GROCERY SHOPPING: OPTIONS ARE GOOD.

As if it’s not bad enough that it’s Monday… I had to go grocery shopping today. Like most of you, I assume, this isn’t exactly one of my favorite activities. Not to mention money is always tight, so it’s never fun spending what you do have on boring stuff like peanut butter and paper towels.

But something amazing happened today. I got all of the items on my list (plus a few extra things like raspberries & kiwi because I felt like treating myself), and my total at the register was UNDER $25. As old and boring as it makes me feel to be THIS excited about my total grocery bill… I couldn’t help but smile as I pulled out of the parking lot.

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I grew up on a farm that raises beef cattle and various crops. We generally use conventional farming methods, but my family is also very interested in conservation of the soil & water on our farm so we take some special measures in those areas. I also have many friends that farm organically or choose to buy organic products at the grocery store. Essentially, I understand where everyone is coming from and truly value everyone’s right to make their own choices about the food they eat.

But today, I am so thankful that I had the option to purchase items at the grocery store that kept my bill under $25. The store I was at offered an organic brand for raspberries, but, to me, raspberries are expensive to begin with and a real treat when I do decide to buy them. So I’m glad I got to spend $3.00 on my raspberries rather than buying no raspberries at all because a store only offered the $6.00 organic product.

This is something I wish the more radical “organic pushers” would understand. I respect your right and ability to buy all organic for you and your family; that’s your prerogative. What I have a problem with, is when people say that their choice is the only right choice, and therefore we, should do away with all other options in grocery stores. I think conversation and education on these issues is incredibly important, but in my opinion, there is no right & wrong when it comes to this debate, there are only options. And, personally, I like options.

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
Membership Administrative Assistant

ETHANOL: FOREVER A SCAPEGOAT AND CONNECTED TO UKRAINIAN UNREST

What’s next? Will high health insurance prices be blamed on ethanol?

What about your kids’ grades in school? Is that ethanol’s fault, too?

Yes, these examples are definitely a bit of a stretch, but seriously. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear it.

A recent example of “it’s ethanol’s fault” was when Trilby Lundberg reported that ethanol is causing gas prices to rise because there is unrest in Ukraine and Ukraine grows corn and the U.S. ethanol supply is primarily produced from corn and so ethanol is more expensive so gas is more expensive. Run on sentence? Definitely. But that’s the point. It’s like a game of 6 degrees of separation. In a desperate bid to be relevant to the news of the day, ethanol comes up in the same news headline as Ukrainian unrest.

It’s exhausting.

Want to know the real story? Jump on over to this blog at A Farm Girl’s Guide to Agriculture. Gracie does a good job debunking this myth. It’s busted.

As Gracie wrote, “…the United States is a huge exporter of corn. According to the U.S. Grains Council, the United States supplies 50% of the exported corn supply while the Ukraine provides a mere 5.5%. In addition, the United States will import zero bushels of corn in 2014. That’s right- nothing.

The petroleum industry is blaming this rise in gas prices on the ethanol industry. Because the national average for gasoline is $3.51 (as of 3/10/14)- which is the highest it’s been since September- it’s automatically ethanol’s fault. Probably because they want to increase the ethanol blend in regular gasoline from 10% to 15% [insert sarcasm here].

Guess what? Ethanol actually LOWERS gasoline prices! If you were to buy ethanol (85% blend) at retail, it’s about $2.89/gallon in central Illinois (as of 3/10/14). That’s compared to the $3.48/gallon gasoline at the same gas station this morning. So yes, ethanol is definitely causing higher gasoline prices [insert more sarcasm here].”

Tricia Braid
Illinois Corn Communications Director

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Suffering from “Testing Jet Lag?” Relax with Ag!

ImageStandardized testing is boring and draining of both student and teacher. Liven up your classroom by rewarding them with a fun, educational, and…tasty activity! Create a fun day for your students after testing as a reward for good behavior. (A little bribery can go a long way, as any good teacher knows.)

Homemade ice cream is not only exciting to make; it also engages students through a simple educational activity. Making ice cream can teach students the different components of milk, the process from producer to consumer, and different jobs available in this field. The dairy industry provides a variety of jobs for many Americans. Every student is somehow connected to the dairy industry as either a consumer or even a future producer! By opening your students’ eyes to another industry or career field that they may never have considered before, you are giving them more opportunities-which is why we chose this career in the first place.

One of the best aspects of this dairy lesson is that it can be catered to any grade level. The activity is definitely what you make of it! Even high school kids enjoy making ice cream! A great video for middle school students to assist this lesson is “Dairy Kids Club” by Heartland Farms.

In addition to making ice cream, try playing a guessing game on dairy trivia! Use the Purdue website link of dairy facts for content. Kids love to play games and the competitive aspect will take their minds off of their stressful testing days so you can have your lively classroom back! Every teacher has, at some point, experienced the “blank stare” which can represent a multitude of things-boredom, confusion, exhaustion. At times like these, you may feel like you’re talking to a brick wall. Take an opportunity like this to tie the dairy lesson into your own content.  Agriculture science can teach students many different things. The dairy industry and process in particular is great for tying into subjects such as economics, the digestive system, biology, animal science, nutrition, genetics, and even mathematics! Build off of their excitement from this lesson to make progress on your own. This will also ease the transition from testing mode to learning mode so your students are back in gear and ready to go!

The most beneficial part of this lesson is the amount of resources available to all teachers. The Illinois Farm Bureau-Ag In the Classroom has developed handouts to guide this lesson. These handouts, called “Ag Mags”, are free! They are also available online through Ag-in-the-Classroom.

Each county has a local Farm Bureau which are generally more than happy to come into your classroom and help with agriculture lessons like this. By establishing this line of communication, you are opening a line of support as well as more opportunities for your student’s education. Your passion for teaching will reflect through your efforts to expand your classroom resources. And most importantly, what teacher doesn’t want to sit back for a day and watch someone else handle their rambunctious yet endearing class of students-who are more than willing to get their hands dirty with the prospect of a tasty sugar high in their future!

Recipe for the ice cream:

 Try this simple recipe to make your own homemade ice cream!

1. In an empty and clean 1-pound coffee can, mix 1 pint of half & half with ½ cup sugar. Add a little vanilla or fruit if you like.

2. Place the lid on the can, secure it with duct tape, and then place it inside of an empty and clean 3-pound coffee can.

3. Pack ice around the small can. Then sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of rock salt on the ice. Finally, fill the rest of thecan with ice.

4. Place the lid on the large can. Secure the lid with duct tape so it does not fall off.

5. Sit on the floor with some friends and roll the large can to each other. You may want to put a tarp on the floor for this. After about 10 minutes of rolling your can, you will have made ice cream in the small can!

6. Remove the small can and rinse it with water before opening. If you don’t, you may end up with salt in your ice cream.

7. Enjoy!

Grace Foster

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Ice cream image from: http://spoonful.com/recipes/homemade-ice-cream-bag

Happy Love Your Pet Day!

Pets are often viewed as members of the family today. It is not uncommon to dress up pets in cute little outfits, Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 7.51.46 PM refer to them as your baby, Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 7.55.00 PMor even buy them luxury items such as a bed that is probably more comfortable than your own. Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 7.56.47 PMHowever, a variety of pets such as horses, dogs, cats, and goats often are not only companions, but hard workers as well! Horses can pull great weights behind them whether it’s a cart, Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.03.53 PM an old-fashioned plow for the fields, Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.06.01 PMor the Budweiser carriage in a parade. Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.07.37 PMGoats provide a source of dairy. Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.13.26 PM Cats help keep the vermin population down. Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.14.49 PM Dogs can guard, herd animals,Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.18.52 PMkeep down vermin population, hunt, and even rescue humans! Dogs assist the police and military. Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.19.35 PMDogs and miniature horses can be service animals to the disabled.Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.20.42 PM Animals are a truly amazing resource!

 

megan kastnerMegan Kastner
University of Illinois Student

APPLES AND PUMPKINS AND PIES, OH MY!

Can you believe it? It’s already the last day of September. It still feels like summer outside with some of the weather we have been having, but the cool mornings and combines in the fields tell me “IT’S FALL!” This calls for a trip to the apple orchard this weekend!

Apple cider, apple doughnuts, apple pie, apple crisp… BRING. IT. ON.

As much as all of those delicious apple treats make my stomach growl, I should point out that most apple orchards offer so much more than enjoyable treats. I always love to see parents bringing their kids to an apple orchard because it gives those kids (and maybe even some of the parents) their first hands-on experience with farming. Picking your own apples or pumpkins, navigating through corn mazes, climbing on the straw bales, petting zoos… all of these experiences can give people a link to farming.

So many people today have concerns about their food for one very basic reason: they don’t have any connection to farming. This lack of a connection often means a lack of understanding, which, in turn, can create concern about the way their food is grown. Creating a connection to farming can be something as simple as meeting a farmer, walking through a corn field, or even picking your own apples.

Obviously farming involves far more than climbing on straw bales and checking the pumpkin patch, so people aren’t going to gain a comprehensive understanding of what we do on their trip to the apple orchard. But their experience is real, it is tangible. If we can teach a person one thing about farming and they are eager and willing to listen, that is a “win” in my book.

I’m not saying that a trip to the apple orchard will solve the dilemma we face today… but it sure doesn’t hurt! Baby steps, people.

You can find me elbow-deep in the Honeycrisp Apple bin this weekend. I hope you all get a chance to make it to your local apple orchard this fall, too!

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
Membership Administrative Assistant

FARM PROGRESS SHOW A SUCCESS

This week has been a hot one for the IL Corn staff.  We’ve been outside all week, talking with Illinois farmers about their futures and what working together can accomplish at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur.

No matter what, the Farm Progress Show is always excrutiatingly hot or cold and rainy.  But we love being there because we love farmers.

The thing is, farmers tend to be solitary creatures.  I mean, you aren’t raised out in the middle of the country with your nearest neighbor a couple of miles away without developing a love of doing things on your own and being set apart.  But when it comes to legislative and regulatory concerns – things that could put farmers out of business – one farmer acting on his own just can’t get it done.

That’s why farmers have the IL Corn Growers Association and the IL Corn Marketing Board.  It’s a way to pool money, to accomplish things that are for the common good of all corn farmers.  We work to minimize regulations and paperwork farmers have to complete.  Farmers became farmers because they love being outside, not because they like sitting at a desk and doing paperwork.

We work to represent them in Congress on issues like crop insurance.  After all, it’s hard to keep a farm in the family when Mother Nature is working against you and destroys a year of hard work.

We help them create markets for their crops so that they can focus on providing yields and managing the resources in their care.  And we teach them how to talk about their story and their farm – how to share their story.  It is pretty important in this technological age after all.

So this week, we sat at the Farm Progress Show.  We talked to farmers about things coming up that they might want to think about.  We encouraged them to talk to their elected officials.  And we reminded them that their association always has their back.

It was a good week.

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

COME VISIT IL CORN AT THE FARM PROGRESS SHOW!

Are you going to the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, IL next week? If you are, stop by our tent to see us! Here are some of the things we are doing for the event this year:

Navigate the Farm Progress Show

IL Corn will feature a geocache contest during the Farm Progress Show which will allow you an opportunity to visit our partner companies, see the show, geocache, and enter to win an iPad!  Participants of all ages are welcome; FFA and 4-H students encouraged to participate and engage in this contest.

Click here for more information and contest rules.

Navigate through the muck of Regulations

We heard our membership say that the increasing number of government regulations was concerning to them.  Talk with our IL Corn staff about what you can do to help minimize the impact these burdensome regulations on your farm and hear about upcoming regulations that might impact you!

 

Navigate your way to a five-year Farm Bill

Fighting for a Farm Bill continues to be a top priority for IL Corn.  Make your voice heard by faxing your Congressman on site at the Farm Progress Show and letting him or her know how important a Farm Bill is to the future of your family farm.

Unsure of your Congressman?  Click here to determine your zip+4.  Then click here to use the zip+4 to discover your Congressman.

Navigate to the nearest E85 station

Based on the fall prices for corn right now, margins will be tight during the 2013 crop year.  Increase the demand for your product by fueling up with E85 in your flex fuel vehicle!

The American Lung Association will be on hand in the IL Corn tent with their E85 locator and some interesting information on ethanol blends.  You might even consider looking up whether or not your vehicle is flex fuel before you arrive!

IL Corn has even more educational opportunities for you at the Farm Progress Show.  Make sure to stop by, talk to your IL Corn staff, and pick up the free give-a-ways that we have for you.  You won’t be sorry!

FARMING & WATER QUALITY

It’s finally here! The month you have all been waiting for: Water Quality Month. Let’s celebrate our corn farmers for all of the things they do to improve the water quality on their farms, shall we?

Oftentimes, technology on the farm seems to raise concerns about the integrity of how our food is being grown. But in reality, technology helps farmers to do their job more efficiently and with more precision! This precision plays a huge role in a farmer’s ability to raise crops without having a negative impact on the environment.

One example of this is GPS and soil mapping technology. This technology has enabled farmers to apply the exact amount of fertilizer to specific areas of their field as needed. This way, over application is avoided. Less over application of nutrients means less nutrient runoff into waterways and streams. Here, some farmers from Illinois explain this technology to Chicago moms:

Stay tuned to learn more about farming and water quality!

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
Membership Administrative Assistant

ILLINOIS FARM COUPLES: JUSTIN AND RACHEL DURDAN

They say February is the season for love … and we’re celebrating by giving you a glimpse of five Illinois farm couples throughout the week!  These couples practice their love for each other and the land every day on their farms.  Get to know them and the work they love to do!

illinois farmers, love, valentines day, farm families

Justin and Rachel Durdan were married on March 19, 2010.  They have two kids, Ella and Ian, and enjoy travelling together.  In fact, they have just enjoyed a recent visit to Mexico!

The couple live in LaSalle County, IL where Justin has farmed since he was a little boy and finally joined the partnership in 2004.