Tuesday, August 31, 2010

NEW ICMB DIRECTORS AT THE CORN CRIB!


The Illinois Corn Marketing Board elected new officers this weekend!  Pictured are Secretary Larry Hascheider of Okawville, Treasurer Kent Kleinschmidt of Emden, Chairman Scott Stirling of Martinton, and Vice Chairman Bill Christ of Metamora. 

We can't wait for a new year with these four at the helm!

Monday, August 30, 2010

VOTE

Among other things, one important activity our board engaged in last week was the Illinois Ag Legislative Roundtable's Candidate Forum.  We heard from Governor Pat Quinn, his opponent Representative Bill Brady, Congressman Mark Kirk who is running for Senate and his opponent and current Treasurer of the IL Alexi Giannoulias. 

It really was a great night.  The weather was lovely as we listened to them from the middle of a cornfield in McLean County and the food was good.  Any farmer knows that the quality of a meeting can be partially judged by the food, right?

But this post isn't really about the candidates.  Nor is it about the food.  It's really about just plain voting.

I came home from the Candidate Forum and I was energized.  Actually, I was less energized and more motivated.  The candidates probably don't really inspire me as much as they motivate me to want to control government spending.  Will any of our candidates do that?  I'm not sure ... but the fact remains that I'm going to vote simply because I want someone that might control spending to get into office.

And as motivated as I was, as I spoke to my neighbor, she was equally unmotivated.  She doesn't care.  She doesn't think her vote matters.  She believes that all the candidates on every side of the aisle are biased and uncaring about the American/Illinois public.  She believes that they are all seeking election for the wrong reasons. 

She can't find a candidate that she can believe in.  She can't find a candidate that she mostly agrees with and she doesn't understand how she can prioritize to just one topic and vote according to candidate positions on that topic.

I'm sure I can find fifty other people in the span of the next fifteen minutes that agree with her. 

In the chronicals of our history I'm sure there are also millions and millions of letters, articles, stories that aim to inspire people to vote.  Will I do any better than any of those?  Likely not, but I can't ignore it all the same.

Perhaps the problem with our country is not so much the politicians as it is the plain old citizens - the ones that are uninspired, apathetic, and too busy to care or notice what's happening.  Perhaps the problem with our state is that its citizens aren't demanding more accountability, more access, and more information.  Perhaps the problem with our democracy isn't the vote, but the voters themselves. 

To paraphase something Treasurer Giannoulias said in his address, things in Washington aren't going to change until elected officials quit serving their party and themselves and recognize that they are serving the American public. 

Perhaps things in Washington (and Illinois!) aren't going to change until each and every ordinary citizen does exactly the same.

Vote.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

FAMILY FARMERS, FRONT AND CENTER IN IL AND NATIONAL MEDIA

While I'll apologize up front for less meaty content on our blog the past couple weeks, I'll also offer you that we've all been in meetings, at the state fair, and now in our Illinois Corn Marketing Board and Illinois Corn Growers Association Board meetings just drumming up fabulous content and thought provoking concepts for you to mull over in the coming weeks.

During our board meeting today, Senate Candidate and current US Congressman Mark Kirk addressed both boards with your standard campaign speech and then opened the floor for questions.  During that portion, one board member asked that all the family farmers in the room raise their hand.  Of course, the view for those 5 seconds was all hands.

This perception that the majority of farms are owned my corporations like Monsanto, Pioneer or ADM is one of the things the Corn Farmers Coaltion is trying to change.  There's this ad that we've had in DC metro stations, at Reagan National Airport, and in Washington, DC publications like Congressional Quarterly and Politco ...


But there's also a need to create awareness in the homes of farmers throughout IL that this really is a problem.  So there's also this ad that was published in FARMWEEK on Monday, August 23 and will appear in AgriNews on Thursday, August 26.


This is our effort to let Illinois farmers know that this is a real problem - a HUGE problem - and that we are trying to fix it.  After all, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board was one of the first funders of this effort and is still one of the largest funders in the coalition. 

We've made more than 100 million positive impressions (to clarify the marketing lingo, an impression is one viewing.  So these ads have been seen 100 million times, maybe sometimes by the same people, but rarely does one viewing actually hit home anyway.) with our legislators, thought leaders, and others in the DC area and now we're bringing these ads back to IL to put a face on Illinois corn farmers. 

