ILLINOIS CORN’S CHRISTMAS LIST: PUBLIC AWARENESS

Illinois corn farmers are writing a letter to Santa; what’s on our list? Today we finish our Christmas list with the final item … public awareness! Thanks to Thomas Martin, SIU student, for this series focusing on IL Corn’s top priorities!

This week I’ve brought up four points that would strengthen the position of Illinois Family Farmers especially corn growers – investing in river transportation, keeping check on government regulation, getting benefits from an adequate Farm Bill, and progressing domestic fuels. In each case we returned to some foundational strategies such as education and public advocacy.

I know you are aware the Illinois Corn Marketing Board does wonders as a check-off association with research and promotion while the Illinois Corn Growers Association works tirelessly to compliment the ICMB and fill in gaps such as the more political reaches.

You may even be aware of some of the efforts that Illinois Corn has been pursuing to address the needs of all Illinoisans in understanding the role of corn and it’s potential. Over the past few years IL Corn has joined other commodity groups and the Illinois Farm Bureau to address the image of farming. The Illinois Farm Families initiative connects Chicago mothers with Illinois farmers and breaks down falsehoods, separations and assumptions. As I learned through my time in 4-H, FFA, PAS and FarmHouse – perception is reality regardless of the truth. We have an issue where people don’t believe that family farms exist anymore. We must show our neighbors that this is a baseless paradigm and that over 95% of Illinois farms are family farms.

Illinois Corn also has had a great program in the greater Chicago area to provide fresh produce for urban residents who live in food deserts without access to affordable fresh produce. These programs show a strong commitment to helping others and helping them to understand agriculture instead of just basing their opinions off of information from groups like HSUS, PETA, GreenPeace, etc.

We also see how the crew at Illinois Corn is ratcheting up this study of communication with their internship program, which allows college students the opportunity to manage social media pages independently and then collect data to determine strategies for improving the message of agriculture. This also provides a great experience for participants who learn about communication and evaluation.

These efforts even go a few steps further with sponsorship of Kenny Wallace in NASCAR and the Cornbelters Baseball team! NASCAR is picking up on the high-octane performance of ethanol and nothing says Central Illinois like corn and baseball! All of these impressive activities actively provide exposure for the work of farmers and additionally they provide data and experiences to further improve media strategies for the future.

The role of agricultural communications might be coordinated by those with degrees in it but the responsibility of communicating agriculture falls on everyone’s shoulders. We must communicate to our neighbors. We must communicate with those in urban and suburban areas. We must communicate with our elected officials and we must be heard! We must pursue ways, both traditional and innovative, to reach out to new and old audiences and engage the public in a deep and meaningful understanding of their food, fiber, fuel, horticultural products and more!

We need to support programs that provide such skill sets such as 4-H and FFA for youth; PAS, our agricultural fraternities and sororities and other collegiate groups and organizations like the Farm Bureau Young Leaders for young farmers. We need to participate actively in commodity groups like Illinois Corn Growers, as well as generalized farm organizations like the Farm Bureau. We need to seek out opportunities and develop them for others. We need to be prepared to show Aunt Caroline the light when she rants about factory farms at the dinner table this Christmas. We need to Agvocate!

Santa, how about helping the public understand more about farmers this Christmas?

Thomas Martin, Raymond, IL
Senior in Agricultural Systems
Southern Illinois University

Read about the other items on our Christmas list:
1. Upgraded Locks and Dams
2. Less Government Regulation
3. Improved Risk Management Tools
4. Ethanol Infrastructure

FAMOUS QUOTE WEEK: “NO MAN HAS A MORAL RIGHT TO WITHHOLD HIS SUPPORT …”

In many ways, farmers are traditionalists. Most of the old tried and true values and systems seem to work best on the farm, with a hint of modern and technology thrown in. This week on Corn Corps, we will use famous quotes spouting historical wisdom from even more famous Americans as a platform to tell you more about Illinois corn farmers and agriculture.

“Every man owes a part of his time and money to the business or industry in which he is engaged.  No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.”  ~Theodore Roosevelt

Definitely times have changed since Mr. Roosevelt first uttered this quote.  People seem less interested in gathering together with others in their industry or profession and more interested in sending an email or a text.  We’re too busy to participate, too tired to contribute, and too stressed to offer solutions.  Our finances are stretched then.

In the farming community, our numbers are dwindling since Roosevelt’s time.  Now with fewer than 2 percent of the U.S. population growing food for the world, I would argue that we don’t have the benefit of excuses.  Farmers simply can’t shirk away from contributing thinking that someone else will do it.  They can’t afford to be too busy and they can’t dream of not participating.

On the other hand, farmers also can’t miss the window of opportunity to get their crops in the ground to attend a meeting.  They can’t be late for milking because of a conference call.  They can’t skip a sunny day perfect for field work to chat with their Congressman in town.

But they do.  More than 4,000 farmers in Illinois belong to the Illinois Corn Growers Association.  Every single one of them makes a sacrifice to support the industry in which they are engaged.  Even more of them donate meaningful time, leaving their families at home to care for the farm, to determine research initiatives, legislative goals, and educational initiatives to better the agricultural industry in Illinois and the U.S.

By default, they better your lives too.  In the farmer’s quest to preserve his land for future generations, the non-farmer receives more wholesome food and a better earth to live on.  In the farmer’s quest to make better farm policy, you receive food security unknown by millions around the world.  While a farmer thoughtfully researches new markets for his crop, you receive food, fiber and fuel that using renewable resources that often lower your costs and reinvest in your country.

As a non-farmer, you benefit daily from the farmer’s devotion to his industry, his business, his lifestyle.  Are you as committed to bettering the world around you as he is?

And if you’re a farmer reading this, are you doing your part?

American apathy abounds.  I urge you to get engaged in something, find someone to help, find something to work for.  Mr. Roosevelt argues that it is a moral issue; I tend to agree.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICMB/ICGA Marketing Director

Have you checked out the ICGA Annual Report focused around this Roosevelt quote?

FAMOUS QUOTE WEEK! “DO WHAT YOU CAN …”

In many ways, farmers are traditionalists.  Most of the old tried and true values and systems seem to work best on the farm, with a hint of modern and technology thrown in.  This week on Corn Corps, we will use famous quotes spouting historical wisdom from even more famous Americans as a platform to tell you more about Illinois corn farmers and agriculture.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” While this statement is rather vague and could be applied in many different ways, I believe this statement best applies to farmers and agricultural practices. Some farmers have had their share of difficult harvests – where a drought or too much rain has ruined their crops. Other farmers think of themselves as the “lucky” ones with that perfect plot of land that has a good yielding crop every year. Regardless, farmers do the best that they can, with what they have, no matter where they are.

Farmers actively help others with their many available resources. We all know that agriculture is important for many reasons, but farmers realize that what they do has the potential to help those who need it. One example of this is the City Produce Project. Along with Syngenta, Monsanto and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, dozens of farmers worked together and grew sweet corn on their farms that was eventually donated to underprivileged families around Illinois.

farm, corn, pick up truck, food pantry
Farmers hand-picked a field of sweet corn to take to the local food bank this summer. Here, the bed of a pick-up truck is filled to nearly overflowing!

The City Produce Project worked to address the growing concerns associated with poor eating habits, food insecurity, obesity and diabetes by providing locally grown, fresh farm produce to those in low income communities. The farmers who participated in the project used their sweet corn to support local food pantries, soup kitchens and other programs that donate food to those in need. In its first year, the program generated 75,000 pounds of produce to inner city programs. The recipients of this food also enrolled in nutrition education programs to learn how to effectively use the fresh produce in their diets.

The Illinois Pork Producers also did their part to give back to those in need. The Pork Producers partnered with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and the Illinois Soybean Association to donate to Illinois families who need it through the Pork Power Program. This program used the donation of hogs to be donated to local food pantries. The Pork Power Program also accepted cash donations, which were used for the purchase of pork. The program was highly successful and donated nearly 500,000 meals to families in Illinois.

While these programs are just two of the many food fundraising initiatives happening around the nation and the state, all have one goal of providing food to those who need it. They also work to raise awareness and provide learning opportunities to families.

There are many ways to donate to programs like this, but farmers use what resources they already have, to successfully help those around them. Farmers and those in the agricultural industry realize that they have the ability to provide food for families who need it most by simply using what they already have within Illinois. You don’t have to be a farmer to be involved in a program like this. Anyone can use the resources available to them to help others. Just simply remember to do the best that you can, with what you have, where you are.

Nichole Wright
ISU Student

HELPING OTHERS SIMPLY IN A FARMERS NATURE

Never let it be said that farmers aren’t generous.

Carol Bolander’s story received national news attention last week and you can see more about it below.  But when people are down and out, farmers are the first to rise to the occasion and show up in droves to help.  Sort of brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?

And more recently, actually just yesterday, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Illinois Soybean Association, and Illinois Pork Producers Association (more or less a community of Illinois’s farmers) donated their 1 millionth serving of pork to the Midwest Food Bank here in Bloomington, IL. You can read more about that here.

Thing is, farms have changed.  They will continue to change.  Farming is a business that must compete with changing economies, global markets, and new technologies.  But farmers haven’t changed.

Farmers still invest in their communities.  They help each other out.  They send more of their sons to war to defend our country than their urban cousins.  They pull together to face challenges and serve their neighbors whatever the need.

Farmers are a constant in a world full of change.  And that’s one reason why I love them.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

THANKFUL FOR FARM FAMILIES: ALWAYS TIME FOR FAMILY

In November, Americans focus on thankfulness: for their country, their blessings, and their families. At Corn Corps, we’re going to focus on being thankful for our FARM families and the laughs and lessons they provide.

Twenty-one year old Tony Weber from Newton, Illinois has grown up on a third generation corn and soybean farm.  Tony is the youngest of eight children.

When Tony was younger some of his chores around the farm included mowing the grass, helping drive a tractor or combine, and cleaning out grain bins. “When I was nine years old my dad let me get behind the wheel of a Case Combine.”

The Weber family farm is a little different than other. They use both John Deere and International Harvester equipment.

Working on the farm brought Tony and his siblings closer together. “Sundays have always been family days. We all go to church together, and then we go to my Mom and Dad’s house for brunch. In the summers we have ‘Pond Parties’ where we all get together and swim and grill out.”

weber family farm, newton, IL, agricultureTony is a senior studying Plant and Soil Science with a minor in Agri-Business Economics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. As a December graduate, Tony plans to pursue a career in Ag Sales and then eventually work his way back into farming. “Farming is cool where I’m from! Newton is definitely considered a farming community.”

“One of the main things I enjoy most about farming is getting to working outside. I also believe that working with my parents and siblings on the farm is what has kept our family bond so strong.”

Illinois Corn Marketing Board InternJenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student

THANKFUL FOR FARM FAMILIES: LOVIN’ THE HOLIDAYS

In November, Americans focus on thankfulness: for their country, their blessings, and their families.  At Corn Corps, we’re going to focus on being thankful for our FARM families and the laughs and lessons they provide. 

Elizabeth (Allen) James grew up on a 265 acre agricultural farm in southern Illinois that has now been recognized as a Sesquicentennial farm. The Allen farm started in 1848 in Buncombe, Illinois where her family raised horses, cattle, sheep, hogs, chickens, and grain. Elizabeth’s father never had a tractor so when it came time for harvesting the crops he would use a little ‘horse’ power. The grain that they grew on their farm went to feeding their livestock and some of their neighbor’s livestock as well.

Elizabeth’s chores started out by milking the cows, gathering eggs, and feeding livestock. Once she realized that milking cows wasn’t for her she took on head role of gathering eggs and housework.

illinois family farm evergreen trees holiday agritourismAround 25 years ago Elizabeth and her husband Harold decided to start up a little project of growing Christmas trees. “I figured it’d be a good project for the grandkids and a nice family project as well,” Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth started selling her first crop of Christmas trees out of her car where she would hand clean them for her customers. Once the family business started to expand her car operation got moved back home where customers were now starting to come to the family farm to pick out their own Christmas tree.

“Christmas time along with the Christmas sales is my favorite time of year because we get to meet new people and hear about their family stories and traditions. They explain to us what they want in a tree, how they want it cut, and the shape. It’s just a happy time of year!”

The Allen farm is a true definition of a family farm – Elizabeth and her husband Harold work closely with the rest of their family which consists of two sons along with their wives, and five grandchildren. Each family member has a specific role on the farm.

Illinois farm family christmas picture tree“The farm keeps us together and involved as a family. It’s taught the grandkids a lot of responsibility as well.”

People from all over the state of Illinois as well as parts of Kentucky have traveled to the Allen Farm to pick out their very own Christmas tree. “People like to come and roam around and get the farm and family experience.”

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Intern

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student