredients and products. The United States is the largest exporter of corn in the world, and it is estimated that the U.S. will export 1.1 billion bushels of corn for the 2012-2013 growing season. Aside from exports, one bushel of corn is capable of producing 2.7 gallons of ethanol. About 40% of the field corn produced goes towards ethanol production. Eight bushels of corn has enough calories to feed a single person for a full year. What is a bushel, you may ask? Well, a bushel is a measurement of weight that is equal to approximately 56 pounds of corn.

MQuigley_EarCornImage

While it may seem that field corn fully embodies the word “corn”, there is another type. Sweet corn accounts for less than 5% of the nation’s corn growth. However, sweet corn is what you eat directly… during the summer, at picnics, at fairs. Sweet corn is eaten on or off the cob, grilled or boiled. It has rounded kernels, unlike the dented kernels that field corn has. The plants, themselves, are shorter and more yellow-green than field corn plants and are harvested while the plant is immature and still green. It is bred for an increased sugar content that is evident in its “sweet” taste. Whether it is field corn or sweet corn that is being produced, the average American farmer produces enough corn to feed 155 people. Corn production is a significant component in American society, economics, geography, and culture.

MeganQuigleyMegan Quigley
University of St. Francis Student

NATIONAL WEDDING MONTH: FOCUS ON FLOWERS

February is “National Wedding Month” and in order to plan your special day be sure to immerse yourself in agriculture! Not many brides have that thought on their mind. However, if you consider everything that goes into wedding planning you realize how your day is centered around the industry that feeds, fuels and clothes the world. From the meal to the dress, agriculture is a key component to your day.

I want to focus on one area of your wedding day in particular, FLOWERS! Horticulture is not only an important sector of the agriculture industry but also your wedding day. The type of flower, color and way it is arranged are all details any bride is sure to pay close attention to.

HostaOne of my personal favorites in regards to wedding flowers are when brides are able to tie in other unique plants into their arrangements. For example, not many people would think a shade plant would make a very good bouquet. However, incorporating hosta into your bouquet adds a fresh, green look. Tucking a few little blooming flowers within the hosta make an elegant bouquet out of a simple plant.

suculantOn the opposite side of hostas, succulents are cactus like plants that withstand sunny and dry climates. Some succulents flower and all have unique shapes. As you can see in the pink bouquet, the succulent “hens and chicks” are tucked in with the flowers adding a touch of green to the pink.

Flowers are not the only part of a bouquet. The ribbon binding the flowers and plants together are another creative outlet for brides to incorporate the style they are going for. For a country twist, burlap is a cheap alternative to the traditional ribbon. As you can see from this bouquet, the burlap has been made into a bow surrounding the flowers adding an elegant country twist to any bouquet.

burlap

Fall_FlowersFlowers are not only in the bouquets but also on tables and often at the ends of the church pew aisles. For a quaint look, try keeping the long stems on baby’s breath and make small bouquets by tying raffia around them and in a bow. Attach to the end of the pews for a simple, elegant flower touch. Don’t forget the reception tables! Depending on the season you can incorporate other agriculture products to add a seasonal, country look to any wedding.  Ditch the vase and instead place flowers in a carved out pumpkin and place on tables to tie in colors and the season!

The ways to make your special day unique are endless when it comes to decorating with flowers! My best tip for you would be to ensure it is what you truly want and accomplishes your vision for the day. The day is not about flowers or the industry that produces them, it is about you and your special someone!

AmieBurkeAmie Burke
Illinois State University Student