LETTER OF APPRECIATION: THANK YOU AG TEACHERS!

Did you know this week is National Write a Letter of Appreciation Week? If you’d like to write a letter to a farmer, rancher, parent, grandparent, etc… we’d like to feature it here on our blog! Send your letters to ilcorn@ilcorn.org and we’ll also throw in a special gift for taking part!

Today’s letter comes from Coleen Bedford of Shoals, Indiana:

Dear Ag Teachers,

Thank you for pouring your life into the future of agriculture. Thank you for the early mornings, and late nights. Thank you for sincerely caring about each and every one of your students, and making your FFA chapter like a family. Thank you for being a listening ear, and a shoulder to cry on. Thank you for believing in your students, and doing whatever you can to help them achieve their goals. Thank you for teaching us not just how to fix fence and judge a dairy cow, but also to be honest, humble, and to persevere. Above all, thanks for making a difference in the lives of your students.

Coleen G. Bedford

student and ag teacher
Coleen Bedford with ag teacher Logan Felts

AGRICULTURE, IT’S NOT JUST FOR FARMERS

farmer

The agriculture industry employees over 23 million people in the United States, and only about 4.6 million of those people live on a farm. So, what does the other 18.4 million people do if they don’t live on a farm?

Agriculture encompasses a wide range of career options; it’s not just for your average farmer. I want to show you five of my favorite unconventional agriculture careers.

1.) Florists: Florists create decorations with agriculture products, such as flowers, plants, and greenery. Floral management is not just about making beautiful arrangements for events. A florist has to be educated on all aspects of the many varieties of flowers and plants; such as the nutrition, climate, preservation, and overall health. You could consider them your urban plant scientists.

florist

2.) Viticulturist: Which is someone who works at a winery or vineyard, caring for and managing grape production. There is a lot that goes into being a wine maker; it is defiantly not an easy career. Winemakers must be knowledgeable in vineyard pruning, irrigation, fertilization, nutrition, grape verities, and selection of grapes, which are all important factors that could affect the taste and consistency of wine. A viticulturist is truly an agricultural scientist and an artist.

turf grass3.) Turf -grass Manager: This is most commonly known as a golf course manager. It takes extensive science and skill to care for a healthy fairway and green. Turf scientists are educated on what grasses work best in different climates and soils, and the proper care it takes to keep them healthy. No only do turf-grass managers work at golf courses but also in lawn care, athletic fields, park sites, and grounds around corporation headquarters.

4.) Forest Ranger: A forest ranger plays a major role in protecting the natural environment, and conserving our natural resources. The major responsibility of most rangers is a forest firefighter. Fire prevention and control is a major role for a ranger. This career works hard ensure the environmental conservation, so we can continue to produce a healthy and sustainable food source.

5.) Food Scientist: This scientist usually works in the food processing industry. Many food scientists find ways to process, preserve, package, and store food properly. Some food scientists even do things such as flavor technology, they work develop the best tasting flavor for your food. This career plays a vital role in the way your food gets from the farm to the table safely.

food scientist

The agriculture industry covers such a broad spectrum of careers, many of them you would not even think twice. I like to think that everything in this world is related to agriculture in some way. Think of something as simple as a newspaper, the shirt on your back, or even your cellphone; someone in agriculture harvested the trees for your paper, woven the cotton in your shirt, and we can even go as far as the ethanol blended fuel used to deliver your cellphone to the store.

Agriculture will continue growing, and there could be a career in it for you. It’s not just for farmers.

Jesse Cler PicJesse Cler
Southern Illinois University Student

I’M IN COLLEGE! NOW WHAT?

Going to college. It is about having fun, meeting new people, trying new things, and …. Graduation? Many seniors get to the end of the college adventure and realize that they need to use the degree they earned but they have no idea where to start.

As a whole, students interested in the agriculture industry are looking at endless job possibilities. The agriculture industry is full of jobs for recent college graduates; you just have to know where to start to get one.

It is hard to buckle down and think about getting a job during your first two years of college, but they are pivotal years. Most students do not realize the value of internships early on in their college career. Internships are the best way to know what you are interested in, find out what you are not interested in, and build up your experience on your resume for your future job search. But how do you find an internship?

Step one: Start by looking with companies who hold your interests. If you are an Agronomy major, looking with a seed research company. If you are an Agriculture Communications major, there are wonderful social media internship opportunities with Illinois Corn (shameless plug). Look on the company’s website or, if possible, connect with a professional that is employed there. If you know an employee do not be afraid to ask questions about internship opportunities and then look into applying to them!

