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 Susan Parrish of Edenton, NC:

Dear Dad:

Growing up on a farm was one of the best things that I have ever experienced. We raised corn, peanuts, cotton, soybeans, wheat, rapeseed and about 150 head of cattle in a small rural town in Eastern North Carolina.  I used to think life was unfair when I was little, being the oldest of 5 children, I felt as though I had a lot of responsibility.  When my friends were running the streets, I usually was home helping on the farm, whether it be preparing the next meal, helping you with the cattle, or driving a truck or tractor. At the time, I thought it was punishment but now I realize these days were teaching me a major lesson in life.  You taught  me to love the land, hard work, respect, honesty, and determination.  When school was out, our friends were playing, watching TV, and hanging out.  We were scouting cotton, chopping peanuts, working in the garden, hauling hay, moving cattle, or just helping with equipment. Mom would be in the kitchen cooking 3 meals a day as well as helping you around the farm.  She was one of the best non-judgmental people I know.  We lost her way too early, but she had raised 5 children and helped you with a successful farming business.

After mom passed away at age 50, you stepped up to the plate and took things over as well as kept your business going.   Now you and my brother are partners in the farm and have a very successful business going.  We all still help when needed and that will never change.  Being part of a family farm, I believe is one of the best things that anyone could go through.  It has blessed us in so many ways.  I appreciate all you have taught me and through all my ups and downs you have been there 100%.  You will help anyone in need, will give the shirt off your back.  You are one of the greatest people one could ever meet.

Susan L Parrish

Parrish Family



In life’s hectic day-to-day grind, we all probably take many things, and people, for granted.  It’s easy to do.  This week is National Write a Letter of Appreciation Week, so take a few minutes today and think about something, or someone, you’d like to show appreciation for and write a letter.  You can send yours to ilcorn@ilcorn.org and we’ll feature it here on our blog…. We’ll also throw in a special gift for taking part!

Dear Farmer – more specifically – Dad,

Hollands 006Growing up on a family farm, life wasn’t always easy or ‘fair’.  I wasn’t able to run down the street to play with my friends after school or on many weekends like the rest of the kids in my class.  You expected me to be at home helping in the garden, in the field mowing hay, or in the pasture checking cows.  And you didn’t pay me for doing these things.  If I wanted to buy something extra, then I had to earn the money for it.  Summers of my youth were spent detasseling and baling hay.  Once I hit sixteen, I worked part-time outside of the farm.  You were always there for me and supplied me with the necessities, but if I wanted more, I was expected to earn it myself.

I wasn’t able to have all the coolest, up-to-date clothes that the other girls in my class sported.  Mom took us shopping at Farm & Fleet and we got the Wranglers that were on sale.  Boots were handed down from older siblings, it didn’t matter if they were boys or girls, we wore what fit.

While my town friends were sleeping in or watching Saturday morning cartoons, we were working cattle before the heat set in for the day.  Sometimes even being woke up in the middle of the night to round up loose cows.

You know what though… I wouldn’t change it for anything.  Life on the farm taught me many lessons that I have carried with me into adulthood.

  • Determination and Commitment – When I got bucked off a horse, the world didn’t stop turning for me, I had to get right back on and ride.  You taught me that when something isn’t going right, you don’t give up, you dig your heels in and finish the job.
  • Roll with the Punches –  Things don’t always go as expected on a farm… you’ve got a 30 acre field of hay cut and an unexpected thunderstorm rolls in, or a heifer is having problems calving at 2 in the morning, you’ve got to deal with the obstacles as they come at you, not everything can be done by the book…. Not so different than the hurdles I face in life now.
  • Caring – Farmers care about the welfare of their sources of livelihood – the livestock and the land – like no other profession I’ve ever come across.  You taught me this.  How many corporate folk do you know that would go out in the driving rain and sleet to help a downed cow?  I can’t name any.  That’s part of a farmer’s job though.  You care about the quality of life of your animals and that extends to caring about others as well.  When a neighboring farmer is going through a hard time and needs help getting the crops in, we helped.  You don’t stand by and watch others struggle, you do what you can to lift them up.
  • Respect – You taught me to respect my elders, the land and the animals we raised.  Without them, we wouldn’t have anything.
  • Be Independent and Work Hard– You can’t rely on others for everything.  You taught me that if I wanted something I had to work for it and do it myself.  There wasn’t going to be any magical Fairy Godmother to wave her wand and pay for my first car or my college tuition.  You taught me how to change a tire so I wouldn’t have to be stuck on the side of the road waiting for help.

This is just a short list of the things you taught me, but what I’m really trying to say is, thank you Dad, from the bottom of my heart.  I appreciate all the lessons learned and quality time spent together.   Without you and Mom showing me the ropes of farm life, I don’t think I would be the person I am today.  And to all the other farm parents who have created such an amazing environment in which to raise their families, you are appreciated.

Becky FinfrockBecky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant




combineSo you are thinking about becoming a farmer? There are many things you need to ask yourself before considering this challenge. This is not an unusual desire especially if you were raised on a farm. If you grew up farming and you have parents or grandparents that can help you get started that is a huge advantage as you have years of experience and equipment and possibly resources, such as land, to get you started.

The first thing is to be able to accept the fact there will be times you fail. Every farmer fails at some point in their career. It is failure that makes them smarter and stronger in times of adversity, which leads to my next point.

Second, know the farmers that live around you. In those times of adversity and when you need help, those neighbors can become very helpful. So, becoming friends with them will be very helpful in the long run, and if you don’t start off on the right foot with your neighbors it could really be a pain.

Third, you will need a real desire to farm. It will require some very long days to be successful. Many times when your buddies are off to baseball games, cookouts, or weekend trips you will have to turn down the invite. There is no way around that. When it’s time to plant, milk cows, bale hay, harvest or numerous other chores you are the one who must be there to perform these tasks. It takes a motivated person to be a farmer.

baling hay

Fourth, you must be willing to get your hands dirty and to learn how to do many different jobs. You can hire people to get some tasks done but you will be more profitable and self-sufficient if you can do these chores yourself. It may be being an electrician, vet, mechanic, builder, etc.

Fifth, be responsible with your money. When you are growing your operation, which will continue for most of your career, you must reinvest what you can in the business. The things that you want or desire should take a back seat. You should ask yourself, will this purchase make me money?  As a beginning farmer often you will need to forgo pleasure purchases, be it cars, vacations, jewelry and instead invest in inputs, land, and improvement in equipment.

Last but not least, one of the most important factors in the success of a farm operation is that your spouse or any other farming partners have the same goals in mind as you. Just as in any business, if you aren’t all in and focused on the same goals then you will not have the success that would have been possible otherwise.

Farming requires a lot of patience and faith and perseverance. You will have to deal with weather, insects, regulations, and price fluctuation. You will have to be absent at times when you wanted to be present. But, if you feel like you are made for farming and can work within those parameters, then you will find no better way of living. Knowing that you come from generations of farmers before you who have survived and thrived in this field gives you a sense of place and satisfaction. Farm life is a good life and a great place to raise a family. When you can go out and be in the midst of nature and smell freshly turned soil or fresh cut hay as part of your occupation, what more can you ask?

Jacob RotherhamJacob Rotherham
LincolnLand CC Student


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.


What comes to mind when you think of a farmer? Is it someone who grows food for us and hogs up the road with their tractors in the fall? Or maybe someone who works for the government, providing specifically what they are told. If you are not involved in the agriculture world, you may not know what really goes in to farming, and in return, what comes out of it.

Agriculture is all around us, we sometimes just don’t realize. Think about what you ate today, a good percentage of that food was most likely grown by a farmer. It was planted, harvested, and sent to the store for your consumption. But do you ever wonder where all of that food comes from? And what the decision-making process is behind growing the product was? The answer links back to our American farmers.

A common misconception among today’s society is that the government tells farmers what to plant and how to plant it. This is in fact false. Farmers do have their own voice on their farm. It is ultimately their decision what type of crop they want to grow, as well as what brand of seed, fertilizer, chemicals, etc. they desire to use once it is planted. Whether its corn, beans, wheat, grass, or another type of plant, farmers make the decision on their own with limited help from outside influences.

Much of their decision on what to plant each year relies on personal preference. Many farmers follow a field rotation of planting corn one year, and then beans the next.  Although, sometimes this pattern can be disrupted if the farmer feels they will receive more money from planting a certain crop back-to-back years, or if other incentives arise that persuade them in a different direction.

When to plant, and when to harvest are determined by the farmer as well. Depending on the crop and the weather conditions throughout the growing season, farmers can assume the best time to take action in their fields. Farmers are their own boss, and can make the decisions on what is best for themselves and their business on their own. (Insert image 2 here).

However, the government does have a say on a certain type of land. This exception is called Highly Erodible Land, or HEL. HEL is land that is steeper sloping and has a higher possibility of eroding, or washing away. Government regulations on this type of land state that you must do a no-till process on the field. No-till means, that after harvesting the crops in the fall, farmers will not do any tilling work to loosen up the ground to prepare for planting the following spring. This process will leave the ground firmer, and thus make it more difficult to wash away, therefore slowing down the erosion process in the future.

Most farms are independently run operations. Hard work and sweat are the things we notice about farmers from a distance, but behind the scenes is another story. Not only do they work hard to feed America, but farmers tackle a major decision-making process every day. They have their own voice, and success on their farms can be measured by their decisions.

Amy Erlandson
Illinois State University