WHY ARE FARMERS SO LAZY?

A woman asks a farmer’s wife, “Why are farmers so lazy?” The farmer’s wife replies, “What do you mean?” The woman says, “Well, every year they wait for the corn to get brown and die before they pick it!”

This is in fact a true story and it goes to show just how uninformed most people are about agriculture. It is important for everyone to know where their food comes. If you ask a child where their food comes from they will more than likely say the grocery store, not a farm. Because consumers are so removed from their food source these misconceptions, like farmers’ laziness, are created.

A recent study conducted by The Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Pork Association and Illinois Soybean Association set out to understand public perceptions of farmers. They found that the trust between farmers and consumers is greatly diminishing. Consumers also have very negative opinions of large scale farming. The study also found that moms are the most concerned about where their food comes from. The bottom line is that consumers want trust-worthy farmers growing healthy, safe food in an environmentally conscious manner. Now that the negative public opinions have been identified it’s time to restore the image of agriculture.

As most of us know farmers are not lazy, in fact they already have several jobs but it’s time to add one more; public educator. Negative views on the agriculture industry are readily available and it’s up to us to change that. The public would like to maintain the image of a small family farm that milks a cow and collects eggs but we know this is no longer viable. We need to maintain the family aspect of farming while promoting the benefits of modern agriculture. Farmers need to be ambassadors of the agriculture industry so the public can see that farmers are not lazy, instead they are hard-working, caring people who provide consumers with a safe, healthy food supply.

Sarah Carson
University of Illinois student
& a farmer’s daughter

ENTERTAINING AND INFORMATIVE: IS THIS THE WAY TO GO?

It seems that those milk producers are always on the cutting edge.  Here in America, we all realize the popularity of the “Got Milk” ads.  They are almost collectables!  But in Europe, there’s a new breed of dairy farmer and they are hitting television screens for the first time in their new video for Yeo Valley.

http://www.youtube.com/v/qLySx6wSSmo?fs=1&hl=en_US

Intro

The sun is up, the milk is chilled, it’s gonna be a good one, yo yo

Farmer 1
Yo I’m rolling in my Massey on a summer’s day
Chugging cold milk while I’m bailing hay
Yeo Valley’s approach is common sense
Harmony in nature takes precedence
My ride’s my pride
That’s why you’ll never see it dirty
And I love it here man
That’s why I’m never leaving early
I’m so girt
In my cap and my shirt
I’m representing for west
So hard that it hurts

Farmer 2
We make this look easy
Cause we’re proper modern with this farming believe me
Wind turbines they’re shining baby
And solar farming no buts no maybe’s
Ye, when we’re down with the soil association
And we do lots of what, conservation
Sustain, maintain it ain’t no thing
We set the bar
Real leaders by far

Chorus
Yeo Valley Yeo Valley
We change the game, it will never be the same
Yeo Valley Yeo Valley
Big up your chest and represent the West

Farmer 3
This isn’t fictional farming
Its realer than real
You wont find milk maidens
That’s no longer the deal
In my wax coat and boots
I’m proper farmer Giles
Now look
You urban folk done stole our styles
I’m not a city dweller,
Me I like to keep it country
The air is clean and
All those cars will make me jumpy
It’s different strokes
For different folk, my man
Just enjoy the results
Of what we do on the land

Farmer 4
Check out Daisy she’s a proper cow
A pedigree Friesian with know how
Her and her girls they have there own name
We treat them good
They give us the cream

Chorus
Yeo Valley Yeo Valley
We change the game, it will never be the same
Yeo Valley Yeo Valley
Big up your chest and represent the West
Big up your chest…
Represent the West…

Interesting that these European farmers are addressing exactly the same questions we’re trying to address.  They mention that they are sustainable and environmentally conscious … and that they treat their cattle well.  Also, I love the line “Different strokes for different folks, Just enjoy the results of what we do on the land.”

Are Illinois farmers ready to get out there and do something like this that is entertaining and informative?  Does this push the bar too far or just far enough?  Is this the way to get consumer attention and give them permission to get farmers farm?

What are your thoughts?

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

IT’S SUCH A GOOD IDEA, WE HAVE TO JOIN IN!

She’s Country, a Facebook page that we follow here at Illinois Corn, proposed an interesting question today.

In your own words, what is a “family farm?”

She’s Country is right, there is no universally accepted definition.  And I think that if forced to write down a definition, you might just find that a family farm is exactly what you thought it was and maybe even something more.

Visit She’s County, become a fan, and add your thought to the mix.  This is an interesting exercise in realizing what we have, what makes us strong, and why we all love to be family farmers.

