TEAMWORK: A DAUGHTER AND MOTHER WORKING TOGETHER IN AG

4-28-16kalieWhat could be better than having a supportive mom? Maybe a mom who doubles as your best friend! Fortunately for Danae Ross of Wyanet, IL, this holds true.

Danae Ross and her mother Kendra are the dynamic duo of Bureau County. You name it and they probably do it! One of their greatest passions is to ride horses. They have four horses altogether. “My favorite horse is Diamond because she is so easy-going and sweet” Danae said. Her and Kendra raised a few of the horses from when they were babies. Together, they teach the horses how to ride with someone on their back and how to perform certain maneuvers, like hopping over logs and staying on the path for trail rides. For the past 15 years, they have traveled to Missouri for the Big Creek Trail ride. Big Creek provides scrumptious buffet-style meals and good entertainment, as well as incredible trails. It’s all hilly, mountainous forestland with a gorgeous river and the view from the top of the mountain is simply breathtaking.

Along with their love for horses, the duo also loves to work on landscape together. When pulling into their driveway, one sees landscape that many can only dream about! Kendra was willing enough to lend us a few helpful tips on how they keep their flowerbeds looking flawlessly beautiful. She says the best gardening tip is to start mulching early and use plenty of it. Mulch is a covering, such as straw or compost, which is spread on the ground around plants to prevent excessive evaporation, enrich the soil, and inhibit weed growth. By applying mulch early, gardeners can reduce the weeds from even getting started growing. Another key to gardening is maintaining the beds daily. The younger the weeds are, the easier they are to pull and keeping up with the weeds frequently will keep the beds in great shape and looking beautiful.

Another activity the Ross duo did together was 4-H. Kendra was the 4-H leader of Western Winning Wonders for ten years. When Danae was president of the 4-H club, the two were inseparable making plans and activities for the club. Kendra is now the Bureau County 4-H Horse Superintendent, where she plans and prepares for the horse show every year. Danae’s favorite part of 4-H was exhibiting her livestock. She showed, goats, horses, and rabbits. Now that’s a lot of work for one person, so Danae and Kendra built a close relationship doing this together, learning and doing all those different things together. 4-H really is a great way for parents to build strong relationships with their children.

As you can see, Danae and Kendra are very involved within the agriculture industry. “It has given us many opportunities” Danae said, “ from being able to sell some of the animals to taking us all over the state to various horse horses, and to just allow us to learn about each animal and the showing process as well as bring us to meet and make relationships with a lot of incredible people.” Whether it is big or small, agriculture is a part of everyone’s life, and is especially a part of the Ross’s.

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Kalie Rumbold
Black Hawk East Junior College

WHY I CAN’T LEAVE ILLINOIS

I live in a town where almost everyone is employed by one of two companies.

And actually, now that I think about it, we also have other large employers, but still, when I meet someone new and ask where they work, they work at one of two places most often.

corn twilightOne of those two places is shipping a lot of employees to other states.  And no, this blog post is not about the state of affair in Illinois or our lack of budget or our plethora of debt.

When one of my friends returned to my town from her new state, new house, and new job, she was telling us how much fun it has been to be out of Illinois.  How the taxes are lower.  How the schools are better.  How the political commercials hit you a little less square in the gut.  And she wondered, why would I want to stay in Illinois?

So, I thought about it.  And even after I gave her my answer, I thought about it some more.  What’s holding me here?  Why is Illinois important?  Why have I lived within a very small triangle of space my entire 38 years on this earth?!

The answer, after much debate and internal soul-searching, is exactly the same answer that came to my gut when she posed the question.

Because I’m a farm girl.

Because that dirt gets under your skin.

Because the rest of your family – even your extended family – lives near.

Because the culture, the mindset, the psyche of a farmer is to stay in one place.  To be rooted to the earth.  To know –  like a deep in your being sort of knowing – the land that you’re a steward of.

Farmers can’t pick up and move the earth that provides their living.  Even the skill set that they’ve developed, this internal intuition about how to handle every single set back that mother nature dishes out, doesn’t necessarily apply to other regions of the country.  Every bit of dirt is different, unique, and a farmer is a bit attached to his or her specific piece.

So no, I can’t imagine leaving here.  I will be a citizen of Illinois – and all the “stuff” that entails – for the rest of my life.

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

2016 PROSPECTIVE PLANTINGS REPORT LEAVES FARMERS CORN-FUSED

For the first time since 2013, there is potential for corn to represent the highest planted acreage in the United States. This has left agriculturalists wondering what’s going on and why this is happening when corn prices are where they are.

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Photo Credit: Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer

Over the past couple of weeks, there has been significant discussion over the USDA’s Prospective Plantings Report, which estimated corn acres were increased by an approximated 3.7 million acres to 93.6 total million for the coming year.  That is up 6% from last year! This has many farmers scratching their heads because corn is more expensive to plant and farmers could lose some money if things don’t go as planned. So, ultimately, what caused farmers to take this risk? Was it because of crop rotation? Is it just time for corn? Is something huge about to happen?

Patrick Holland, a team sales representative of Beck’s Hybrids from Western Illinois says, “Many of the opinions were that even with corn nearing $3.50, there was much more confidence in their [farmers] ability to raise a good corn crop and have certainty they could get closer to breaking even, and hopefully making a little profit this upcoming growing season.” Holland adds, “Corn yields have continued to trend upwards quite drastically, compared to where we have seen soybeans get to over the last 20 years. Across the industry, soybeans have been much more volatile, and the certainty is just not quite there like corn. Soybean yields have seen different bumps with some new technologies, but at $9 or $9.50 beans the margins are just that much tighter than corn.”

Kenton Carley, a corn and soybeans farmer in Eastern Illinois, says that he actually is planting more soybeans this year than normal. He adds that this is mainly because of crop rotation, but also sees less of a risk going into the planting season.“Planting corn is definitely more risky,” states Carley. “However, the reward could be greater with corn. It’s a changing game as it’s played out. The potential is there, but things can change very fast, so I am going to limit as much risk as possible.”

When it comes to spring planting, it is ultimately up to the farmer and what he feels is best for his region and making a profit. Most of the time, this decision is based on crop rotations, but sometimes farmers have to make the tough decisions. As Holland puts it, “Being able to focus on doing the right things, becoming more efficient where possible, and not giving up on yield is where most farmers believed they wanted to put their eggs.” The Prospective Plantings Report may not be what was expected, but we can rest assured that farmers everywhere will be working hard this season to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, no matter what the crop is.

To find the complete Prospective Plantings Report, click here.

Kaity Spangler

Kaity Spangler
University of Illinois

 

WHO CAME UP WITH THAT?

It is no secret that there are some many curious products stocked on grocery store shelves these days.  With such a wide array of food preferences, consumer budgets, and dietary restrictions, it is no surprise that accessibility to a wide assortment of foods has increased over the years.  With this in mind, I decided to ransack my pantry for interesting food labels.  I wanted to find out where exactly they came from and how they came to be.

Post’s Grape-Nuts

4-18-16whoGrape-Nuts have been a long-time favorite of mine.  They have been a long withstanding staple in my pantry.  They are so versatile—I eat them with milk, sprinkle them on yogurt, and even sprinkle them on top of ice cream.  Grape-Nuts are also incredibly nutritious.  There are only 4 ingredients (whole grain wheat flour, malted barley flour, salt, dried yeast) and the cereal is packed with fiber and protein.  Every time I open the box, however, I always wonder, “Where the heck did these things come from?”  There are clearly no grapes OR nuts in the package…it’s just cereal.

C.W. Post first developed grape-Nuts in 1897.  According to the cereal’s site, there are two different explanations behind the name.  One story suggests that Mr. C.W. Post held that glucose, which he called “grape sugar,” developed during the baking process.  This suggestion combined with the cereal’s nutty flavor is said to have inspired its name.  The second version claims that Grape-Nuts got its name from “its resemblance to grape seeds, or grape “nuts.”

Snapea Crisps

I was introduced to these babies last summer.  The poor things were on their way to the trash because no one else in my house seemed to take to them.  When I tried them, however, I was hooked. When I first tried them, they reminded me of crispy, salty Veggie Straws.  I never gave much thought into their origins until recently.

4-18-16who2 Unlike the Grape-Nuts site, the Harvest Snaps site did not offer up much information on the brand’s history.  The website is almost exclusively dedicated to the “all-natural” nature of the snack.  There are a wide variety of flavors of the crisps and there is also a Lentil Bean option.  When I clicked on the “What’s Inside” tab, I was disappointed to find only an infographic that says, “we were always told it’s what’s inside that counts.”  When I clicked to learn more, “That’s why we use real, all-natural peas” is all that popped up.  I was hoping to learn about the process behind the creation of the tasty snacks or the origins of the brand.

I went to the actual package to learn more about the brand and found that, like Grape-Nuts, Snapea Crisps contain very few ingredients:  green peas, vegetable oil (canola, sunflower, and/or safflower oil), rice, salt, calcium carbonate and vitamin C (ascorbyl palmitate).

It is SO important to keep asking questions about food. Where did this food product come from?  What the heck is in it?  I love finding out about the history of particular foods.  Thanks for reading!

