A NON-FARMERS GUIDE TO AGRICULTURE MYTHS

We are throwing it back for #TBT. This post was originally posted on our blog on May 22, 2014.

There are so many myths that buzz around about the agriculture industry. It is time to put a few of those myths to a rest. Even if you are not a farmer, I can help you decode a few of these myths, and help you make better food choices.

  1. GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) are less nutritious than non-GMO products.

This myth is one of the largest agricultural movements sweeping the globe right now. Many people believe that GMO products are less nutritious that Non-GMO foods. There have been many studies conducted on GMO foods, and no evidence has been proven that GMO foods are less nutritious or unsafe. In fact, it has been proven that growing GMO crops can result in better-tasting fruits and vegetables that stay fresh longer and are naturally resistant to pests. A genetically modified organism is an organism in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. It creates an avenue to transfer genes from one organism to another. Here is a great video that explains more about GMOs.

GMO Concerns?

  1. Meat is full of antibiotics and other drugs.

There are times that antibiotics are used in livestock production, when needed. They are never used in meat production. The FDA (Federal Drug Administration) does not allow farmers and ranchers to medicate livestock prior to taking them to market. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) monitors meat processing plants where they test animal carcasses and organs to insure there are no traces of antibiotics or other drugs. The fact is that there are rarely any violations of drug contamination. You can now rest easy, knowing that your meat is antibiotic and drug free.

  1. Labeling our foods creates healthier food options.

gluten free saladFood labeling can be deceiving to shoppers in the store. Many food labels are used as marketing techniques to influence a buyer’s decision on a product. The majority of Americans will be influenced to buy something that is “gluten-free”, “GMO-free”, and “Antibiotic-free”. When in fact they most likely do not know what gluten, or better yet what a GMO is. The movement make our food labeled by law is a way for companies to use marketing techniques to influence your buying decision. As you can see a low carb gluten free salad in the picture, however it is not necessarily healthy.

  1. Gluten is unhealthy for humans to eat.

Gluten has recently turned to one of the largest health and wellness myths in America. Many people today hear the word gluten, and automatically place it as the new food evil. The interesting thing is, most people don’t even know what gluten really is. Check out the video below to see people who support a gluten-free diet, yet have no clue what gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and related grains. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it raise and keep its shape. This protein can be harmful to people if they suffer from celiac disease, which is an intestinal disorder that causes you to be sensitive to gluten. Don’t just cut gluten out of your diet, it can cause you to become deficient in fiber and many other essential vitamins and minerals. If you feel you are sensitive to gluten, be sure to do your research and see your physician.

What is Gluten?

The next time you hear of a new fad that demotes conventional agriculture, make sure to do your research. You can find out answers to many of your food questions here at Common Ground, or just ask a farmer.

 

Jesse Cler PicJesse Cler
Southern Illinois University Carbondale

 

THE POST PLANTING TO-DO LIST

After the long stressful days of watching the weather, avoiding as many break-downs as possible, and moving equipment from field to field are over a grain farmer’s work is over, until harvest, right?

Think again!

That is just the beginning.

Planting is a stressful and vulnerable time for farmers, not only because Mother Nature does what she wants when she wants to, but because they are about to risk a large chunk of change by planting little seeds into a big black field of soil. Many weeks, if not months, go into prepping for planting. Farmers must pick their seed variety, purchase the seed, cultivate their fields (unless they no-till), and eliminate all the weeds they can before nestling the seeds into a cozy bed.

Here’s a list of what farmers do after their planting is finished. As you will see a Farmer’s work is never truly finished.

Check for sprouting/ swelling seeds

Farmers must keep a close eye on their seeds and the amount of moisture they are taking in. If a seed takes up water it will begin to swell and if temperatures aren’t high enough the seed will not germinate and will rot in the ground.

“The seed will take up water with soil temperatures cooler than 50 degrees. The seed imbibes the water, takes it in, but doesn’t germinate because it’s too cold,” says Jim Fawcett, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist in eastern Iowa.

If it has rained, check the soil for crusting

If it has rained, check the soil for crustingA soil crust forms after rain droplets cause the soil to break into individual particles. The small particles then get washed together and join together into a hard crust, preventing moisture from going in and seeds from going out of the ground. Farmers need to be aware of a crust forming and will have to use appropriate tillage equipment to break the crust if necessary.

Confirm the seed population

Many pocket knives are used for this job. I remember watching my PawPaw get down on one knee and dig through the rich dark soil to look for seeds. Farmers do this to authenticate that their planters released the right about of seeds, not to overcrowd the plants or not use the land to its full potential.

Monitor plants for insect damage

Insects want to munch on the corn and there aren’t many options to prevent this, except spraying pesticides. Check out what this farmer has to say about using pesticides to protect his yield.

Look for weed pressure-if present decide if spraying is necessary

Spraying cornWeeds are a huge hindrance on the growth of a farmer’s crop. Therefore monitoring the amount of weed growth is important, if they are overcrowding and stealing nutrients from the plants a farmer will need to consider spraying his field.

Check color of plants

Corn colorThis may seem strange but the color of the crop will tell you a lot about how it is maturing. Yellowing crops aren’t healthy and need attention, or possibly less rain.

Take a deep breath and relax

I doubt this will be very easy for farmers as they follow grain prices on the roller coaster until the crop is ready to harvest. They can take this down time to get all of the equipment ready for the approaching fall.

 

jessica tJessica Telgmann
University of Illinois

PLAY BALL!

It is that time of year again!

The Normal CornBelters had their season home opener on Tuesday, May 19th.

The final score was 9-2 with a victory for the CornBelters.

If you are ever in the area, be sure to check them out! Here is a current scheduleCorn Belters

“Take me out to the ball game
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack
I don’t care if I never get back
Let me root, root, root for the home team
If they don’t win it’s a shame
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out
At the old ball game”

SAVE CASH, EAT MORE BURGERS ON MEMORIAL DAY

It is almost summer and what a relief it is! Temperatures are rising, the sun is shining, and summer travels are on the way. But before it is “officially” summer, a very important holiday comes around to kick off the season: Memorial Day.

american flag

Some families barbecue, others watch parades, many people travel to be with family, but a bunch do all three.  As a college student, I have learned it is super important to get a bang for your buck so I want to drop a major hint to those who read this blog post. If you’re driving across the U.S. or just taking the 20 minute drive to be with Grandma and Grandpa for the day there is more than one way to be green.

Ethanol is a game-changer for the consumer. As I was passing a gas station today, I saw that 85% ethanol was running about $1.99… ONLY $1.99. The invention of Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) allows consumers to purchase ethanol at a much lower price than regular unleaded gasoline. FFVs began manufacturing in the 90s however today it is much easier to know which cars can use ethanol. In 2006, most car manufacturer’s started putting yellow caps on the gas tank, have E85 labeled on the fuel door, or have a FLEX FUEL badge on the car. FlexFuelBadge

Flex Fuel Vehicles make green two ways:

  1. Ethanol is better for the environment. It is a proven fact that using ethanol instead of gasoline helps reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions by an average of 34%! If you have a FFV why not help the environment out? environment
  2. Ethanol helps keep money in your pocket. If you have the car and like spending money on other things than gas you should definitely make the switch. Like I said earlier, I passed a gas station with ethanol priced at $1.99. Unleaded gasoline was in the $2.40s. It may not seem like much, but all that change adds up in the end.

e 85

Since you’ll have all of this green left over by saving at the pump here are a few things you could spend it on during Memorial Day Weekend:

  1. You can use some of that extra money to host a killer barbecue for your family and friends. You can buy even more hot dogs, burgers, and brats! What’s not to like?
  2. If your family lives across the nation and Memorial Day is the only time of the year everyone is able to get together you can use some of that money on travel expenses.
  3. Everyone likes to have a good game of bags to kill time before it’s time to eat, you could buy a couple sets for the guests to play on!

It’s great to save a couple bucks with ethanol and it’s great to be with your family and friends, but you can’t forget what Memorial Day is actually about.

Memorial Day is devoted to remembering men and women who have died while serving the United States of America. The National Moment of Remembrance is at 3 p.m. local time for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. Please take this time to honor these people who have given their lives for you and me. memorialday

ellen childressEllen Childress
Illinois State University student

9 THINGS YOU CAN DO WITH STRAWBERRIES

Tomorrow is National Pick a Strawberry Day! I feel as though this day is highly underrated and should be celebrated much more. Strawberries are definitely my favorite fruit, and they go great with so many things.

To celebrate, I have collected a list of nine really awesome things to do with strawberries. Some I have tested and approved, others just sound really good and would like to try them myself.

Step one to celebrate this day is to find a local strawberry patch, a pick your own (u-pick) strawberry field. If there isn’t one close to you, or it is still too early in the season, store bought strawberries will work also.

Strawberry PopsiclesStrawberry Popsicles

This recipe is really refreshing, and great for a hot summer day. Don’t forget your Popsicle mold!

Strawberry Cheesecake Muffins

Who doesn’t like a soft strawberry muffin layered with a cheesecake filling and topped with brown sugar streusel? Can you say, dessert for breakfast?

Strawberry lime saladStrawberry, Kiwi & Lime Salad

This is for all of you trying to eat healthier. It is still a salad, but a great option to satisfy any sweet tooth.

Strawberry Dessert Pizza

It is just a spin on traditional dessert pizza, but it is easy and versatile. You can add blueberries to this recipe and you have the perfect patriotic dessert.

Strawberry Lemon Donuts

This recipe I have not tried, but it sounds delicious! If compared to  regular donuts, they aren’t THAT unhealthy.

SStrawberry Jamtrawberry Jam

Let’s be honest, no one makes strawberry jam as good as grandma made it. Unfortunately for me, grandma never wrote down her recipe. It was always just a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. When I wasn’t looking, I think is when she would sprinkle in her secret ingredient. I have tried several times to make jam as good as my grandma and still haven’t mastered it. But this recipe is as close as I have come.

strawberry nutella poptartStrawberry Nutella Poptarts

Two childhood foods put into one recipe, Nutella and poptarts. The kiddos are guaranteed to love this one.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

This recipe is a personal favorite. Strawberry Rhubarb pie is my favorite pie! It goes great with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream. Disclaimer: Do not try rhubarb uncooked and by itself, it is not good.

Strawberry Sorbet

Chances are you will probably have the ingredients for this recipe just lying around your house. This recipe is quick and easy to make.

 

Hannah ZellerHannah Zeller
Communications Assistant

7 STEPS TO MAKE YOUR FARM GRADUATION PARTY THE BEST IN CLASS

As graduation time rolls around, every country boy and girl is looking to have the BEST graduation party ever. With these helpful ideas, hopefully your party will be the best in class.

Jenga1. Games

Call it cornhole or bags, this game will be seen at many outdoor activities, why not your graduation party!? Sets are sold virtually everywhere, but why not try to make your own? Another fun thing to try is giant Jenga. Just like the smaller versions, you simply remove one piece at a time until the tower topples over.

2. FFA

Chances are, the grad was heavily involved in FFA—an organization that promotes agriculture. Whether you are involving the emblem, the jacket, or the colors of FFA: National Blue and Corn Gold, FFA is bound to be involved somewhere in the party! FFACake

Quilt3. T-Shirt Quilt

Any graduate is going to have dozens of t-shirts accumulated over the years from teams, organizations and events. This is a time consuming project, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get this done (or enlist grandma to help, these also make good presents!)

Dispenser4. Drink Presentation

On a hot summer afternoon, the most important thing might be an iced cold drink. We really like drink dispensers like these, or try putting your drinks in metal basins with ice! An idea like this looks much more thought out than a simple cooler, but it’s just as easy!

Terracotta5. Forks, Spoons, and Knives

There are a lot of cute country ways to give your guests eating utensils. Some include wrapping them in bandanas, tying them together in school colors or placing them in mason jars. Whatever you choose, make sure they’re placed where guests will see them—the best place is at the beginning of the buffet line, not the end or on the tables.

6. Pictures

A graduation party would not be complete without photos and documents of accomplishments from throughout the years. A table with posters is a great idea, but we also like the idea of hanging pictures from twine around the party location.

daisy7. Flowers

The right flowers can give anything a country edge. Be sure to stick to things such as daises, baby’s breath, wildflowers and sunflowers for a rural charm. Be creative with your vase options: mason jars, pots, pails and mismatched antiques are perfect for adding to the country atmosphere!

 

 

 

melanieMelanie Krawczyk
Illinois State University

 

 

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW …

 

Exports (trade) really is so important to the Illinois economy.  Illinois ranks among the top 5 state exporters in 41 industries, including first in railroad rolling stock ($957 million) and second in ag & construction machinery ($8.0 billion), oilseeds & grains ($4.2 billion), and engines & turbines ($2.6 billion).

Between 2009 and 2013, Illinois goods  exports have increased by 53 percent and services exports by 32 percent.  That’s a lot of economic activity during the U.S. downturn and a budget and revenue crisis in Illinois!
exports by the numbers

 

source: http://tradebenefitsamerica.org/sites/default/files/IL_TRADE_2013_0.pdf 

IS THE U.S. ON AN UN LEVEL PLAYING FIELD?

trade agreements

Just 20 of the world’s 260+ trade agreements include the U.S. It’s time to pass Trade Promotion Authority!

Also loving this update from Mitt Romney on Facebook today.  If someone like Gov Romney is in favor of giving President Obama authority over trade, maybe we should all be in favor!

“It probably wouldn’t be a bad rule of thumb to oppose anything President Obama supports. But Trade Promotion Authority is an exception. Admittedly, his ham-handed rally at Nike gives pause–he should instead have visited New Balance, which still makes some of its shoes in the United States. But putting Obama’s missteps aside, TPA is good for America.

Global trade happens. The old Soviet Union tried to wall itself off from trade and got poorer and weaker as a result. In the modern world, if you can’t compete, you can’t survive and thrive. Fortunately, America can compete–and succeed–if the rules are right, and if they are enforced. Our trade with China has been decidedly disadvantageous because China cheated, big time. And if we don’t negotiate a fair and enforceable trade regime with other nations in Asia, China’s cheating will get even worse.

I can’t be sure that President Obama can negotiate a trade deal that’s good for America, but I am sure that the Republican Congress will turn down one that’s not. And properly crafted, a trade deal will mean more and better paying jobs for Americans–the 38 million trade related jobs in America today pay a good deal more than the average. We can’t ignore the fact that 95% of the world’s consumers live outside the United States: if we can’t successfully sell our products and services to them, we will become an economic backwater like the Soviet Union–and ultimately face the same fate.

Let’s direct the president to do his best and then vote it up or down.”