VOTE

Among other things, one important activity our board engaged in last week was the Illinois Ag Legislative Roundtable’s Candidate Forum.  We heard from Governor Pat Quinn, his opponent Representative Bill Brady, Congressman Mark Kirk who is running for Senate and his opponent and current Treasurer of the IL Alexi Giannoulias.
It really was a great night.  The weather was lovely as we listened to them from the middle of a cornfield in McLean County and the food was good.  Any farmer knows that the quality of a meeting can be partially judged by the food, right?
But this post isn’t really about the candidates.  Nor is it about the food.  It’s really about just plain voting.
I came home from the Candidate Forum and I was energized.  Actually, I was less energized and more motivated.  The candidates probably don’t really inspire me as much as they motivate me to want to control government spending.  Will any of our candidates do that?  I’m not sure … but the fact remains that I’m going to vote simply because I want someone that might control spending to get into office.

 

And as motivated as I was, as I spoke to my neighbor, she was equally unmotivated.  She doesn’t care.  She doesn’t think her vote matters.  She believes that all the candidates on every side of the aisle are biased and uncaring about the American/Illinois public.  She believes that they are all seeking election for the wrong reasons.

She can’t find a candidate that she can believe in.  She can’t find a candidate that she mostly agrees with and she doesn’t understand how she can prioritize to just one topic and vote according to candidate positions on that topic.

I’m sure I can find fifty other people in the span of the next fifteen minutes that agree with her.

In the chronicals of our history I’m sure there are also millions and millions of letters, articles, stories that aim to inspire people to vote.  Will I do any better than any of those?  Likely not, but I can’t ignore it all the same.

Perhaps the problem with our country is not so much the politicians as it is the plain old citizens – the ones that are uninspired, apathetic, and too busy to care or notice what’s happening.  Perhaps the problem with our state is that its citizens aren’t demanding more accountability, more access, and more information.  Perhaps the problem with our democracy isn’t the vote, but the voters themselves.

To paraphase something Treasurer Giannoulias said in his address, things in Washington aren’t going to change until elected officials quit serving their party and themselves and recognize that they are serving the American public.

Perhaps things in Washington (and Illinois!) aren’t going to change until each and every ordinary citizen does exactly the same.

Vote.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

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

BE TRUE TO YOUR FUEL VIDEO CONTEST

Iowa college students were put to the test recently by the Iowa Corn Promotion Board.  They were challenged to create a video depicting their school spirit while being true to Iowa’s homegrown fuel, corn-ethanol.  With a Grand Prize of $5,000 on the line, students met the challenge head on. 

The following three videos were selected as the finalists.  The video with the most views on Iowa Corn’s YouTube Channel by Sept. 1 will be the winner. 

What a fun way to celebrate Iowa’s number one crop, corn! 

http://www.youtube.com/v/q_F3nXTS3M8?fs=1&hl=en_US&color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00&border=1

http://www.youtube.com/v/yjt9hRNgwXM?fs=1&hl=en_US&color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00&border=1

http://www.youtube.com/v/5l9ogXppIgo?fs=1&hl=en_US&color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00&border=1

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

HOW ABOUT SOME POSITIVE PR?

Having your inbox flooded with positive news articles first thing on a Monday morning is a great thing!  I wish this happened every single week.

Just in case you need some pepping up on a long, hot Monday in August, here’s the quick list.  Check these articles out!

The Illinois Corn Marketing Board has been working on a “food desert” program where our farmers grow sweet corn for area food pantries.  So far, all involved parties seem to love both the positive feedback and the yummy, fresh sweet corn.  This project was also featured on the Produce Journal blog … everyone loves fresh sweet corn!

This really great Op-Ed in the New York Times says a lot of things that conventional farmers have been saying for years.  Grow food where it makes the most sense to grow food.  All soils, climates, areas of the country have competitive advantages for various crops.  If we want to feed the world, we need to use those competitive advantages to our … well … advantage.  Thanks Mr. Budiansky for bringing this important information to light.

And then, in a great move by the National Corn Growers Association, farmers all over the country now have access to draft editorials they can use, edit, and submit to their local papers, explaining to citizens all over our country that farmers are trustworthy and that conventional farming is part of the solution.  Other editorials focus on ethanol production, pesticide use, etc, providing scientific information to readers to dispell the myths that seem to cover the news.  Check out this letter to the editor  (make sure to scroll down to the third letter)and this one.

Have you seen any positive agriculture news floating around your hometown?

mitchell_lindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

YESTERDAY’S AGRICULTURE CANNOT FEED 9 BILLION PEOPLE

The main concern with the food movement these days is that old fashioned production methods will yield old fashioned yields, as in, one-third of our food would be lost.  This is a tough pill to swallow considering the people going hungry now all over the globe and the predicted population increase.

Still, no matter how many times farmers mention this life and death concern, it seems to fall on deaf ears.  How exciting to see our challenge graphically!  We hope this video will help more folks understand that while organic and local grown foods are great options, they are not long term solutions. 

http://www.youtube.com/v/ocPBHMnBM9U?fs=1&hl=en_US&color1=0xe1600f&color2=0xfebd01&border=1

In case you don’t have time to watch (you really should MAKE time), the main point of the video is “Yesterday’s agriculture cannot feed 9 billion people.”  I wish more people would really hear this message.

CHICAGOAN OF THE CORN: MY EXPERIENCE HARVESTING CORN FOR THE CITY PRODUCE PROJECT

As a college student, I have a general rule for mornings; stay in bed as long as possible. On Thursday, however, I found myself waiting at the train station at 6:50 a.m. to pick up my friend Ryan because we were going on an adventure. We were going corn harvesting in Manhattan, IL. Armed with bug spray, sunscreen, caffeine and Twinkies, these two city kids were on the road south to lend a hand to farmers who were aiding the City Produce Project supported by Monsanto and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. While in the car, I explained the program to my yawning partner in crime.

“The corn is going to be sent to a food pantry and then given to people who live in food deserts,” I said.

“Where is there a desert around here,” Ryan asked. More caffeine.

I started to question this adventure as the trek took us through landscape less dotted with buildings and more defined by various crops indistinguishable to my untrained urban eye. But after navigating country detours and gravel roads with my not-as-trusty-as-you’d-expect GPS, there was no turning back. I parked my car behind a pick-up truck and next to a tractor, and Ryan and I left bliss known as air-conditioning behind.

“It’s hot. I mean…no, really, it is hot,” I observed in discomfort. I questioned my choices in farming fashion, wondering if I should have dressed for extreme heat, but surprisingly enough, I made a smart decision.

When picking corn, it is a good idea to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, plus eye protection. I split the difference on all counts, opting for capris, short-sleeved t-shirt and goofy sunglasses. Truth be told, I looked goofy, period.

With a high-five and a “Let’s DO THIS!” affirmation, we joined a large group of volunteers in the field. There were several kids helping, some of which were from a church group and some were Boy Scouts, and all seemed very eager to help. I noticed a photographer snapping pictures of all the hard work and also heard John Kiefner, a farmer who planted corn for City Produce Project, giving a very energetic interview.

Ryan and I introduced ourselves to an experienced corn harvester and received a quick tutorial. After another high-five and bout of nervous laughter, I got to pickin’. A corn stalk had anywhere between one and three ears of corn growing on it. The first stalk I grabbed had a large ear of corn, so I took hold and tried to rip it off the stalk. It didn’t budge. At all. Embarrassment ensued.

Ryan surrounded by broken stalks

I swallowed my pride and asked a young volunteer next to me, “Wait…I maybe missed something here. How do you do this again?” He said, “Like this,” and ripped that sucker clean off without a hitch. I needed to man up. After that small hiccup, it was smooth sailing; remove the corn, then break the stalk so it would fall to the ground and make way for the next. The crops themselves were actually very resilient, with leaves firm enough to give me a small cut similar to a paper-cut on the top of my hand. It even drew a small amount of blood, but nothing was going to get me to cry uncle in front of these seasoned harvesters. Not even the fact that I was smeared with mud. Yuck.

