NERVOUS ABOUT PESTICIDES?

We know non-farmers have a lot of questions about pesticides.  They are confusing and scary and the fear and concern you might have completely makes sense.

This mom went to out to talk to other moms about pesticides and how she uses them on her own fields.  If you’re nervous about pesticides in food, you’ll definitely want to watch this one.

And then you’ll want to find out more about food, farming, and feeding your family.

Check out this article specifically on pesticides, or visit Common Ground to learn more about a host of other food issues.

WHY DO FARMERS PLANT GMO SEEDS?

Farmers understand that non-farmers have questions about GMOs.

You’ve heard scary things.  You don’t understand what a genetically modified organism is.  you might even believe that farmers are forced to plant GM seeds!

This perspective from a farmer (found on GMO Answers) is a great one.  Read on to better understand why Brian Scott, a farmer from IN, plants genetically modified crops.

On our farm we used GMO crops for two reasons:

  •  We use Bt traits in our corn to control below ground pests that like to eat corn roots, and to protect the plant above ground as well.
  • The second reason is to expand the range of tools available to us for weed control via herbicide tolerance traits.

Allow me to explain further.

GMO seedsWith Bt corn traits our crop is protected from infestations of particular corn pests. These pests must munch on a corn plant to be affected. One great benefit of this technology is that if an economically damaging level of corn rootworm or earworm comes along our crop will be protected.

We won’t have to come in during the growing season to make a blanket pesticide treatment across the entire field. This means a sprayer is kept out of the field — meaning it didn’t need fuel to power the sprayer or water to carry the chemical. Fewer passes across a field also mean less soil compaction in the wheel tracks. And don’t forget I didn’t buy any chemical or pay an application fee to a custom sprayer. Because Bt targets specific pests, we are not spraying insecticide on the beneficial insects in our fields.

Lately we haven’t had a great deal of corn pest pressure so we’ve been backing off on buying Bt traits to save money. We do still use seed treatments to ward off pests and disease early in the season. We stopped using soil applied insecticide in 2012, and that has been working out well for us so far. I attribute cutting that out of our management program to the success of Bt crops and weather patterns keeping the pest population below economic levels. This is working in our favor right now as corn prices are about half of what they were two years ago.

Herbicide tolerance is a great tool. There are several different traits on the market, but right now we are only using RoundUp Ready technology. All of our soybeans are Roundup Ready (RR). Some of our corn is RR and some is not.

For 2015, about half of our corn crop is non-GMO. Why? Because the facility we sell waxy corn to wants all non-GMO for the 2015 crop. Growing waxy is just like growing regular dent corn, but we get a $.55/bu premium. We grow popcorn too, and since there is no GMO popcorn it also is not RR. That being said, we generally do not spray any Roundup, also known as glyphosate, on our corn crop even on the RR acres. We rely on it for weed control in our soybeans, but we like to rotate to different modes of action to manage weeds in corn. Not relying solely on RoundUp in both crops is one way we can stave off herbicide resistance forming in our fields.

Corn has more and better chemical weed control options than non-GMO soybeans do. RoundUp works really well for us in soybeans. Marestail can be a little tough in our beans sometimes, but that’s why we spray something else when we rotate to corn every other year. Yes, the marestail is resistant to glyphosate these days. There are other herbicide tolerant traits in soybeans like Liberty Link and Enlist is coming soon. So the tools available to kill weeds in soybeans are expanding, and that is a good thing.

Before RR soybeans came along we used to till the soil multiple times before the planter even put seed in the ground. Now we till one time or even zero times because we manage our weeds very effectively with RoundUp and sometimes we use a burndown before planting with residual activity that will capture newly emerging weeds early in the growing season before we make a post-emergent glyphosate application.  Reducing our tillage passes greatly reduces our need for fuel. Tillage is our most fuel intensive operation on the farm. Reducing tillage also improves our soil structure which has a number of benefits including improved water infiltration and retention and reduced erosion.

HOW DOES A FARMER USE TRASH?

Have you see this amazing video about how farmers use trash to benefit their crops?

No, not trash from your garbage can. Trash, as in, the left over stalks and crop residue from the previous year left laying on the empty field.

Check out this Illinois farmer describing his crop management practice of using trash to leave his farm better than he found it!

WATER TESTING IS ONE SOLUTION

Our IL Corn office continues to work extensively on preserving the quality of the water in Illinois.  What that basically means for us is that we’re working really hard with farmers to help them understand the problem and their opportunities to be a part of the solution.  We’re also working with regulators (like the EPA) to show them the progress we’re making with farmers and with other cooperators and interested parties like the National Fish and Wildlife Federation who give us funding for programming to help promote clean water.

One of our biggest pushes right now is to get farmers thinking about testing the water coming off of their fields.  (To understand better why water coming off of their fields matters, read this background post!)

You might not have thought about it, but the old adage “April Showers bring May Flowers” comes into play.  We all know that it typically rains more often in the spring.  As the fields are starting to “wake up” from the winter, they often get tons of rainwater falling on them water testing sitesand the farmers that have applied nutrients for their spring seedlings likely see some of those nutrients washed away in the spring rains.