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Anna Toohill
University of Illinois

FROM FARM GARDEN TO DINNER TABLE

It’s that time of the year again! Spring has finally arrived and it is now time to start thinking about what to plant in the garden. I have had a garden in the past and am starting to think about what to plant for this year’s crop. Some garden must-haves for me include: cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet corn, pumpkins, green beans, and zucchini. These tend to be the easiest to manage, and always produce well.

The most stress-free part of gardening, in my opinion, is the planning stage. It is so much easier to picture where all the vegetables will go, rather than actually planting them. I do not own an electric rototiller, so I always have the hardest time tilling up the soil to prepare the garden for planting. If only there was a way to have nicely tilled dirt without having to spend all day working at it.

Once the garden is prepared, it is time to buy the seeds to plant. I prefer to buy a mix of seeds and seedlings, depending on which plants I am buying. For tomatoes, I always have the best luck with buying seedlings or a young pre-grown seed. Cucumbers, zucchini, and pumpkins tend grow well from seeds.

After everything is prepped, and I have purchased the seeds and seedlings, it’s time to get dirty! There is something calming about being in the garden and knowing my hard work will become something completely different in a few months. It is such a rewarding feeling to watch the plants grow throughout the spring and summer.

While my plants are growing throughout the summer, I like to think of different recipes that are new or interesting to try. I like to make family recipes that have been around forever, but I also like to search for new ones to try. Who knows, someday my “new” recipe may be an “old” recipe for someone else in my family.

One of my favorite summer recipes I make involves fresh-from-the-garden green beans. My green beans are usually the first to start producing, so this green bean with bacon recipe is perfect for a quick addition to any dinner.  It takes about 20 minutes to make, and is very easy. All that is needed is some bacon, garlic, an onion, and fresh green beans. Check out the recipe here!

A new recipe that I am excited to try involves a few of the vegetables from the garden. It is another quick recipe that would go great with an outdoor barbecue. This summer fiesta corn salad recipe uses sweet corn, grape tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, red onion, and some celery. Once the veggies in the garden are ready to be harvested, this recipe is the perfect way to use them all at once. Check out the recipe here!

Garden-fresh vegetables are one of my favorite aspects of summer. I cannot wait to start planting! What are your garden plans this year?

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Kathryn Bohner
Illinois State University

A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A FARMER: APRIL

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 fourth 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.

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Bookkeeping

There’s probably not a lot of bookkeeping getting done this month – not with springtime and planting on the brain. A farmer is constantly watching the commodity markets, though. There may be some old crop left in the bins or maybe he’s pricing some of this year’s crop ahead of time. Either way, it’s always good to follow the markets.

This year’s crop

If you see a farmer in April, an appropriate conversation starter would be, “How’s it goin’ at your place – are you anxious to get in the field?” To which you will receive either an overly-optimistic, rosy outlook, or a stressed and grumbly, get-off-my-back kind of response. It’s truly a crap shoot – Much like the weather which is likely dictating their mood. Some major prep work that may be on a farmer’s mind:

  • 4-12-16 20160321_171030 editedApply anhydrous ammonia (NH3), if used, and not applied last fall
  • Apply fertilizer, either organic (manure) or synthetic, if not done last fall
  • “Work Ground” which basically means chop up, mix, or turn the dirt for seed bed preparation. There are a variety of “tools” a farmer could pull behind his tractor to do this, but a disc and/or cultivator are most common.

Finally, once the threat of frost decreases, ground temperature reaches near 50 °F, and the soil dries out enough to drive the equipment through it without making ruts or risk getting stuck… PLANTING can begin! Planting requires quite a bit stop and go:

  • 4-12-16 April 1Tweaks need to be made to the planter
  • Depending on your equipment it can take some time to fill the seed buckets (and refill, and refill again!)
  • Farmers try to be very precise on their field pattern and make their rows nice and straight (especially on busier roads!)
  • And sometimes they’ll have to stop to get a huge rock, branch, or garbage out of their path so they don’t wreck their machinery.
  • Of course, there’s also more major setbacks like a mechanical break-down or a flat tire

Household and farm odd-jobs / repairs

The only time for odd-jobs and repairs is if it’s too cold or wet to be in the field!

4-12-16 Slow moving vehicleSince planting season is beginning to gear up here in Illinois, as you drive, PLEASE keep in mind that there may be a slow moving vehicle or wide load up ahead as you pop over that hill or come around a curve. They may be pulling an awkward or heavy load so keep a safe following distance behind them and allow enough time for safe passing. And a friendly steering wheel wave is always appreciated by a farmer!

