Land, an Investment in the Future?

It is one of the four factors of production, and whether it is one acre or one million you cannot farm without it. Land, it is a commodity that is characterized by just a few simple things. Land is scarce, immobile, indestructible, and unique. These characteristics are what make it valuable. Only one-quarter of the earth’s surface is dryland, and the rest is water. No matter what type of crop you are growing, what type of livestock you are raising, or improvements you are building it all must start with a piece of real estate and a desire to succeed.

Land is not something a lot of people seem to think about yet it is arguably one of the most important pieces in any business or agricultural pursuit. It is often the largest investment a farmer will make in his farming career. It is his livelihood, and his retirement plan all rolled into one piece of “dirt.” Purchasing land is a long-term investment for most, and especially for those of us lucky enough to be involved in agriculture. For most farmers whether they are farming it themselves or have retired and leased it to another farmer it is their main source of income for life. My grandfather was the perfect example of this. He made his last purchase of farmland just a few years before he passed away. For over 160 years farming has been the primary source of income for my family, and without the investments we have made into farmland none of it would have been possible.

This rock marks the entrance to my grandparents farm. Keeping the legacy going is important to most farmers and land investors.

In recent years we were seeing record high prices for quality tillable farmland in Illinois. If a tract of highly productive farmland went to auction in 2012, 2013, 2014, and even into 2015 it was not uncommon to see sale prices from $12,000 or even up to as high as $16,000/acre in some regions. That translates into over $1 million for just 80 acres. It was also very common for farmers to be paying $300-400/acre cash rent. Today these prices have started to trend downward some, but what makes farmland valuable, and why are farmers willing to pay such high prices for land? When commodity prices are good such as they were in 2012 and 2013 farmers were looking to expand and reinvest into their operations, and when a quality piece of land came to market for many farmers it was a no brainer to purchase it.

Today Farmland prices have come down as farmers are tightening their budgets due to lower commodity prices. Last week (3/12/18) Sullivan Auctioneers sold 578 acres in Mason County, IL for just under $3.9 million. The average price per acre was $6,735.54 with the highest selling tracts going for $8,700 per acre. The lowest selling tract was sold for $3,150 per acre. This farm was composed of Onarga, Sparta, and Disco soils.


Is farmland worth the investment? In my opinion a good tract of land is always worth the investment because it is a great way to build your personal wealth and transfer that wealth to the next generation. Real estate prices fluctuate just like anything else. However, you will always have something, and it will never be worthless. Even if it does not have monetary value you will still have the rights of ownership that came with the land when you purchased it, and to me that is worth something.

I believe that my passion for land has come from my father and grandfather. They have always taught me that if you take care of the land it will take care of you. This is a value that many farmers hold true, and it could not be more true. There is no substitute for land, and we must take great care of it, and do our best to preserve one of our greatest resources so that we can continue to feed a growing world.


My name is Daniel Woodrow, and I am a senior here at Western Illinois University. I am a member of Alpha Gamma Rho, and I will be graduating in May with a degree in Ag business. I am currently seeking a career as a real estate appraiser, and I look forward to the many opportunities that my education will provide. All pictures in this blog are my own.



Welcome to the WIU Aggie Family

Calling anyone and everyone interested in being apart of the Aggie family at Western Illinois University:

Join fellow Aggies at our Ag Open House!

What is it?

Once a semester, the WIU Ag Vocator Recruitment team hosts our Ag Open House. This fun-filled event is open to the public and includes a complimentary lunch upon registration. At Ag Open House, prospective students and their families get the opportunity to meet current students, faculty, and alumni and ask them about life at WIU. Attendees also get to discover the different clubs within the School of Agriculture and get a student-led tour of the University farm and campus.

Who will be there?

Any and all prospective students are welcome, especially high school and transfer students. Students are encouraged to bring their families, but it is not required. Current WIU students and faculty will also be there. The Ag Vocator team will lead the prospective students around the Student Fair to talk to the School of Ag clubs’ representatives. Students will also be able to talk to representatives from some of the offices on campus, including Admissions, Financial Aid, and the Honors College.

Dr. Andy Baker, our School of Ag Director, will welcome all students and guests. After that, we will hear from special guests Melissa Telles, Interim Associate Director of Undergrad Admissions, and Mallory Espenschield, WIU ’16 Alum, about life at WIU. Students and guests will then be able to listen to our Student Panel, made up of currents students who will discuss why they chose WIU. Prospective students are encouraged to ask their own questions to the panel as well. During lunch, students will be sitting with faculty respective to their intended major and are encouraged to talk to them about WIU.

Last, but certainly not least, our mascot, Colonel Rock III “Rocky”, will also be in attendance. Fun fact, the School of Ag pays for Rocky’s food.

Photo courtesy of WIU School of Ag Facebook page.

When and where is it?

This event will be held at the University Livestock Center, which is located at 2265 Wigwam Hollow Road. This semester, Ag Open House will be on March 23, 2018 with registration and student fair starting at 9 AM. It is best to show up at 9:00 so everyone has enough time to go through the student fair. The event will last until 1 PM, but an optional walking tour of campus will follow if anyone is interested.

Why should I attend?

Ag Open House is FREE. It is a great opportunity to get a feel for WIU and to meet your future classmates and teachers. If you attend and want to apply for admission while on campus, the University will waive your application fee. Your name will also be entered for a chance at two $200 scholarships.

Read what current senior and Ag Vocator, Whitney Thomson, had to say about attending Ag Open House as a prospective student:

“I chose to go to Ag Open House because I wanted to visit the livestock center and see WIU’s farm. It impacted my decision [to attend WIU] because I got to see how truly involved the ag students at WIU were and I knew I wanted to be an involved student at a university…

And they let me hold a baby lamb so yeah, that was the major deciding factor.”

How do I register?

To register, please visit the School of Ag Open House website. Fill out the registration form and mark your calendars for March 23! Feel free to list me, Karissa Graves, as the student who referred you. You can also contact the School of Ag for more information.


About the Author:

Photo courtesy of Jackie Maxwell

My name is Karissa Graves and I am currently a junior Ag Business major at WIU. Originally from Laddonia, Missouri, I was heavily involved in school and community. I chose to attend WIU because of its proximity to my hometown and the phenomenal School of Agriculture. At WIU, I am involved in the Centennial Honors College, Sigma Alpha Professional Ag Sorority, Ag Vocator Recruitment Team, and Collegiate Farm Bureau. I am a family oriented person, so I often visit home on the weekends, where my dad, older brother, and dogs live. I love the outdoors and try to spend as much time as I can outside.

Vegetarian to Meat Lover



There are many food trends that have become more popular lately. Organic, non-GMO, vegan, vegetarian and label free are just a few to name. These trends have become popular through internet fads, social media and the ever-increasing desire to be healthy and all natural. However healthy and natural people think that these fads are, there is always something overlooked when making a serious life choice such as changing your entire diet. I recently talked with two friends of mine who made these life choices, twice. They each made the decisions to go vegetarian. Now, after a combination of five years later, they both are back and loving, to eating their meats.

Alissa and Reagan both made the decision to convert to the vegetarian lifestyle. This was not just a diet for them. They each took it seriously. This means that they did not consume raw meat, meat products or meat-based foods. They were not vegan, but neither ate fish nor gelatin. Alissa and Reagan did still enjoy their eggs and dairy products during their vegetarian lifestyles.

Alissa was the first to turn to vegetarian. Her parents both are vegetarian but have never pressed it on her to be one. They gave her the freedom to make her own food choices growing up. Throughout her life she had been eating meat about once or twice a week. However, after a wrongly cooked steak made her ill, she decided to go full vegetarian. Her choice was not for health reasons. This was a personal choice on her part that had many influences. She chose this to keep from getting sick again. There were other inspirations in her decision, such as the harsh treatments she THOUGHT that animals were put through and that everything she had been reading on the internet told her that vegetarian was the healthier option. Alissa was a vegetarian for over four years.

Reagan was never previously a vegetarian. She and her family had consumed meat since she was a child. After a doctor visit warned her of her high cholesterol, she decided that she needed to take her diet into thoughtful consideration. She made the choice to become a vegetarian. She knew that it would help lower her cholesterol level. She also wanted to challenge herself with a no meat diet in hopes that it would increase the variety of food she was eating as well as make a healthier lifestyle for her. Reagan was a vegetarian for over a year.

I asked both of my friends why they made the switch back to eating meats. Did it taste better? Was there something in their diet that they were missing from not eating meat? Was it healthier to eat meat than to be vegetarian? Was it just a personal preference? I learned through talking with both Alissa and Reagan that it wasn’t just one simple answer.