The average agriculture major has 2-3 internships by the end of their college career. These internships help to make you marketable to a future employer. Many employers treat the internship as a test run for the student to see if they would be good as a future employee. So I encourage you to look into companies you may want to work for in the future and apply to an internship with them!

Step two: Networking. There is no better tool than having a good relationship with industry professionals. This can happen through an internship or joining a club. Sometimes clubs have networking opportunities where industry professionals come in and speak on a panel or speak about their career. Attend as many of these as possible and remember to take the time to introduce yourself to the speaker after the session is over. I found my career through networking with the National Agri-Marketing Association chapter at Illinois State University. I was able to meet my future boss at a speaking session my junior year and reconnect with the company again my senior year and apply for a job.

Step three: The main idea of being in college, find a job.  How do you find the job for you? Do not wait till the last minute. Get your resume reviewed by a professional or a professor. Next, start looking at job postings in the beginning of your senior year and sending in resumes. If it is possible, attend a career fair with your best suit on and resume in hand. Look on career websites, ask your professors about job postings, and check with the professionals you have connected with. You never know when you will happen upon your dream job posting.

Take every opportunity you get in college, but remember why you are there. Getting a career is the goal, right?

Cara WorkmanCara Workman
ISU Student
Follow Me on Twitter – @caraworkman

WOMEN CHANGING THE FACE OF AGRICULTURE

Maria CoxOriginally posted on the Cox Farm Blog by Maria Cox

I had the pleasure of attending the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture event on March 8 at SIU Carbondale. (www.womenchanginthefaceofagriculture.com) I recently joined Illinois Agri-women (who sponsors the event), and I offered to “man” a table for women pursuing careers in farming at the career discovery part of the event. I graduated from the University of Illinois in 2006, and the conference is in its 4th year, so I was never able to participate when I was in college. It’s a fantastic event that introduces females in high school and college to careers in agriculture.

What did I take away from the event? Young women are super excited about agriculture! It was fun to chat with those who may be interested or have the option of returning to the family farm. I shared with the young women a certain message; take risks. It’s ok to take chances. It’s ok to do something out of the norm. Change is good, it makes us grow.

I had a few female farmer influences in college…mainly my Sigma Alpha sisters who farmed on the side with their parents. But, I didn’t have that “professional” outlet that this conference provides. My mindset just might have been different if I’d attended a conference like this and met with females in production agriculture.

#wcfa13jpgWhen I was in college, I put farming with Dad on the back burner as I thought it was more of a job for a guy. I didn’t think it was my place or I “had it in me” to be a farmer. It took me some great career and life experiences away from the farm to realize that my future lies on the Cox Farm near that little spot we call Belltown, 3 miles south of White Hall. If I hadn’t taken the risk and quit my big girl job, I wouldn’t be writing this blog right now. Today, I spend time working on balance sheets, working cattle, harvesting corn and beans, cutting hay, marketing crops, and most importantly, continuing the 6th generation of both sides of my family to feed our world.

HOW DOES AG FIT INTO MY CLASSROOM?

So you are a teacher in a school that does not support FFA or an agricultural curriculum program. You are probably thinking, “Cows and tractors have nothing to do with my classroom. There would be no way to bring that into my teaching.”  Well, think again. Granted, the physical composition of the cow’s stomachs is pretty interesting, but it does not have to be that complicated.

holstein, milk cow, mom and babyQuestion:  In November of this year, a farmer has 5 cows that are due to have babies in March of next year. By April, how many cows will the farmer have? Answer:  10 cows. What just happened? That is a question with agriculture incorporated into it! Put pictures of cows with the question, and you have kids learning two things at once. Yes, this is kind of a remedial question, really for elementary children, but these kinds of questions can be designed for any grade level.

There are so many wonderful resources that can help you incorporate agriculture into your personal curriculums. Here are just a few:

Other resources available would be associations within your state, such as  Corn Growers, Beef Association, Pork Producers, and just about anything else. Just Google it! Everything agriculture will be at your fingertips. Most of these associations already have lesson plans, ready to use, for you on their website. All you have to do is download, or call them and they can send it to you. It is as easy as pie, which is also made from all things agriculture! It really cannot get much easier than that.