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Ashley Deal
ICGA/ICMB Membership Assistant

A LETTER TO MY FUTURE DAUGHTER

Have you ever thought about what you would tell your daughter if you haven’t had the chance to meet her yet?  You expect that she will be great and take after you, but have you made any mistakes that you definitely do not want her making?  What scares you for your children’s futures?  I could go on for days thinking and writing what I would want her to know.  Women’s roles in society have changed so much in the last century.  Just think how much it will continue to change and evolve into something that today’s moms are not even expecting.

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Dear Daughter,

In your lifetime you will experience many new things.  Societal, agricultural, technological, and many other advances will be made.  Sometimes it will be cool and other times it will be scary.  The best advice I can give you is to try to keep up with the advances, but do not let them consume you.  People will always grow, change, and develop.  I wish for you to follow your heart, chase your dreams, no matter how cliché that may sound.

When it comes to agricultural advances, there will be fads, practices, and trends.  Traditions that will all change during your lifetime as it did mine.  I encourage you to become well-educated in areas that may concern you.  Articles published through different media outlets may not be the most reliable.  Check multiple reliable sources and take away your own ideas from your research.

Technology: isn’t it a great thing?  What has changed since you were a little girl?  Keeping up with technology is a job within itself.  Some words for the wise: technology consumes you if you let it.  You are only as advanced as you allow yourself to become.  Sometimes technology can make life easier but sometimes it makes life 10 times more difficult.  Social media are great for keeping up with friends who you do not see very often, yet it takes away from those you are with on a daily basis.  Find a way to balance your life and don’t let one piece consume you.

In conclusion, have fun with life. After all, you never know how long you have to live.  You are the youngest you will ever be right now and the oldest you have yet to be.  As many people say, “live well, laugh often, love much” quoted by Bessie Anderson Stanley.  This quote within itself means a great deal because it reminds us to live life to its fullest, while still having time to laugh, and always love like there is no tomorrow.  I challenge you to set extreme goals and even if you do not accomplish them they will take you to great places.

With much love,

Mom

I encourage all moms who have read this, write a letter every so often to your daughter and then give them to her when she moves out.  These letters can be whatever you choose to make them.  You can talk about things that have happened since the last letter you wrote or they could write them on big occasions.  The task is up to you, let me know what you think of this.

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Elizabeth Lewis
Southern Illinois University

AG ECONOMICS 101

Have you ever wondered how the products you purchase in grocery stores are priced? Here’s a hint – it is not an arbitrary number made up by your local producers. In fact, farmers have essentially no say when it comes to product pricing. There are many different variables that can influence the cost of your fuel, food, business operations, etc.

To explain, let’s talk about pork bacon (because everyone loves bacon). If China, the world’s largest pork producing country, increases the amount of bacon/pork it exports to other counties, the world price of bacon would decrease. The price of bacon in America, then, also decreases. This is due to excess supply, or a higher quantity of bacon than is actually desired. Consumers now have more options when it comes to purchasing bacon, so competitors will lower their prices to attract them. In comparison, if China experiences a significant loss in its swine population due to disease, less pork will be exported. This means there is less bacon available on the global market, increasing the overall price (demand is higher than supply).

4-7-16supplydemandIf US farmers charge a high price for pork products while China exports a high quantity of bacon into the world market, domestic producers will lose profit. This is because they are unable to compete with the lower Chinese prices. Think of it this way: the more of something you have, the less it is worth. The opposite is true when you have less of something – it is worth more.

To explain in more detail, let’s say you live in a town with a few hundred apple trees called Smithville. There are a handful stores that sell apples from these trees. Apples are at an average price until a new trader also decides to start selling apples in Smithville. This trader brings new apples to sell from a neighboring town. This means that there is now a higher quantity and variety of apples in your town. Has the price of apples in Smithville increased or decreased? It has decreased. Consumers now have many options to choose from, so the stores have to offer lower prices to get customers to buy their apples. This is what happens when China sells their products (pork) on the global and US markets. There are more options, so prices decrease.

On the other hand, US farmers make larger profits when China decreases pork production and trade. Domestic producers are not immediately able to make up for that loss in supply. With less Chinese pork products flooding American markets, the competition is much thinner and prices rise. Think of it as an apple trader ending business in Smithville. The shortage of apples causes prices to increase.

If prices did not increase, other farmers would not be encouraged to join the pork industry to make up for the supply loss. We might also see a significant reduction in domestic supply, as consumers would still be purchasing their regular amounts of bacon, as opposed to less if prices were higher. With this in mind, one might expect the prices of agriculture commodities to fluctuate much more severely and frequently. While prices do change, legislative policies help keep them relatively stable. The Farm Bill, for example, has various price support programs to regulate the quantity of agriculture products on the market. These support programs include crop insurance, subsidies, conservation methods, etc.

austin fee

Austin Fee
University of Illinois