CITY PRODUCE PROGRAM PROVIDES NUTRITION, EDUCATION, AND UNDERSTANDING

Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to visit one of our partner sites in the City Produce Program, the Cook County Jail.

It was exciting to see all the fresh produce being gathered which will then be distributed to families without access to fresh veggies in inner city Chicago.  It was equally exciting to see the inmates at Cook County Jail learning about horticulture, becoming certified Master Gardners through the University of Illinois Extension program, and adding a trade to their resume to use as they rebuild their future.

But I’m interested in the new connections being built between urban and rural citizens of Illinois.

This project is about nutrition and goodwill towards our neighbors, but its also about awareness.  How often do the farmers in Illinois consider those without access to a grocery store other than the local gas station convenience store?  I can guess that its not often.

Likewise, how much do Chicago residents understand about farming as an occupation?  About the ups and downs of the market, the vulnerability of the weather, the long hours and sneaky insects that equal risky paychecks?  Not much, I’m sure.  And through this program, volunteers that simply want to contribute to the fresh vegetable access are seeing first hand what it really is to be a farmer.

There is a gap right now between the reality for urban Illinoisans and the reality for rural Illinoisans.  That gap causes distrust and confusion because of a mutual lack of understanding between the two.  What the Chicago Produce Project seeks to do for Illinois corn farmers is create understanding.

Become a Facebook fan of the City Produce Project, Illinois Corn, and Monsanto (all partners in this effort) so that you can learn more about the good we are doing in urban Chicago.  Check out Crain’s coverage of the project here.  Consider getting involved.

Rodney Weinzierl
Executive Director, ICGA/ICMB

AROUND THE FARM, GRANDPARENTS DAY MEANS …

Yesterday was Grandparents day.

Around the farm that might mean a lot of things … because it’s nearly harvest time, it probably means working along side your grandparents (if you are fortunate to have healthy grandparents) or visiting them in the evening after a long day of work (if you aren’t.)

For certain, it means remembering the values and ethnics handed down from your grandparents, to your parents and then to you. 

Farming is a family business.  Farming usually entails working the same piece of ground that your ancestors settled when they immigrated to America.  It represents your heritage in a way that a treasured piece of jewelry or pocketwatch might to non-farmers, except much, much bigger because this piece of land fed your family over the course of 100 or 150 years. 

Farming means that nearly every square foot of the property you work on carries the memory of a person, a lesson, or a moment that you relive in the fall and the spring as you plant or harvest that ground.

This legacy is one that farmers live every day, whether they are small or large farmers, organic or conventional.

Family farmers don’t really need Grandparent’s Day, I guess.  Every day is a celebration of heritage, family and tradition.

REFLECTIONS FROM A CITY GIRL

I’ve spent 21 years in Illinois. I’ve never left for more than two weeks at a time, and let’s be honest, that Chicagoan dialect that spews out of my mouth doesn’t exactly allow me to assimilate into just any geographic region. Illinois is my home. Specifically, I was raised in Itasca, which is about a 40 minute train ride from Chicago.

Being a Chicagoan (or even a suburbanite) is a lifestyle. The pace at which I walk to work is probably better described as “jogging.” I know what a REAL hot dog looks like, I can direct you to the city’s best Italian beef and don’t even get me started on thin crust pizza. When my boss told me that we were going to volunteer our time to corn picking in Manhattan, I thought he was joking.

The thought of Nicky Hunter picking corn is akin to the thought of a cat swimming laps in a pool. Outrageous. I love sports but hate playing them because I hate to sweat. I’ve never tended to a garden because I don’t like dirt, and I don’t even know what I would do if I found a worm. I’d probably scream and jump up and down, hands waving in acute panic. The great outdoors and I never really got along.

“Sure, I’ll do it,” I replied because I talk a big game. I knew it was for the City Produce Project, which was a good cause. Monsanto, which is a huge company, got behind the project and Illinois Corn Marketing Board also participated in the program, so if such big forces can help out, what was stopping me? Some dirt and sweat? Pathetic, city girl, pathetic.

It would be easy, I thought, because it’s a farm. I thought I knew farms. After all, I’d seen one obnoxious farm comedy after another, I knew the routine. You get up early when the rooster crows and then you do various farm duties until someone rings that little triangle to announce that a large, bountiful dinner was ready. That dinner, of course, was provided by the farmer’s hard work and that was how they survived. That’s all I was exposed to.

Stupid.

What never really occurred to me was that the work that gets done on a farm is a business. The crops that grow on a family’s farm aren’t just exclusively for family meals that would make a Norman Rockwell painting look like child’s play. Once I arrived on the farm, I expected to see machinery going to town on those crops, with volunteers just packing away the corn that the machines left behind. After all, farms are so expansive, there is no way that we would actually be doing the harvesting. There are machines for that…right?

