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.

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:

 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


There is no doubt that women have always been a part of agriculture- behind the scenes if nothing else. Today, however, women are becoming more and more visible on the forefront of agriculture managing companies, researching, working hands-on on the farm, promoting agriculture, and so much more! Within the different generations of my own family I can see these changes happening. My Grandma Linda has always been a part of the farm “behind the scenes” making sure the men all get fed, cleaning up for meetings or events held on our farm, and managing finances for her husband’s seed business. My mother plays an active role in the farming operation when she grew up on a dairy farm.

She milked cows and drove tractors every day just like the rest of her sisters. Today she helps on our farm by keeping computer records for the business and keeping track of the finances of the farm… all while running her own business and traveling the world! As the youngest generation of women in my family, I can see that my role on the farm has been much more hands on and I am pursuing a higher education than previous generations of women in my family. I grew up feeding cattle and pigs everyday, showing those animals during the summer fairs, and working farm equipment as needed. Today, I am completing my Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Animal Industry Management and plan on pursuing a career in Ag Literacy or Ag Communications.

These trends are common for most generations of women in farm families, and I would like to say “Way to go girls!” Here is a short video of some women in agriculture and their stories. Enjoy!

Rosie Sanderson
Illinois State University Student


“There is no such thing as a stupid question.”

This week, the world will celebrate “Ask a stupid question” day.  Apparently it was created in the 1980s to encourage school children to ask more questions in class and not feel scared or that they’d be ridiculed.

So today, Illinois Corn brings you a variety of questions that we think are anything but stupid!

When the weather affects the crops, how do the farmers recoup their losses?

Farmers are a vital part of the country’s economy. They help grocery stores stay stocked with fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. Farmers rely on several things to help get them through a difficult farming year.

Crop insurance can provide financial relief to people who suffer the loss of their crops for whatever reason. Usually farmers lose their crops due to weather incidents that take place. These include rain, tornadoes, droughts, or floods.  Most farmers purchase some type of crop insurance to protect themselves.

Some farmers never recoup their costs from a bad growing season.  Sometimes they have to take a loss and rely on whatever savings they have stored up from previous years.

What’s ethanol, and why do we need it?

Ethanol is an alcohol made from renewable resources such as corn and other cereal grains, food and other beverage wastes and forestry by-products. Ethanol-blended fuel substantially reduces carbon monoxide and volatile organic compound emissions, which are precursors to ozone. Adding ethanol to gasoline reduces harmful emissions, lowers the cost of our transportation fuels – and reduces our reliance on foreign oil imports. Find more information about ethanol at

Wouldn’t our food be healthier if you didn’t use chemicals?

Much like people don’t want ants in the kitchen or weeds in the garden, corn and soybean farmers don’t want insects and weeds in our crops. Pests cause significant damage, spread diseases and destroy otherwise healthy crops.

When we need to use a pesticide or herbicide, we use the least amount possible, of the safest material possible.  Farmers are trained and certified to apply chemicals by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.  We also have to follow very strict rules from the EPA and FDA on how and when to apply farm chemicals. You can find more information at

How much ethanol will one bushel of corn produce?

One bushel of corn produces 2.8 gallons of ethanol in addition to several valuable food and feed co-products.  Using only the starch from the corn kernel, the production process results in vitamins, protein, corn oil fiber and other by-products that can be used for food, feed and industrial use.

Ethanol can also be used in several forms to meet the needs of our transportation.  A 10% blend of ethanol with gasoline is the most widely available blend.  More than 90% of our national gasoline contains 10% ethanol.  In Illinois over 95% of our gasoline contains 10% ethanol.  E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, makes an excellent environmentally friendly fuel.  Ethanol’s desirable characteristics (higher octane, cleaner burning, less carcinogenic) assure its viability even as new engine technology is developed.

I’m not sure if high fructose corn syrup is good or bad for me. Can you tell me more?

High fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, is simply the naturally occurring sugar in the corn kernel, pulled out and used as a sweetener in processed foods.  By comparison, table sugar is the naturally occurring sugar in the sugar cane plant, pulled out and processed into the sugar that you recognize.

Studies show that your body processed HFCS and table sugar exactly the same and that HFCS doesn’t contribute to obesity any more than any other sugar does.

Visit Sweet Surprise, Sweet Scam, or Corn to learn the facts about high fructose corn syrup.

Do you have a question that you’d like to ask an Illlinois farmer?  Comment here to raise your question or visit to ask.  Remember, there are no stupid questions!  Illinois farmers want you to understand that they are responsible and careful stewards of the land and the food that they produce.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


Typically, when one thinks of agriculture, who or what comes to mind? Do you think of men in their tractors or working their livestock? Do you picture a successful woman behind a huge farming operation? Today, agriculture is so much more than sows, cows, and plows; it is a lifestyle. As September is ‘Women of Achievement Month’ I would like to honor all those hard working farmer gals out there who support their farmer husbands all year round and of course bring the brains to the operation. Predominately a male field, more and more women are finding careers within agriculture. I know, for me, I can’t picture living anywhere else and hopefully some day in the future, I will be able to have a farm I can call my own, but for now I am trying to make a name for myself within the agricultural industry.

One such woman who deserves to be honored is Pat Dumoulin out of Hampshire,Illinois. She is a very humble lady and when asked about her achievements in agriculture, she laughs and said she isn’t sure exactly of how many achievements she has had, but has definitely led a very nice life with her husband. Currently, Dumoulin serves as the District 2 Director for the Illinois Soybean Association. She also works with her husband, two sons, and her son-in-law on their corn and soybean farm. They also run a 2,100 sow operation as well as a compost operation. She taught Economics & Statistics at Elgin Community College and has served as the past secretary and treasurer of the Illinois Corn Grower’s Association among many other activities.

Like all farmers, Dumoulin relies on good weather conditions for a bountiful crop. Some years are better than others when it comes to rain, weeds, and bugs. After harvest, the Dumoulin’s soybeans are sent to Cargill or ADM and exported down the Illinois River to the Port of New Orleans where it is ground into soybean meal which is fed to the livestock. The livestock industry is a big consumer of corn/soybean industries making the whole farming operation a full circle.

When not farming or serving on her many boards, Dumoulin enjoys spending time with her 20 grandchildren. They all live close to each other and she enjoys this special family time. She feels honored that she has been able to be so active within agriculture and privileged to work with all the farmers she has come in contact with throughout her life. In conclusion, I would like to applaud Pat for all her accomplishments, both personally and professionally, and would like to encourage all you farm wives and future farm wives to continue doing what you are doing; the industry needs you!

Katlyn Rumbold
Illinois State University student


Its strange for me, 20 years-old, to think about how half of my life has been post September 11th. For many readers, you may think that all I’ve grown up in was fear and certainly fear has been a part of many of my formative years.  But I do remember a time before September 11th, 2011. When we were worried more about presidential interns and the hard times of 1998 for hog farmers.  Better than that, we never felt insecure from attacks on our soil. The USS Cole seemed so distant and the Oklahoma City Bombing was easy to dismiss as a rogue lunatic.  Life may have been hard at times (again 1998 rings a bell for those of us who love the other white meat) but life was simple at risk of sounding too cliché. 

So lets jump forward a little bit, we’re 10 years after 9/11 and we’ve made strides towards putting the tragedies to the back of our minds. We are still actively engaged Afghanistan, where we started the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the network of terrorists that caused the worst loss of American civilian life and the first major attack on the mainland since the War of 1812 (fought in a much more ‘civil’ manner).  It is in Afghanistan that we hear stories of poverty, lack of infrastructure and depleted resources.

Jumping again (not nearly as much this time), I was sitting at the SIU Ag Alumni Association’s Du Quoin State Fair BBQ listening the evenings’ program (munching on some delicious pork BBQ – I’m partial to my pork and meat in general) as many of the SIU College of Agricultural Sciences’ faculty present on the work they’ve been doing in Afghanistan with the Illinois National Guard 1-14th Agribusiness Development Team.  First off, a huge salute to our men and women serving at home and abroad and second off – how awesome is it that there is actually an agribusiness development team as a part of our work in Afghanistan? While I knew a little bit about the 1-14th and SIU COAS’ efforts in agricultural development for Afghanistan, I was glad to sit in on the presentation.

This semester I am enrolled in vegetable production at SIU, and my professor Dr. Walters was one of our faculty who offered up his time to assist in agricultural development and research in improving farming systems in Afghanistan. Dr. Walters talked about how impoverished and primitive the systems are in Afghanistan. As a vegetable scientist, his focus was of course on vegetables and some fruits. The challenges go beyond the less than desirable growing conditions as post harvest storage is essentially impossible as there is more cold storage in Mahomet, IL than there is in Afghanistan.  Farmers use wasteful practices in irrigation that do not maximize use of water nor do these methods protect the soil and sometimes hinder plant growth. Farmers there don’t have the educational opportunities that we cherish here in the Heartland and throughout America.

This is in part why it is important to support our men and women in units like the 1-14th and faculty who work with them to improve agriculture worldwide.  Illinois Farm Bureau Youth Education teamed up with FFA chapters around our state to collect thousands of magazines to send to our troops serving us overseas.  There can be no question that rural Americans play a pivotal role in the defense of our country as well as the stabilization of the world.  Now when I was asked to write a blog for Illinois Corn, I was asked to write about the constitution in honor of Constitution Day and relations to agriculture. So far I have not drawn a clear line (clear lines are overrated anyway). I’ll be honest with all of you; I started writing about the constitution and agriculture and found myself writing more of a thesis and less of a blog. Not only is there so much to discuss, there is a lot of political philosophy and ideology involved that would bore you, the reader, to your grave. Therefore here is my abridged version of the connection.

I gave you examples of modern day agriculturalists serving our country (yes, heartwarming and cheerful). Our constitution is ripe with defense, general welfare, and being for the people. These examples highlight how stabilizing regions like Afghanistan can assist in developing sustainable agricultural systems and a middle class thus serving in our national defense. The general welfare clause is often repudiated by many of my own political philosophies as being overly exaggerated and abused. I suppose I find solace knowing that the research and data that we collect in Afghanistan can provide strong insights to improving the baselines for our own modernized agriculture. 

Clear as mud? I thought so. What I am getting at is that we in rural America have nasty habits like seeking out opportunities, helping those in need, challenging the status quo while understanding the past, present and future. When we are asked to serve, many of us answer the call. I suppose you could say that we are the few, the proud, the agriculturalists (I really like cliché sounding phrases). Our founding farmers/fathers understood that a nation needs a strong rooting in agriculture to grow and prosper, something that Maslow indirectly reinforced with his famous hierarchy of needs. Only after we satisfy our basic human needs can we be concerned with the “finer” points of life.  

We must have a vibrant and strong national agriculture in order to have a vibrant and strong nation. As we celebrate Constitution Day and progress into the harvest season, let us remember the idealic “amber waves of grain” as well as the farmers who have kept our country going and growing.

Thomas Martin
Southern IL University Ag student


Tomorrow is Farmer Consumer Awareness Day in Washington State, but it sounded like something fun to celebrate here in IL too!  Take a moment to click over to and visit our latest “Spotlight on Farmers” section where we have compiled all the videos we have completed to date profiling Illinois corn farmers.  You won’t be sorry.


Twist. Snap. Toss. Repeat.

Imagine that same routine over and over for an hour or so in the middle of a humid corn field.

Now…. imagine all that if you never grew up on a farm.

Insert me – a southern, Georgia gal turned farmer’s helper. I interned with Illinois Corn this summer and had the unique opportunity to pick sweet corn with John Kiefner and a handful of other volunteers and family farmers in Manhattan, Illinois.

Okay. I’ll be honest. I was dreading the heat, the bugs and the humidity (even though I’m from Georgia, I still dread the humidity from time to time!).

After we retrieved our bounty from the sweet corn patch, John proudly waved his hand over to the trailer hooked up to his truck; it was loaded down with the weekend haul from the local, community garden he’s also partnered with. Beans, summer squash, peppers and cucumbers galore overflowed from buckets and bins. John is a big believer in not wasting food, and the biggest part of that is getting the nutritious food to people that need it most.


So our first stop was the New Lenox food pantry. We unloaded a small fraction of the goods. That ‘small’ fraction overflowed six heaping recycling bins.

Next, we stopped at the downtown Joliet food pantry. Several people helped us unload sweet corn and veggies into grocery carts. They invited me inside the kitchen to see their culinary masters hard at work.

Standing there photographing the busy bees making dinner preparations, I couldn’t help but notice my overwhelming sense of humility.

John and his friends’ efforts made an extraordinary, rippling impact throughout not only his community, but also the surrounding areas. The countless hours they spent planting, raising, harvesting, organizing and delivering their veggies put food on the plates of hundreds, if not thousands, of families. I was fortunate to experience the end result of all their hard work (and a little of mine, too!).

And for that, I am grateful to have been a part of this project.

Lauren Knapp
Illinois Corn Summer Intern