Remember this?  These Corn Farmers Coalition ads are now all over the Normal, IL Corn Crib, teaching people the truth about the agriculture all around them and introducing them to the family farmers that feed them everyday.

Check out the Corn Farmers Coalition website to learn more about what we're doing to set the record straight about corn farmers and US agriculture.  I'm confident that you won't be sorry that you did.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

BE TRUE TO YOUR FUEL VIDEO CONTEST

Iowa college students were put to the test recently by the Iowa Corn Promotion Board.  They were challenged to create a video depicting their school spirit while being true to Iowa's homegrown fuel, corn-ethanol.  With a Grand Prize of $5,000 on the line, students met the challenge head on. 

The following three videos were selected as the finalists.  The video with the most views on Iowa Corn's YouTube Channel by Sept. 1 will be the winner. 

What a fun way to celebrate Iowa's number one crop, corn! 







Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

Monday, August 23, 2010

HOW ABOUT SOME POSITIVE PR?

Having your inbox flooded with positive news articles first thing on a Monday morning is a great thing!  I wish this happened every single week. 

Just in case you need some pepping up on a long, hot Monday in August, here's the quick list.  Check these articles out!

The Illinois Corn Marketing Board has been working on a "food desert" program where our farmers grow sweet corn for area food pantries.  So far, all involved parties seem to love both the positive feedback and the yummy, fresh sweet corn.  This project was also featured on the Produce Journal blog ... everyone loves fresh sweet corn!

This really great Op-Ed in the New York Times says a lot of things that conventional farmers have been saying for years.  Grow food where it makes the most sense to grow food.  All soils, climates, areas of the country have competitive advantages for various crops.  If we want to feed the world, we need to use those competitive advantages to our ... well ... advantage.  Thanks Mr. Budiansky for bringing this important information to light.

And then, in a great move by the National Corn Growers Association, farmers all over the country now have access to draft editorials they can use, edit, and submit to their local papers, explaining to citizens all over our country that farmers are trustworthy and that conventional farming is part of the solution.  Other editorials focus on ethanol production, pesticide use, etc, providing scientific information to readers to dispell the myths that seem to cover the news.  Check out this letter to the editor  (make sure to scroll down to the third letter)and this one

Have you seen any positive agriculture news floating around your hometown? 


Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

Friday, August 20, 2010

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO

Today's farm photo comes to you from the Illinois State Fair.  We have one youngster enjoying the new "Farmer's Little Helper" exhibit!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

YESTERDAY'S AGRICULTURE CANNOT FEED 9 BILLION PEOPLE

The main concern with the food movement these days is that old fashioned production methods will yield old fashioned yields, as in, one-third of our food would be lost.  This is a tough pill to swallow considering the people going hungry now all over the globe and the predicted population increase.

Still, no matter how many times farmers mention this life and death concern, it seems to fall on deaf ears.  How exciting to see our challenge graphically!  We hope this video will help more folks understand that while organic and local grown foods are great options, they are not long term solutions. 



In case you don't have time to watch (you really should MAKE time), the main point of the video is "Yesterday's agriculture cannot feed 9 billion people."  I wish more people would really hear this message.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

CHICAGOAN OF THE CORN: MY EXPERIENCE HARVESTING CORN FOR THE CITY PRODUCE PROJECT

As a college student, I have a general rule for mornings; stay in bed as long as possible. On Thursday, however, I found myself waiting at the train station at 6:50 a.m. to pick up my friend Ryan because we were going on an adventure. We were going corn harvesting in Manhattan, IL. Armed with bug spray, sunscreen, caffeine and Twinkies, these two city kids were on the road south to lend a hand to farmers who were aiding the City Produce Project supported by Monsanto and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. While in the car, I explained the program to my yawning partner in crime.

“The corn is going to be sent to a food pantry and then given to people who live in food deserts,” I said.

“Where is there a desert around here,” Ryan asked. More caffeine.

I started to question this adventure as the trek took us through landscape less dotted with buildings and more defined by various crops indistinguishable to my untrained urban eye. But after navigating country detours and gravel roads with my not-as-trusty-as-you’d-expect GPS, there was no turning back. I parked my car behind a pick-up truck and next to a tractor, and Ryan and I left bliss known as air-conditioning behind.

“It’s hot. I mean…no, really, it is hot,” I observed in discomfort. I questioned my choices in farming fashion, wondering if I should have dressed for extreme heat, but surprisingly enough, I made a smart decision.

When picking corn, it is a good idea to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, plus eye protection. I split the difference on all counts, opting for capris, short-sleeved t-shirt and goofy sunglasses. Truth be told, I looked goofy, period.

With a high-five and a “Let’s DO THIS!” affirmation, we joined a large group of volunteers in the field. There were several kids helping, some of which were from a church group and some were Boy Scouts, and all seemed very eager to help. I noticed a photographer snapping pictures of all the hard work and also heard John Kiefner, a farmer who planted corn for City Produce Project, giving a very energetic interview.

Ryan and I introduced ourselves to an experienced corn harvester and received a quick tutorial. After another high-five and bout of nervous laughter, I got to pickin’. A corn stalk had anywhere between one and three ears of corn growing on it. The first stalk I grabbed had a large ear of corn, so I took hold and tried to rip it off the stalk. It didn’t budge. At all. Embarrassment ensued.

Ryan surrounded by broken stalks

I swallowed my pride and asked a young volunteer next to me, “Wait…I maybe missed something here. How do you do this again?” He said, “Like this,” and ripped that sucker clean off without a hitch. I needed to man up. After that small hiccup, it was smooth sailing; remove the corn, then break the stalk so it would fall to the ground and make way for the next. The crops themselves were actually very resilient, with leaves firm enough to give me a small cut similar to a paper-cut on the top of my hand. It even drew a small amount of blood, but nothing was going to get me to cry uncle in front of these seasoned harvesters. Not even the fact that I was smeared with mud. Yuck.

Once the corn was removed from the stalk, I was told to peel back a small section of the husk to make sure the corn was acceptable to be donated. It was important to harvest as much good corn as we could, considering the crop was going to those in underserved communities. Every ear counted.

“If it’s yellow and developed, throw it in the bucket,” said our corn guru. I took that advice maybe too literally, and did my best Michael Jordan lay-up with my corn haul.

“She shoots…she scores,” Kiefner exclaimed while driving a tractor in reverse. Who says a city girl can’t have fun on a farm?

After my re-enactment of the Chicago Bulls Championship run of 1993, Ryan and I dumped the bucket of corn onto a large flat-bed truck. Kiefner drove the truck from the field and into the barn, where the corn was loaded into sacks. The barn was also where the volunteers could refuel and get a minute away from the beating rays of the sun (did I mention it was hot?). Volunteers sat down on any suitable area they could find and sipped on water to prevent dehydration.

The field after all the sweet corn was harvested

Jim Robbins, the owner of the farm, helped facilitate the action within the barn while Kiefner worked outside. During my time in the barn, I got to see all of the volunteers at once; there was significantly more than I had anticipated. I signed my name onto a sheet that was passed around the barn, and I was amazed that my name fit on the second sheet of paper.

While I didn’t get a chance to really interact with many of the other helpers, I did take a moment to chat with a lady who had videotaped us working in the field. When she asked where I was from, I told her Chicago.

“Wow, what are you doing down here,” she asked.

“I’m here to help on behalf of the City Produce Project,” I said. Noticing her confusion, I continued, “This corn will be cycled into this program. After it leaves the farm, it will be distributed to families who have little access to fresh vegetables otherwise. It’s designed to improve nutrition in places that don’t have the opportunity to experience fresh, local food like this. It’s a good thing.”

And that’s when it hit me.

It really is a good thing. While getting up before fast food joints stop serving breakfast and driving down a gravel road isn’t going to be a lifestyle that’s calling my name, I have a new appreciation for fresh food. The farmers seemed so grateful for the help, expressing that we managed to finish a day-long job for two people in just about two hours. Plus knowing the corn was going to city residents in need rather than a supermarket produce section halfway across the country solidified a sense of just plain “good.”

For more information about the City Produce Project, check out their Twitter at http://twitter.com/CityProdProj

Nicky Hunter
The Kineo Group Intern

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

NEW AG EDUCATION EXHIBIT FEATURED AT IL STATE FAIR


Illinois Corn and other commodity groups have a new and improved presence at the state fair. Aimed at occupying the little ones while educating families, the Farmer’s Little Helper exhibit walks visitors thru barns about corn, soybeans, cattle, pigs, horses, poultry, farm safety and more.

I spent the day in the Commodity Pavilion and the Director’s Lawn for Ag Day festivities, but made it a point to visit the Farmer’s Little Helper exhibit. Families were learning about Illinois agriculture, both that it’s supplying a safe and abundant food supply and the hard work, time and energy that it takes for farmers to produce food for our state as well as the world. This is an important connection between farm families and the citizens of Illinois encouraging an open and understanding relationship between the two.

Children that visited the exhibit had many hands-on learning opportunities. Such as: milking a cow, measuring their height compared to a corn or soybean plant, seeing a real live baby chick, and learning where the cuts of meat come from. All of these activities plant a seed of understanding and appreciation for agriculture in the minds of our youth.

In each barn kids played games relating to that industry and their winnings (i.e. eggs, milk, wool, etc) were collected to sell at the ‘market’ at the exit of the exhibit. This miniature scale market helps children understand the real-life business of agriculture. And if there is one thing agriculture needs, it’s for people to better understand who we are, what we are doing, and why we are doing it.

The Illinois State Fair has a long agricultural history, in fact the reason the ISF exists is to showcase premier agriculture products, so it’s certainly encouraging to see this highlighted at the fair again.

While I was walking thru the Farmer’s Little Helper exhibit I was stopped by a woman who was very impressed and enthused to see a quality ag education center at the fair. In her words, “It’s certainly about time we did something for our farmers”.

Indeed it is.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

Monday, August 16, 2010

YOU CAN'T WIN FOR LOSING

Farmers have always used the latest and greatest best management practices to produce safe and affordable food in a way that preserves the environment because that's the right thing to do.  Now, even best management practices can't save them from the threat of lawsuits.

Yes, lawsuits.  In a country that repeatedly tells us that they love family farmers and wants to see them succeed, family farmers everywhere are desperately trying to protect themselves from losing everything in a lawsuit, even when they are trying their best to follow the letter of the law.

As an example, the US EPA is currently working on new spray drift regulation that would essentially consider any chemical leaving any nozzle as a point source pollutant.  The US EPA would like to require all farmers (and local muncipalities spraying to control mosquito populations or even normal citizens wanting to spray) to obtain a permit to apply these chemicals.  Aside from the fact that the chemicals in these low doses have been proven safe, the problem here is that state EPAs don't have the staff available to issue all the permits.  This leaves farmers either unable to apply their crop protection products or applying them without a permit.  As you might guess, applying them without a permit opens farmers up to the threat of citizen lawsuit. 

What's a farmer to do?

If you're in IL, perhaps you've followed the Tradition Dairy case in JoDaviess County.  This is a lawsuit brought on by a citizen group that is absolutely convinced that the dairy being sited in JoDaviess County will harm their health and bring other ruin to the county.  Nevermind that the state legislature has set up strict guidelines on siting livestock facilities and how they are managed (called the Livestock Management Facilities Act) and that Tradition Dairy has followed every single one and more, the citizen group has the right to sue the dairy owner over a perceived threat of harm before the livestock farm has even milked one single cow! 

What's a farmer to do?

Add lawsuits over high fructose corn syrup aiding the spread of pancreatic cancer and animal rights which would effectively allow a farmer's herd of cattle to sue him to the list ... and this list isn't even exhaustive!

What's a farmer to do?

Certainly if our country supports rural economies and the farms that run them, we need to rethink subjecting our farmers to this level of scrutiny.  If American citizens really do love family farmers and want them to succeed, they cannot allow a flock of chickens to sue.  What small business man could stand up to this sort of obsurdity?

Farmers need rules to follow just like everyone else in any other industry under the sun.  Best management practices are a good thing and laws that demand such practices are necessary to ensure that each and every player in our food production system is operating with integrity.  But when is following the law enough?

What's a farmer to do?

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

Friday, August 13, 2010

FAMILY PETS

Welcome to Illinois agriculture, where we treat our cows like members of the family!




Thursday, August 12, 2010

CONVENTIONAL AGRICULTURE FEEDING DROUGHT STRIKEN UKRAINE

The Illinois National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) crop report today indicated that Illinois corn yields are expected to be significant this year, equal to the last record set for Illinois in 2004. Compared to expected US average corn yields, Illinois is estimated to yield 6 more bushels per acre than last year.

Couple this information with the reality of widespread drought in Ukraine and other surrounding areas and experts suppose Ukraine will import 59 million bushels of corn in 2010, a 30% increase over last year.

Certainly, Illinois corn farmers are growing food for a world population. Without biotechnology and conventional agriculture capable of achieving these yields, humans in other countries would go hungry and Midwestern US would be unable to bring economic benefits of agricultural exports to our damaged economy.

Conventional agriculture feeds the world and fuels our economy. What’s so bad about that?

Phil Thornton
ICGA/ICMB Value Enhanced Projects Director

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

PAYING EIGHT DOLLARS FOR EGGS IS A BARGAIN? SINCE WHEN!?

Remember when the price of food went up a bit last year and everyone screamed and cried?  Legislators were getting calls right and left about how their constituents couldn't afford to go to the grocery store anymore?  The media had us all concerned that Americans were finally going to go hungry?

Michael Pollan, journalist and self-appointed "food production system expert" with zero background in food science, nutrition or agriculture, has announced that he feels $8 for a dozen eggs is a great thing!

What's even crazier is that the elite in this country agree with him! 

I'm afraid that we have seriously gotten to a point in this country where we are way too wealthy and out of touch with reality.  We don't know what it is to be hungry and we left our common sense in back in the 1900's.

If you need more proof that the rich and influential in American are getting a bit extreme, check out this article on how the EPA wants to regulate dust in the air.  Dust!

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

WHEN DID FOOD CHOICES BECOME MORALLY RIGHT OR MORALLY WRONG?

Author Mary Eberstadt may really be onto something.  And if you're into the philosophical or practice deep thinking, this might be just the article for you.

The fundamental question posed by Eberstadt is what happens when, for the first time in history, adult human beings are able to have all the sex and food that they want?

Yes, the subject may feel a bit racy for our modest little blog, but the question really deserves some thinking.  In the interviews with Eberstadt posted on Truth in Food, Eberstadt describes two fictional women, Betty and Jennifer.  Betty was 30 years old in 1958 and had a very strict moral code about what was appropriate behavior and what was not regarding sexual activity.  While she may have had similar preferences about her food choices, she didn't feel the need to push those choices onto others quite the same way that she felt morally obligated to share her choices about sex. 

Eberstadt's Jennifer is 30 years old today and her feelings on the two subjects are decidedly opposite Betty's.  She may feel that she has no right to judge other's sexual activity, but is an adament proponent of organic food or vegetarianism or ... fill in the blank.

“I find it really interesting that these two codes, one about food and one about sex, seem to be existing in this inverse relationship, where as one gets stricter the other gets more lenient,” Mary tells Truth in Food interviewer Kevin Murphy. “I think the fallout [over the negative consequences of the post-pill sexual revolution] makes a lot of people uncomfortable, in a way that they’re not even necessarily fully aware of. We live with these major consequences…day in and day out. And I think a lot of people have the sense this has all gone too far, that nobody meant for the party to have gotten so out of hand, and no one knows how to stop it. My supposition is that part of what’s behind these increasingly moralistic attitudes toward food is that people have displaced the kinds of feelings human beings have always had about sex onto food instead,” says Eberstadt.

Eberstadt believes that society is taking feelings we've always had about sexuality and moral codes regarding sexual behavior and placing those same moral codes on food.

After all, thinking of the food "issues" we farmers deal with on a day to day basis ... isn't it odd that food is all of the sudden a moral decision?

Check out Eberstadt's essay and definitely listen to Truth in Food interview with Eberstadt.  I don't think you'll be sorry.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

Monday, August 9, 2010

REAL LIFE LESSONS

They can be hard to come by...actually, no, I take that back. They can slap you in the face when you're least expecting that. College is definitely a time for learning and experiencing life as never before. It's when you learn to survive in that big bad world out there. There are ways to better equip yourself, though. There are things you can do to learn in a positive environment, to better understand who you are, where you're going, and what you want to do. One of these tools for better preparation is the idea of interning.

Internships introduce you to "real" work. You get to test your creativity, and learn some of the ropes of what you want to do. Or, you may better define your dreams and goals. I've done a few internships so far, and have a few more queued up for the next few years. One of these internships was as an Internet Communications person with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.

I'd like to think I directly blame them for me catching the ag comm bug. I loved agriculture before. Now, I'm hooked.

For a little backstory, I'll clarify why I'm an odd case for agricultural communications. Most ag comm folks study ag comm, and pick up on Internet trends as they go. I'm the reverse. I'm majoring in Interactive Media Studies, with a minor in English composition. My school doesn't even have an ag program. Yet, I found my way to some applications for Illinois Corn internships. While agriculture has always been an interest, the time I devoted to blogging for ICMB helped channel it into a very concrete passion. The pay was decent and the people were great to work with. I feel supremely blessed to have been able to do something I truly enjoyed with people who are incredibly fun to work with.

The experience was not just limited to finding passion within myself. There were valuable learning opportunities. As the internship went on, I began interacting with other interns. Abby Coers and I integrated our separate projects to promote each other a bit. We were given creative liberty, but we also had guidance when we needed it. It was ultimately a great learning experience. I got to experience a conference room setting, where they presented to each other about our specific projects. I learned about networking and professional connection. I even got to wear a suit and present to the Board of Directors at the end of my internship.

I am eternally grateful to Illinois Corn for the things I learned under their wing. I only wish I could have exploited the experience a bit longer. Because of them, I know where my heart lies, as far as the professional world goes. I also got another big fringe benefit: because of my internship, I now run Midwestern Gold, a blog devoted to Illinois corn and agriculture in general.

So, when you start thinking about ways to build some professional experience, think of me. I attend a liberal arts school in the Chicago suburbs. Because of an internship, I got to stay in touch with my agricultural roots. I realized I could really pursue my passions with my skills and talents. When you start checking out those internship applications, don't pass over Illinois Corn. I'm glad I didn't!

Kelly Rivard
North Central College

Friday, August 6, 2010

YES, DONKEYS REALLY ARE STUBBORN!


Fair time means lots of young kids with livestock of every shape and size, showing off their year of hard work.  Frankly, this donkey was having none of it. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

FARMER'S DAUGHTERS LOOK FORWARD TO THE FAIR

Many farm kids believe the best part of summer is their county fair. Throughout the year 4-Hers work diligently to perfect their projects in hope of a successful week at the fair. Yesterday, we went to the McLean County 4-H Fair and it brought back sweet memories from our days in 4-H.

Kelsey: The fair that I attended while growing up was the Tazewell County 4-H fair and I was a member of the Tremont Clovers 4-H club in Tremont, Illinois for twelve years. Throughout 4-H I attempted numerous projects taking away something different from each one.

Kristie: My county fair was the McLean County fair, the biggest 4-H fair in the country, and I was a member of the Blue Ribbon Kids 4-H group from Colfax. Although I grew up on a farm, I never showed any animals at the fair. All of my friends had cattle, swine, goats, or chickens, but the biggest animal that I ever showed was my cat Buttercup, who was not the most cooperative of all animals.

Kelsey: The projects I tended to return to included visual arts, photography, tractor safety, veterinary science, and crops. Due to all of my friends showing cattle I usually spent a great deal of time in the cattle barn. I loved helping them show their cow-calf pairs and participating in the beef obstacle course. However, I would have to say that my favorite project was crops. The first morning of the fair my dad and I would get up extremely early to go dig my crops out of the field. Depending on the morning dew and the status of the irrigation system we would usually arrive at the fair completely soaked, and covered in dirt from head to toe!

Kristie: Since I did not have to take the time to show animals, I spent my time doing as many projects in as many categories as possible, sometimes bringing well over twenty projects. I always had projects in multiple arts and cooking categories, I took woodworking projects a few times, I usually had a photography project, and I tried my hand at sewing. My favorite category was the “Clothing Decisions” projects in the Clothing and Textiles division, which was really just an excuse to go bargain shopping with my mom. I always did the Style Revue Show to model my sewing projects, and my biggest sewing accomplishment was making my homecoming dress for my freshman year of high school. My big state fair d├ębut was to show my microwave bran muffins, and by the time I had perfected them, my family couldn’t get rid of them quick enough.

Kelsey: In 2007 I was honored to represent Tazewell County 4-H as their queen. During my reign I was able to see the fair in an entire new perspective. I attended nearly every event at the fair, rode in eight parades throughout the county, participated in many 4-H activities, and attended the IAAF Convention as a contestant in the Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Pageant. While agriculture had always been my lifestyle as a farmer’s daughter, it was not until my year as queen that I realized the effect it had on our society and the importance of advocating such an extraordinary industry.

Kristie: My 4-H experience was much different from my friends’, but I would never say that I missed out on anything. I learned many different skills that I continue to use today, and 4-H allowed me to try out as many skills and ideas that I wanted so that I could figure out which things I was good at and what I liked the most. If it weren’t for 4-H, I wouldn’t have been able to make the decorative throw pillows and oil paintings for my new apartment, I never would have found my passion for cooking or learned how to wire a trouble light or turn a wood lathe, and my stressed out cat probably wouldn’t have lost as many years off of his life.

