Change is the only constant in a perpetually evolving world. Just as life and traditions change, so do farming practices. In today’s day in age, farmers have easy access to tractors and large machinery, which make the profession of farming much easier. Agriculturists also have the technology of fertilizers, that ensure the crops receive necessary nutrients. Advancements in chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides are used to rid fields of unwanted weeds and pests. However, farming has not always been this precise of a science. It’s interesting to look back and see how far farmers have come in the past century.
Early in the 20th-century farmers used a system of planting called hill dropping of checked corn. This system required a wire to be strung from one end of a field to the other, and it would be strung through a planter powered by a team of horses. This wire would release a small pile of corn, hence the term ‘hill’, in 42-inch rows. But why 42 inches? Because that’s the average width of a horse! These checked rows allowed for cultivators to be easily pulled through the field. Since there were no herbicides to kill weeds, farmers relied solely upon cultivators to uproot the nuisances. More in-depth information on this practice can be found here!
Fast forward to about 25 years ago, when farming seems to have vastly improved from the seemingly primitive ways of the early 1900’s. Instead of farming in 42-inch rows, corn grew within 30-inch rows. This allowed for more plants to grow in each field, which lead to an increase in yields. By this point in time, farmers were using tractors to pull their planters, which greatly increased the efficiency of their time and efforts. However, these aren’t the only technological benefits! In the 1990’s farmers started utilizing satellite technology to increase their accuracy, which made the farming profession a very meticulous one. Additionally, the number of farmers trying conservation tillage methods continued to rise. This simply means that producers leave more plant residue in the field, with intentions to prevent erosion. This extra plant material will add organic matter to the soil, which will also improve the land’s productivity. On top of all these advancements, in 1997 the first insect and weed resistant crops become commercially available. If you’re particularly interested in learning more about how farming improved in the 90’s, I suggest you check out this link!
Farming in the early 2000’s… was it really that much different from farming today? To start off with, one of the most important pieces of legislation regarding farming practices was passed. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, also referred to as the Farm Bill, created rules and regulations for anything from conservation practices, to organic agriculture, to crop insurance. This bill promoted innovative solutions to resource challenges, established a new disaster assistance program, expanded the opportunities for farmers’ markets, and much more! Further information about the full impacts of the 2008 Farm Bill can be found here. Without these past accomplishments, the agriculture industry would certainly not be the same as it is today.
Iowa State University
Scrolling through the archives, I found this article posted on November 10 last year. Reading it takes me back to the uncertainty of America as she woke up following election day 2016. Many of us were surprised by the election results and scrambling to make some sense of what would come next. In the IL Corn office, there were also excited feelings – as following any major change in electorate – about the challenges of educating a new President about our issues and the opportunities that a new administration might hold.
Almost a year through this presidency, we’ve been on a roller coaster ride.
Back then, we were excited about the promise of a Republican-controlled House, Senate, and Presidency and the results that such an alignment might deliver. Happily, nothing negative has happened, but neither have any positive results passed for the country. There’s just – nothing. This conservative voter is disappointed to see that having a majority in both houses of Congress and the Executive Office still doesn’t deliver results.
One year ago, Illinois looked forward to working with our newest member of Congress, Raja Krishnamoorthi. This relationship couldn’t have played out better! Congressman Krishnamoorthi is responsive to our requests and accessible to farmers. He is interested in learning about agriculture – the economic driver of Illinois – and willing to help see farmers succeed.
Senator Duckworth is also finishing out her first year in the Senate with many accolades from IL Corn. We appreciate her support of ethanol and her willingness to learn about the need for lock and dam upgrades, but we had experienced a positive relationship working with her in Congress and expected nothing less.
Farmers are pleased with the team President Trump has assembled for himself, specifically as relates to agriculture. The President’s choice for Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, has been an asset leading our industry and farmers are also happy with nominations for Bill Northey, Steve Censky, Ted McKinney, and others. We see this team coming to agriculture’s defense and helping to promote the industry as recently as last week when Sec Perdue said that withdrawing from NAFTA would have “some tragic consequences.”
Speaking of NAFTA, we worried about it one year ago and we’re still worried about trade today. President Trump’s trade conversations have caused a bit of upheaval with our foreign customers. IL Corn was disappointed to see America step out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and nervous to hear of a potential “cancellation” of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). At the same time, farmers have seen the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule stopped in its tracks and are mostly pleased with the administration of the Environmental Protection Agency taking more of a commonsense, science-based approach to environmental regulations.
All in all, you win some, you lose some. I suppose that’s the way our government is designed. A win for any one industry or any one person wouldn’t always be good for the whole, right?
Our office remains excited about the opportunity to work with the administration and the Congress towards some of our most important priorities.
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director
Mazi can make friends anywhere she goes. On a bus going to Washington D.C. or at a conference for an organization, she loves meeting new people. Don’t talk about sheep too close to her or she will talk your ear off about how much she loves sheep and its industry. Her passion for meeting new people, sheep, and leadership is what makes her a great young person in ag.
- What is your ag background?
I am the fourth-generation agriculturists where in the past we farmed corn and soybeans, but know we are only focused on the sheep industry. We currently run about 20 breeding ewes with alternating breeding rams every two years. The lambs will be born between January 1st and March 31st. The lambs that don’t meet show quality will be sold to local consumers and sale barns. The sheep industry has opened many doors for me and is something I am happy to be a part of and teach others about it.
- What college do you attend and what is your major?
I am a freshman at Lake Land College in Mattoon, IL in the Agriculture Transfer program. After Lake Land, I will transfer to a four-year university and double major in agriculture business and animal science.
- What is your involvement at Lake Land?
I am a Freshman Delegate in the Student Government Association that represents the student body. I am also a part of our Agriculture Transfer Club and the Inaugural Colligate Farm Bureau here on campus.
- What were some of your high school experiences/involvement in ag?
I was a part of many organizations including serving on the 2016-2017 state FFA officer team as the Section 13 President. I also served as the District III student director. In 4-H I have been the president of my club for the past 4 years. My senior year I was able to start my own agricultural business, Black Sheep Photography. I traveled to different livestock shows and farms to take photos of livestock that was then used as promotional tools.
- What is your dream job?
I really hope to one day open up my own feed mill to supply livestock producers with feed as well as help them with supplements for their animals.
- Do you have any mentors?
My main mentor would have to be my mom. She has never relied on anybody, even in terms of a job. She has opened two successful businesses.
- Do you remember anything that has really changed in agriculture?
I have seen more and more involvement with the youth in the agriculture industry. Youth are becoming involved earlier in 4-H and learning about where their food comes from. However, there is still a large gap between those children and other children who do not know where their food comes from.
- How do you see the agriculture industry changing in the next 5-10 years?
I see technology becoming bigger and better. I also see GMO’s becoming bigger and better. Hopefully with that comes, even more, education about where our food comes from so consumers can be well educated.
- Do you have any advice for younger people in agriculture/FFA or thinking about agriculture as a career?
Don’t sell yourself short, even if you don’t come from an agriculture background. Agriculture is getting bigger, never smaller. If you think you can play a part in this industry or have a new idea then go for it.
- Have you ever been looked down on because you’re a young woman in the agriculture industry?
Women in the livestock industry/ show industry are supposed to know their place which is usually just along the fence or alongside the show ring and aren’t supposed to do anything. When they do step up they are looked at as bossy or rude when really, they just want the same opportunities as everyone else. I would say that I have experienced this and have learned how to deal with it.
Lake Land College
The Today Show recently featured a story on how Libby’s Pumpkin products are produced, starting with the farm. This in-depth leaves no step of the process to the imagination as you the journey from the farm to store shelves. This transparency is something we welcome in the agriculture industry and hope that through this video, consumers will have a better understanding of how food gets to their tables.
Farmers work diligently every day to feed the ever-growing population. Think about what was on your dinner plate last night. In a world without farmers, that plate would be empty. Society would have to return to the days of hunting and gathering. There is no way we could support the current population in this way.
It’s not enough for farmers to produce the food that sustains life as we know it. They wanted to do more to help fight hunger. Farmers across the country donate to local food banks as individuals and as businesses. Farmers work land that has been passed down for generations. No industry results in deep community ties in the way that farming does. Simply put, farmers care.
Agriculture organizations do their best to encourage this behavior and aid in the cause. Illinois Corn Marketing Board regularly donates to the “Pork Power” program that is run by the Illinois Pork Producers. Donations can be made in the form of the cash value of an animal sold at market or in the form of an animal to the program. The pork is then shared with local food banks to provide a source of healthy protein. Since the program began in 2008, 565,000 pounds of pork have been donated to hungry mouths across the state of Illinois. That totals up to more than 2.3 million servings of pork.
Illinois farmers didn’t stop with just donating pork to the needy, many farmers also donate other foods such as sweet corn to local food banks. Think about a warm summer day, sitting out of the back porch with your family eating sweetcorn along with your dinner. With Sweet Corn for Charity, hungry Illinois residents are now able to share that experience. More than 60 thousand pounds of sweet corn was donated to food banks both locally and into inner-city areas across the state of Illinois.
Instances such as those listed above are far from rarities. Nationally, farmers can be seen donating their fresh produce to local food banks. Access to fresh produce is incredibly challenging for many people both in and out of cities. The generosity of those who are privileged enough to have easy access to fresh produce encourage healthy habits and expand the opportunities for the less fortunate.
Consider how you can join the cause to feed America. Planting a small garden could provide your family with fresh produce over the course of the summer. When the warm summer weather produces a bountiful harvest of produce, you can donate to your own favorite charity. Just like the American farmer, you too can feed the world one hungry mouth at a time.
University of Illinois
Elizabeth can always be seen with a smile on her face and an encouraging word for anyone she crosses paths with. She is a go-getter who is always working on something for an organization, school, or her upcoming wedding in May. Being a woman in the agriculture industry has given her motivation to do whatever she sets her mind on. Which makes her a great Young Person in Ag.
- What college do you attend and what is your major?
I will be graduating in May from Western Illinois University with a major in Agriculture Business with a minor in Agriculture Communication.
- What is your involvement at school?
I am currently the President of the Sigma Alpha sorority where I have been involved with them since my freshman year, as well as seen and helped it grow from 15 girls to right around 60 girls. I also am one of the student recruiters on the Agvocare Team for the college of agriculture where I get to go to high schools and different college fairs and show potential students what it’s like to come to WIU. I have done a little bit of everything and have been involved in just about everything within the ag division in some way.
- Ag background?
I did not grow up on a farm. My family owns land that we cash rented out so I wasn’t really around a lot of farming. However, both of my parents and many of my family members work in the agriculture industry. My dad is an agronomist and my mom works for a company that handles accounting for different peanut companies.
- Dream job?
I would say that I am soon starting my dream job. After graduating I will be hired on with ADM as a grain merchandiser. I hope that will give me my start to getting to what I eventually want to do is be somewhat of a mentor for young people in agriculture. Maybe something like an intern coordinator or helping new hires into a company. I also really enjoy college relations so maybe going to colleges and telling students about opportunities and careers for a company.
My mentors throughout high school were my two agriculture teachers and FFA advisors, Mr. Hoffman and Mrs. Rost. They pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and try new things like public speaking. The person I really look up to now here at Western would have to be Jana Knupp. She is one of the instructors here but she also works on marketing and communications for the college of agriculture and is involved with so many clubs all while being a mom of three boys. She is truly someone I look up to for so much.
- High school experience/involvement in ag?