Once the corn was removed from the stalk, I was told to peel back a small section of the husk to make sure the corn was acceptable to be donated. It was important to harvest as much good corn as we could, considering the crop was going to those in underserved communities. Every ear counted.

“If it’s yellow and developed, throw it in the bucket,” said our corn guru. I took that advice maybe too literally, and did my best Michael Jordan lay-up with my corn haul.

“She shoots…she scores,” Kiefner exclaimed while driving a tractor in reverse. Who says a city girl can’t have fun on a farm?

After my re-enactment of the Chicago Bulls Championship run of 1993, Ryan and I dumped the bucket of corn onto a large flat-bed truck. Kiefner drove the truck from the field and into the barn, where the corn was loaded into sacks. The barn was also where the volunteers could refuel and get a minute away from the beating rays of the sun (did I mention it was hot?). Volunteers sat down on any suitable area they could find and sipped on water to prevent dehydration.

The field after all the sweet corn was harvested

Jim Robbins, the owner of the farm, helped facilitate the action within the barn while Kiefner worked outside. During my time in the barn, I got to see all of the volunteers at once; there was significantly more than I had anticipated. I signed my name onto a sheet that was passed around the barn, and I was amazed that my name fit on the second sheet of paper.

While I didn’t get a chance to really interact with many of the other helpers, I did take a moment to chat with a lady who had videotaped us working in the field. When she asked where I was from, I told her Chicago.

“Wow, what are you doing down here,” she asked.

“I’m here to help on behalf of the City Produce Project,” I said. Noticing her confusion, I continued, “This corn will be cycled into this program. After it leaves the farm, it will be distributed to families who have little access to fresh vegetables otherwise. It’s designed to improve nutrition in places that don’t have the opportunity to experience fresh, local food like this. It’s a good thing.”

And that’s when it hit me.

It really is a good thing. While getting up before fast food joints stop serving breakfast and driving down a gravel road isn’t going to be a lifestyle that’s calling my name, I have a new appreciation for fresh food. The farmers seemed so grateful for the help, expressing that we managed to finish a day-long job for two people in just about two hours. Plus knowing the corn was going to city residents in need rather than a supermarket produce section halfway across the country solidified a sense of just plain “good.”

For more information about the City Produce Project, check out their Twitter at http://twitter.com/CityProdProj

Nicky Hunter
The Kineo Group Intern

NEW AG EDUCATION EXHIBIT FEATURED AT IL STATE FAIR


Illinois Corn and other commodity groups have a new and improved presence at the state fair. Aimed at occupying the little ones while educating families, the Farmer’s Little Helper exhibit walks visitors thru barns about corn, soybeans, cattle, pigs, horses, poultry, farm safety and more.

I spent the day in the Commodity Pavilion and the Director’s Lawn for Ag Day festivities, but made it a point to visit the Farmer’s Little Helper exhibit. Families were learning about Illinois agriculture, both that it’s supplying a safe and abundant food supply and the hard work, time and energy that it takes for farmers to produce food for our state as well as the world. This is an important connection between farm families and the citizens of Illinois encouraging an open and understanding relationship between the two.

Children that visited the exhibit had many hands-on learning opportunities. Such as: milking a cow, measuring their height compared to a corn or soybean plant, seeing a real live baby chick, and learning where the cuts of meat come from. All of these activities plant a seed of understanding and appreciation for agriculture in the minds of our youth.

In each barn kids played games relating to that industry and their winnings (i.e. eggs, milk, wool, etc) were collected to sell at the ‘market’ at the exit of the exhibit. This miniature scale market helps children understand the real-life business of agriculture. And if there is one thing agriculture needs, it’s for people to better understand who we are, what we are doing, and why we are doing it.
The Illinois State Fair has a long agricultural history, in fact the reason the ISF exists is to showcase premier agriculture products, so it’s certainly encouraging to see this highlighted at the fair again.
While I was walking thru the Farmer’s Little Helper exhibit I was stopped by a woman who was very impressed and enthused to see a quality ag education center at the fair. In her words, “It’s certainly about time we did something for our farmers”.

Indeed it is.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant