INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES & THE FAMILY FARM #WISDOMWEDNESDAY

When I really think about it, I’ve lived off the farm longer than I lived on, but you know how it goes: You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.

So, here’s a fun list of quotes from famous people that make my mind slip right back to the farm.

Innovation – wow.  Have you SEEN what’s going on on the farm lately?  These farmers are using GPS to map their fields.  GPS is turning on and off the planter boxes so that the planted rows don’t overlap.  GPS is controlling the fertilizer application so that the soil is getting exactly what it needs – no more and no less.  These innovative farming techniques are distinguishing the really great farmers from those that still need to improve.

This takes me back to spring planting.  The years when the soil was dry and hard, yet those little seedlings pushed through!  And, although I didn’t appreciate it fully at the time, the first day driving to church on Sunday when you could finally “row the corn” which meant that the little green rows of seedlings were finally visible as you drove by … those little guys saw strength and growth through continuous effort and struggle.  And in the end, they put me through college.  I’m so grateful little corn seedlings!

Optimism: some farmers have it more than others, but all farmers have it.  Think about it, when you put a field of seeds into the ground, knowing that at that present moment you are going to lose money on each and every one, hoping that the economy turns around before harvest?  That’s optimism.  Farmers are full of hope and confidence.  They hope for good growing seasons and good marketing opportunities.  They are confident in their own abilities as farmers and, usually, in God that they will take care of their families somehow.

This isn’t something that my parents said to me *exactly* but the sentiment is the same.  Don’t do a job halfway.  Always do it the very best that you can and look for the opportunities to learn to do it better.  I definitely remember conversations like this in regards to my school work, but also when it came to ironing, house cleaning, and picking up the yard.  In the end, it was a great lesson and one that I’m always teaching my kids too.  I definitely think of kid’s ag organizations like 4-H and FFA when I read this one.

Check out the 4-H motto: I pledge my head to clearing thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, and my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.  Hear the push to always be better, bigger, clearer … and more?

Me to my kid: Yes, you did clean up your room about 50%.  Is that your best work?  Did you understand that we don’t allow piles of trash on your floor?  Do you think you can do better?  Then go do it!  And don’t complain about being punished when you know you only did it 50%!

This.  Every planting season.  Every harvest season.  Every week of hauling grain.  Every calving season.  Every season on the farm looms large ahead of you and the work is overwhelming.  And yet, every farmer I know keeps moving forward, eyes only on the next thing – the next calf, the next 80 acres to harvest, the next 8 hour day of hauling grain – until they turn around and the job is done.  THAT feeling of satisfaction can’t be matched.

Are there quotes that make you think about your life and your upbringing?  Do these quotes give you any insight into what it is to grow up and work on a farm?  Let’s chat in the comments!

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

 

A FARMING FAMILY

I was walking into my final CHEM 102 lecture on Cloud Nine. The class which caused me so much stress and many late nights was almost over. Apparently, this attitude was noticeable as someone I’d never met chose the seat next to mine. I began making small talk when she suddenly stopped me, “What do you mean a family farm? Aren’t farms owned by huge corporations?” Her question caught me off guard. I always mention my upbringing when I introduce myself, so I don’t think about it much. To address her confusion, I began to tell stories of growing up on the farm. To her, the idea of a family farm is a strange one. This prompted me to reflect on family farms and the following three questions:

  1. How many farms are family farms?
  2. How does farming work as a business?
  3. Why do people pursue this lifestyle?

How many farms are family farms?

Today, it can seem most of our food is the result of science experiments and the profit invested interests of large companies. However, when we look at farms from a family perspective we find that conventional truths may not be very true.

To begin with, large companies have a very small stake in the production of food. While many companies who buy and sell agricultural products may be quite large, the actual growing of food is a family experience. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, only 4% of all farmland is not owned by family farmers. Even more surprising is 45% of farmland is owned by small family farms. The remainder is owned by mid-sized to large family operations. The apparent follow-up question seems to be who makes up that 4%? Well, we find that most of that farmland is owned by universities and companies for research purposes. More information on this topic can be found here.

How does farming work as a business?

At their core, all farms are businesses. A farmer’s most basic goal is the same as an accountant or nurse, to establish a means of providing for themselves and their family. However, unlike an accountant or nurse, family farms involve more than just adults working. In my household, everyone was wholly invested in providing a living for our family. However, when it comes to farming the way this living is made is quite unique.

One of the most difficult concepts of farming to understand is the markets. When referencing the markets, we often are discussing the factors which dictate the price at which farmers sell their crops. To fully understand the markets and all the nuances one would need to study this area for most of their life. To keep things simple let’s just briefly discuss two overarching concepts, the futures and cash prices. The futures market is where individuals exchange contracts of commodities for sale at a future date at a set price. Cash prices are what a farmer could get right now for the grain he currently has in storage. The dollar amounts of both futures and cash prices are constantly changing. This means is a farmer never knows how much money they will earn. As a business farming is one of the most turbulent. Imagine you work at grocery store and at the end of your first 40-hour week, your boss pays you $600, or $15 an hour. But the next week consumers decide to stop buying bananas, so your boss pays you $360, or $9 an hour, for your second 40-hour week because of the loss of profits. Due to factors beyond your control, you got paid $240 less than you expected. That is like the stress farmers feel as they watch the grain prices fluctuate daily.

Why do people pursue this lifestyle?

It’s hard to explain the way farmers work. It takes a unique person to want to submit themselves to this lifestyle. So unique, that only 2% of the U.S. population finds work as farmers. This 2 % provide enough food and resources for the U.S. and a large portion of the globe. However, if you ask them, there isn’t anything else these people would rather be doing. They serve the world by raising the best crop they can. Despite the highs and lows of the markets, the turbulence of everyday farm work, or the potential troubles looming on the horizon, our farmers continue to labor producing the safest and highest quality crop they can because they know your family depends on it.

J.C. Campbell
IL Corn Legislative Intern

#TBT – GRILLING WEEK: FLAT IRON STEAKS WITH GRILLED CORN AND CUMIN LIME BUTTER

As we officially head into summer, enjoy the recipes of grilling week!  We’ll be featuring opportunities for you to get more delicious pork, beef, and chicken into your diet and sharing some fun facts about livestock farming in Illinois!

Fun Fact: Three out of four American grillers say they grill beef the most often (over chicken or pork)!

Today’s Tip: Preheat your grill 15 to 25 minutes before you start cooking to make sure it reaches the right temperature (and to kill any bacteria). Your grill should be 400-450°F for high, 350-400°F for medium-high, 300-350°F for medium and 250-300°F for low heat. A properly heated grill sears foods on contact keeps the insides moist and helps prevent sticking.

Today’s Recipe: Flat Iron Steaks with Grilled Corn and Cumin-Lime Butter

What You’ll Need:

  1. 4 beef Flat Iron Steaks (about 8 ounces each)
  2. 6 ears fresh sweet corn, in husks
  3. 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  4. 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  5. 1 medium poblano pepper
  6. 1 small red finger chili (cayenne) pepper or serrano pepper
  7. Lime wedges
  8. Salt and ground black pepper\

Rub

  1. 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  2. 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  3. 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  4. ½ teaspoon freshly grated lime peel
  5. ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper

What You Do:

  1. Pull back husks from corn, leaving husks attached. Remove and discard corn silk. Bring husks back up around corn; tie in place with kitchen string or strips of corn husk. Soak corn in cold water 30 minutes or up to several hours.
  2. Combine rub ingredients. For Cumin-Lime Butter, combine 2 teaspoons rub mixture, butter and lime juice in small bowl; set aside. Press remaining rub evenly onto beef steaks. Cover and refrigerate steaks 30 minutes.
  3. Remove corn from the water. Place on grid over medium, ash-covered coals; grill, covered, 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, turning occasionally. About 15 minutes before corn is done, move ears to the outer edge of the grid. Place poblano and finger chili pepper in center of grid; grill poblano pepper 10 to 15 minutes and chili pepper 5 minutes or until skins are completely blackened, turning occasionally. Place peppers in a food-safe plastic bag; close bag. Set aside.
  4. Place steaks on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 10 to 14 minutes for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally.
  5. Remove and discard husks from corn. Cover and refrigerate 2 steaks, 2 ears corn and grilled peppers to use in Steak and Grilled Corn Tortillas. Carve remaining 2 steaks into slices. Squeeze lime wedges over beef, as desired. Spread Cumin-Lime Butter over remaining 4 ears corn. Season beef and corn with salt and black pepper, as desired.

