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

ILLINOIS FARM FAMILY: RECONNECTING THE FARM AND CITY

This week is Farm-City Week! It’s all about reconnecting the two and making an effort to inform the public about the importance of agriculture. As an intern for the Illinois Corn Marketing Board this semester, I have made it a new goal of mine to bring together the city population and farm population and help others learn the importance of farming! This week fits particularly well to my intern project, since I am in charge of the “Friend a Farmer” Facebook page. I use this page to help facilitate conversation between farmers and an urban population- so looking at organizations that also do this was right up my ally! After looking over various different programs, I came across one which fits particularly well for this week’s purpose: The Illinois Farm Family.

The Illinois Farm Family strives to follow their three commitments: (1) Showing you how they grow food. (2) Answering your questions about farms, farmers, and farming. (3) Sharing with you what really happens on today’s Illinois farms. Their website features a variety of different resources such as a “Meet Our Farmers” portion where visitors can read more about different farm families and view videos about their experience. Viewers can also visit their blog and check out their videos of farm tours. The public is welcome to send in their questions and get them answered by someone from the organization.  Speaking as someone with a smaller agriculture background, I found this site to be incredibly interesting and helpful for some unanswered questions I had.

After thoroughly investigating the site, I think the coolest part that I found was their “Field Mom” program. It features groups of city moms that are selected to tour their farms and share their experiences. They use videos, pictures, and stories about what they learn. It allows a different point of view to share their opinions on farming and brings together the farm-city aspect! Moms can even apply to be a “Field Mom!” It was so interesting to see where each of these moms comes from and what their agricultural background was like. It shows a completely different point of view on farming.

Programs such as the Illinois Farm Family, are exactly what we need to help educate others on the importance of farming and where our food comes from. Living in a more urban environment, as made me realize how few people from the city have a basic knowledge of farming and agriculture. It’s up to us to help build a relationship between the two groups.  We have to utilize organizations such as these and help them grow. By spreading the word about agriculture and farming and getting more involved in organizations such as these, we are greatly helping the farming community. I encourage each and every one of you to have conversations with others about your views on farming and why you view it as important. Get involved with the Illinois Farm Family and make a commitment to bettering our community! Be sure to visit their website to learn more: www.watchusgrow.org

Lauren Gress

Northern Illinois University Student

JIM KINSELLA, LEXINGTON, WINS ICGA ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD

Jim Kinsella will receive ICGA’s Environmental Award on November 22 in Bloomington, IL at the ICGA Annual Meeting.  The Illinois Commodity Conference will follow.  Join us!

Farming practices and methods have been constantly changing throughout history in order to make farming easier, more efficient, safer, etc. One of the biggest concerns today is achieving all of these things while caring for our environment. This is why farmers who have gone above and beyond in caring for the environment with their farming practices are being recognized.

Jim Kinsella, a farmer from Lexington, IL, is receiving an environmental award for his practice of no till, willingness to teach others about this method, and his role in the conception of strip tillage. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and a master’s degree in soil science, Jim had a full time job but eventually decided to come back to the farm and work with his father.

No till was an idea that Jim brought back to the farm with him. He thought this would be a good idea because it would save time and money in the field, but he had also learned that this practice has many positive impacts on the environment. The farm adopted this practice and had great success with it in their soybean fields, but the corn was always slow to start.

In 1983, Jim noticed how much taller and more successful the corn that had grown in the anhydrous tracks was. From this observation, Jim began working with companies like DMI and Progressive to create what we now know as a strip tiller. Today, Jim continues to practice no till with his soybean fields and uses the strip till method for his corn.

Jim did not stop at practicing no till and strip tillage on his own farm. He saw an interest in these practices from the farmers in the area, but there were few resources’ where these farmers could find information. Jim took the initiative to set up a workshop on his own farm and invite other farmers to come learn about no till and its benefits to the farmer as well as the environment. Since then, Jim estimates that 90,000 farmers have come to his workshops, including my own family who now practices no till and strip tillage on our own farm in DeKalb, IL!

The agriculture industry benefits greatly from people like Jim Kinsella, who are willing to not only change the practices on their own farm, but also to educate others about what they are doing in order to make a bigger impact on the environment. Thank you Jim for all of your hard work and willingness to help others better their farming practices!

