WHAT WAS FARMING LIKE 10/25/100 YEARS AGO?

 

Change is the only constant in a perpetually evolving world.  Just as life and traditions change, so do farming practices. In today’s day in age, farmers have easy access to tractors and large machinery, which make the profession of farming much easier. Agriculturists also have the technology of fertilizers, that ensure the crops receive necessary nutrients. Advancements in chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides are used to rid fields of unwanted weeds and pests. However, farming has not always been this precise of a science. It’s interesting to look back and see how far farmers have come in the past century.

Early in the 20th-century farmers used a system of planting called hill dropping of checked corn. This system required a wire to be strung from one end of a field to the other, and it would be strung through a planter powered by a team of horses. This wire would release a small pile of corn, hence the term ‘hill’, in 42-inch rows. But why 42 inches? Because that’s the average width of a horse! These checked rows allowed for cultivators to be easily pulled through the field. Since there were no herbicides to kill weeds, farmers relied solely upon cultivators to uproot the nuisances. More in-depth information on this practice can be found here!

Fast forward to about 25 years ago, when farming seems to have vastly improved from the seemingly primitive ways of the early 1900’s. Instead of farming in 42-inch rows, corn grew within 30-inch rows. This allowed for more plants to grow in each field, which lead to an increase in yields. By this point in time, farmers were using tractors to pull their planters, which greatly increased the efficiency of their time and efforts.  However, these aren’t the only technological benefits! In the 1990’s farmers started utilizing satellite technology to increase their accuracy, which made the farming profession a very meticulous one. Additionally, the number of farmers trying conservation tillage methods continued to rise. This simply means that producers leave more plant residue in the field, with intentions to prevent erosion. This extra plant material will add organic matter to the soil, which will also improve the land’s productivity. On top of all these advancements, in 1997 the first insect and weed resistant crops become commercially available. If you’re particularly interested in learning more about how farming improved in the 90’s, I suggest you check out this link!

Farming in the early 2000’s… was it really that much different from farming today? To start off with, one of the most important pieces of legislation regarding farming practices was passed. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, also referred to as the Farm Bill, created rules and regulations for anything from conservation practices, to organic agriculture, to crop insurance. This bill promoted innovative solutions to resource challenges, established a new disaster assistance program, expanded the opportunities for farmers’ markets, and much more!  Further information about the full impacts of the 2008 Farm Bill can be found here. Without these past accomplishments, the agriculture industry would certainly not be the same as it is today.

Rosie Roberts
Iowa State University

#TBT: MAKE SCIENCE MORE FUN WITH AG!

[Originally published: October 6, 2015]

Bringing agriculture into the classroom is a great idea to cultivate an assortment of topics and subjects into a theme around the school year. Agriculture and science coincide with each other, but agriculture is often overlooked in science. One unit about agriculture can crack abstract topics in chemistry, microbiology, biology, and environmental science. Here is a list of great ideas to utilize in your next science lesson:

Growing Seeds in a Jar Seed-Germination-Activity1

This experiment is easy, cost-effective, and fun; a younger crowd would enjoy this compared to high school students. All you need are glass jars, seeds, and wet paper towels. Have the students wet the paper towels, put the towels in the glass jar, place the seeds inside the jar, and wait a few days to see germination! You can use this experiment for a biology lesson that talks about photosynthesis or the plant life cycle! Also, this experiment is a great segue into talking about how plants provide us resources we need to survive such as food and clothes.


Incubation and Embryonic Growth

baby chickThis experiment is a bit more common than #1; I remember doing this project in 5th grade; it’s one of the things I can remember from long ago. With this, it’s simple: nurturing eggs into chicks allows students to visualize life and to learn the importance for our lives. Chickens play a huge role in agriculture because of what they do on a farm. My favorite memory of it was hearing the chicks chirp when they eventually made their way out of the shells.

Friendly Farm Visit

kids visiting farmThis past summer I interned with my county farm bureau with Agriculture in the Classroom; each day we took the kids to a local farm to learn about various topics from plant growth to DNA. The hands on experience offered the kids something they couldn’t learn from a textbook. They got to visualize how their clothes were made (shearing a sheep) to watching their food grow six feet in a few months (corn stalks) to learning how breeds of cows differ (natural selection).

Chemical and Physical Changes

soybean crayonsThis topic can be tricky in Chemistry. As we know, a chemical change is a change of a substance with a different composition than what it started off as. On the other hand, a physical change is the change in appearance with the composition staying the same. To easily demonstrate a chemical change to students, show a bowl of soybean seeds and then show a box of crayons. Why? Because soybeans are morphed into crayons (along with other substances). In the beginning, the seed is just a seed but it’s composition and appearance change when it’s used for crayons. For a physical change, show a bowl of corn seeds, a corn stalk, and an ear of corn. Why? Well, the corn seed is morphed into a plant that grows seeds (kernels) from itself. The seed that was planted had the same composition as the kernels on the ear of corn.

Composting for Kids

A great idea to teach environmental science with agriculture is to start composting! Sounds weird, right? It’s a great hands-on experience that teaches kids a great way to be sustainable. It also shows students how we can reuse our resources and not waste products. Compost is comprised of decayed organic matter such as manure, food scraps, grass clippings, and leaves. Manure comes from farm animals, and food scraps come from humans and animals. Composting also teaches about the life cycle. Compost can help the growth of plants which helps to feed us and animals who produce the manure and food scraps that turns into compost, repeat.  No matter what grade you teach, composting is a great way to teach kids about environmental science!

If kids aren’t understanding a science concept, it’s always a great idea to step outside the box! Agriculture is a great way to spice up the science curriculum while teaching students about topics that still matter to education and to our lives.

michelle nickrent

Michelle Nickrent
University of Illinois student

 

 

#TBT: 10 WAYS FARMERS ARE DIFFERENT FROM SUPERHEROES

[Originally posted: September 28, 2015]

As an Agriculture Communications major and not having much of a background in agriculture, let me tell you how much I am learning about this incredible industry, and more importantly, the leaders of this industry.

One big lesson that I have learned is that some of the most accepting and loving people come from the world of agriculture. Many people have their special talents but I’ve learned that it’s farmers that are my superheroes!

farmer superheroThese are just some of the ways farmers are different than superheroes:

  1. They don’t wear their underwear on the outside of their pants.

2. They don’t have an alter ego to hide their superhero-ness-they just own it. Farmers aren’t anybody but themselves and they’re proud of it!

3. They feed the world, instead of fighting crime.

4. Their capes are actually farmer hats

5. Their mode of transportation doesn’t fly but has four-wheel drive. Farmers need four-wheel drive to pull and load heavy farm equipment

john deere case6. Farmers work past bedtime to make sure the day’s work is done. Being a farmer is a lot of hard work! A farmer works around the clock to make sure daily chores are accomplished. This isn’t no nine to five job!

7. Their kryptonite is the battle to choose between red or green. Will it be John Deere or Case International? Which one is better?

8. Farmers don’t wear tights they wear fashionable flannel.

9. Their idea of a vacation is coming back with a farmers tan. A farmer’s tan refers to the tan lines developed by a working farmer regularly exposed to the sun. The farmer’s tan is usually started with a suntan covering only the arms and neck. It is distinct in that the shoulders, chest, and back remain unaffected by the sun.

10. Their partners in crime may cluck or moo but they will always be there for you. There is no greater bond than an animal and its caretaker!

Farmers are so much more than just superheroes. They are one of a kind. I have so much respect for these men, women, and families who work around the clock to provide each and every one of us food, and other vital resources. Where would we be without these producers?

Fun fact: Did you know that for every acre of land harvested provides food for 122 people?

Next time you see a farmer thank them for all the hard work that they do!

melissa satchwellMelissa Satchwell
Illinois State University student

#TBT: HOW TO FEED A FARMER

[Originally posted: September 22, 2015]

Harvest has just begun at my house! For our family farm, that means Dad’s in the combine, Hubs is running the grain trucks, Mom’s occasionally helping in the grain cart, and I’m… in the kitchen. I wasn’t raised on a farm – I married into it. I can’t move the trailer, dump the truck, shift the 4455 or herd the calves that are grazing my front lawn while the rest of the family is shelling corn at the field furthest away. But I can give rides… and I can cook!

