10 WORDS ABOUT AGRICULTURE THAT MAY HAVE CONFUSED YOU

When hearing agriculture words sometimes we sit back and think “what is that exactly? How is that used?” Some terms are very confusing and without using them yourself they wouldn’t make sense. Here are some common agriculture terms I am used to hearing from my family and being surrounded by others in agriculture.

  1. Tagging. When a new calf is born most farmers choose to tag the ear on them. The purpose of this is to keep an identification on the calf in relation to the mother and the year they were born. You might hear your friends say “going to spend my night tagging tonight”.
  2.  Harvest. During the fall months of the year, farms spend countless hours out harvesting crops. This is the process of collecting plants that were planted in the spring. One of the prettiest times of the year is during harvest seeing all the bright plants of summer change to yellow and brown are so fitting with fall.
  3. Irrigation. Luck enough in the Midwest we usually do not have to use irrigation systems but in southern Illinois, it is a very common thing. With clay soil and not very much water this season it is important to have a controlled water source for our crops. This is why as farmers we are always praying for rain!
  4. Bushel. If you have ever come across your local farm report on the radio you have heard this term many of times. Such as price per bushel this week has gone up or has went down. This is used as a measurement for dry crops, usually 1 peck (which is what we use for apples so imagine 1 bushel equals 42 pounds of apples).
  5. Combine. One of the most important pieces of equipment in agriculture. Used to harvest and thresh crops which is very important. Growing up as a farm kid spending hours in the combine with your dad is something we look forward to.
  6. Steer. No not in that direction! We’re talking cattle not directions this time. A male calf that has been castrated, which is important if you want to eat the meat. This keeps the taste very fresh and not very tough!
  7. Cover Crop. Blankets are optional when planting these crops! When it is off season for our main crops to grow (such as corn and soybeans) we grow cover crops! This helps with keeping the soil exactly how we would like it till we can plant our main crops again.
  8. Acre. I always tell people that an acre is very close to the size of a football field. This is the measurement we use in farming to describe an amount of land that we are using. Around 44,000 square foot is the total distance, imagine having to walk that!
  9. Compost. Most of us could actually start composting in our yards very easily too! We use waste matter (leaves, egg shells and old food) which is very easy to find. This is a very nutritious fertilizer for plants and something fruit and vegetable farms use often.
  10. Specialty Crop. Some of my favorite snacks are specialty crops! This is all the fruits, vegetables, and nursery crops we grow. With more difficulties growing locations and seasons this why they get the name that they have, but they do make the best treats.

Alison Heard
Southern Illinois University

GROWERS’ GRATITUDE

Harvest is upon us and that means that the farmers have begun their endless days of work. You have probably been spotting the floating lights in the fields from the combines running hours after dark.  You will see the once towering corn fields cut down to reveal the soil they’ve been growing in for months with only a short nub of a stalk left to show that something grew there.

What you won’t be seeing is the families back at home running meals out to those fields for the farmers. You won’t see the missed birthdays, missed sports games, and lack of family dinners. You won’t see the broken-hearted farmer that had to finish early for the night because a piece of machinery broke and they don’t have the part to fix it.

What you won’t see are a farmer’s kids “corn swimming” in the back of the semi-trucks. What you won’t see is the bright smile of a wife welcoming her husband come home in the early hours of the morning. What you won’t see are the sleepy faces of a farmer’s kids after riding around in combines all day. What you won’t see are the laughs and smiles of farming families gathered around a table on Thanksgiving sharing good memories despite the hard work they’ve all been through the past weeks of harvest.

When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” –Gilbert K. Chesterton

When it comes to harvest, the whole family is involved in one way or another. They celebrate that extra acre they got done last night and they all get heavy hearts when the machinery breaks down. They do not take their time together during this season for granted. “Harvest is always an incredibly busy time of year for farm families. There are a lot of sacrifices made and not much free time but it all is worth it when you can see what comes from all the hard work” states Jennifer Lindstrom, a farmer’s wife from central Illinois. Growers put their hearts and souls into their farms. A farm is a farmer’s way of life rather than a job and the sacrifices that come with that are immense. There are no holidays or set vacation days. However, any farm family would tell you they would not give it up for the world.