To learn more about strip tillage, see my video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liMNPb6LLxo.

Rosie Sanderson
ISU Student

 

THANKFUL FOR FARM FAMILIES: GENERATIONS OF MEMORIES

In November, American’s 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. 

I was raised on a farm and very much value what I had while growing up in the sticks.  For this post I was going to share some of my cherished memories, but decided to instead focus on what my Dad and his siblings learned and the antics they were up to!

My dad, Bob, grew up on a livestock farm in McLean, Illinois, with his four younger siblings, Susan, Marcia, and twins Jack & Jill.  With my grandparents, Carl and Dorothy, they raised beef cattle, hogs, chickens, and sheep and grew corn, soybeans and alfalfa.  I can never get enough of hearing the stories they have to share, here are a few:

Bob:
When I sit and think about my favorite memories, it occurs to me that most of them involve animals… and me being ornery.  One specific incident with skunks comes to mind.  I was mowing hay with a sickle mower and the tractor I was using didn’t have a good seat so we fashioned up a wadded up gunny sack for a cushion.  With every pass I made, I could see a momma skunk with her babies hanging out on one end of the field.  As it was getting close to noon, I started to drive the tractor home for dinner, I decided that those babies would make some pretty good pets, so I stopped and picked up two of them and put them in the gunny sack.  When I got home, Mom was standing on the side walk.  I walked right up to her with a big smile on my face holding the sack of skunks and said, “Guess what I got!?”  She could smell them before I even got half-way up the walk and was none too happy about it.  I put them in a rabbit cage, but the next morning they had escaped.  I’m guessing they might have had a little help. 

We had one ram that was really mean, I mean downright MEAN.  One time I was out feeding the sheep and the ram started to chase me, I jumped up on a rack of wood and was stuck, he wouldn’t let me down.  After a while, I started throwing 2×4’s at him to get him to leave and he just deflected them with his head.  I remember being up there for a long time before getting down, but I can’t remember how exactly I was finally able to.    

When I was in grade school we had a really gentle Angus bull.  He wasn’t bottle-raised but you wouldn’t have known it, he acted more like a pet than a bull.  Whenever we moved the cows I would just jump up on his back and ride him!   

Jill:
There are so many great memories it’s hard to just pick a few, but I do vividly remember Jack holding my hand while he held on to the electric fence, that was a real hoot!  I also remember having to bottle feed a calf that we named Bobby.  This was during the time Bob was in Vietnam, thus his namesake!

A simple, but favorite memory was playing in the haymow with new kittens.  I loved my time doing that!  Living in the country we didn’t have close neighbors, but I did like to ride my bike up to my friend’s house which was on the other end of the country block. 

Susan:
A very important lesson learned was to never go near an electric fence with Bob… I can remember him sticking my foot on the electric fence when we were with our Dad out checking the fences.

Some of the days spent working were also some of the most fun, we spent many hours riding on the hayrack wagon stacking hay as we baled and then sending them up in the barn and stacking them yet again.  While this doesn’t sound like much ‘fun’, we also played up in the barn a lot.  We had ropes tied to the beams and would swing across from one bale pile to another.
 
I remember all of our 4-H projects.  From planting flowers in the garden, in fact they were marigolds and I planted them in the design of 4-H, to our cattle for showing.  Bob always had the one with the curly hair and mine was always straight.   I tried to make waves on mine with the curry comb.  We fed them their feed mixed with STICKY molasses.  And I of course can’t forget breaking them to lead.   Sometimes I didn’t know whether the cattle or the tractor was going to win.

Mom would always have fried chicken for us on Sunday Dinners.  I remember my Dad wringing their necks and they would be running around the barn lot, then Mom would clean them down in the basement in boiling water.  Once the feet were cut off, I would take them and stand them on the counter so I could paint their toenails.  The stinky chicken feathers were not very appetizing, but when the chicken was done it was always good! 

From playing in the hay mow to electric shocks, I think it’s pretty awesome that I have a lot of the same memories as the generation before me on the exact same piece of ground.  And for that, I am thankful. 

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

THANKFUL FOR FARM FAMILIES: CONNECTION WITH NATURE

In November, American’s 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. 