To prepare on gas grill, preheat grill according to manufacturer’s directions for medium heat. Place vegetables and steaks on the grid as directed above. Grill corn and poblano pepper, covered, 15 to 25 minutes, or until corn is tender and skin of poblano pepper is completely blackened, turning occasionally. Grill finger chili pepper 5 to 10 minutes or until skin is completely blackened, turning occasionally. Grill steaks, covered, 12 to 16 minutes for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

TOP TEN FARM CHORES I LOVE TO HATE

TOP TEN FARM CHORES I LOVE TO HATE

Let’s face it – no one enjoys chores. Whether it’s taking out the trash, cleaning dirty dishes, or finding matches to the ever-growing pile of socks, we all have at least one chore we dread doing. Think about living on a farm, where chores are an everyday occurrence… could you handle it? From someone who grew up in a suburban neighborhood to now living on a farm, I’ll be the first to say that farm life was quite an adjustment. However, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Without further ado, here’s the top ten list of farm chores I love to hate:

Filling up Water Troughs: While this may seem easy and painless, dragging the hose from one pasture to another, attaching it to the hydrant, and waiting for each 100-gallon trough to fill can be a struggle. But, seeing the animals stare at me, then snort and run away (because as we all know, hoses are VERY scary) always leads to a good chuckle.

Cleaning Stalls: A daily chore that is easier on some days compared to others, it isn’t the chore to “stop and smell the roses”. At my house, my sister and I clean stalls together. So while some may dread it, that’s the time my sister and I share our days with each other. That sister bonding time means the world to me, even if we are surrounded by “brown roses”.

Unloading Feed/Bedding: This chore isn’t bad, but when the weather is not in our favor, such as this recent spring, it can be dreadful. Good news is, this isn’t a daily chore – once we unload the truck, we are stocked for over a week!

Washing Animals: Animals, like humans, can be moody. So some animals may be a challenge, but I love the smell of the shampoo and the refreshing feeling of water spraying back at me on a hot summer day!

Cleaning Show Equipment: Before and after shows, such as the county fair, it is important to clean all the equipment we take. This is much more fun when there are siblings around to chat with, it makes time fly by!

Holding Animals for the Vet: This can be tough, especially when we can’t just tell an animal to “hold still”. I’ve learned to love this chore because I always learn something new!

Filling Hay Feeders: This one doesn’t take long, but let’s be honest: bales of hay aren’t easy to carry. Once we make our way over to the feeder and hoist the bale up into the feeder, the job is done. The best part about this is when the hungry animals come walking over, they are always happy to see the person bringing them more food!

Clipping Animals: Most of us have that specific haircut we prefer. Animals have certain haircuts too, especially in preparation for a show. This is the perfect opportunity to play hairdresser and treat the animals to a fresh haircut!

Fixing Fences: Depending on the size of the farm, this can go really quick or really slow. However, it’s always a bad day when you see a cow walking down the road. So, fixing fences is a chore to prevent those bad days!

Stacking Hay: My number one chore I love to hate. In the summer heat, unloading hundreds of hay bales weighing about 50 lbs. each, this is not appealing to the average Joe. But, this is a GREAT way to get a workout! Go ahead and skip the gym after stacking hay, you deserve it!

Farm life may be filled with chores, but from personal experience, I can say I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is always something to be done, keeping me occupied and entertained 24/7!

Susie Thompson
Illinois State University

PLANTING IS OVER, WHAT’S NEXT?

As many of us have seen this spring, farm machinery is moving all around. Farmers are busy planting the fields during this time of year. Depending on the time of year, most farmers can have their fields planted by end of May or early June. Of course, everything depends on the weather too. Some of us in northern Illinois saw snow on Easter Sunday, which fell on April 1st. A cold spring makes for less than ideal conditions to plant in the field, as farmers must wait until the ground is thawed for good. In the fall, growers are fully occupied harvesting their fields and finishing for the season, hopefully before the winter weather arrives. So, what do farmers do in between planting and harvest? Let’s dive a little deeper!

After the seeds are in the ground, a farmer’s job is not done. The period between planting and harvest is a great time to get farm machinery into tip-top shape. By taking time during the summer to ensure all equipment is cared for and ready to operate, it allows the farmers to have a smooth transition into harvest when the crops are ready.

Another task farmers often face between planting and harvest is plant care. Just as we take care of our pets, crop farmers must care for their plants. If there are pests infesting a portion of the field, or a fungus invading some of the plants, it is up to the farmer to solve those problems. A farmer walks through each field and checks on the plants periodically through the growing season, also known as crop scouting. The health of the plant plays a big role in the harvest yield in the fall. The healthier the plants, the higher quantity of crops that will be produced. The farmer also must care for the soil. Just as many of us take vitamins to ensure we receive key nutrients, it is the grower’s responsibility to make sure the soil is getting the proper nutrients too. With a healthy soil foundation, a farmer is setting up for a fruitful harvest.

Growers are also tasked with the responsibility of planning for the future. Just like any other business, these operators are looking ahead and making decisions to better their farm for the following year. Important choices include types of crops to plant, what soil treatments should be applied, any machinery that should be fixed or purchased, and many more. The countless choices that go into each decision can be daunting to non-farmers. However, with experience and resources from experts, farmers can make the best-educated decisions for their farm and their family.

Farmers are some of the most hardworking individuals. They work year-round to ensure the best quality crops for a bountiful harvest, and to keep feeding us, the consumers.

Susie Thompson
Illinois State University

HOW MY INTERNSHIP EXPANDED MY KNOWLEDGE OF FOOD

Throughout this semester, I have been exposed to a new perspective on food. I have always been interested in the health aspect of it, as well as what goes on inside our bodies after we ingest it, but this internship influenced me to focus more on the source of it, as well as the work behind the entire process.

While I had a decent understanding of common misconceptions, such as people being against biotechnology and food that is inorganic, I began to learn that many of us do not truly understand the reasoning behind making these food choices. Throughout the internship, I would talk to some of my friends, or catch them in moments at the grocery store when they would say “wait, but choose the organic one,” and after asking why, it typically resulted in an answer along the lines of  “it’s healthier” or “I don’t know, it’s better for you.” There have been many examples of consumers purchasing an item merely because it contains the words “vegan, organic or gluten-free.”

My very first post on the Instagram Gate2Plate highlighted the craze about GMO-free water. After reading a few articles, it became evident that companies try to take advantage of the knowledge gap between consumers and their willingness to pay a higher price for a “premium” product. While the water bottle does look fancier and more official, in the end, there is no true difference in the quality or safety of that water, but there is in the price. Gate2plate contains a multitude of fun photos that include facts, tasty meals, artsy recipes, and more, and it has helped me and many others expand our knowledge of all the different realms of food.

Through my experience with this internship, I learned about food insecurity and programs created to fight it, such as Food Corps. I have also learned that there are so many fun food holidays, and they are almost every single day! I have also learned the details that go into many of the intricate processes of creating certain foods, such as whey protein, beef, and coffee. While I have always followed basic trends of eating in season, I learned a lot about why it’s important, such as more flavor and nutrition, the fact that it helps you save money since the food is at the peak of its supply, and it is also better for the planet because eating within the seasons helps reduce the number of miles our food has traveled, hence reducing amount of fuel used to get it to us! Overall, I have learned that the process that comes before our food reaches our plate involves so much dedication, knowledge, patience, and hard work, and it is a step in the process that should be known and recognized by everyone because we would be nowhere without it.

Sammy Gorlovetsky
University of Illinois