BILL LONG, FRANKLIN, ILLINOIS FARMER

Introducing Bill Long, a Franklin, Illinois farmer, a director for the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, a father of four boys and a grandpa of seven grandsons.

Bill is proud of the fact that he’s a fourth generation farmer, looking forward to passing his farm onto his second son, and that he’s made a career out of the job he loves. Want to get to know an Illinois corn farmer? Click play!

AGRI-TOURISM GOES VIRTUAL

We learn more when we have a first hand experience.

This fact is really just a matter of common sense really.  You learned math as a kid by manipulating blocks or coins.  You learned how to drive by driving.  You learned how the world works by whatever “hard-knock” experience you had as a teenager or young adult.

The same goes for the farm.  If we want people to understand the truth about food production and how farmers farm, our best option is to give them a first hand experience.  Except with less than two percent of the public actually farming, it becomes difficult to provide the other 98 percent who would be tourists an actual experience on the farm.

So, we go virtual.

Illinois Farm Families are trying to provide virtual on-farm experiences to interested city-dwellers on their site, www.watchusgrow.org.  Have you checked it out?

Here’s a taste – do any of these videos answer your questions?

Click here to virtually tour a beef farm and a pork farm. Each video is around 3 minutes. Think of what you could learn in the next hour!

NEVER SAY NEVER

“I will never marry a hog farmer.”

Well, you know what they say, NEVER say never.pigs, hog farm, Illinois farmers, livestock

My Aunt Megan grew up as what I suppose you’d call a “city girl.”  She had no interest in raising livestock or working on a farm.  But, it just so turned out, the good Lord had indeed chosen a hog farmer as her mate, and that man just happened to be my Uncle Fred.  Her family finds great pleasure in never letting her forget the insistent declaration that she would never live on a hog farm and the fact that things turned out quite the contrary.  Life is full of surprises, and I think that’s a good thing.  We sure love having Megan in our family, and she had found it a blessing to be a farm wife.

farmers, livestock, Illinois pig farmOne dreary, rainy Sunday afternoon, I walked down the familiar gravel path at the farm my grandparents had lived at during my childhood to the farrowing house, the building housing the mother pigs and their babies. The door of the house opened and out came Aunt Megan in her polka-dot “hog boots” (rubber rain boots) holding a baby pig wrapped up in her sweatshirt.  The poor little thing was sick, and she was taking it to the house to nurse it back to health.

As I walked with her to the truck, we talked about life and how it has changed for her.  Before falling in love with my uncle, she would have spent this dismal afternoon curled up on the couch with a good book, or perhaps scrap-booking.  Now, she works alongside her husband doing chores.  It’s work that has to get done and she welcomes the chance to spend time with him. farmer, hog farm, Illinois

“It gives him a chance to tell me about something he knows a lot about,” she says.

For Fred and Megan, life is a team effort.  They’re in it together, whether that means   packing up supper and delivering it to the field or caring for newborn piglets.

Farm life is an adjustment.  So much of it depends on weather and other things a person has no control over, which mean the schedule is irregular and unpredictable. Even so, it’s also a worthwhile adventure.  There are lots of new experiences and things to learn.

Illinois farmers, farmLiving on a hog farm also means lots of pork.  Prior to meeting Fred, Megan hadn’t cooked a lot of pork, but now she has a collection of recipes for pork chops, pork loin, and other pork products.  She shared one of her latest favorites.                                                              

Boneless Pork Chops with Mushrooms and Thyme

10 oz pork, boneless loin chops, 2-5oz center cut chops, trimmed, 1/4″ thick
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium shallot minced
1 1/2 cups mushrooms (sliced)
1/2 cup dry vermouth or unsweetened apple juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp thyme

Sprinkle Pork Chops with salt and pepper.  Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat.  Add the pork chops and cook until browned on both sides and cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side.  Transfer to 2 serving plates; tent with foil to keep warm!

Swirl oil into the pan, add shallot, and cook, stirring until soft about 30 seconds.  Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften and begin to brown about 2 minutes.  Add vermouth/juice and cook for 15 seconds.  Stir in mustard, thyme, and any juices that have accumulated from the pork; cook until the sauce is thickened and slightly reduced, 1-2 minutes more.  Spoon the sauce over the pork chops and serve immediately.