So we’re starting now.  We might not prevent that nutrient loss in 2016, but we hope we’ll help farmers see the nutrients they are losing this spring to help them change their practices for 2017.  Farmers definitely want clean water, but they also want their seedlings to have access to all the needed nutrients as they grow.  AND they don’t want to watch nutrients they paid for be washed into the ditches and streams in the area.

Farmers want to fix this problem.

Our education starts with water testing sits all over the state.  We’re encouraging farmers to stop at their tiles and ditches this spring and bring water samples to testing sites.  We want them to see on a weekly basis how changes in precipitation and timing can impact nutrient loss and water quality on their farms.

It’s all about the environment and leaving the resources a little better than we found them.  Farmers are definitely willing to do their part – and with a little help and education, we know we’ll get them there!

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A FARMER: JANUARY

As a farmer’s wife I can’t tell you how many times I have answered the question “Where’s your husband?” when attending social functions by myself. Depending on the time of year, I typically respond with “in the fields… hauling grain… working cows… baling hay… in the shop…” etc. Farmers are just BUSY — All the time!

Some people think that the only busy times of the year are planting and harvest and the rest of the year farmers spend their glorious amounts of free time vacationing or tinkering with antique tractors. This may be true for some, but not the majority. I’m beginning a one-year series that will give you an idea of a farmer’s work load. Watch for my monthly article to stay up-to-date with what farmers might be up to at different times of the year. Keep in mind that all farms operate differently and I am just providing one example of a year in the life of a grain farmer. There are several factors that contribute to the seasonality of the farm such as size and scale of the operation, crops grown, location, livestock, management style and general upbringing or personal work ethic! I hope this provides some insight to what versatile businessman farmers are.

Year in the life of a farmer

Start at the beginning!

FEBRUARY
MARCH
APRIL
MAY
JUNE
JULY
AUGUST
SEPTEMBER
OCTOBER
NOVEMBER

Bookkeeping

The agriculture fiscal year-end is December 31st meaning that January is a very busy month for bookkeeping and tax preparation. Farm taxes are due a little earlier than other individuals’: March 1st. Between now and then there will be several meetings with accountants to go through the business’s income and expenses from the prior year. Most farmers do not pay into incomes taxes through the course of the year, because there’s not regular paychecks to deduct taxes from. This means a (big?) payment to Uncle Sam is due by March 1st.

Hauling grain

Hauling grainJanuary is a big month for hauling last year’s stored grain to the local elevator. Up until now, the farmer may have been keeping last fall’s harvest in bins at his own farm. This saves him from paying a storage fee to the elevator for holding it there. The elevator constantly puts out corn prices for certain delivery months and at any time the farmer can call up his elevator to lock in a sale price for that month. The thing is, he doesn’t get paid until he delivers it to the elevator. This requires him to unload the grain out of his bins, put it into a semi or grain truck and drive it to the elevator.

Planning ahead for next year’s crop

Planning aheadFor a lot of farmers, as soon as last year’s crop has been harvested, it’s time to start considering decisions that need to be made in preparation for next year’s crop. Depending on which fiscal year the farmer wants his expenses to go in, December and January are a prime time for deciding which field will be planted in what seed variety and locking in input costs like seed, fertilizer and chemicals. Many dealers offer discounts and the earlier you lock in their product/price the better the discount.

Meetings

MeetingsAg groups host a lot of meetings in the winter because they know they’ll have better turnouts in the off-season. There will be association meetings, chemical training courses, annual reports from elevators and other co-ops, market outlook discussions and other industry-related get-togethers.

Household and farm odd-jobs / repairs

If anything’s been needing fixin’ now’s the time to finally get to it! Clean and organize the work bench. Sweep out the empty grain bins. Patch a bad spot in the barn. Make sure the generator is in good working condition. Get a load of gravel delivered for the lane. Rearrange the equipment in the shed so you can get the snow blower to hook onto the right tractor.

When you’re ready for a break from farm things, make sure to ask your wife what you can check off of her honey-do list… Then take her out to dinner because she’s been patiently waiting for this little breather as well! The closer planting season gets, the busier the farmer becomes!

ADeal_Ashleyshley Deal
ICGA/ICMB Membership Assistant

20 WAYS TO REENGAGE WITH YOUR FOOD

My job is to support farmers – but it seems that a growing portion of that job has to do with helping non-farmers understand what they need to know and what to know instead of actually helping farmers.

In case you made it a New Year’s Resolution to get in touch with your food, check out this list. Instead of eating only organic in 2016 or “detoxing” once a month (which, by the way, is crap. There is no such thing as “detoxing.”), do something on this list. Do three or four somethings. Do the entire list. Each of these is an actual, legitimate, scientific way that you can learn more about your food.

