Last week I was given the opportunity to attend the Agricultural Communications Symposium in Champaign, IL.  It was a great opportunity for a college student such as myself, because I got to hear numerous professionals speak about ag communications and what they have learned in their years of experience. While I learned a lot at the event, there was one statement that I thought was a great take-home message from the day. During the last panel, Kristina Boone from Kansas State University made a great point:

“We all know our beliefs, but we need to know our facts.”

What a short but noteworthy point! How many times have I tried to make the point that everyone is entitled to their opinion or beliefs, but before forming said beliefs people need to do some research? Her statement really hit home for me and I thought it was worth sharing.

No matter how opinionated people are… you can’t argue the facts. Even when researching information on a topic, people often disregard facts that disagree with their current opinion. The fact of the matter is that there are facts out there that can support almost any argument, but we must take ALL of the facts into consideration in order to be making an informed judgment. Especially when it comes to the food we are choosing to buy, it is incredibly important to be an informed consumer!

So I encourage you to form your own opinions and stick to your beliefs… but know your facts first.

For more on this event, check out Holly Spangler’s blog, Is Agriculture Waiting to Talk?

Rosie Sanderson
Illinois State University Student


As GroundHog Day is being celebrated today, many people have anticipated over the past few weeks whether “Phil” the groundhog will see his Shadow. Many dread that six extra weeks of winter while others, like me, welcome it. Either way, agriculturalists know that weather in general can influence crops in hundreds of different ways, good or bad. Despite what most might think, winter weather is actually a vital part of the growing process, and snow has several benefits besides providing a fun filled snow day to students or a day off of work. Snow provides much needed moisture to plants, such as trees, grass, and winter cover crops that must survive the cold season.

What is a cover crop?

illinois, winter, field, farm, agriculture, harvestIn Illinois, it’s typically winter wheat, shown in the picture above, which gets planted between peak production periods of corn and soybeans. This crop typically lays dormant over the winter months and then grows in the early spring season. The cover crop offers farmers another source of income, weed control during the early spring months, along with protecting the soil from wind and water erosion or the washing/blowing away of material from the surface of the soil.

Another major benefit of snow is that it literally creates a blanket for the soil. Soil temperatures actually vary a lot through the course of the year and snow actually is an excellent insulator to keep the soil warmer during the winter months. Typically, for every inch of snow the temperature underneath the snow increases by 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why is the soil temperature important to farmers?

illinois, farm, winter, snow, cornSoil contains millions of different organisms with millions more still not identified that are beneficial and harmful to plants. Many of these organisms need warmer temperatures, moisture, and several other components to survive and typically dive deeper into the soil where it’s warmer or become dormant during the winter months. The organisms that benefit the plant, such as, earthworms and microorganisms, actually eat organic matter. Organic matter consists of dead animal remains or plant material that can decay over time. When harvesting crops a good portion of the plant is actually left in the field where the plants begin to decompose. When millions of these microorganisms eat organic matter or the left over plants, they excrete vital nutrients that plants can use such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur. When the soil becomes warm enough, those organisms become active and start breaking down that organic matter in the soil. When we get snow covering the ground for longer periods of time the cold doesn’t penetrate the ground as deep and protects those organisms in the ground. It also means that the soil takes less time to warm up once the winter months have passed enabling farmers to enter the fields sooner in the spring.

So as the landscape begins to turn green over the next couple months, or whether Phil the groundhog actually sees his shadow or not, know that weather actually plays one of the biggest roles in growing crops year round, including the winter months that we get snow.

Eric King
Western Illinois University Agribusiness student


Welcome to Video Week on Corn Corps! The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing and we thought what better way to celebrate than by bringing you one video every day this week that celebrates Illinois agriculture, corn production, and farm family life.