Many if not all the experiences I had in high school were stepping stones that helped me choose Western, choose agriculture, and choose just about everything I have been involved in. I was the Section 17 FFA President my senior of high school and that helped me grow and engage with so many opportunities and people.
- Some internship highlights?
The past two years I have worked for ADM at two different processing plants. One was in Quincy, Illinois and the other one was in Lincoln, Nebraska at a corn processing plant. There I got to work with producers, accountants, grain merchandisers. I really saw what all went into grain farming.
- In the terms of age of Agriculture, we are very young people, but do you remember anything that really changed agriculture in any way
Agriculture has changed in the aspect of women in agriculture. I remember when I was little and my dad saying that if I wanted to be a part of agriculture that I would have a struggle to do so. Looking at just grain elevators, since that is sort of what I am getting into, there are still a select number of woman in that field. During my internship in Lincoln, Nebraska there was a woman manager there and she was awesome and knew just as much as the guys.
- How do you see the woman/ agriculture industry changing in the next 5-10 years?
Women are going to become even more involved than they already are. The older men who have been in this industry for a long time, and maybe not understands us being there, are going to become more accepting of women working alongside them. As far as the agriculture industry, we are such a cyclical industry. We may have good years and bad years. This means that we will have to take matters into our own hands. If that means that when we are having a not so good year we are still paying farmers a fair price for grain, while still making money. Technology will play a huge part of this as well.
- Do you have any advice for younger people in agriculture/FFA or thinking about agriculture as a career?
Being involved in leadership. Being involved in a club or organization or whatever it may be is one thing, but being involved and active with the leadership is even better. You get to see the ups and downs of whatever you’re involved in and it will make you grow as a person and leader.
Lake Land College
Some days when you wake up in the morning and go out to do the chores you never fully know what you are going to find… and if it’s too quiet you start to get suspicious. Raising livestock always keeps you on your toes, but in the end, the animals are always a bright spot on even the worst day.
1. Farmers and Livestock have a mutual love for each other
Many farmers are close to each animal they raise. Every animal is cared for to the farmer’s best ability, and with care there is love. Whenever I have to hop over the fence to get a trough for the hogs, I never get out without getting a rub on my legs from each hog, and then I normally end up scratching their backs and watch them do a little dance because they like it.
2. A Built-in Friend on the Farm
Whether you own a dog, horse, duck, cat, or cow you can always count on having a friend on the farm. If you’re lucky you’ll have a friend from each animal on the farm! My brother has 3 calves and whenever he goes out to feed them he will get in the pen and play tag with them for a little bit, and they will all run around in the pen together and get a good laugh out of it (as well as a little winded).
3. They Come Running to Greet You – or just to Eat
When you notice the hay bale getting low for the cows out in the pasture every farmer knows to hop on the tractor and get another one for them before they finish it or else they will be chasing cows all over the county! When my dad and I take a bale out to the cows, and they hear the tractor coming up the hill you see all of the cows migrate over to the feeder and start calling for the little calves to come over because supper is ready. The cows appreciate all the time and work my family did to get them these hay bales so that they are well fed.
4. Always a Life Lesson
Sometimes when you’re out on the farm taking attendance of your livestock you notice that one may not be present, and if so, a search party (the whole family) gets called to help find the missing animal. This normally happens on my farm when a cow or sow is about ready to have a baby(s). If dad counts someone missing, everyone is sent to the pasture to find the animal, and if you’re the lucky one you will get the sweet reward of finding a the new life of a baby calf or a litter of baby pigs curled up next to their mama; healthy and happy as they could be and it can turn any day into great day.
5. Livestock are loyal to their farmers
One thing you must know about livestock is that they are loyal. Back at home, we have four dogs and each one shows their loyalty in different ways. When I am home, my dog is always by my side. He always helps me with the chores and goes out with me in the pasture to walk the fence and check the animals.
Raising livestock isn’t easy, but the pros outweigh the cons. Every day farmers care for their livestock in the best way possible, and in return, each day is a little bit brighter having shared it with the animals.