Coming from a small farm, it gives me great hope and pride to see other family farms thrive as well as be appreciated. I have grown up experiencing all that goes into the growing seasons, year after year, and it has taught me how to be grateful for what we accomplish as well as how to adapt to the unexpected roadblocks. There is a lot of work that goes into maintaining your own farm. The long hours, the hard labor, and the mental toll that goes into it make growers nothing short of superheroes. I am grateful for the sacrifices each farm family makes during this time, as well as thankful for the memories that strengthen their family bond.

Maddi Lindstrom
University of Illinois

#TBT: MAKE SCIENCE MORE FUN WITH AG!

[Originally published: October 6, 2015]

Bringing agriculture into the classroom is a great idea to cultivate an assortment of topics and subjects into a theme around the school year. Agriculture and science coincide with each other, but agriculture is often overlooked in science. One unit about agriculture can crack abstract topics in chemistry, microbiology, biology, and environmental science. Here is a list of great ideas to utilize in your next science lesson:

Growing Seeds in a Jar Seed-Germination-Activity1

This experiment is easy, cost-effective, and fun; a younger crowd would enjoy this compared to high school students. All you need are glass jars, seeds, and wet paper towels. Have the students wet the paper towels, put the towels in the glass jar, place the seeds inside the jar, and wait a few days to see germination! You can use this experiment for a biology lesson that talks about photosynthesis or the plant life cycle! Also, this experiment is a great segue into talking about how plants provide us resources we need to survive such as food and clothes.


Incubation and Embryonic Growth

baby chickThis experiment is a bit more common than #1; I remember doing this project in 5th grade; it’s one of the things I can remember from long ago. With this, it’s simple: nurturing eggs into chicks allows students to visualize life and to learn the importance for our lives. Chickens play a huge role in agriculture because of what they do on a farm. My favorite memory of it was hearing the chicks chirp when they eventually made their way out of the shells.

Friendly Farm Visit

kids visiting farmThis past summer I interned with my county farm bureau with Agriculture in the Classroom; each day we took the kids to a local farm to learn about various topics from plant growth to DNA. The hands on experience offered the kids something they couldn’t learn from a textbook. They got to visualize how their clothes were made (shearing a sheep) to watching their food grow six feet in a few months (corn stalks) to learning how breeds of cows differ (natural selection).

Chemical and Physical Changes

soybean crayonsThis topic can be tricky in Chemistry. As we know, a chemical change is a change of a substance with a different composition than what it started off as. On the other hand, a physical change is the change in appearance with the composition staying the same. To easily demonstrate a chemical change to students, show a bowl of soybean seeds and then show a box of crayons. Why? Because soybeans are morphed into crayons (along with other substances). In the beginning, the seed is just a seed but it’s composition and appearance change when it’s used for crayons. For a physical change, show a bowl of corn seeds, a corn stalk, and an ear of corn. Why? Well, the corn seed is morphed into a plant that grows seeds (kernels) from itself. The seed that was planted had the same composition as the kernels on the ear of corn.

Composting for Kids

A great idea to teach environmental science with agriculture is to start composting! Sounds weird, right? It’s a great hands-on experience that teaches kids a great way to be sustainable. It also shows students how we can reuse our resources and not waste products. Compost is comprised of decayed organic matter such as manure, food scraps, grass clippings, and leaves. Manure comes from farm animals, and food scraps come from humans and animals. Composting also teaches about the life cycle. Compost can help the growth of plants which helps to feed us and animals who produce the manure and food scraps that turns into compost, repeat.  No matter what grade you teach, composting is a great way to teach kids about environmental science!

If kids aren’t understanding a science concept, it’s always a great idea to step outside the box! Agriculture is a great way to spice up the science curriculum while teaching students about topics that still matter to education and to our lives.

michelle nickrent

Michelle Nickrent
University of Illinois student

 

 

FARMERS CAN NOW APPLY LESS FERTILIZER ON THEIR LAND

Illinois farmers are always trying to do better.

Whether with their land, their animals, the chemicals and fertilizers they use, or the feed they provide, farmers are always looking to take care of their resources in a way that preserves them for future generations.

This is why updated scientific information about how much phosphorus and potassium corn and soybeans are using from the soil is SO important to farmers.

Every year, farmers soil test to determine what their soils are lacking and then they add those nutrients to provide for the next year’s crop. When calculating how much of which nutrients to add, farmers have to take into account what crop just grew on that plot of land and what crop the farmer plans to plant there the following year.

New scientific information is telling farmers this year that a field of corn only uses .37 pounds of phosphorus per bushel of corn produced and .24 pounds of potassium per bushel. These numbers will figure into the calculations of what the farmer should add back to the soil to replace what the crop used.

These new numbers are 15 percent less than the previous scientific guidance.

To summarize, based on better seed genetics and better management practices, our crops are requiring less phosphorus and less potassium to thrive than before! And that means that farmers can apply less of these fertilizers when planning for the next year!

Good, sustainable news all around.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

TOUR A PIG FARM FROM YOUR COUCH

 

Ever wanted to visit a farm but (a) don’t know any farmers to ask or (b) don’t have any farms near you? Well, Illinois Farm Families (IFF) and the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) are giving you the opportunity to tour a pig farm without leaving the comfort of your home!

Illinois Farm Families is a collaborative effort between several Illinois ag associations to reach consumers and provide information to non-farmers that have questions and want to learn.

On September 28th, IFF live broadcasted the tour from their Facebook account. The almost 40-minute session gave insight to not only the life of livestock farmer but gave viewers the chance to have their questions answered by livestock and agriculture experts, ranging from concerns about nutrition to light-hearted inquiries about the smell of the farm.

You can watch the video about or check it out on IFF’s Facebook page.

Learn more about Illinois Farm Families.

#TBT: 10 WAYS FARMERS ARE DIFFERENT FROM SUPERHEROES

[Originally posted: September 28, 2015]

As an Agriculture Communications major and not having much of a background in agriculture, let me tell you how much I am learning about this incredible industry, and more importantly, the leaders of this industry.

One big lesson that I have learned is that some of the most accepting and loving people come from the world of agriculture. Many people have their special talents but I’ve learned that it’s farmers that are my superheroes!

farmer superheroThese are just some of the ways farmers are different than superheroes:

  1. They don’t wear their underwear on the outside of their pants.

2. They don’t have an alter ego to hide their superhero-ness-they just own it. Farmers aren’t anybody but themselves and they’re proud of it!

3. They feed the world, instead of fighting crime.

4. Their capes are actually farmer hats

5. Their mode of transportation doesn’t fly but has four-wheel drive. Farmers need four-wheel drive to pull and load heavy farm equipment

john deere case6. Farmers work past bedtime to make sure the day’s work is done. Being a farmer is a lot of hard work! A farmer works around the clock to make sure daily chores are accomplished. This isn’t no nine to five job!

7. Their kryptonite is the battle to choose between red or green. Will it be John Deere or Case International? Which one is better?

8. Farmers don’t wear tights they wear fashionable flannel.

9. Their idea of a vacation is coming back with a farmers tan. A farmer’s tan refers to the tan lines developed by a working farmer regularly exposed to the sun. The farmer’s tan is usually started with a suntan covering only the arms and neck. It is distinct in that the shoulders, chest, and back remain unaffected by the sun.

10. Their partners in crime may cluck or moo but they will always be there for you. There is no greater bond than an animal and its caretaker!

Farmers are so much more than just superheroes. They are one of a kind. I have so much respect for these men, women, and families who work around the clock to provide each and every one of us food, and other vital resources. Where would we be without these producers?

Fun fact: Did you know that for every acre of land harvested provides food for 122 people?

Next time you see a farmer thank them for all the hard work that they do!

melissa satchwellMelissa Satchwell
Illinois State University student