Today’s video comes to us from the Facebook page Agriculture Everyday

“The past few days there has been quite a bit of discussion on a Yahoo article about useless degrees, with agriculture topping it. It makes a few comments that I find somewhat degrading to the agriculture and farming lifestyle. Since most of the agriculture community has been upset and offended by that article, I felt the need to uplift farmers and remind them that agriculturalists are some of the strongest people I know. So please, watch the video below. Paul Harvey hit the nail right on the head in my opinion, and I am proud to say I grew up on a farm and I can attest to most of this video in some way or another.”


The Department of Agriculture at Illinois State University has just celebrated its 100th birthday.   The instructors, students, technology and career opportunities have changed considerably over the last ten decades but the mission of the Department has not, and that is to prepare young people to succeed and become leaders in our nation’s most important industry, agriculture. 

In 1911, Erwin Madden was hired as the first professor of agriculture at Illinois State Normal University.   Professor Madden moved quickly to establish a University Farm and by 1914 farm buildings and a house for the farm manager had been constructed.  That farm was located at the north edge of campus where the current Ropp Agriculture Building is located. The fields extended west and south where now Horton Fieldhouse, Redbird Arena and Turner Hall are located.  Enrollment in the agriculture program grew rapidly given the increase in the demand for agriculture teachers at Illinois high schools.  Because of the need to construct new classrooms, athletic facilities and dormitories near campus the ISU farm was moved to the northwest edge of campus on Gregory Street.  As the Town of Normal grew, inevitably the University farm needed to be relocated once again.  In 2000, ISU purchased the FS Research Farm near Lexington, Illinois.  Buildings at that location were renovated and new buildings were constructed.  Today the ISU Farm at Lexington provides state of the art facilities for research and teaching, and each year hosts hundreds of visitors. The Horticulture Center located just off of Rabb Road was established in 2006 and is the latest addition to the Department’s teaching and research facilities.  The Horticulture Center offers students and the general public an opportunity to view a number of gardens made up of hundreds of different plant species.

The agricultural curriculum at ISU has changed to reflect the evolution of the agriculture industry. By the 1960’s Illinois State Normal University had evolved into a comprehensive university and was now called Illinois State University.  An agriculture major with specific sequences in agronomy, livestock science and teacher education was developed and in the mid-1970’s a new major, agribusiness, was offered.  In 1992, the ISU Agriculture Department established a Master’s program in Agribusiness and later launched a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Science.  The Department’s current curriculum reflects today’s wide range of specialized fields in agriculture.  Student’s can now concentrate in horticulture and landscape design, agricultural communication and leadership,  food industry management, pre-veterinary studies as well as the traditional fields of study such as agribusiness, agronomy, livestock science and agricultural education.

The Department of Agriculture’s Centennial Celebration featured a number of events for alumni, students and the general public.  These included the 1911 Dinner at the Horticulture Center that featured food commonly offered in 1911, an old fashion barn dance and Agriculture Day at an ISU football game.   The celebration culminated in a 100th Anniversary Gala that featured Max Armstrong as the keynote speaker.

While reflecting on the accomplishments of the last 100 years, the Department of Agriculture faculty and staff look forward to the challenges and opportunities agriculture will present in the next 100 years.

Rick Whitacre
ISU Professor


On July 28, 2010 in the small town of Mt. Carroll, IL, fourteen year old Wyatt Whitebread and nineteen year old Alex Pacas were killed working in a grain bin.  Out of this tragedy and the efforts of family members to bring awareness to the dangers of working in and around stored grain, the Grain Handling Safety Coalition (GHSC) was born.

The coalition includes ag associations like Illinois Corn, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois FFA, and others as well as Universities, family members, private citizens, and government agencies.  Together, they plan to develop curriculum and train volunteers to reach into communities and educate farmers, fire departments, rescue teams and others on grain bin safety.

Illinois Corn is excited about this project and appreciates the chance to educate farmers and rural communities about these issues.  As an example, Illinois Corn’s home office is in Bloomington, IL right in the middle of McLean County which is largest corn producing county in the U.S.  Still, Bloomington is somewhat of a urban area with local rescue teams and fire departments potentially having no education on how to save someone trapped in a grain bin.  This project has the potential to save lives due to swift and educated action when an accident occurs.

GHSC’s mission is to prevent and reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities across the grain industry spectrum through safety education, prevention and outreach.

We look forward to aiding in that mission.

Phil Thornton
ICGA/ICMB Value Enhanced Project Director


It’s trivia day here in the U.S. and to celebrate, brush up on your corn trivia!

  • American family farmers produce 20 percent more corn per acre than any other country in the world.
  • 95% of all corn farms in America are family owned.
  • The largest corn yields in history all occurred in the last eight years.  Consequently, eight of the largest crops in history also occurred over the last eight years.
  • Researchers estimate that a national average of 300 bushels per acre is aIllinois, farm, field, farmer, country, sceniccheivable by 2030.  The 2010 national average was 153.
  • Less than 1 percent of the country’s corn crop is sweet corn – the kind we eat frozen, from a can, or fresh off the cob.
  • An acre of corn removes 8 tons of harmful greenhouse gas, more than that produced by your car annually.
  • America’s corn farmers have cut soil erosion 44 percent by using innovative conservation tillage methods.
  • America’s corn farmers grow 87% more corn per ounce of fertilizer applied thanks to innovative farming practices.
  • Only about 11% of corn acreage was irrigated in 2010.
  • Illinois’ number one market for corn is exporting it to other countries.
  • The number one U.S. market for corn is livestock.
  • Agriculture helps feed our economy with nearly $100 billion in exports and over 24 million jobs here at home.
  • Agricultural productivity has increased 200 percent from 1948 to 1994, with no increase in overall inputs.
  • The value of the corn in a standard box of corn flakes is approximately 5 cents.



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.

“Every man owes a part of his time and money to the business or industry in which he is engaged.  No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.”  ~Theodore Roosevelt

Definitely times have changed since Mr. Roosevelt first uttered this quote.  People seem less interested in gathering together with others in their industry or profession and more interested in sending an email or a text.  We’re too busy to participate, too tired to contribute, and too stressed to offer solutions.  Our finances are stretched then.

In the farming community, our numbers are dwindling since Roosevelt’s time.  Now with fewer than 2 percent of the U.S. population growing food for the world, I would argue that we don’t have the benefit of excuses.  Farmers simply can’t shirk away from contributing thinking that someone else will do it.  They can’t afford to be too busy and they can’t dream of not participating.

On the other hand, farmers also can’t miss the window of opportunity to get their crops in the ground to attend a meeting.  They can’t be late for milking because of a conference call.  They can’t skip a sunny day perfect for field work to chat with their Congressman in town.

But they do.  More than 4,000 farmers in Illinois belong to the Illinois Corn Growers Association.  Every single one of them makes a sacrifice to support the industry in which they are engaged.  Even more of them donate meaningful time, leaving their families at home to care for the farm, to determine research initiatives, legislative goals, and educational initiatives to better the agricultural industry in Illinois and the U.S.

By default, they better your lives too.  In the farmer’s quest to preserve his land for future generations, the non-farmer receives more wholesome food and a better earth to live on.  In the farmer’s quest to make better farm policy, you receive food security unknown by millions around the world.  While a farmer thoughtfully researches new markets for his crop, you receive food, fiber and fuel that using renewable resources that often lower your costs and reinvest in your country.

As a non-farmer, you benefit daily from the farmer’s devotion to his industry, his business, his lifestyle.  Are you as committed to bettering the world around you as he is?

And if you’re a farmer reading this, are you doing your part?

American apathy abounds.  I urge you to get engaged in something, find someone to help, find something to work for.  Mr. Roosevelt argues that it is a moral issue; I tend to agree.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICMB/ICGA Marketing Director

Have you checked out the ICGA Annual Report focused around this Roosevelt quote?


harvest, fall decorationsLooking for something fun to do with the whole family this fall? The central Illinois area has plenty to offer. Fall is the perfect season to visit the local pumpkin patch or apple orchard. Ackerman Farms and Tanners Orchard are the perfect places to begin a fall tradition with your family!

Halloween is right around the corner and Ackerman Farms in Morton, Illinois would be the perfect place to get your pumpkins! Not only do they have plenty of pumpkins, but this would be a one stop shop to get everything you need for fall. They have over 125 varieties of pumpkins and squash, 30 varieties of mums, 16 varieties of apples, Indian corn, corn stalks and straw bales. Not only do they provide a lot of different products, but they also offer weekend hayrack rides, school field trips and birthday parties.

Morton, which is the pumpkin capital of the world, is the perfect place for this charming pumpkin patch. If you don’t have the opportunity to visit the farm, you can find a gift store in downtown Morton.

Ackerman Farms has been in operation since the 1930’s and has been supplying Morton’s Libby plant with pumpkins since the 80’s. The farm has been a family operation since its beginning. If you need more information visit www.ackermanfarms.com

applesTanners Orchard is a Central Illinois tradition. Based on 80 acres in Speer, Illinois, Tanners has the largest variety of fresh picked apples in area. But it is so much more than an apple orchard. Tanners has a country themed amusement park complete with rides, pony rides and barrel trains for the kids, bale mazes, gem mining, a farm animal barn, and billy goat bridge, where actual billy goats walk back and forth above the crowds of people who walk below.

With all of these activities, you’re sure to get hungry. Make sure you visit the Apple Bin Bakery where cider, salsas, jams and butters, apple cider donuts, candles, children’s toys, Halloween and harvest decorations are just a few of the items sold there.


The roots of the Tanner family originally stem from Switzerland. Rudolph and Mina Tanner decided to travel to the “new world” for a fresh start. Here they purchased 80 acres in Speer, Illinois. Twenty acres were already planted as an apple orchard and eventually grew into what Tanners is known as today. Tanners was started in 1947 and has been a family tradition since the start. Today, it is run by the fourth generation of the Tanners. Tanners Orchard is a must for this fall! If you want to learn more, visit www.tannersorchard.com

Nichole Wright
ISU Student


On Tuesdays in September, IL Corn Intern Jenna Richardson will be providing us a feature called “Tools of the Trade.”  The weekly post will give our readers an up close look at some of the little known tools that make agriculture possible, with some interesting photography to boot! 

For those of you that might not live in a rural area, a grain bin is a big silver cylindrical structure that farmers use to store their grain as they harvest it from the field. What you also might not know, and what farmers themselves sometimes forget, is that a bin full of grain is a VERY dangerous co-worker.

After stuffing well over 1,000 envelopes this summer with a DVD & letter to grain elevators & fire departments about grain bin safety (sponsored by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board) I decided maybe I should watch the DVD myself to see what it was all about. The semester before I had taken an Ag Safety class and my teacher had taught us the importance of grain bin safety and how dangerous it can be, but I still didn’t know exactly ‘how dangerous’ it was. After watching a short movie and getting goose bumps I realized that this big grain bin is a big issue.

In my hometown several fire departments were recipients of a RES-Q-Tube. The RES-Q-Tube splits up into four pieces allowing the firemen to carry them up the side and into the grain bin. Once inside the grain bin, pieces of the RES-Q-Tube are placed around the victim and put down into the grain. Once the coffer dam surrounds the victim, a vacuum system removes the grain from around the victim. The victim can then be hoisted out of the grain.

According to STRA, a 165-pound person engulfed in grain to their waist has 325 pounds of downward pressure on their body. That same person engulfed up to their head has 800 pounds of downward pressure. This kind of pressure makes it impossible for anyone to hoist a person out of the grain with out the use of the RES-Q-Tube.

Illinois Corn Marketing Board InternJenna Richardson
Southern IL University student
IL Corn Intern