Also good for leftovers too!

Danielle Robinson
University of Illinois student

MEET PAUL TAYLOR … AGAIN!

Paul and Barbara Taylor, corn, cats, kittensWe’re already back in full swing, shooting farmer videos so you can meet the farmers growing Illinois corn.  In fact, today, we’re headed to Utica, Illinois to learn more about one of our volunteers!  For a special Friday Photo Flashback, please remember our visit to Paul Taylor’s farm in Esmond, IL and watch this video again!

Meet Paul Taylor!

PLANTING PROGRESS

Farmers like to talk about field conditions and planting progress.  In fact, agriculture is such an art form, that it is interesting to read about different farmer philosophies.  You’ll notice below that our board members like to update each other on planting conditions all over the state and they also over commentary on what other farmers in their areas are doing.

In reality, there is a lot behind each and every farmer’s decisions on when to plant, how to manage their crops, what varieties to plant, and more.  Research plays a huge part in decisions like crop rotations and timing, but the farmer’s past experiences are important too.  Read on for some insight into the mind of an Illinois farmer.

April 7: “Planting pace has been pretty steady in Southern Illinois. We have a little over one third of our corn planted. Lots of folks down here are done with corn. A few beans have went in I heard but the cool weather will hold us out. Wheat has headed and doesn’t want to be below 30 for more than 2 hrs. Wheat harvest should be in the first week of June, about two weeks early.”  Jeff Scates – Shawneetown, IL

April 7: “As of this evening I am half done with corn. A couple of neighbors are done an several are waiting till Monday after Easter to start. Our high ground is very dry but decent moisture most places. Some of those that cultivated out winter annuals or leveled corn on corn ground now must wait for rain before planting as that ground really dried out. Radar shows rain here now but there is nothing getting to the ground.”  Jim Reed – Monticello, IL

(Some farmers plant winter annuals or leave corn stubble from their previous year’s crop in their fields to help hold in moisture and keep top soil from eroding.)

April 8: “We are 15% completed on the Hudson Farm. I planted my partner’s corn first – he is done.  I heard of one farmer that is done with corn and beans.  We were too dry also, until Thursday. We got 1/2″ to 1 1/4″ of rain. This was quite a relief to those that planted in dry dirt.”  Gary Hudson – Hindsboro, IL

(Soybeans are a little less tolerant of cold weather and easily die if a frost hits, so most farmers will still wait to plant soybeans even though the corn is being planted so much earlier than usual.)

April 8: “People are just starting here. I started a field today, but had the usual bugs to work out of the operation. I am hearing most people will hit it hard on Monday.”  Jeff Jarboe – Loda, IL

(When your equipment has been in the shed for the winter, sometimes it takes a day or two to get equipment running properly.  Even a farmer’s hired help – if he or she has them – might need a day to get back into the swing of things!)

April 8: “We plan to start Monday. We really need a little rain.”  Rob Elliott – Cameron, IL

April 10: “Tuesday now & I saw my first planter in the field this morning.  I know planting had been done but I had not seen a corn field planted until today.  Most of my buddies are waiting; not sure for what.  Very dry.  No significant rain here for past 3 1/2 weeks.  Below freezing last two mornings.”  Paul Taylor – Esmond, IL

WHAT’S ILLINOIS DOING WITH TWO CORN ORGANIZATIONS?

Yes, it’s true.  Illinois does have two corn organizations.  The Illinois Corn Growers Association and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board are both housed under this roof in Bloomington, IL.

Each have very different functions.

The Illinois Corn Growers Association is a membership organization.  Illinois corn farmers pay dues to be a part of our association and the Association lobbies in Washington, DC and Springfield, IL on their behalf.  The ICGA concerns themselves with issues like Farm Bill negotiations in Washington, DC, regulations that prevent farmers from farming the best and most efficient way, and providing information on candidates and their agricultural platforms to help our members make informed voting decisions.  We also work on educating our members on key issues and calling them to action when needed.

The Illinois Corn Marketing Board administers the Illinois corn checkoff.  A checkoff is a system for Illinois corn farmers to pool their money to promote their product.  Just like a business would have a marketing and promotion budget, most of the major commodities grown in the US have a checkoff.

In Illinois, every time a farmer markets a bushel of corn, he or she pays 3/8 of a cent into the Illinois corn checkoff.  In 2012, we estimate that amount will be roughly $7 million.  The Illinois Corn Marketing Board then allocates that $7 million into projects that better the Illinois corn industry.

As an example, a new crop insurance product is available for Illinois farmers in 2012 that saves them significant premium costs.  The product was created, researched, submitted for approval, and now offered to farmers with the corn checkoff funds that each farmer donated.

The Illinois Corn Marketing Board works on issues like building new markets for corn, talking about corn farmers and corn farming to non-farmers, and helping corn move more efficiently into the marketplace.

Want to know more about what both organizations are doing?  Check us out at www.ilcorn.org!

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

WHAT DO A BUNCH OF CORN FARMERS DO IN WASHINGTON, DC?

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on Olmsted Locks and Dam, you might wonder … what else do a bunch of corn farmers do in Washington, DC?

It’s true.  In some respects, thirty corn farmers might not really fit in Washington, DC.  For one, we’re much more polite than a majority of folks in their own worlds walking to and from work, and we tend to take cabs more often than the metro.  But, we don’t hit the streets of DC in our work boots like some of you might think!

Illinois corn farmers visit washington DC, congressional delegation

We spend the first afternoon briefing on all our issues. Washington, DC is a town that changes VERY rapidly and often our issues are moving, changing, and taking on a life of their own so IL Corn staff and other experts have to bring the farmers up to speed on the progress.

The first full day and half of the second are spent working particular issues with government agencies, non-governmental organizations and other associations. As an example, one group of farmers will focus on trade, visiting a handful of key country’s embassies and discussing how we can better supply our customers with the products they want.

The rest of our time is spent visiting Congressional offices. Every Illinois Congressman gets a request from us, whether they are a rural legislator that already mostly “gets” our issues or an urban legislator who’s never seen the farm. During this visit, we will talk with each and every Congressman (along with Senator Durbin and Senator Kirk) about preserving the Renewable Fuels Standard, negotiating a Farm Bill that keeps our top priorities in mind, and addressing the need for upgraded locks and dams.

By the time we head home, all of us are exhausted but exhilarated at the process that *is* our federal government.  Heading to Washington, DC is certainly a challenge, but for our farmer leaders, they understand that the challenge is one they must take in order to keep family farming alive for the generations that follow.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

WOMEN IN AGRICULTURE

Many women believe that the agriculture industry is mostly for men. However, what most women do not realize is that the percentage of women in the agriculture industry continues to increase almost every day. Women’s roles on the farm have increased greatly over the last 25 years. Research has shown that since the 1980’s, women now run about 14 percent of nation’s farms. And with the increasing about of females sparking an interest in agriculture, this number will only get larger overtime. What should make women feel better about their roles on the farm is that you do not have to be married to a farmer, with the stereotypical title of a “farmer’s wife”. Since 2002, America has seen a 32 percent increase in female-operated farms, which goes to show just how important a woman’s role in agriculture truly is! Most of these farm operations are small, where women simply grow food and raise livestock.

Along with raising children and tending to duties inside the home such as cooking and laundry, women also tend to chores outside. Some duties include feeding animals such as livestock, swine, goats, etc, scooping manure, raking straw, cleaning stalls, and many other chore.  Females are also having an increasing role during planting and harvest season. From operating a combine, to driving a grain truck, these jobs are no longer seen only fit for a man!

However, a woman’s role in agriculture does not only pertain to the farm. Even small things such as growing a garden or owning horses are hobbies that women, as well as men like to do, that are agriculture related.

Agriculture is not only increasingly in rural areas, but in urban areas as well. Seed corporations such as Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Syngenta are increasingly stressing the need for females in their company. Positions such as sales, marketing and business planning, advertising and corporate communications are areas that these corporations, as well as smaller companies, are increasingly looking for women to fill. This goes to show that agriculture truly is more than just “cows, plows and sows”! Women in other countries who make our clothing are contributing to the agriculture industry as well.

Women are needed in the agriculture industry now, more than ever. According to the 2011 Hunger Report, “the low social, economic, and political status of women in many parts of the developing world, particularly rural women, contributes to high rates of food insecurity and malnutrition”. Also, the average farm held by women is only 40 acres, while the average stretch farmed by men is more than three times as large, with 149 acres. But with number of females taking an interest in agriculture, this number is sure to grow over the next few years. The number of females majoring in some area of agriculture in our nation’s universities growers a little every few years, as does the number of females going back to the family farm in hopes of one day managing it.

Every day, women, as well as men are making a difference and improving modern day agriculture. With roles on the farm and in corporate offices increasingly demanding a woman’s attention, you can be sure to see many more females out on the form or in the office, trying to make a difference in today’s agriculture industry!

Baylee Kirk
Southern Illinois University

LETTER OF APPRECIATION

In life’s hectic day-to-day grind, we all probably take many things, and people, for granted.  It’s easy to do.  This week is National Write a Letter of Appreciation Week, so take a few minutes today and think about something, or someone, you’d like to show appreciation for and write a letter.  Here’s mine:

Dear Farmer – more specifically – Dad,

Growing up on a family farm, life wasn’t always easy or ‘fair’.  I wasn’t able to run down the street to play with my friends after school or on many weekends like the rest of the kids in my class.  You expected me to be at home helping in the garden, in the field mowing hay, or in the pasture checking cows.  And you didn’t pay me for doing these things.  If I wanted to buy something extra, then I had to earn the money for it.  Summers of my youth were spent detasseling and baling hay.  Once I hit sixteen, I worked part-time outside of the farm.  You were always there for me and supplied me with the necessities, but if I wanted more, I was expected to earn it myself.      

I wasn’t able to have all the coolest, up-to-date clothes that other girls in my class sported.  Mom took us shopping at Farm & Fleet and we got the Wranglers that were on sale.  Boots were handed down from older siblings, it didn’t matter if they were boys or girls, we wore what fit. 

While my town friends were sleeping in or watching Saturday morning cartoons, we were working cattle before the heat set in for the day.  Sometimes even being woke up in the middle of the night to round up cattle that got out.

You know what though… I wouldn’t change it for anything.  Life on the farm taught me many lessons that I have carried with me into adulthood.

–          Determination and Commitment – When I got bucked off a horse, the world didn’t stop turning for me, I had to get right back on and ride.  You taught me that when something isn’t going right, you don’t give up, you dig your heels in and finish the job. 

–          Roll with the Punches –  Things don’t always go as expected on a farm… you’ve got a 30 acre field of hay cut and an unexpected thunderstorm rolls in, or a heifer is having problems calving at 2 in the morning, you’ve got to deal with the obstacles as they come at you, not everything can be done by the book…. Not so different than the hurdles I face in life now.

–          Caring – Farmers care about the welfare of their sources of livelihood – the livestock and the land – like no other profession I’ve ever come across.  You taught me this.  How many corporate folk do you know that would go out in the driving rain and sleet to help a downed cow?  I can’t name any.  That’s part of a farmer’s job though.  You care about the quality of life of your animals and that extends to caring about others as well.  When a neighboring farmer is going through a hard time and needs help getting the crops in, we helped.  You don’t stand by and watch others struggle, you do what you can to lift them up.

–          Respect – You taught me to respect my elders, the land and the animals we raised.  Without them, we wouldn’t have anything. 

–          Be Independent and Work Hard– You can’t rely on others for everything.  You taught me that if I wanted something I had to work for it and do it myself.  There wasn’t going to be any magical Fairy Godmother to wave her wand and pay for my first car or my college tuition.  You taught me how to change a tire so I wouldn’t have to be stuck on the side of the road waiting for help. 

This is just a short list of the things you taught me, but what I’m really trying to say is, thank you Dad, from the bottom of my heart.  I appreciate all the lessons learned and quality time spent together.   Without you and Mom showing me the ropes of farm life, I don’t think I would be the person I am today.  And to all the other farm parents who have created such an amazing environment in which to raise their families, you are appreciated.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

THROUGH THE LENS OF A FARM GIRL

It’s Video Week on Corn Corps! We are 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 new Facebook page Keeping it Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl.  As the creator of this page, Erin Ehnle hopes to provide a wide open door to the world of agriculture, as it happens right here in central Illinois. She’s a farm girl and photographer all rolled into one. As a result, her page combines the art of photography with the happenings around her agriculture-based community.

In her first video, she features Kristi, who is the 6th generation to live on her family’s farm!