“Field Meals” are my way of contributing to the harvest effort. As a farm wife who’s got a nine-to-five (or 7:30 to 4:00) in town, I don’t have time to pack the folding table, crock pot, and picnic basket full of gourmet goodies requiring full table service to eat supper. My family likes to “eat with one hand and shift with the other,” as my farmer would tell you! In order to keep up with the fast pace whirlwind of the season, I have developed a strategic game plan to conquer harvest hunger:

  1. Plan ahead.

    I’m a meal planner. I’ve always sat down on Sunday afternoon with my calendar, recipe book and shopping list — Harvest is no different. I have an idea list of main dishes, sides, snacks, drinks and desserts to keep stocked at the house. Drinks are chilling in the fridge, ground beef is browned the night before. That way when I get home from work I already know what’s going in their supper sacks – which leads me to my next tip…

  2. Make it disposable.

    I learned early on that stuff that gets sent out to the field doesn’t often make it back to the house – and if it does, three days later, it’s extra gross and moldy. To save time and sanity (and dishsoap!) I package everything in baggies, plastic sauce cups with lids, tin foil and plastic grocery sacks. The guys get plastic cutlery when required (which isn’t often) and in recent years I’ve invested in those Styrofoam take out boxes which have been a huge help. Once everything is individually wrapped, I do my best to split it out into Dad’s bag and Hub’s bag. I’ll pack a thermal bag with the hot food and a cold cooler with drinks to put together at the last minute in the back of my vehicle.

  3. It must be 1-handed.

    Some farm families I know take the time to sit down and eat in the car with regular dishes and silverware. Not us. This is where you have to know your farmer… As I mentioned before, my husband likes to eat while he drives, therefore it can’t be anything too complicated (no spaghetti, no chilli, no packets of mayo and mustard to put on his own sandwich). He’s running the grain trucks to the bins and can barely keep up with the combine. His dad, on the other hand, doesn’t mind taking a break from combining to sit in the car with me and eat “like a civilized human being.”
    I’ve come up with some pretty creative one-handed meals – some more successful than others. You’ve got your classic, hamburgers & brats, to the more contemporary pigs in blankets, pork chop on the bone, and grilled ham & cheese with a tomato Soup-At-Hand. Fresh fruit is always a win and veggie sticks with dip works out well. Some epic fails include Salad wraps (think: veggies wrapped up in lettuce leaves with dressing inside), go-gurt, and those kid-friendly applesauce pouches. Apparently food packaged in tubes is inappropriate for anyone over the age of 12.

  4. Keep it clean.

    Don’t forget to pack plenty of napkins, paper towels, and something to wipe their hands on before eating. My mother-in-law always sends out a wet rag in a plastic baggie for the guys to wipe their greasy, dirty hands with. (She too has learned the hard way not to send out her good washcloths – they won’t come back). I’ve tried to substitute the cloth for a wet-wipe but they just can’t withstand the rough, farmer, man-hands. Trust me on this one, just send an old sock or chunk of t-shirt.

  5. Don’t forget Dessert.

    This may or may not go noticed by my farmer, but I always try to include a treasure at the bottom of the bag. Whether it’s homemade chocolate chip cookie, a couple Reese’s peanut butter cups, or a cold silver bullet, it’s my way of making him smile as he works late into the evening.

So what’s on my upcoming menu, you ask?

  • Stuffed French Bread sandwiches with carrot and celery sticks, ranch dip, grapes, and a pudding cup. Tea/water/soda
  • Bratwurst on the grill, individual bags of chips, steamed veggies, apple slices, and banana chocolate chip muffins. Tea/water/soda
  • Breakfast sandwiches (fried eggs with bacon and cheese between buttered English muffin halves) Rosemary roasted potatoes & onions, orange slices. Tea/water/soda… chocolate milk?
  • Corn dogs, French fries, fruit cup, steamed veggies, drinks
  • Aaaaaand probably a fast food run to Arby’s or Subway a couple times in between!

If you have any recipes that fit my criteria, I’d love to hear from you.

Ashley Family pic

 

Deal_AshleyAshley Deal
Membership Administrative Assistant

#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

#TBT: DON’T FORGET TO EAT YOUR VEGETABLES

[Originally published June 16, 2015]

Today is fresh vegetables day. It is the perfect time of year to purchase fresh veggies from your local farmer’s market or grocery store. Many vegetables are coming into season this time of year, which means the best product for the best price.

To stretch your dollar and prolong the life of your produce, here is a list of the best ways to store your vegetable. I have hand selected my favorite veggies for this list.

Here is a printable version of this list which also includes best storage practices for fruits and some other vegetables not on this list.

asparagusAsparagus- Place them loosely in a glass or bowl upright with water at room temperature.

Beans- Put in open container in the fridge, eat ASAP. Some recommend freezing them if you’re not going to eat them right away.

Broccoli- Place in an open container in the fridge or wrap in a damp towel before placing in the fridge.

