NATIONAL AG WEEK: PLANTING KNOWLEDGE IN OTHERS

Last month I was asked the question how I can spread the word about agriculture to an audience that may not otherwise be concerned with what happens before their food arrives on the plate. I simply stated that I engage in conversations about agriculture with people I encounter on a daily basis. It a trickle effect and the knowledge you shared with maybe five people has reached hundreds.

During National Agriculture Week this year, which is March 18-22, there are numerous things to be excited about within the agriculture industry! America’s farmers are by far the most productive in the world, growing twenty percent more corn per acre than any other nation (USDA). But we haven’t become the most productive agriculture nation in the world without hard work, innovative technologies, and conservation practices that are paving the way upwards as we are reaching yield counts that were once unimaginable.

Farmers are ensuring that they are leaving their land in better shape for the future because more often than not farming is a multigenerational undertaking.

family farmer
Photo credit: Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer

When talking about conservation America’s corn farmers have cut soil erosion forty-four percent by using innovative conservation methods and those same farmers are growing eighty-seven percent more corn per ounce of fertilizer according to the USDA. Today’s farmers fully understand the toll their constant cultivation of the soil takes on the environment and are adopting new practices for generations to come. Some of these methods include: biodiversity and no till. Biodiversity is another word for planting a number of diverse crops to promote a healthier ecosystem as a whole, and “no till” refers to the practice of growing crops from year to year with little soil disturbance.

no till farming

On another note, new technologies are constantly being released in the ag industry that improve efficiency because every minute of a farmers time is extremely valuable. New GPS (Global positioning system) technologies enable farmers to have their planters and harvesters steer and now turn themselves automatically without much human intervention. The farmer is in some ways just along for the ride these days when it comes to the technologies that are changing the ag industry.

american farmer

So during this National Ag Week I encourage you to not keep your passion and knowledge locked away, but spread the word! Plant the knowledge about agriculture in others that will fuel the future.

beisswengerSteven Beisswenger
Illinois State University Student

MOBILE WEBSITE UPDATED

If you have a smartphone or tablet you may have noticed a change to the IL Corn website.  At the end of 2012 we unveiled a new mobile version.  As corn farming has developed and changed over the years, so has our online presence.  In order to continue to be a great resource and provide valuable information for corn farmers and consumers we know we can’t stay stagnant and we need to evolve.

Comparing the last 30 days to the same 30 day period 2 years ago, we have had a 545% increase in mobile traffic and in the last year we’ve had a 144% increase!  12% of ALL of our traffic in the last year came from a mobile device and in the last 30 days that number has increased to 17%.  We know many people are on the go and these numbers prove that.

With the new mobile website you can still find all the same information, but in a faster more streamlined way.  It will make it easier for you to find the latest updates on industry topics and events.  If you haven’t yet checked us out on your mobile device, give it a try.  Visit www.ilcorn.org from ANY mobile device and the website will automatically format specifically for you!

Becky FinfrockBecky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

THERE OUGHT TO BE AN APP FOR THAT!

Someone recently said to me, “Agriculture would be so much easier to understand if there were an app for it.”  Really.  It would be.  There is an app for everything.   Or so it seems.  Searching the App store for ‘Agriculture’ brings up “Ag Web News” and “Farm Futures,” and searching ‘Ag’ brings us to “AgRacer” where you compete in a driving challenge with various farm related implements.    Hmm…..what if we could explain agriculture in an App?

Apps are a relatively new thing—launched in July 2008 with only 500 or so. Today there are over 250,000 apps available for purchase from the Apple App Store.  There are apps for everything from Facebook to Log My Run, there is even an App for a level (I must admit I have it!) and a fake hand warmer.   (If you think your hand is warmer it might work!)

But how would you develop an app for agriculture?

First, a couple things about Apps. They have to be engaging.  They have to involve a challenge, how do you win this or come back for more?    From an Agriculture perspective, they need to be real.  Unlike Angry Birds, I think there would be an issue with flinging pitchforks at crows!   And you wouldn’t want talking cows or pigs, and really the corn or beans shouldn’t talk either.    It is getting tougher, isn’t it?

Let’s reflect on an App from this year in agriculture.   How would you reflect the drought?  How would you show the high winds in early August?  It sounds more like the ‘Hunger Games’ than a game! Seriously, would this make people come back for more?

Luckily, Ag in the Classroom just finished our ‘App’ for teachers this year.    Nearly 600 teachers across the state participated in our Summer Ag Institutes.  In a world where 60 million people pretend to be farmers in Farmville, (http://mashable.com/2010/09/10/farmville-vs-real-farms-infographic/)  these teachers saw first hand what happens on farms around Illinois.

One teacher wrote in her evaluation “All I kept thinking was, ‘there is more than farming in agriculture?’  But after our first day, I realized that this ‘farm thing’ was a bigger deal than I gave credit for.”   We have countless stories and anecdotes about how viewing agriculture from a new perspective gave them much more insight into what a ‘real farm’ is.

Another participant described her experience like this.   “I have learned that a farmer must be dedicated, hard-working and skilled in many areas.  Farmers have a deep passion for their profession and will do whatever it takes to make things work.  Perseverance is a trait that I hope I can instill in each one of my students, and I have learned that farming takes perseverance.”

All of that, and so much more, was learned when someone showed them what agriculture really was and they took the time to learn.   Could those emotions and experiences be channeled with an App on a 2”x3” screen?   I don’t think so.

In a era of catching falling blocks, pretending to raise strawberries and where birds explode in an effort to recapture eggs, Agriculture in the Classroom has an App for agriculture.

Our App is our Summer Agricultural Institute, and getting teachers to visit a farm.   Pretty simple and not real flashy, but it works!

Kevin Daugherty
Education Director
Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom