HOW FARMING CAN KEEP YOU OUT OF TROUBLE

Tractors. Corn. An old man in overalls with a piece of straw hanging out of his mouth. Our world is filled with stereotypes about farmers. While some may be true, there are others that are not quite as accurate. For instance, a lot of older farmers hire younger people to do the labor-intensive work around the farm. These farmhands help with bailing hay, getting ready for planting and harvesting season, and milking cows. The list can go on and on. Although these jobs have pretty good pay and give you experience, you are worked to the bone. So, the decision between going to bed and going out with your friends is a pretty easy one. The last thing you want to do is come into work the next day hungover and have to smell pig manure. This leads to a lesser known fact about farming: it keeps you out of trouble.

How can farming keep you out of trouble?

  1. Constantly in the field or working with livestock.

As a farmer or a farmhand, you rarely have a day off. Fields always need to be scouted for diseases and pests. Livestock needs to be fed, milked, checked and maintained two – three times a day. Basically, you’re “dog tired by the five o’clock hour.

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2. Hard to have friends when you smell like manure….

At some point every single one of us has driven past a beef, swine, or poultry farm. As we pass, we get that ever so wonderful whiff of manure. Once you’ve worked around the smell for a while, it becomes unnoticeable to you. But to everyone else around you……that’s another story. Imagine that there exists a day that you actually have the energy to go to a bonfire with your buddies. Everyone is sitting around and they start making jokes that you will burst into flames from the methane coming from your clothes. Essentially, you become the butt of the joke.

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3. You’re too polite……your country ways

How can you be too polite?! So a good country boy takes the girl out on nice dates: to a movie, a dinner, or a county fair. Which means you pay because what guy doesn’t pay? If you are really trying to impress that one girl, money is an option! You’ll do anything you can to get her attention, but treating her to a nice dinner and concert every weekend can take a toll on your wallet. When it soon becomes empty, you have no money which means you can’t take that nice gal on dates…which can keep ya out of trouble.

In the end you simply don’t have time, but when you do, you want to spend it wisely. This means choosing friends that don’t have to see you every night to consider you a friend and finding a girl who can enjoy a nice night under the stars, instead of going to a concert every weekend. Farming life can be a challenge and you don’t get a lot of free time. That is why those who do choose the farm life have a sincere passion for it and don’t mind hanging out all day with Bessie the cow or watching the sunset in the tractor. “Do what you love, love what you do!”

cailyn

 

Cailyn Carstens
Illinois State University

 

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Transformation Tuesday

Some of it is actually pretty amazing when you think about it.  One hundred years of progress has taken us pretty far!

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6 THINGS ABOUT FARMING I DIDN’T LEARN IN SCHOOL

We all love our teachers, but looking back there are things we wish somebody had told us. Here are six things about agriculture that I wish were taught in school.

  1. Food is not easy to grow.

farmer in fieldOn TV you always see farmers portrayed as a bunch of uneducated hillbillies, but that is not the case! There is a lot more to growing food than most people realize; farming is a science. Farmers have to be masters of chemistry, agronomy, physics, mathematics, economics, and meteorology. In fact, there are over 70 colleges across the country that offer degrees in Farm Management. Who knew?

  1. Most of the corn we see in the fields isn’t sweet corn.

There are several different types of corn grown in the US, but the main type is field corn, also called dent corn. This corn is used for animal feed and also processed into ethanol, corn syrup, and other products like makeup and plastic. Less than 1% of the corn grown in the US is sweet corn! Check out this math lesson teachers could use to teach students about corn.

  1. Dirt is not the same everywhere you go.

soilHave you ever wondered why Arizona soil is so much redder than the dark black soils we have here in central Illinois? It turns out there is much more to dirt than meets the eye. All soil is made up of a combination of three components: sand, silt, and clay. The way a soil looks, feels, and even how well crops can be grown in it can all be predicted by looking at the age of the soil (some soils are thousands of years old!), mineral composition, topography of the land, and what the native vegetation was. There are even people whose whole job is studying soil!

  1. Hamburgers and milk don’t come from the same place.

eat mor chikinEveryone has seen the Chick-fil-a commercials where the black and white cows are telling you to eat more chicken, but besides being a cute marketing strategy it doesn’t actually make sense. Holsteins, like the Chick-fil-a cow, are one of hundreds of breeds of dairy cattle that are milked to make cheese and ice cream, but very rarely used for meat. A more accurate commercial would have a Black Angus because they are the most common beef breed in the US. These are the cattle that are raised for their meat to be processed into steaks, roasts, and burgers.

  1. Farmers do care about the environment.

The media is always pointing its finger at the agriculture industry for polluting the atmosphere or causing global climate change, but farmers really do care about the environment. In fact, they are effected even more than the rest of us by global climate change. As the climate patterns change over time, new pests invade our fields that they are not equipped to handle. This in turn lowers their yield and actually costs them money!

  1. There are chemicals in your food. Gasp!

Pyridoxine, Natamycin, and Carboxymethylcellulose, oh my! Find out what these chemicals are. Just because something has a long name doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, all food is naturally made out of chemicals called vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A chemical-free diet would mean that you couldn’t eat anything!

elizabeth brownElizabeth Brown
Purdue University

# TBT: HOW FARMERS ARE PROTECTING ILLINOIS WATER

This post really is a vital foundational piece to understanding one of the biggest goals for Illinois farmers in the coming years.  We want to get better at understanding and using the practices that preserve water quality.  If you missed this the first time around – or just need a refresher – read on!

The IL Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy was released last week.  It was a big deal for farmers.  But maybe (probably?) you have no idea what it is or what it means.  If so, this post is for you.

Farmers apply nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients to their fields to help crops grow and maximize yields.  This is pretty much like you applying MiracleGro to your potted house plants or your garden, but on a huge scale.

water quality what your strategy

In a perfect world, farmers apply the nutrients, the plants grow enormously big, strong, and prolific because they are “eating” the nutrients, and everyone is happy.  But what happens when the nutrients are applied at the wrong time?  In the wrong amount?  Or the plants don’t grow and don’t use the nutrients like what happened to farmers during the drought?

In each of those cases, the nutrients are left in the field.  And when the spring rains come, the nutrients hitch a ride with the running water to the nearest ditch, then a creek, then a stream, a river, and end up exactly where we don’t want them.

This is bad for clean water, but also bad for farmers.  They paid for those nutrients (and nutrients are VERY expensive!) and they really want the plants to use them instead of watching them escape the field.

So the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy is basically exactly what it says – its a list of ways that farmers can help minimize nutrient loss from their fields.  The EPA has written the list, and now they leave it to ag associations and agribusiness to help farmers understand and implement the strategies on their own fields.

Of course IL Corn is doing just that – along with Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Council on Best Management Practices, Illinois Pork Producers Association, GROWMARK, Syngenta, and others.

What are some of the things farmers are being asked to do?

1. Change the timing of their nitrogen applications.  It makes a lot of sense for farmers to apply nutrients when the plant needs them most to grow.  The problem is that equipment and availability doesn’t always make it possible for every farmer to apply their nitrogen at the exact same time of year … but we’re working on helping farmers through that.

2. Change the amount of nutrients they apply.  Farmers like this one because applying fewer nutrients means paying less money.  We’re encouraging farmers to do soil testing throughout their field, determine which areas of the field need a boost and which do not, and then apply nutrients only where needed.  New GPS technology helps with this and makes the process very efficient.

3. Grow cover crops.  We’ve figured out that for some farmers, applying nutrients in the fall, but also planting a crop that will grow a bit in the fall, hold the nitrogen within the plant through the winter, and then kill that crop before planting corn in the spring can work very well.  The techniques will be different for every farmer in Illinois because of our diverse weather from north to south.

These are just a couple of the options, but each can make a big difference for individual farmers and for the water supply!

Maybe hearing from a real farmer will help!  This is Garry Niemeyer, Illinois farmer, talking about what his conservation plan is for one of his fields near the Springfield watershed.

Do you have more questions about clean water, nutrient loss, or the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy?  I’d love to answer them!

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

 

A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A FARMER: FEBRUARY

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. Today is the second post in my one-year series which will give you an idea of a farmer’s workload throughout 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.

February

Start at the beginning!

JANUARY
MARCH
APRIL
MAY
JUNE
JULY
AUGUST
SEPTEMBER
OCTOBER
NOVEMBER

Bookkeeping

By now, the farmer has probably had his annual tax meeting with his accountant or at least gathered all his bookwork and receipts together in preparation for the March 1st tax deadline. February is the time to “settle up” with Uncle Sam!

Posted roadsHauling grain

Grain may still be being hauled from a farmer’s on-site storage bins to the local elevator – Especially if there’s a lot to unload and little time to do it. Pretty soon roads may be posted with weight limits limiting the amount of grain the farmer can haul in one trip due to the spring thaw.

Planning ahead for next year’s crop

The majority of the big decisions have been made in regards to next year’s THIS YEAR’S crop, but it’s a good idea to finalize those seed, chemical, and fertilizer purchases. The agronomical decisions a farmer makes now will affect decisions he will make later this year – – and possibly even next year’s crop!

This is also a good time of year to review crop insurance elections and update coverage, if necessary. Farmers elect to take crop insurance for the same reason you have car insurance: it’s meant to provide financial protection from catastrophic disasters. There are numerous levels and coverage options to choose from and can require a great deal of consideration in order to make an informed decision.

farmer with CongressmanMeetings

While things are still slow around the farm, it’s good to get to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) offices to file any governmental paperwork that needs to get done. The FSA provides a variety of programs to assist agricultural producers. Some of these include commodity and price support, conservation and disaster assistance programs in addition to farm loan programs. Related to the FSA, the NRCS provides financial and technical assistance for voluntary conservation efforts.

Household and farm odd-jobs / repairs

ladder of successThere’s still time to get those nagging household and farm odd-jobs completed before the impending “hurry-up-and-wait” of Spring. Better get them done because once March rolls around, the weather dictates your schedule.

ADeal_Ashleyshley Deal
ICGA/ICMB Membership Assistant