There were multiple reasons that each started to consume meat again. It was hard for them to be vegetarian. The most important lesson Alissa told me was, “Being vegetarian wasn’t necessarily the healthier choice.” Although they did increase their amount of vegetables, fruits, beans, quinoa, tofu and dairy, they did not necessarily eat healthier. Tofu tempeh, meatless products and the increase in vegetables and other protein substitute foods became expensive. Not only was it expensive, it was also difficult to monitor and find. Anytime either Alissa or Reagan went out to eat, they had to be careful about what they ordered. Restaurants don’t often carry many true vegetarian options. Many foods, such as desserts, soups, salads/dressings were prepared or cooked with meat, meat-based products or gelatin. This created a lot of issues and struggles in finding foods to eat. Chips, fries, cheese pizza, cookies, candy and more unhealthy options were the cheaper and more easily accessible alternatives for Alissa. Although she tried to maintain a good diet, Alissa said that she gained forty pounds in three months after going vegetarian because of the junk foods she consumed more of. “It can be healthy if you want it to be.” Alissa said. “But vegetarians are not healthier just because they don’t eat meat.”

Reagan tried being the healthy vegetarian. She increased the variety of food she ate, not just because she had to, but she wanted to challenge herself. She cut back her junk food and ate no meat. Although it was tough, she did enjoy it. However, an often-overlooked part of the vegetarian lifestyle is the lack of protein being consumed. Alissa and Reagan both noticed that they couldn’t get sufficient protein into their diet, especially in college. The dorms and surrounding restaurants did not have many healthy, vegetarian friendly options. Looking back on it, Reagan realized that she was more fatigued from lack of protein and meats. She also had low blood iron that she was not aware of during her lifestyle. This could have been potentially dangerous if she continued the same diet.

Alissa started laughing when she mentioned how much better she thought being a vegetarian would be for her, and for the animals. Her past meat-based livestock knowledge came from social media and biased internet content. Now living on a cattle farm with her boyfriend, she realizes that not all livestock and food animals are treated that way. The cases and pictures she scrolled through for her research were very rare. She knows the meat she eats now, especially the beef from her boyfriend’s farm, are treated like the animals they are.

Now, both Alissa and Reagan are enjoying their meat again. Alissa eased slowly back in to give herself a chance to see if she could handle the transition again. Reagan did not need to worry about taking it slow. Both Alissa and Reagan eat meat daily. Reagan’s favorite will always be chicken. Alissa and Reagan both love a good steak though. You can’t go wrong with a good flank or fillet mignon.

The point of this post is not to be biased and convert vegetarians to meat lovers. The point of this post is that there are many reasons and life decisions to be made to follow either lifestyle. These decisions are made by the people who are following that lifestyle. And this is okay. We do not need to throw our opinions out and try to convert people one way or the other. People make their own choices for their own reasons. The only thing I wish for you is that you make an informed choice based on true, scientific researched information and personal life decisions. I am not a vegetarian. I do not condemn those who are though. You eat and enjoy your food. I will eat and enjoy mine. And we each will be happy with the choices we have made for ourselves.



Enjoy your food. Enjoy your lifestyle.

About the Author:

My name is Kirsten Kessling. I  am a senior at Western Illinois University pursuing my Bachelors degree in Agriculture Sciences with a minor in Chemistry. I am passionate about agriculture, animals, food and open minded people. After graduation, I hope to find a career that can incorporate all of these things. Thank you for reading this blog!

Benefit of Being a Commuter Student


Instead of going straight into college like many high-school students do, I took a different route to get into higher education. When I was 18 I joined the military and went through selection in order to become a member of the U.S. Army Rangers, a member of the special operations community. After making it through selection I became a machine gunner in the unit for four years traveling the world serving my country.

After making the decision to separate from the military I decided that returning to our family farm and pursuing higher education with the benefits the military offered would be a smart decision. After looking at many colleges, including Iowa State University and the University of Illinois, I decided that Western Illinois University would be the optimum choice. With its location just 50 miles from my family’s farm and a decorated Ag program I did not think that I needed to go any further from home. I could commute from home to the school everyday, dodge expensive rent costs along with any dorms (the army barracks had been enough of the dorm style life for me), and help my father and grandfather out on the farm. I talked to my brother in law who had done the same thing and created a strategy with my academic  adviser in order to get my class schedule to accommodate my work hours. Which allowed me to go to school in the mornings and work every evening and on weekends. Even with my daily 2 hour commute and going to school full time I was still able to log in over 40 hours a week on the farm which drastically lightened the load on my family.

Currently, I am a senior at Western while being involved in every facet of production on our corn and soybean farm located near Warsaw, Illinois. Although being a student and a farmer keeps me very busy, I enjoy getting to reap the benefits of being both a student and professional in the field. For example, yesterday I went straight from taking a lesson on crop insurance to purchasing it in a meeting with my local provider. After becoming a member of the Ag Business club I realized that using the professional contacts that I made on the farm could be utilized to bring in professionals to speak to the club. I then helped to organize several professionals in to talk to university students including; a crop insurance salesman, a grain merchandiser, a hog confinement manager, and a human resources manager at a large chemical sales firm.

Anyone looking at attending W.I.U. as a potential commuter student should know that the university is very accommodating to your needs. Lastly I would happily testify that the benefits of commuting largely outweigh the drive!

20161110_162225Hello readers, my name is Nathaniel Kerr. I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University majoring in agricultural business. I will be graduating in May of 2018, after which I will be pursuing a career on our family corn and soybean farm located in the Warsaw Bottoms. While I have always looked at agriculture as work I enjoy the opportunities that it presents me with and trace many of my successes and positive attributes back to lessons learned on the farm.

If you do not hunt this article is for you!

Cover Photo Courtesy of Matthew Paulson Photography

The connection between hunting and agriculture can be easily overlooked at first glance. In reality the bond between farmers and hunters is beneficial and necessary. It is important to keep conservation in mind when thinking of either of these groups. Farmers’ work 24/7 365 to ensure their land is as good as it can possibly be, to achieve maximum yields and in turn maximize profits. Ethical hunters devote their lives to protecting our natural resources and ensuring the sport they love is around for future generations to enjoy, harvesting that giant buck or limit of waterfowl is a nice bonus at the end of the day.

Courtesy of Sharon Watson

When thinking about the vast differences in these two lifestyles it is important to keep our natural resources in mind. With the current grain prices, growing machinery, and pressure to harvest as many bushels as possible; it is easy for farmers to remove an old fence row, push a timber line in to get that extra few foot of tillable, remove a patch of trees entirely, or plow under that old (insert conservation program here). As agriculturists it is important to keep future generations in mind. Sometimes it might make sense to leave that old CRP (conservation reserve program) or HEL (highly erodible land) as a conservation area; even after the check from Uncle Sam stops showing up in the mail. This land may qualify for other government conservation programs, this list list can also be found on the IL DNR website.  Many times these types of terrain are unproductive anyway with high risk of erosion and low yield potential. While you are doing cost analysis on adding these acres to your tillage program be sure to take into account the value of conservation and wildlife.

Some people might think “if I don’t leave anywhere for the deer to live then they’ll stop eating my crops.” This isn’t true; by removing deer habitat they will begin bedding in the field itself causing massive yield impacts. Others may enjoy seeing the deer and don’t want them to be hunted. It is crucial that non hunters understand that a hunter’s goal is NOT to wipe out a species. By harvesting some of these animals it relieves pressures of overpopulation, reduces risk of disease spread such as CWD (chronic waste, disease also known as Mad Cow in bovine), and improves overall heard health. If we take care of our resources we will never stop seeing these animals. It is important to work together with people from other walks of life; rather than turning down that hunter that asked for permission, out of fear of lawsuit. Sit down and talk with them and develop a management plan, set boundaries, and express any concerns or rules. Most modern hunters are grateful for any opportunity to enjoy nature. You can find a liability release from for landowners at the Illinois DNR website. It is time to work together, create management plans, and keep the resources we have at our fingertips healthy. Maybe that guy you let hunt will even drop off some tasty meat for you at the end of the season.


FB_IMG_1520441713328.jpgMy name is Nestor Vincent Gutierrez, I am a senior here at Western Illinois University. I am pursusing a major in agriculture science and a minor in Spanish. I hope to work in international agriculture or conservation after graduation.

The Places You’ll go with the Western Illinois University Livestock Judging Team.

When you join the judging team at WIU you don’t just become another member of a team or the product of another system, you become party of a family. A group of your peers that you spend the next year with not only learning about livestock evaluation and industry trends but also learning about one another, learning about yourself and where you want to be within the industry or how you want to leave an impact. The individuals that get on the van for the first time will become lifelong friends that share memories you will carry for the rest of your life.

Now none of this was known to me when I showed up in Macomb the fall of 2015 and became part of a storied program. Though growing up I was fortunate enough to have the ability to show livestock at a competitive level and reach success, but never once did the thought of livestock judging  cross my mind till that first day attending the livestock evaluation course with Dr. Mark Hoge. That day many topics were discussed from individuals summer activities to what the senior members of the judging team will be doing in preparation for The National Barrow Show and the rest of the fall as they near the end of the time with the team. For the juniors their journey has just begun, as they are turned loose to prepare hogs for the truck load contest at The National Barrow Show. For me as the “new kid” it was my first time meeting all the other transfer students from Black Hawk East, Lakeland Community College, and Lincoln Land Community College as I was the only one who had not attended a junior college.

Image may contain: 11 people, people smiling, people standing

Maxwell Street Facebook

I did not take long into winter workout for a group of strangers to become a close group of friends, for when you stuff 11 students in a 15 passenger van you have no choice but to. As we travel across the country making industry connections, evaluating the livestock that reached the highest qualities, the people who start out as strangers become your best friends. Many of my teammates had experiences judging from their previous schools but for me this was the first time I had ever given a set of reasons in my life, and I’ll tell you the first few times were pretty rough for me. What made this experience in life most beneficial for me was this group of people who I had only met a few months ago want to see me improve and better my skill as an evaluator and grow as a person.

From the yards in Denver to the green shavings of Louisville, the National Barrow Show to the shores of Galveston we made memories as a family that I would never trade. We never took it easy, we were always hammer down no matter what we did, if it was sorting stock in a feed lot somewhere in Nebraska or on the streets of Kansas City, I enjoyed every minute spent with this group of people I am able to call my friends and I thank them for that. Image may contain: 4 people

Maxwell Stret Facebook

They say your make your best friends in college. If you would have told me that before we got in the van I don’t know if I would believe you, but the moment you have to get in for  the final time you realize that it is the most real thing you have been told. I can say I was lucky enough to be one of those who got to spend a year driving the gravel back roads of  this great nation in a white van bound for some workout or a judging contest running on little sleep and a shared passion for livestock.

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Hello readers! My name is Max Street and I am a senior at Western Illinois University.  I will be graduating in May with a major in Agricultural Business, and was a member of the livestock judging team. I grew up in Helenville, WI, where I grew up on a family farm where we raised and showed livestock competitively.  Agriculture has always been a very important part of my life and it has instilled qualities in me that I hope one day to be able to pass on to my children and the younger generations. Agriculture is my passion in life, it’s what I love to do, and hopefully this blog represents that! Thank you!




Small Family Farm, Big Heart


A common misconception that those outside of the agriculture industry tend to believe is that crops and livestock are raised on large scale “factory” farms. When in reality, 97% of all U.S. farms are family-owned, a statistic reported by the United States Department of Agriculture.

This misconception led to my decision of interviewing my grandfather about the history of our farm. I would like to share with you the story of how my grandfather started farming and how it has grown to become what it is today, a small family farm.

In about 1936, during the Great Depression, my grandfather’s grandparents lost their farm in Iowa so they decided to move to Illinois and become tenant farmers. They eventually started renting farm ground from Babson Farms which is who owns all of the land my grandfather farms now.

After the majority of my grandfather’s family decided to quit farming, his father took over and they moved to our main farm in 1947. Together, they started with just 320 acres of land. My grandfather graduated from high school and was working at a fertilizer dealer when a farmer in the area retired, so Babson Farms started renting more acreage to him. He bought a tractor, a plow, and him and his father rented a combine. He raised hogs and cattle while also working as a mechanic at an International Harvester dealer. They acquired more and more acreage and were able to purchase more equipment. His father eventually retired and my grandfather took over the farm.

While raising their kids, my grandmother stayed at home. She made their clothing by hand, canned and froze food, and took other steps to save money so that the farm could continue growing.

Once his son, my uncle, had graduated high school and bought his own tractor, my grandfather let him farm 80 acres, gradually earning his share of the farm.

In the 1980’s, crop prices were very low. My grandfather was trying to send my mother, aunt, and uncle to college so working off farm was essential. Many families lost their farms at this time because the crop prices were so low that they could not make up for the expense that comes with farming.

At this point during the interview I asked what kept him from selling the farm and why he kept farming through the hard times. His response was “It was extremely difficult but farming is all I have know since I was small. It is my passion. It is the type of environment I wanted to raise my kids, and now my grand kids around. Farming helped me teach my kids the value of working hard for the things you want in life.”

Today, my grandfather and uncle farm 2,000 corn and bean acres. This year is my grandfather’s 50th year of farming.

Family-owned farms are the heart and soul of the U.S. agriculture industry. Many of these farms started with nothing, made it through very difficult times, and continue to thrive because of the passionate families who run them.


Pictured above is my grandparents, David and Susan Foster




My name is Megan Knight and I am from Ashton, Illinois. I am a senior at Western Illinois University studying Agriculture Business. My passion for agriculture stems from my grandfather as well as my time in my high school FFA and I can not wait to turn that passion into a career after I graduate.  Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!


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