  • Eat only what is in season in your area for two weeks.  You will have a better appreciation for the food industry when you start adding the variety back to your diet!
  • Find one new fruit or veggie you’ve never tried in the grocery store.  Buy it, taste it, and research where it is grown.
  • Visit a local farm.  Actually speak to someone and ask any questions you think of.
  • grow a garden

  • Grow a garden with your family this summer and supply some of your own food in 2016.
  • Tour Monsanto.  This is a brilliant company doing good things – and if you doubt that, all the more reason to check them out.  The tour is worth the trip.
  • Plan a week of meals that is completely balanced using USDA guidelines.
  • Help your kids pick out a new recipe they would like to try.  Help them plan the grocery list, shop, and prepare the meal for the family.
  • Read the USDA Certified Organic label guidelines.  Understand what organic food is and isn’t.
  • Plan a visit to watch the planting or harvest of a local crop.  In Illinois, that might be corn, soybeans, wheat, pumpkins, apples or even horseradish!  Your county Farm Bureau should be able to connect you with a nearby farmer.
  • Follow Illinois Farm Families on Facebook.  Read their updates daily and get to know some Illinois farmers that are growing your food.
  • watch harvest

  • Host a harvest celebration for your neighborhood.  Plan a meal featuring Illinois crops and let your guests know what they are eating and where it came from.
  • Check out this article from the FDA on how to read nutrition labels.
  • In Illinois, the Illinois Pork Producers Association hosts a ribbon cutting every time a new barn is opened.  Attend one and see for yourself how your meat is raised.  Call IPPA for a schedule.
  • Create cultural themed nights for your family.  One week, prepare a French recipe.  The next week, a German dish.  Include your kids in the research to determine which dish you’ll prepare.
  • Challenge yourself to one month of no food waste.  Utilize all leftovers, half containers of ingredients, and pantry items that will spoil.  Nothing goes into the trash.
  • Incorporate an unconventional veggie into one dish everyday for a week.  Zucchini pastaCarrots in Mac n CheesePeppers in meatloaf?
  • Don’t rush through your meals, slow down and focus on eating and not what you have to do after you finish eating. Focus on your food, and savor each bite.
  • Grow an indoor herb garden.
  • Watch Farmland to understand more about how the ag industry works.

FARMLAND Teaser Trailer 2014 from Farmland on Vimeo.

  • Start a blog to share/document your experiences with the things on this list

5 THINGS ABOUT THIS PHOTO: HUGE PILES OF CORN

We’ve got some great photos in the IL Corn library – photos that speak volumes about what we do and who we are as an organization as well as who the farmers are that we serve! This week, we’ll feature a few of those photos as well as share the lessons you can glean from them!

Huge Piles of Corn!

corn pile with men

  1. When corn comes out of the field, farmers put it into semi trucks (or other sorts of trucks, but usually semis) and haul it to the elevator.  The elevator is a company that buys, sells, and stores grain.  It is called an “elevator” because the corn is elevated into huge silos for storage.
  2. But in some years like 2014, we produce more corn than we have room to store.  So the elevators put up temporary storage, like the piles you see above, just to keep grain moving out of the field.  To maintain the grain in the same quality in which it arrived, these piles will be covered with huge tarps to keep moisture from getting in.  The piles were also poured on top of huge tiles that will circulate air under the pile and prevent spoilage, damage, and mold
  3. Elevators must apply for a permit from the state to create temporary storage like this – and they can only leave this corn laying here for a short time.  So as they sell the corn, the corn in these piles will be the first to go.
  4. Corn leaves the elevator via train, truck, or river barge to go to other states (like Texas) or other countries to feed livestock.  In Illinois, just under half of our corn leaves the state to feed livestock.
  5. Many people who aren’t familiar with farming understand that the yields we get per acre are pretty static, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Every year, because of superior seed genetics and more efficient crop management practices, our potential yields increase.  Weather or pests sometimes challenge the yields, but the fact remains that our yield potential has a significant upward trend.  We are producing more corn every year than the year before!  That’s great news for a growing world population!

5 THINGS ABOUT THIS PHOTO: AN ILLINOIS LANDSCAPE

We’ve got some great photos in the IL Corn library – photos that speak volumes about what we do and who we are as an organization as well as who the farmers are that we serve! This week, we’ll feature a few of those photos as well as share the lessons you can glean from them!

An Illinois Landscape

Cornfield Background1. This is field corn and constitutes 99% of the corn grown in Illinois.  As you drive through Illinois on any interstate, highway, or county road, this is what you will see.

2. This is not sweet corn – the sort of corn that you eat.  Sweet corn is a vegetable and this corn – field corn – is a grain.  Field corn is primarily used to feed livestock and to make ethanol.

3. Field corn is harvested after the corn stalks have died and the grain has dried down into a hard kernel.  Sweet corn is harvested when the plants still look green and lush, and the kernel is soft and in its “milk” stage.

4. Corn typically tassels sometime in July depending on the planting season and the early growing season.  To “tassel” is when the plant sends up the yellow shoots visible in the pic at the top of the plant.  The tassels are the male part of the plant and release pollen.

5. ScottThis photo was featured in the Corn Farmers Coalition campaign in Washington, DC along with our very own Scott Stirling!  Do you see it back there acting as the background?