Barb Arbeiter is a member of the Jackson County Farm Bureau and active member of the Jackson County Ag in the Classroom committee from Murphysboro, IL.  Barb grew up on a cotton and dairy farm in Mississippi.

farm photo old chickens illinois farmer female woman girlBefore she was big enough to help pick the cotton by hand , Barb would ride along on the cotton sacs that her parents and neighbors were carrying or sit and watch at the edge of the field. Once she was big enough her parents made a cotton sac sized especially for her, so she could help with the picking.

When it came to the dairy farm, her family had to start off by hand milking the cows until they got electric milkers. “Our cows were very tame; they were kind of like pets to us for the most part.” Barb’s family dairy farm consisted of Jersey and Guernsey cattle.

As a young one, Barb helped feed the cattle as well as herd them to the barn when they decided to be stubborn. In high school to make money, Barb would help with the milking process. She picked vegetables out of the garden and helped with the canning process. She also fed the chickens and gathered the eggs.

“Growing up on a farm taught me a lot of responsibility and I learned to work hard. Growing up on a farm also allowed me to live closely with nature by raising food and animals.”

On Saturday nights Barb and her family would spend time playing cards together.

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Intern

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student

THANKFUL FOR FARM FAMILIES: EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYERS

In November, American’s 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. 

Thanks Emily of Confessions of a Farm Wife for reminding us that farming is NOT all snips and snails and puppy-dog tails!

Our story may seem predictable: Young farm family has three little girls and then a fourth…a boy.

Can you hear the comments after the baby boy was born?

“Well, the name can live on!”
“His dad needed a farmer!”
“Tried for that boy, huh?”

Those from the outside may think, in a world of pink, Barbies, dress up and dolls, Farmer Joe needed a buddy.

Although a son brings a totally different dynamic into our family, the women of our house are blurring the gender boundaries that I myself have believed to be true only until just a few years ago. Before I became truly involved and enveloped by farm life as a farm wife, I believed that farm families lived like they did in the 1950s: Dad did the heavy lifting while Mom brought food to the field in pearls.

Not so fast, June Cleaver.

I learned very quickly that our daughters would not necessarily be cookie bakers and house cleaners alone. A pair of chore boots for each daughter sits in our plastic boot tray at the front porch. My six year old knows more about gates and fence and calving than I probably ever will. My littlest daughter, who is two, has a favorite expression, “I check cows, Daddy?”

My girls love to be outside, slogging through the mud and checking cows. A Saturday morning is not for watching cartoons, but for early morning runs to the grain elevator during harvest and chores with Dad in the truck.

While I wonder if this excitement will continue once the girls get older, and if Jack, our son, will be a sidekick to Daddy as well, I know that the lessons on our farm go beyond learning what to look for when you’re checking cows, and how to drive a stick shift. They are out there, spending quality time with their dad, learning as he did from his dad. They are figuring out how to be respectful of the land, animals, and elders while they ride alongside with him, checking fence. They are learning how to be safe around heavy equipment, and while I know we’re not immune to dangerous situations, the safety lessons they learn, standing in awe of the big equipment, carry a lot heavier message than what I learned as a town kid.

All of our kids have unique personalities, but all of them seem to have place on the farm. This is the joy of being a farm kid. We are so fortunate to be here, and although there are times that I wish Joe had a 9 to 5 job (especially during the long harvest hours), with a company vehicle and health benefits, I wouldn’t trade the precious time he gets to spend with our kids because his “office” is located outside our front door. I need to remember this in ten years as I’m yelling up the stairs to my teenagers to wake up and get going on their chores!

Emily Webel
Illinois family farmer
author of Confessions of a Farm Wife

THANKFUL FOR FARM FAMILIES: THEY BUILD CHARACTER!

In November, American’s 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. 

Thanks Jenna for bringing us part of your heritage today, an interview with your mom, Cheryl Richardson.

heritage, farm family photo, horse, sisters, siblings, old, sepia

My mom grew up on a livestock farm in Geff, Illinois with her parents, an older sister Kathy, younger sister Melany, and younger brother Todd. Their livestock farm consisted of cattle, hogs, and horses. The cattle and hogs were bred, raised, and sold for meat, and my grandpa traded the horses. Not only did the family farm raise livestock, they also grew corn for silage to feed their animals.

