WHAT WAS FARMING LIKE 10/25/100 YEARS AGO?

 

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.

Rosie Roberts
Iowa State University

TOUR A PIG FARM FROM YOUR COUCH

 

Ever wanted to visit a farm but (a) don’t know any farmers to ask or (b) don’t have any farms near you? Well, Illinois Farm Families (IFF) and the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) are giving you the opportunity to tour a pig farm without leaving the comfort of your home!

Illinois Farm Families is a collaborative effort between several Illinois ag associations to reach consumers and provide information to non-farmers that have questions and want to learn.

On September 28th, IFF live broadcasted the tour from their Facebook account. The almost 40-minute session gave insight to not only the life of livestock farmer but gave viewers the chance to have their questions answered by livestock and agriculture experts, ranging from concerns about nutrition to light-hearted inquiries about the smell of the farm.

You can watch the video about or check it out on IFF’s Facebook page.

Learn more about Illinois Farm Families.

SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS TO FOLLOW

If you’re interested in ag and you’d like to have real news and updates delivered to your Facebook or Twitter feed, then these are the social media accounts to follow!

 

Farm Babe

Farm Babe works on the family farm and uses social media to bridge the gap between Farmers & consumers. She is a writer and public speaker for agriculture.

Michelle Miller was once a big city girl and moved to rural Iowa for love. Once there, she learned that her original thoughts of Modern agriculture were very inaccurate (based on mainstream Hollywood media and marketing) and now enjoys debunking myths and spreading facts about REAL Farms from REAL farmers.

CropLife America

If you’re interested in more information about chemicals, why farmers use them, and a more balanced viewpoint, CropLife America is your stop.  CLA’s member companies produce, sell and distribute virtually all the crop protection and biotechnology products used by American farmers.

CLA is dedicated to supporting responsible stewardship of our products to promote the health and well-being of people and the environment, and to promote increasingly responsible, science-driven legislation and regulation of pesticides.

The Pollinator Partnership

We protect the habitats of managed and native pollinating animals vital to our incredibly vibrant North American ecosystems and agriculture. (Pollinating animals are responsible for an estimated one out of every third bite of food and over 75% of all flowering plants.) 

Dairy Carrie

I never thought I’d be a dairy farmer. I grew up in Madison, WI with no real ties to agriculture. I WAS the average American, generations removed from the farm. Then one day when I was 15 I met a guy…and started dating his friend. Fast forward several years and more questionable dating choices and I married the guy I met all those years ago. He wasn’t a dairy farmer (at the time) but his parents were.

My background was in sales and marketing, but my love of animals drew me to trying out farm life shortly after we got married. It stuck and I found out that I was born to be a caretaker of cows and the land.

Waterways Council Inc

Because we talk about needing upgraded locks and dams A LOT and these guys are the authority on what exactly farmers need, why they need it, and how we’re going to get it.

Waterways Council represents agriculture, the barge industry, and even the conservation community who are all working together to restore our river system to its former commerce and habitat glory.

 GMO Answers

Many of you are interested in GMOs in your food and what impact they might have for you and for the environment.

The goal of GMOAnswers is to make information about GMOs in food and agriculture easier to access and understand. GMOAnswers is committed to answering questions about GMOs — no matter what they are.

 

AG SPIES: A REAL THING

As the agriculture industry becomes more diverse the need to gain the most knowledge and the best products has become a very tempting business. Many people across the world, specifically people in China, have been caught trying to take away research and ideas in order to progress their work. The FBI warns of “agricultural economic espionage ‘a growing threat’ and some are worried that biotech piracy can spell big trouble for a dynamic and growing U.S. industry.”

Ventria Bioscience president and CEO Scott Deeter displays some of the bio-engineered rice developed in his company’s laboratory. CREDIT BRYAN THOMPSON FOR HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA

Recently a group of Chinese scientists traveled to Hawaii for business. On their way back to China, U.S. customs agents found rice seeds in their luggage that were not supposed to be there. Because of this offense, at least one of those scientists is going to be finding a new home in the federal prison system.

Sadly, this is not the only time one of these offenses have taken place. At Ventria Bioscience, scientists figured out how to “genetically engineer rice to grow human proteins for medical uses.” After hosting a meeting of scientists from the Chinese crops research institute it was found that Weiqian Zhang had rice seeds in his luggage. He is currently awaiting his sentencing in federal court.

Another issue that has occurred was back in 2011 where a field manager for Pioneer Hi-Bred International found Mo Hailong, a man with ties to China, digging up seed corn out of an Iowa field. In January 2016 he pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets involving corn seed that was created by Monsanto and Pioneer.

But why do they do this?

According to the assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, Jason Griess, “There are countries in this world that are in dire need of this technology and one of the ways you go about obtaining it is to steal it.” With a huge population in China, they are very interested in getting better access to seeds and technology to grow and feed their growing population.

To read more about this topic check out the original article from KCUR 89.3

Abby Jacobs
IL Corn Communications Intern

WIN FREE FUEL

You can win free fuel by reporting fuel prices of E85 and other ethanol blends on e85prices.com.

All you have to do is download the app, create an account, and start reporting the prices of the ethanol blended fuel in your area or wherever you find yourself during your scheduled summer driving.  Each time you report a price (you can report multiple prices per day) you are entered to win $50 in free fuel!

Winners are drawn every single day from Memorial Day through Labor Day and announced every two weeks.

For full contest details, click here.

TOP POSTS OF 2016 #6: 5 THINGS ABOUT THIS PHOTO-HUGE PILES OF CORN

[Originally published: January 15, 2016]

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!

TOP POSTS OF 2016 #5: THE HEAVY COST OF FARM MACHINERY

[Originally published March 14, 2016]

Here in Illinois, we are all fairly familiar with the big farm machinery in the fields during spring and fall, but have you ever wondered what kind of financial investment a farmer undertakes?

3-14-16Tractor
Photo Credit: Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer

It’s mid-March, the weather is getting more pleasant, and all farmers seem to have one thing on their mind: planting.

The first field of corn was planted near Pearl, Illinois last Tuesday and it is expected that many farmers from all over the state will soon be following suit to start the long process of getting food to your dinner table. However, for farmers to get the food from farm to table, they need machinery to do it, and machinery costs money. Lots of it. But what exactly is the financial investment a farmer undertakes when it comes to their machinery?

Chad Braden, President and Chief Operating Officer of Arends Hogan Walker (AHW), one of the largest John Deere dealerships on the continent, says that the image created by the media about the cost of farm equipment is a negative one, but in reality, it is a necessary part of the production cycle. In order “to sustain a long-term farm operation, you must be able to invest in, and support, a reasonable amount of equipment to maintain the farming operation.” He also suggests that the general rule of thumb should be spending “$95-$100 per acre on machinery costs. This gives a 1,000-acre farm about $100,000 of cash flow to cover annual machinery payments and maintenance, insurance, fuel, etc. Only $70 per acre of this is direct machinery costs.“ Braden closes by adding, “$70 per acre is about 10% of the total costs of production in 2016 for an acre of corn.”

So, it costs $95-$100 per acre for machinery costs, but what about the expense of the actual machinery itself? John Spangler, my uncle, as well as a grain and livestock farmer from Western Illinois, states that this all depends on the size of your operation. A small farmer, who may have around 350 acres, needs nothing more than a $50,000 tractor, $20,000 planter, and a $50,000 combine. But, that is about as “minimum” as you can get. “A 1000 acre farmer is going to need a couple of tractors around $150,000, a $50,000 planter, and $100,000 combine.”

This may seem like lots of money, but Spangler mentions that it is better to keep the combine, planter, and sprayer up to date. “A lot of dollars flow through those machines and a breakdown at the wrong time can be expensive.”

If buying new isn’t something you want to do or can afford to do right now, have no fear. Leasing has become more popular in recent months. Also, there is a company called Machinery Link who connects farmers from all over the U.S. who need different types of equipment at various times. Some farmers even share equipment over two or more farm families. In reality, there are tons of other options to make machinery more affordable. “Everyone has their own philosophies on machinery,” says Spangler. “It basically comes down to what fits best in your operation.”

Kaity Spangler

 

Kaity Spangler
University of Illinois

AG CAREER PROFILES: WHAT DOES AN AG GRAPHIC DESIGNER DO?

Sharon Dodd began her career with Illinois Farm Bureau fifteen years ago in September of 2000.  She is a multi-talented individual with a passion for visual communication.

DEIDRA: How did you become who you are today—what did you do to get here?

6-9-16Dodd (Newton)_Sharon 2x3 11 (1)SHARON: I didn’t have an Agriculture background.  I worked at Kruger Marketing in Champaign before applying to Illinois Farm Bureau.  I worked hard to get where I am.  I paid my way through college, and I learned how competitive graphic design really is.  I worked as an Art Director, Ad Layout Artist, and a Typesetter for the Daily Vidette, a student newspaper at ISU.  I was an art major and a print management minor.  I did a lot of “spec” art, and I focused on the marketing side of the newspaper.  When I worked with Kreuger, I learned a lot about agriculture.  During meetings I would sit and listen to everything, absorbing it all.  I didn’t realize until later how much all of that would really help.

DEIDRA: What are some of the challenges and some of the rewards you face on a typical day?

SHARON: The rewards are the people in agriculture.  I like being a voice and an advocate for agriculture.  I like seeing results, seeing people smile from my work.  The challenge is that there is a lot of communication.  We’re trying to change legislative issues and the perception of agriculture.  It’s hard to see results and it can feel overwhelming.  We have to constantly keep putting that voice out there—creating and communicating agriculture.

DEIDRA: What are some of your favorite tools of the trade?

SHARON: I like Mac computers and the Adobe Creative Suite.  Photoshop is my all time favorite, and then second is InDesign.  I use Dreamweaver and other web tools, but they aren’t my favorite.  Photography is a huge inspiration.

DEIDRA: When drafting a project design, can you describe the process you go through to come up with your solution?

ag_graphic_designerSHARON: The first step is getting the content together.  If there is a marketing person involved, I really like to get the content and get a feel for how it’s being laid out.  Who am I talking to?  What is my point?  I like to be in the reader’s shoes.  How can I engage them in a brochure or a social media post?  I am a common sense designer, and I don’t like confusion.

After getting the content, I need to find out what the theme is.  I like to sit on a project for about 24 hours.  When you let your brain process you would be surprised what the next day brings in.  When I get a layout started, sometimes I will do a rough [draft] but won’t do the entire thing.  I will communicate with the marketing people and see their reactions, work with them for corrections, and try to get the right design for the project.

When I make a concept, I try to look for anything that can help.  I’m not afraid to ask questions to get the right idea, and I am comfortable drafting a concept in person.  I feel like a channel between the people and I have a good idea of what they are thinking and communicating.

DEIDRA: What would you say has been one of your biggest accomplishments as a graphic designer?

SHARON: The next generation excites me, they are savvy and in it together; I am excited about young leaders and “Ag in the Classroom.”  I know there are legislative issues, but I feel like I am making a difference here.

DEIDRA: What kind of advice would you give to an aspiring graphic designer?

SHARON: The number one thing is to be a good communicator and a good listener.  If you’re negative, or if people can’t brainstorm with you, or if you are afraid of change then it will set you back.  You need to be adaptable because technology is constantly changing.  The second thing is you have to be creative.  If advertising, photography, or art inspires you, if it’s driving you, then all you need is to communicate.

Are you considering a career in agriculture?
Sonnemaker_Deidra 2x3 16

Deidra Sonnemaker
Graphic Design Intern

A LESSON IN LIVESTREAMING: USING PERISCOPE AND FACEBOOK LIVE

Periscope and Facebook Live are emerging technologies that allow groups, companies, and individuals to show real-time aspects of their lives and work. Farmers, for instance, are using the technology to reach and educate non-farmers by broadcasting their day-to-day from planting in the field to answering questions about farm life.

Recently, Illinois Farm Families partnered with Chicago radio personality Patti Vasquez to do a Q&A broadcast on Periscope with Illinois corn farmer Justin Durdan. We watched as viewers contributed and Durdan answered questions about farming, all while he worked in the field.

Periscope

Periscope is a smartphone app that can be downloaded at iTunes and Google Play for iOs and Android devices, respectively. Also, Periscope is available for Apple TV so that users can watch broadcasts from their televisions. People who do not have Periscope accounts can watch from the web if they have the link to the broadcast. Users likes Illinois Farm Families can also tweet broadcasts from their Twitter feed. However, you cannot interact via questions or likes.

5-9-16periscope
Credit: PRNewsire

Downloading the app is the best option. This allows people to keep up with their favorite accounts and to interact with the broadcasts. An account can be created account with a phone number or through a Twitter account. Once a user name is set-up, the user can watch and share broadcast from literally all over the globe. If there is a specific region users want to watch (like Illinois), they can use the interactive map on the app to find local broadcasts. Also, users can follow specific accounts like Illinois Farm Families (@ILFarmFamilies) and receive notifications when they go live.

One current drawback to Periscope is that the videos of past broadcasts only last 48 hours. The video must be downloaded and posted to sites like YouTube to be kept. Another drawback is that watching broadcasts on the Twitter app for non-users only works with Apple/iOs devices (for now).

If you’re interested in checking-in on some farmers who broadcast their work on Periscope, be sure to follow accounts like Judi Graff (@farmNwife), Nathan Brown (@Brown_Farms), and RedDirtInMySoul (@rimrockes). Remember: you can only see broadcasts that are live or that happened within the last 48 hours.

Click here to learn more about Periscope or click here for a full tutorial.

Facebook Live

5-9-16fblive
Credit: FB Newsroom

Facebook Live is another powerful tool for real-time broadcasting. Similar to Periscope, users can react to your broadcast with comments, questions, and likes. The broadcast takes place on the user’s profile page and a video of the broadcast will remain on the user’s timeline. However, Facebook’s videos stay on the user’s feed until the he or she chooses to delete it.

Well-known agriculture blogger “Dairy Carrie” uses Facebook Live to show some of the most intimate moments of farming life. Just recently, she’s shared videos of turning her cows out to pasture and of a calf being born. Carrie will even post pre-broadcast notices on her Facebook timeline, so others can tune in. Carrie is just one of many farmers who are using these technologies to demonstrate to a global audience different dimensions of farming and agriculture.

For more information about Facebook Live, click here. A full tutorial can be found here.

McDonald_Taylor

Taylor McDonald
Communications Assistant
IL Corn