There are other ideas for incorporating agriculture into your classroom. If you do not want to use it in your math or science lessons, try having your students write a paper. It does not have to be all that extensive, and would be perfect for any grade level. Have each student write a paper, giving each student a different career to research. Then, have each student read his or her paper, or just summarize it with the class. With one career per person, everyone can learn about many different careers they may not have known existed.

Careers in agriculture are not always as different from a career outside of agriculture as you may think. Accounting, for example; it is all the same concepts, just with different subjects and a few different rules. Teaching:  most of the same requirements as any other teacher, you just get to teach a diverse array of topics. Even other areas, such as horticulture, are heavily influenced by agriculture, although you  may not realize it. From growing corn to growing watermelons, they all include agriculture, from necessary nutrients to sun exposure, every plant needs someone to take care of it.

In the end, incorporating agriculture is not really as hard as it may sound. Any student can benefit from having this in their every day classroom. From a simple math lesson, to a research paper, it is all beneficial for the growing minds of our future leaders. Our country was founded with agriculture being a main ideal. Why not keep it that way?

Katlyn PieperKatie Pieper
Illinois State University student

FARMER’S TRIBUTE: SO GOD MADE A FARMER

Welcome to Video Week on Corn Corps! The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing and we thought what better way to celebrate than by bringing you one video every day this week that celebrates Illinois agriculture, corn production, and farm family life.

Today’s video comes to us from the Facebook page Agriculture Everyday

“The past few days there has been quite a bit of discussion on a Yahoo article about useless degrees, with agriculture topping it. It makes a few comments that I find somewhat degrading to the agriculture and farming lifestyle. Since most of the agriculture community has been upset and offended by that article, I felt the need to uplift farmers and remind them that agriculturalists are some of the strongest people I know. So please, watch the video below. Paul Harvey hit the nail right on the head in my opinion, and I am proud to say I grew up on a farm and I can attest to most of this video in some way or another.”

PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS: CLEAN BACKGROUNDS

Photography is a big part of my life…I don’t know everything but I know some of the key points that I feel are necessary in taking a good photograph.  And for Photographer Appreciation Month, I’d love to share a few pointers that can make you a better photographer.   Check back every Tuesday this month to learn something new!

Are you wondering how to take a better picture? Well this week’s topic is a simple one that will help improve your photos tremendously.

Find clean backgrounds!

wind energy sky corn field farm farmer alternative clean Have you ever noticed a picture of a person with a telephone pole or a tree sticking out of the back of their head? Doesn’t look right does it? If you want to use a tree in the background of your picture just make sure that you place it correctly.

This simple step of having a clean background will take the most average picture and make it an awesome shot. You want to be able to see the bigger picture past what your subject is.

You might be wondering what a clean background is exactly? They are solid colors, generally without distracting power lines or anything that will draw the viewers’ eye away from what you’re shooting. You may have to place your camera at higher or lower level to achieve a clean photo background. Sometimes I stand on chairs or even lay on my belly to get a good shot, (you might look silly but at least you get a nice photo!) By getting at a lower level, you’ll make the background the sky which is more often than not clean. By raising the camera up, you’ll get clean backgrounds such as the ground.

When taking a picture, think of it as in terms of layers. You’ll have your foreground which is closest to the bottom, the middle area is the subject, background is behind the subject, and infinity is what is behind the background.

Photography is a lot of trial and error, so don’t get discouraged! A lot of times you have to play with your layers and see what works and what doesn’t. Always keep your eyes open for a better position to give you a cleaner photo. Sometimes you do want a busy photo, but always look for those clean backgrounds and it will make your photos much more appealing.

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK:  Give this tip a try. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles in search of the clean background.

Upload your challenge photo to IL Corn’s Facebook page for a prize!  Farm challenge photos get better prizes than non-farm photos!

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Intern

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO

This is a drainage ditch in a drainage district near the Mississippi River bottoms. The operator of this excavator is assisting in the “pump dredge” process of the drainage ditch. The ditch’s role is to drain excess water from more than 15,000 acres of crop land in this particular drainage district. In the last few years due to excessive flooding, the ditch has filled with silt. In anticipation of high waters again this spring, the drainage district and farmers in the area are preparing for the advent of new flood waters.

Thanks to Joe Zumwalt for sharing this photo!

LEARN ABOUT AG CAREERS ON MARCH 4, 2011!

Women Changing the Face of Agriculture is looking forward to its second annual event!  Please join Illinois Corn and around 90 other businesses and associations who will send their women to talk with the females in your life about a career in agriculture.

Register for the event here!

Thanks to Aaron Harris for creating this video!