Carrots- If you cut the tops off, they stay fresh longer. Place them in a closed container with plenty of moisture, either wrapped in a damp towel or dunk them in cold water every couple of days.

Cauliflower- It will taste best if eaten the day it is bought, but it will last awhile in a closed container in the refrigerator.

corn-on-the-cob-unhusked Celery- It does best when simply placed in a cup or bowl of shallow water on the counter. This is one vegetable I always make the mistake of just throwing in the crisper drawer in the fridge and leaving.

Corn- OUR FAVORITE VEGETABLE AT IL CORN! Leave unhusked in an open container if you must, but corn really is best the day it’s picked.

Lettuce- Keep damp in an airtight container in the fridge.

Onion- Store in a cool, dark and dry place. It is best if they have good air circulation (don’t stack them.) Some people place them in hanging baskets. Onions that have been peeled or cut will need to be stored in the refrigerator.

onionsSpinach- Store loose in an open container in the crisper, cool as soon as possible. Spinach loves to stay cool.

Hannah ZellerHannah Zeller
Communications Assistant

#TBT: 10 DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FAMILY & CORPORATE FARMERS

Originally published: June 2, 2015
1. Tractor SunsetFamily farmers start working at sunrise and don’t stop until well after sunset.Corporate farmers work a 9 to 5 job.

2. Family farmers enjoy a family picnic in the field. Corporate farmers eat lunch with executives and other co-workers.

3. Family farmers work all summer to prepare for harvest. Corporate farmers have the time to take a vacation anywhere they desire.

Boy caring calf 4. Over half of family farmers have a full-time job and farm as a hobby because it’s their true passion. Corporate farmers make plenty “farming.”

5. Family farmers are interested in the good of the animals and the community. Corporate farmers are interested in money and profits.

6. Family farmers try to put an emphasis on conservation practices. Corporate farmers focus mainly on business practices.

7. Family farmers know that Paul Harvey was correct about why “God Made a Farmer” Corporate farmers believe that it was just a Super Bowl commercial meant to sell trucks.

FFA Awards8. Family farmers know the importance of FFA to allow students to develop “premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.” Corporate farmers only see a group of kids in a blue corduroy jacket.

9. Family farmers are able to diversify themselves with many crops or animals to manage the risk of the prices dropping. Corporate farmers usually deal with only one area of the market.

10. Family farmers live a lifestyle, versus corporate farmers only have a job.

As you can see there is no such thing as a corporate farmer that actually does the farming. There are corporate owned farms, but the farmers actually doing the planting, harvesting, and maintenance are the down-to-earth family farmers. According to the USDA about 93% of farming operations in the United States are family run, leaving only 7% being owned by corporations. How many times have you seen a man in a suit planning corn? If you can’t think of any you probably never have because that would be memorable!

Jessica ProbstJessica Probst
Missouri State Universtiy

#TBT: FIGHTING AIR POLLUTION WITH ETHANOL

Originally published: May 28, 2014

In just one day, you will breathe in over 3,000 gallons of air. You know there are a few things your lungs are taking in like oxygen and nitrogen. But have you ever considered the dangerous pollutants that force themselves into your lungs from the vehicles we drive?

May is Clean Air Month, shedding light on the air pollution issues that threaten U.S. communities and how you can help improve our air quality. But at the American Lung Association in Illinois, every month is Clean Air Month. We have been working with theIllinois Corn Growers Association/Illinois Corn Marketing Board for years to eliminate toxic air pollutants coming from the nation’s leading cause of outdoor air pollution: vehicles.

kenny wallaceOur work together helps gas stations convert their pumps from regular gasoline to E85 (15% gasoline, 85% ethanol) and other ethanol blends. This conversion helps bring ethanol blends into areas across Illinois heavily affected by air pollution issues. Recent research by Argonne National Laboratory showed a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions when using E85 compared with regular gasoline, and corn-based ethanol is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 31%. A pump conversion project currently under development will eliminate over 760 tons of carbon dioxide being released into the air annually.

By providing cleaner-burning alternative fuel choices to consumers, we can all work together to improve air quality and lung health, and support local farmers too! If you drive a flex-fuel vehicle, you’re equipped to pump E85 into your car, and if you drive a vehicle Cleanairchoicelogo.alaINilthat is model year 2001 or newer you can run it on E15. By simply selecting a different fuel, you can help to make sure that less pollutants go into the 3,000 breaths you take every day.