Along with growing corn they also grew red top for the seed to resell. They would first combine the red top into the back of a grain truck and then the four kids would scoop the seed out of a truck into bags, sew the bags shut and pack them in another truck where they would be sold at a store.

On Sunday afternoons the family would enjoy riding their ponies and horses together.

“When I was younger and it was time to move cattle from field to field the four of us kids and my mom would walk the fields and work gates while my dad & his hired hands would ride horses. Once I got a little older I got bumped up to a horse as well,” Cheryl said.

The four siblings had many important chores around the farm. My grandpa would buy bulk feed and on Saturdays the younger ones would scoop the feed into bags where they were then stacked into the barn and later fed to the cattle with it. They also got to help work cattle, castrate pigs and cattle, worm and sort the animals.

My mom feels that all the hard work she and her siblings did as kfarm family, sisters, siblingsids brought them closer together. “We definitely got to know each other since we spent so much time together, whether it was family time or chore time.” Today the family all lives pretty close to one another so they enjoy getting together for cook outs and just to spend time together. Upon occasion my mom will also help her brother Todd sort cattle on his farm.

“Growing up on a farm taught me a lot of responsibility and that hard work never hurt anyone…it builds character!”

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Intern

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student

CONFRONTING THE FARMER MISCONCEPTIONS

Growing up in Central Illinois has given me a certain respect towards farmers. I feel as if I have a pretty basic understanding on the importance of farming and building a relationship with your farmers. Although my stance on different agricultural issues is one that is a bit hazy, I feel like I could describe to someone the role which farmers play.

farm, farmer, field, run down, shed, red, brown, boardsOne can only imagine the cultural difference from moving from the small town of Mansfield, Illinois to attending Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois- a large university with a majority of its’ students from suburban areas. Northern is not a university one would normally attend to gain a better agricultural education.  Ever since receiving this internship and working more closely with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, I have begun to start a conversation with many of my fellow students on what farming means to them or how they see farmers. Throughout my discussions, I have come across five common misconceptions on how some suburban or urban students view farmers—some of those being quite humorous.

1. All crops that farmers grow are for the population to consume.

yum, butter, husks, corn on the cobMany of the students I spoke with believed that all of the corn fields grown around the area were edible—as if they could walk into the field and bring home the corn for some delicious corn on the cob. Obviously this is not the case. Most corn grown is for livestock rather than for consumption. In fact, according to the National Corn Growers Association about eighty percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is consumed by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry, and fish production. The crop is fed as ground grain, silage, high-moisture, and high-oil corn.

2. Farmers don’t have college educations.

intelligent, farmers, farms, college, university, smartThis statement is one which I find to be rather humorous. The amount of farmers gaining a college degree and higher education is continuing to grow. According to the USDA, in 2009, a quarter of farmers graduated with a four year degree or more. See their website for more information.

http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/wellbeing/demographics.htm

3. Farming is a dying profession.

Although data from the U.S. Agriculture Department does show that the average age of the U.S. farm has been increasing for decades and the overall percentage of young farmers continues to fall. However, people within the movement say these numbers can be misleading. They claim that more and more young people are going into farming. This may be a grey area, I would definitely disagree with the statement that farming is a “dying profession.”

4.computers, tractors, combines, GPS Farming is a low tech industry.

That’s got to be a joke! Some of the most high technology is currently invading farms across the country. What about yield monitors, variable rate technology, GPS systems, and more? See this post on the Singularity Hub website for more information: http://singularityhub.com/2011/03/13/precision-agriculture-high-technology-invades-the-farm/

 5. All farmers are men. 

ladies, girls, farmers, farm, womenThis seems to be a very common misconception with the students I spoke with. They believed that the typical farmer was a male. According to the 2007 USDA Agriculture Census, Of the 3.3 million U.S. farm operators counted in 2007 Census, 30.2 percent — or more than 1 million — were women. And that was JUST in 2007—the number is still growing! 

Starting conversations with suburban and urban students about farming is exactly what we need to do to educate others and put an end towards these misconceptions. I hope to continue to have conversations such as these and get the word out about farming!

Lauren Gress
Northern Illinois University student