TOP POSTS OF 2017 #3: A FARMER’S DAY VS A BUSINESSMAN’S DAY

[Originally published: October 16, 2017]

Corn husks and dust flying around in the air, the fresh smell of soil being turned over, and farm machinery is being spotted on every highway and backroad. If you haven’t guessed already, harvest time is in full swing. Sometimes it is quite easy for us to overlook what a day in the life of a farmer is like, especially during this time of year. As an individual that is not involved in the agriculture industry, it may be easy to not see how much a farmer’s life can vary compared to the average business person’s, particularly throughout the fall.

The average business person spends their eight hour work day sitting in a cubicle working on their computer. Mounds of paperwork lay on their desk just waiting to be completed. They eat lunch with their boss and wear office clothes all day long. The typical business person also talks on a phone throughout the day. After work, they may head home to their own spouse and kids to sit down for a family dinner. A non-farmer may even sit down with their kids and help them with their homework at the kitchen table. They may also go to different recreational events, such as a pumpkin patch or a football game, on the weekends and enjoy their time off of work.

Meanwhile, the average farmer watches the sun rise and set every day from the seat of a combine, tractor or semi. During a twelve or more hour work day, a farmer uses a computer in the cab of his or her farm machinery while wearing jeans and a shirt that are meant to get covered in dirt and grease. Lunch for a farmer is usually simple and easy to eat while continuing on with harvest. The most common type of communication used by a farmer throughout the day is a CB radio that allows them to easily talk to other people that are helping harvest the crop. As the day gets closer to the end, a farmer will enjoy a nice meal with his or her family on a tailgate. A farmer’s child may even climb up in the cab and ask to drive or simply just ride in the “buddy” seat. A farmer may also take their child for a ride in the semi as another load of grain gets taken into the grain elevator. There are no weekends off for a farmer during harvest unless Mother Nature calls for a rain delay, but even then a farmer will still find something that needs to be done.

Although their days may fulfill similar tasks as the average business person, a farmer makes several sacrifices to assure that the job of feeding the world is being accomplished. So, as you are driving to work or running errands make sure to wave and share the roads with every farmer that you see. Being involved in production agriculture isn’t an easy task and a lot of behind the scenes actions get overlooked. As you sit on the couch and watch TV tonight, remember that 2% of the population is just clocking out and getting ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Sierra Day
Lake Land College

TOP POSTS OF 2017 #2: WHAT IF YOUNG PEOPLE QUIT COMING BACK TO FARM?

[Originally published: October 17, 2017]

When I was growing up, I was told I could be anything I wanted to be. A doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, an astronaut…  But only a few kids ever mentioned being a farmer.

Prior to 1990, most farmers and ranchers were under the age of 45. As the years go on, most farmer and ranchers are OVER the age of 45, with less and less new blood coming in. The problem we are facing is we have an aging farming population. If left unchecked, this could threaten our ability to produce the food we need.

So why is it that the younger generations are not wanting to come back to the farm?

  • Youth want to be better educated to get good jobs.
  • Farming is mentally and physically exhausting.
  • Changing norms.
  • “It’s too expensive and risky.”

Farming has become a very risky business. There are many costs a farmer has to pay before receiving a check. The price of land has gone up, equipment prices are always on the rise, input prices have gone up, and commodity prices have been seeing ups and downs. Not to mention there is always that chance of droughts or floods.  It is hard work being a farmer.

The ups and downs of farming are nothing new. Young people just do not want to gamble all of their time and money into something that involves such great risk.

Like President John F. Kennedy once said, “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything retail, sells everything wholesale, and pays freight both ways.” It was a true statement then, and it certainly is a true statement still today.

Right now we are facing a growing population around the world. The current population of 7.3 billion is expected to hit 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050. We need more young men and women coming back to the farm more now than ever. Small farms are what grows America!

  • What if a college graduate comes back to the farm, with student loans and can’t make enough money to pay them back?
  • What if a young farmer loses his farm because he cannot afford to pay his bills?
  • What if young people quit coming back to the farm?
  • What if we don’t have enough food to feed the growing population?

Sara Pieper
Western Illinois University

TECHNOLOGY IMPACTING AGRICULTURE: GRAIN YIELD MONITORS

The world is constantly changing. New technology is introduced daily that makes people’s lives easier. The agriculture industry specifically uses new technology in many ways. Farming technology has come a long way from the horse and steel plow to autosteer tractors. Farmers take advantage of technology to help them be successful.

One specific piece of technology that helps farmers is a grain yield monitor. {Insert picture of grain yield monitor} A grain yield monitor is a device with sensors that calculates and records the crop yield or grain yield as the combine operates. The monitor measures the harvested grain mass flow, moisture content, and speed to determine how much grain is being harvested.

A grain yield monitor can be very beneficial to a farmer. Jeff Austman, a farmer from Livingston County, shared with me his thoughts on technology in agriculture and how it has helped his farming operation succeed. “I started farming in 1993 with minimal technology.” As time progressed and new technology emerged, Austman began using a grain yield monitor. The yield monitor collects data while the combine is running and automatically sends the yield map to Austman’s iPad for him to analyze.

By looking at the yield map, Austman discovered that a pond hole was causing lower yields in one part of the field. To fix the problem, he tiled the area. “By tiling that specific area,” explained Austman, “yields increased so much that the tiling project was almost completely paid off in one year.” The grain yield monitor allowed him to find areas that brought in the highest yields but also allowed him to improve areas that were less productive.

Austman is just one the of many farmers across the United States using technology in his farming operation. Technology plays a key role in enabling farmers to farm successfully. As time goes on, more and more technology will be introduced that will allow farmers to continue improving their operations.

Laine Honneger
University of Illinois

A YEAR-LONG FARMING SERIES

A new year begins next week. Did you know farmers are already thinking and planning for the next crop year? However, they’re not the only ones. Farm family members all have a part to play in the ecosystem of their family farm. Read a series that explores the farming year from a different perspective – from the spouse of a farmer.

A Year in the Life of a Farmer:

January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November

TAKE A VIRTUAL TOUR OF A FARMING SEASON

It’s the day after Christmas and we’re already thinking about the next farming season. Want to know what goes into a farming season in just a few short minutes? Check out virtual video series on farming!

#360Corn is a series of 360-degree videos featuring our own Illinois corn farmer, Justin Durdan.  Justin lets us plant corn with him, spray for pests, fertilize those little baby corn plants, and even harvest and sell his crop – all while we can look 360 degrees around the tractor cab, the farm and even the field.

Check out the entire experience here.

ETHANOL & YOUR CAR: A PRIMER

Have you ever stopped to think about the science that goes behind the gasoline that drives your car? If you’re anything like me- gears, engines, and any sort of chemistry don’t make the slightest bit of sense. When I go to the gas station, I swipe my card to get my ‘fuel points’, then always get the gas that is the cheapest. But, I’ve never really sat and thought about what makes up gasoline. How does this make my car run?

We’ll start simple. Corn is fermented to create a gasoline mixture. This is called ethanol. Most gasoline is made of 10% ethanol, and the majority of US cars can run on this amount. But, some cars are now being produced that can run on 100% ethanol fuel, which is better for the environment and uses less energy. Ethanol is a renewable source, unlike regular gasoline.

PEMBROKE PINES, FL – NOVEMBER 15: Gas pumps with a sign indicating the gas is containing up to 10 % ethanol are seen at Victory gas station on November 15, 2013 in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Today, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal to ease an annual requirement for ethanol in gasoline. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Ethanol is also known to have high amounts of octane. Octane is the power that makes your car go. The more octane you have, the more power there is for your car to run. Higher blends of ethanol offer more octane for the same amount of money. The Department of Energy states that having higher octane fuels are required for larger engines or ones that use more force.

The oil companies obviously want you to pay the ‘big dollars’ for high-dollar ‘aromatics’, which is a petroleum-based synthetic octane enhancer. They increase the octane, but are extremely harmful to the environment and are very expensive.

But, this is why we have ethanol.

The higher the ethanol content in your gasoline, the higher the amount of octane you have. This increases the power in your car, while also helping the environment. If car manufacturer increases the engine capacity of cars to be able to handle more ethanol content in cars, this can really help our environment. We can stop unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and increase the efficiency levels in our vehicles.

This only goes to show that agriculture really does “drive” everything forward. Ethanol is cheaper than gasoline, so why not try to produce more vehicles that have the capacity to not only help the environment but help us save some money at the pump every week.

Ashley Hauptman
Illinois State University

IS SNOW BAD FOR CROPS?

With the last few years of dry springs and summers, our crops are having a hard time getting the water they need. Just like us, they need water to prosper. Winter is coming (as they say in Game of Thrones) and with this comes usually heavy amounts of snowfall. In the Midwest last winter (fall of 2016 and spring 2017) we did not receive as much snow as years past. A lot of people wonder about dry fields does snow help the future crops or hurt them. 10 inches of snow only equals 1 inch of rain, it would take a lot of snow to make an impact. Just like driving to grandmas on Christmas to celebrate, snow can have some inconveniences too. (Insert photo of snowy field)

Snowfall can really dictate how things happen not only in agriculture but in life as well. Causing snow days and late days to work for parents is a huge impact. The snowfall can really help farmers during the spring. Even though snow can cause lots of issues for people getting to work and change of plans, it has helped farmers, especially during dry summers and fall.

Usually after harvest is complete most farmers till their fields to remove reused from other crops. Tilling is when farmers use a piece of equipment to dig into the land. When driving by fields you can tell if the field is tilled if the soil looks loose and more scattered across the top. (Insert photo of tilled field) This is a common thing to do once harvest is over to remove what is left from the crops before. The farmers who do not till their crops are at an advantage in this, the snowfall is better to be absorbed into the soil. This is important when thinking of crops such as winter wheat and how they need rainfall too. This is something that increases the water for the spring that will already be in the soil to help crops.

With snowfall comes tricky times for families. When living on a farm you have trouble with keeping animals warm and food out for them at all times. When you live in an urban area you have trouble with getting your car to work and making it to the store. We all face issues with snow big or small but they do impact agriculture. An industry that is very dependent on weather is easily disrupted by heavy amounts of snowfall and it can change the next season of crops.

Alison Heard
Southern Illinois University

ON #GIVINGTUESDAY, HERE’S WHO IL CORN GIVES TO …

Today is known as #GivingTuesday, a day where people are reminded of the importance of charitable giving. Yet, it can also be a good time to understand where money goes into any organization. That’s why IL Corn is using today to talk about where member contributions go.

Here’s the article: 

To celebrate #givingtuesday, we’re offering a bit of a different take on the idea.

Who does IL Corn give money to?

Granted, these are not charitable organizations and farmers do not invest their money in the Illinois corn checkoff because they want us to do charitable work (though we do SOME charitable work!).  These are the organizations we partner with and provide funds to, to help accomplish our mission of improving corn farmers’ profitability.

U.S. GRAINS COUNCIL: The U.S. Grains Council works all over the world to increase the amount of corn and corn co-products we can sell overseas.  USGC has offices in 10 different countries and enjoy working within those countries promoting U.S. corn, U.S. ethanol, and U.S barley and sorghum.  They encourage buyers to consider U.S. corn, they help settle trade disputes, and they create new markets overseas.  Overall, they build export market demand for Illinois corn which impacts your bottom line.

U.S. MEAT EXPORT FEDERATION: USMEF has a very similar mission to the U.S. Grains Council, only they specialize in marketing red meat overseas.  They also have many country offices, where USMEF employees pay attention to food trends and determine how U.S. beef and pork can fit into those trends.  They simply try to sell more U.S. red meat overseas and add value to each carcass.  With one out of every four hogs exported out of the U.S., this is a huge value opportunity.

U.S.A. POULTRY AND EGG EXPORT COUNCIL:  Ditto everything for U.S. Grains Council and USMEF, only for poultry and egg products.  Did you know that poultry consumes more corn than pork or beef?

NATIONAL CORN GROWERS ASSOCIATION: Certainly, IL Corn is interested in funding their national organization fully so that the corn industry can have a united voice nationwide.  NCGA represents the corn industry in marketing and PR efforts like Common Ground and U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, they conduct research that benefits the industry, and they are active in Washington, D.C.

ILLINOIS PORK PRODUCERS ASSOCIATION & ILLINOIS BEEF ASSOCIATION: Corn farmers are best served when their markets are vibrant and healthy.  IL Corn partners with IPPA and IBA on a myriad of projects and member service opportunities to support the livestock industry in Illinois.

AG IN THE CLASSROOM: The best way to impact the future is to educate future voters today when they are still young.  Ag in the Classroom partners with IL Corn to provide ag education to rural and non-rural schools through programs and presentations to students, free curriculum, and continuing education for teachers.  Because a vast majority of Americans are removed from the farm, this effort becomes increasingly important.

WATERWAYS COUNCIL INC: Years and years later, IL Corn is still working to get funding for upgraded locks and dams on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.  Waterways Council Inc is a coalition of all interested industries who want to build new locks and dams working together to obtain funding.  Investing in transportation is important for farmers who will save considerable money when efficiencies are realized.

IL Corn gives to other groups, organizations, and partnerships too!  These are but a sampling of the work that we are involved in, helping to make the corn industry in Illinois as profitable as possible for our farmers.

Thank you for the opportunity to work on your behalf!