Not in this case. It was all hard work and human labor. It finally occurred to me that the vegetables I eat actually originate somewhere. It was humbling to realize that sometimes I’m just too lazy to get in my car and drive three minutes to the supermarket and pick fresh produce, then come home and prepare it. Instead, I shuffle through my kitchen, mumbling “There’s no food in this house” and chomping on a bag of chips and maybe a cookie, if I’m lucky. I realized that farmers have to plant, nurture and send off all their crops in order to get to the supermarket produce section that I rarely visit because I just don’t have “THE WILLPOWER” to eat correctly.

Spending a few hours on a farm went beyond just opening my eyes to the process. Being involved with the City Produce Project even at the most minimal level has made me aware of the daily challenges farmers face. If the weather is nice on Sunday, farmers are working. Weekend or not, there’s something to do on the farm. If the weather doesn’t cooperate at the right time; game over. The whole field could be washed out and there could be nothing to show for days or even weeks of work. No produce, no profit. No profit, no nothing. Farming isn’t a joke.

I was lucky enough to get to volunteer when the weather, though hot as the Sahara, was relatively good. I was informed that the week beforehand, volunteers trudged through mud in order to get the work done, and not many extra people showed up because they didn’t want to get dirty. The work had to get done, so the farmers spent the entire day in wet mud. They have no choice. That corn had places to be, City Produce Project participants to please, delicious flavors to unleash upon unsuspecting omnivores.

As a suburbanite who spends more than 40 hours in metro Chicago per week, I can say with confidence that I was completely unattached to my food. I don’t know where it comes from, I don’t know how it was grown, and I know even less about who is responsible for its production. If it reached my mouth, I was happy. After spending literally no more than two hours on a farm, I can say that now I appreciate fresh vegetables. They take work. I don’t know if larger areas are handled with machinery or not, because I’m only familiar with the sweet corn used in the City Produce Project. But I do know that regardless of machinery’s role, humans operate them. Humans purchase the seed, humans tend to the crops and humans wouldn’t exist without this kind of selfless dedication.

I feel less like a Chicagoan/Suburbanite and more of an Illinoisan. I am aware of the goings-on in other parts of this vast state, not just the deep-dish pizza feuds and seemingly endless roadwork of Cook County. There are things beyond my hamburger, beyond my debilitating fear of being touched by an earthworm, and beyond my selfish need for food to just appear.

I appreciate corn farmers now, because after two hours I was ready to throw in my sweaty towel and call it a day. That’s not an option for them, and I commend them for dedicating their lives to such an uncontrollable gamble. Without such skilled and charitable farmers, programs like the City Produce Project wouldn’t be possible, and some communities would be left without any resources to combat diabetes because they would have zero access to anything as nutritious as the corn grown in Manhattan.

I think every Chicagoan should experience just a few hours on a farm. It does bring perspective and opens up those smog-weary eyes to a different kind of existence that is only a few hours removed from Chicago.

And would you believe it, this city chick actually had fun on a farm. I touched some bugs, got sweaty and got a paper-cut on my hand (the horror!), but at the end of the day, I did something new for a good cause.

Nicky Hunter

FAMILY FARMERS, FRONT AND CENTER IN IL AND NATIONAL MEDIA

While I’ll apologize up front for less meaty content on our blog the past couple weeks, I’ll also offer you that we’ve all been in meetings, at the state fair, and now in our Illinois Corn Marketing Board and Illinois Corn Growers Association Board meetings just drumming up fabulous content and thought provoking concepts for you to mull over in the coming weeks.

During our board meeting today, Senate Candidate and current US Congressman Mark Kirk addressed both boards with your standard campaign speech and then opened the floor for questions.  During that portion, one board member asked that all the family farmers in the room raise their hand.  Of course, the view for those 5 seconds was all hands.

This perception that the majority of farms are owned my corporations like Monsanto, Pioneer or ADM is one of the things the Corn Farmers Coaltion is trying to change.  There’s this ad that we’ve had in DC metro stations, at Reagan National Airport, and in Washington, DC publications like Congressional Quarterly and Politco …

But there’s also a need to create awareness in the homes of farmers throughout IL that this really is a problem.  So there’s also this ad that was published in FARMWEEK on Monday, August 23 and will appear in AgriNews on Thursday, August 26.

This is our effort to let Illinois farmers know that this is a real problem – a HUGE problem – and that we are trying to fix it.  After all, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board was one of the first funders of this effort and is still one of the largest funders in the coalition.

We’ve made more than 100 million positive impressions (to clarify the marketing lingo, an impression is one viewing.  So these ads have been seen 100 million times, maybe sometimes by the same people, but rarely does one viewing actually hit home anyway.) with our legislators, thought leaders, and others in the DC area and now we’re bringing these ads back to IL to put a face on Illinois corn farmers.

Remember this?  These Corn Farmers Coalition ads are now all over the Normal, IL Corn Crib, teaching people the truth about the agriculture all around them and introducing them to the family farmers that feed them everyday.

Check out the Corn Farmers Coalition website to learn more about what we’re doing to set the record straight about corn farmers and US agriculture.  I’m confident that you won’t be sorry that you did.

mitchell_lindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

FARMER’S DAUGHTERS LOOK FORWARD TO THE FAIR

Many farm kids believe the best part of summer is their county fair. Throughout the year 4-Hers work diligently to perfect their projects in hope of a successful week at the fair. Yesterday, we went to the McLean County 4-H Fair and it brought back sweet memories from our days in 4-H.
Kelsey: The fair that I attended while growing up was the Tazewell County 4-H fair and I was a member of the Tremont Clovers 4-H club in Tremont, Illinois for twelve years. Throughout 4-H I attempted numerous projects taking away something different from each one.

Kristie: My county fair was the McLean County fair, the biggest 4-H fair in the country, and I was a member of the Blue Ribbon Kids 4-H group from Colfax. Although I grew up on a farm, I never showed any animals at the fair. All of my friends had cattle, swine, goats, or chickens, but the biggest animal that I ever showed was my cat Buttercup, who was not the most cooperative of all animals.

Kelsey: The projects I tended to return to included visual arts, photography, tractor safety, veterinary science, and crops. Due to all of my friends showing cattle I usually spent a great deal of time in the cattle barn. I loved helping them show their cow-calf pairs and participating in the beef obstacle course. However, I would have to say that my favorite project was crops. The first morning of the fair my dad and I would get up extremely early to go dig my crops out of the field. Depending on the morning dew and the status of the irrigation system we would usually arrive at the fair completely soaked, and covered in dirt from head to toe!
Kristie: Since I did not have to take the time to show animals, I spent my time doing as many projects in as many categories as possible, sometimes bringing well over twenty projects. I always had projects in multiple arts and cooking categories, I took woodworking projects a few times, I usually had a photography project, and I tried my hand at sewing. My favorite category was the “Clothing Decisions” projects in the Clothing and Textiles division, which was really just an excuse to go bargain shopping with my mom. I always did the Style Revue Show to model my sewing projects, and my biggest sewing accomplishment was making my homecoming dress for my freshman year of high school. My big state fair début was to show my microwave bran muffins, and by the time I had perfected them, my family couldn’t get rid of them quick enough.
Kelsey: In 2007 I was honored to represent Tazewell County 4-H as their queen. During my reign I was able to see the fair in an entire new perspective. I attended nearly every event at the fair, rode in eight parades throughout the county, participated in many 4-H activities, and attended the IAAF Convention as a contestant in the Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Pageant. While agriculture had always been my lifestyle as a farmer’s daughter, it was not until my year as queen that I realized the effect it had on our society and the importance of advocating such an extraordinary industry.

Kristie: My 4-H experience was much different from my friends’, but I would never say that I missed out on anything. I learned many different skills that I continue to use today, and 4-H allowed me to try out as many skills and ideas that I wanted so that I could figure out which things I was good at and what I liked the most. If it weren’t for 4-H, I wouldn’t have been able to make the decorative throw pillows and oil paintings for my new apartment, I never would have found my passion for cooking or learned how to wire a trouble light or turn a wood lathe, and my stressed out cat probably wouldn’t have lost as many years off of his life.

Kelsey: I can imagine that showing a cat is considerably harder than showing a cow. You have my sympathies.

Kristie: Thanks, but I don’t envy you walking around the fairgrounds in heels.

Kelsey: Still, 4-H is such a valuable program because it has something to offer every kid in every walk of life. Like Kristie said, these are experiences you always remember, family memories that you would never want to forget, and life skills that you take with you when you grow up.

Kristie: The fair is the culmination of all those activities. When you bring your hard work from the fields or the sewing machine and have it evaluated, you feel a sense of accomplishment, but you also learn to appreciate constructive criticism.

Kelsey: So from two farmer’s daughters that spent the afternoon at the fair yesterday and can’t wait to get back, get involved in 4-H and participate in your county fair. You’ll never be sorry that you did.

Kelsey Vance
ICGA/ICMB Summer Intern
Illinois State University student

Kristie Harms
ICMB/ICGA Summer Intern
University of Missouri student