To find an E85 station near you or to see if your vehicle is Flex Fuel please visitwww.CleanAirChoice.org.

JordanJordan Goebig
American Lung Association of Illinois

 

#TBT DISTILLERS GRAINS WITH SOLUBLES: WHAT ARE THEY?!

This post was originally posted on January 15, 2015.

Farmers, livestock feed, texas mission, ddgsDried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) have become a valuable part of agriculture.  A by-product of ethanol production, this product makes an excellent livestock feed and is transported by rail to various parts of the U.S. so that the livestock centers of the world can take advantage of it.  DDGS are also exported to other countries to feed livestock there.

coop, livestock feed, ethanol plant by productDDGS can be either dry or wet.  In the Midwest, it is very common for ethanol plants to dry their DDGS in a dryer.  This dry product stays fresh for a much longer time and is able to be transported across the country or world.  It is also cheaper to transport because ethanol plants are not shipping so much water weight.  The DDGS in the photo above are dried.

ethanol plant, by product, livestock feed, wet distillers grains

The Distillers Grains in this photo are wet.  Often, ethanol plants that are co-located with livestock farms don’t undergo the additional cost to dry their DDGS because they can be used nearly instantly by area livestock.  Also, with livestock close by, these WDGS don’t need to be transported great distances, thus the water weight does not matter.  The WDGS pictured here are produced in Texas and feed almost immediately to cattle.

One-third of the corn used in ethanol production returns to the market as livestock feed.  In fact, DDGS have replaced soybean meal as the second largest livestock feed component, second behind corn.

Want to learn more about DDGS?  Check out these links:

DDGS OVERTAKE #2 SPOT IN LIVESTOCK RATION FEEDSTOCK FROM SOYBEANS

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT DDGS FROM DIFFERENT IL ETHANOL PLANTS

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

#TBT THANKSGIVING DECEPTION: A BUYER’S INFORMATION GUIDE

This post was originally posted last year on November 13th, and it is the perfect time for a poultry refresher.

turkeysWith Thanksgiving right around the corner, I wanted to let you in on the Grocer’s Turkey secrets! Popular to common belief, not all turkeys are created equal and not all consumers are educated before making their poultry decisions! Before you purchase your prized bird for your family feast, make sure you know these 6 turkey labels to look for!

AntibioticFreeMeatNo Antibiotics: This term signifies a producer’s demonstration of animals being raised without antibiotics. However, whether or not the bird was fed antibiotics, there is a law that the animals must go through a “withdrawal” to allow traces of antibiotics to leave the turkey before it is slaughtered, to ensure the complete absence of antibiotic residues in the bird. So whether your label reads “No Antibiotics” or not, come time to eat, your bird will not contain any antibiotics.

No hormones in poultry porkNo Hormones: Producers use this term to trick you into thinking that other turkeys that are not their brand are filled with nasty hormones. FALSE! By lawHormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. In order to even use the “No Hormones” label, it must be followed by the statement “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”

So far we have learned that ALL turkeys in the grocery stores are able to be served up at your Thanksgiving Day feast without any antibiotics or hormones, thanks to the laws in place.

  • Three other labeling tactics are the Organic, Natural, and Free range labels.

Organic uses those generic No Hormone, No Antibiotic labels, as well as labels that express that their turkeys will have been raised organically on certified organic land that has outdoor access and fed certified organic feed. This is nice except for the fact that although they have access to the outdoors, how many turkeys actually get outside? For this Organic label you will likely be paying 6X more at the grocery store.

Organic pricing

 

All NaturalNatural: Natural was the most truthful label I have seen so far. Natural means minimally processed and contains no artificial ingredients. The turkeys are fed animal by-products, which wild turkeys are accustomed to. No notation of the diets or living conditions is needed for this label.

Free RangeFree Range is another deceptive label. Free Range labeling does not require a producer to have a set allowance of outdoor time in the wind and sun, the minimum requirement that they have is to have outdoor access (sound familiar).  Being labeled “Free Range” does not necessarily mean better or worse living conditions.

So what have we learned? As you can see marketing ploys are all over your Thanksgiving packaging, from how the turkeys are raised to what is in the meat you purchase. This Thanksgiving make sure you are educated about your purchases and if you have farming friends, ASK questions or ask right here in the comments! These labels are out there to make money, not to tell consumers the truth! Don’t be fooled by marketing this season.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at IL Corn!

amy k

Amy Kuhlmann
Illinois State University