Kelsey: I can imagine that showing a cat is considerably harder than showing a cow. You have my sympathies.

Kristie: Thanks, but I don’t envy you walking around the fairgrounds in heels.

Kelsey: Still, 4-H is such a valuable program because it has something to offer every kid in every walk of life. Like Kristie said, these are experiences you always remember, family memories that you would never want to forget, and life skills that you take with you when you grow up.

Kristie: The fair is the culmination of all those activities. When you bring your hard work from the fields or the sewing machine and have it evaluated, you feel a sense of accomplishment, but you also learn to appreciate constructive criticism.

Kelsey: So from two farmer’s daughters that spent the afternoon at the fair yesterday and can’t wait to get back, get involved in 4-H and participate in your county fair. You’ll never be sorry that you did.

Kelsey Vance
ICGA/ICMB Summer Intern
Illinois State University student






Kristie Harms
ICMB/ICGA Summer Intern
University of Missouri student



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

SURPRISE! FARMERS HAVE TO FEED AN EXPONENTIALLY GROWING WORLD POPULATION!

I find it interesting that this is “breaking National news.”

Are there any readers that were under the assumption that food was just going to magically appear in your refrigerator? Did any of you think that world population was decreasing?

Of course farmers need to work smarter in order to grow safe, affordable, wholesome food for a world population that is growing exponentially. That’s why growing more with less is exactly what we’re doing.

"Maintaining adequate food production levels in light of increasing population, climate change impacts, increasing costs of energy, constraints on carbon, land degradation and the finite supply of productive soils is a major challenge," said Dr. Neil MacKenzie says in the article.

That’s why corn farmers are facing that challenge head on.


They’ve decreased the amount of land needed to produce one bushel of corn, the amount of soil lost per bushel of corn, the amount of energy used to produce one bushel of corn, and the emissions per bushel of corn.

The article also quotes Ms. Wensley, a former Australian ambassador for the environment, who said scientists have an important public advocacy role in the face of "growing disconnect between food production and consumption on our heavily and increasingly urbanized planet."

And I guess that statement is exactly why the fact that we need to grow more food with less is breaking National news. It’s not that farmers aren’t able to meet the challenge. It’s not that corn farmers aren’t ALREADY meeting the challenge. It’s that consumers don’t understand what actions corn farmers are taking and that we actually have a challenge in the first place.

That’s where you come in.

Have you connected with important ag media outlets to get good tidbits of information to share with your friends? Have you made an effort to connect your friends with those same outlets?  Check out Agricultural Everyday on Facebook. Check out The Beef Ambassador blog or Midwestern Gold. Follow @agchick on Twitter. Encourage your friends, neighbors, and acquaintances to do the same.

Start talking about agriculture. Let’s make the awesome job that farmers are doing the next national headline.

Jim Tarmann
ICGA/ICMB Field Services Director

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

COMMON SENSE SHOULD PREVAIL - WILL IT?

“We respect efforts for a clean and healthy environment, but not at the expense of common sense.”

If we had an awards show for things elected officials say, (why not? Everyone else has an awards show!) this quote about the EPA would win in my book, hands down.

And to what issue is the quote referring? The EPA is now considering regulating dust as a harmful pollutant.  If this isn’t some sort of indication that we’ve let the EPA go a little too far, I don’t know what is.

I leave it to you to figure out how exactly the EPA will regulate farm dust … perhaps they will fund replacing all those dirt roads and driveways with pavement? Perhaps they will loosen the reins on our water supply so that we can spray everything down? Perhaps they will just decide that they would rather go hungry?

When did common sense become … well … less common?

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

Monday, August 2, 2010

FINALLY ... SOME GOOD NEWS

All the farmers I know tend to be a "glass half full" sort.  I'm guessing that's because farmers have to weather all sorts of disasters that can make or break their crop and they have to make a decision to see the positive or go home.  But it's getting increasingly different to see the glass half full when it comes to popular media and the multitudes of attacks on agriculture coming from every direction.

That's why, we've got to take the positive and run with it!

These are all variations on the same story, but its a good story and I'm seeing it everywhere.  That's a great thing!  This was obviously sent out on the AP wire and tons of folks are picking it up. 

Kuddos to our own Len Corzine for a great interview!

Yahoo Finance
Pantagraph, Bloomington, IL
ABC News
Long Island Press

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator