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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GROWING UP POOR, LIVING RICH

My friends Jeff Glascock and Destry Campbell, both good cowboys, notified me when I was 20 that I grew up in poverty. Until I heard these two swapping stories about their childhoods, I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to have more siblings than seat belts in the family vehicle. I didn’t realize my sister and I received free hot lunches form our public school because my family lived below the federal poverty line. I just knew the lunch lady made me finish my broccoli before she gave me seconds of fruit cocktail.

I called my older sister, Lacy, and asked, “Did you know we were poor when we were little?”

“Well, I slept in a drawer, so I kinda figured.” Dad insists the drawer was a temporary travel solution one night in a motel room. They left the motel and went home to a cozy mobile home/log cabin/shack tribrid.

Camping at the county fair was our annual family vacation. Nothing promotes family fun like a 113-degree tent by the demolition-derby racetrack and showering with your shoes on. I showed my bummer lamb at the fair, and Mom made him a blanket from a pillowcase. Dad helped win the team-roping event and we ate cotton candy, so a good time was had by all.

At home, Mom picked pears from the tree in the yard and made fruit leather in the dehydrator. We recycled soda cans. Mom taught us to make graham crackers from scratch and refrigerator magnets from Popsicle sticks. I never felt poor, probably because we always had plenty of food. Hamburger Helper nourishes a growing body as well as a filet mignon. What’s culinary appeal to a six-year-old? Just add more ketchup.

When I was nine, we moved from the family ranch, located in a remote canyon, to two-and-a-half acres in a rural subdivision. I was excited because now my horse, Karl, was in a pen by the yard instead of a mile away in a flood-irrigated hay field. Dad got a job as a carpenter and helped build the new hospital in town. My sister and I were happy because Mom deemed the family budget secure enough to splurge on Pop Tarts.

We had neighbors! And TV! Back in the canyon, we tried to watch channel 10, but all we could see were clumps of fuzzy gray dots moving around a lighter-gray, but equally fuzzy, background. Friends from town recorded the National Finals Rodeo and we watched each round on videocassette, peering around the Christmas-tree limbs to watch Ty Murray spur another bronc. Dad leaned forward in his recliner and pushed the fast-forward button during commercials using a large stick that a beaver had peeled and whittled smooth. DVR technology has nothing on a beaver-trapping hillbilly.

Because I was unknowingly raised up poor in the cattle business, I learned to seek happiness in nonmonetary ways. I don’t need money to smell rain on sagebrush, laugh when a colt touches noses with a barn cat, or listen to a wild cow-chasin’ story. I need very little money to eat a shredded beef sandwich from the cattlewoman’s booth at the county fair and get barbeque sauce all over my face.

I’m glad I didn’t know my family was poor while I was growing up. The social stigma attached to poverty might have ruined the fun of running through the sprinkler, building a tree fort, and sharing a blanket on the couch to watch the rodeo finals. We didn’t even have to watch commercials – how can it get any better than that?

Jolyn Laubacher grew up on her family’s commercial Hereford ranch on the Klamath River near Yreka, California. She graduated from California State University, Chico, in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business. After a big circle that included cutting horses and hog hunting in Texas, working at a ranch for troubled kids in Arizona, and five weeks in Fort Collins, Colorado, she is happily back in California, where she currently rides horses for the public and substitute teaches.

This article originally published in Range magazine.
 
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HOME IS WHERE THE COOKIES ARE

Growing up on a family farm there were a lot of things I never appreciated until I went to college. I never appreciated the open spaces and fresh smells that accompany life in the country. I took for granted watching the cows out of the kitchen windows or seeing the fields change with the seasons. Once I went to college my open spaces and fresh smells became crowded streets and not-so-fresh smells and the cows and fields got replaced with brick walls and chain link fences. I missed all of those things but what I missed most is mom’s home cooking, especially her treats.

christmas cookiesJust in time to prepare cookies for Santa and to give all the neighbors a plate of assorted goodies, I’m reminded of how lucky I was to have mom’s fresh, homemade cookies all those years of my life. Growing up we almost always had fresh cookies in the kitchen, especially during the holidays. I definitely took this for granted until I got to college. Sure, the dorms had cookies sometimes but they certainly weren’t homemade and not even close to as good as moms’. Now that I live in an apartment I can make my own cookies but even if I follow mom’s recipe they’re never quite the same. When someone makes a cookie for you it just tastes better because they make it with love. Now that the holidays are approaching I’m looking forward to going home and getting my hands on those tasty cookies. I can’t wait to spend time in the kitchen with my mom and sister frosting sugar cookies, giving gingerbread men buttons or topping of sprite cookies with a cherry. It doesn’t matter what type of cookie it is, I know it will taste better just because someone made it for me with love and that’s one thing I’ll never stop appreciating.

Help spread the love this Christmas by giving cookies in a jar:

Christmas Cookies in a Jar

Ingredients:
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup quick-cooking oats
• 1 cup orange flavored dried cranberries
• 1 cup vanilla or white chips

Directions:
In a 1-qt. glass jar, layer the sugar and brown sugar, packing well between each layer. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; spoon into jar. Top with oats, cranberries and chips. Cover with a cloth circle and store in a cool dry place for up to 6 months.

Attach ribbon and tag with the following instructions:
Pour cookie mix into a large mixing bowl; stir to combine. Beat in ½ cup butter, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Drop by the tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Sarah Carson
ISU Ag Student
 
 
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THANKS AND GIVING: HISTORY

So fun to be guest blogging today at the Corn Corps! I’m in the midst of a month-long series at Prairie Farmer called Thanks and Giving, and when the good folks at Illinois Corn invited me over, I couldn’t resist. Today…giving thanks for our agricultural history.

During the fall of 1998, Mike Wilson sent me out on a photo shoot at an old grain elevator in Atlanta, Illinois. It turned out to be the J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator, and it was on the National Register of Historic Places and it had just gotten a fresh coat of barn red paint. It was a photographer’s dream. The photos wound up being my first-ever cover, and Mike even took me to Pontiac to watch it roll off the printing press. And this one here won the top prize in the AAEA photo contest that year. As a fresh-out-of-the-gate ag journalist, I was giddy.

I love this photo in a very large way – large enough to print it on canvas and hang it where everyone who walks in my house will see it. In part because of the red paint and the majestic lines, but also because of the history it holds. I’m a sucker for a little heritage and a good farm history lesson, and the folks at the J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator Museum are some of the best teachers you’ll ever meet. First, you must check out their website. Don’t skip the intro. I always skip the intros, but not this time. Very cool.

Anyway, you can get the full lesson from the website, but in short, the elevator was state of the art when it was built in 1904. It was abandoned in 1976, and ready to be torched for firefighter practice in 1988. Local citizens stepped in, and saved the building.

What I love, though, is how the thing was built in the first place. In the early 1900s, prairie farmers were producing more and more corn each year, as distant grain markets expanded. Greater trade led to the development of a bulk system for inspection, grading and storage in giant bins, instead of individual sacks. All this made storage facilities along rail lines quite necessary. Mr. Hawes simply took a look at the map and noted that Atlanta was the intersection of two major rail lines – Chicago to St. Louis and Peoria to Decatur. And that’s where he put his elevator.

We have a lot to be thankful for in Illinois agriculture, from perspective to opportunity to time. And on the lighter side, we’ve got farm boys and barn kittens and a cold drink. But it’s our history that will sustain us, and that’s worth being thankful for.

Holly Spangler
Prairie Farmer