Educate Yourself About GMO’s

Genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are rising to be one of the top concerns among consumers.  Why?  The list of reasons why consumers are concerned seems to be growing as well.  It varies from ideas like, food safety scares, non-visible evidence to consumers, the idea that “organic” is healthier, and the complexity and confusion between GMO’s and non-GMO’s is too much for the average consumer.  So, where is all the confusion and misconceptions with GMO’s coming from?  Lack of education and knowledge on GMO’s is the answer.


The picture above provided by the website, provides a “picture” of what consumers want. They want labels.  Both major political parties (Democrats & Republicans) want labeling as well as a high majority of the population.  However, does labeling solve the problem about how consumers feel about GMO’s?  Labeling will not solve everything most likely because some labels are not regulated or people are not familiar with the science behind it regardless of what the label says.  Education on the subject needs to be a top priority for people on the pro GMO side.

One main common misconception most consumers believe about GMO’s is that they are unhealthy for us.  However, there are not any known long term effects that can be traced back to GMO’s due to the fact that no such study has been made.  This brings us back to the labeling; not labeling products causes consumers to think that proper testing has not taken place, which in turn provides negative feedback to GMO’s.  Another common misconception is tying in GMO’s with “corporation.”  Yes, some corporations are associated with GMO’s, but so are other organizations and universities.   There are individuals who are Anti-corporation and do not trust big corporation or anything associated with them.  An example of this would be GMO’s, even if they do not know what they are or what they do, they relate corporation and GMO’s together and assume they are harmful.

On Jimmy Kimmel Live a crew was sent out to a local market to see what people think about GMO’s.  Responses varied from “because they’re not good for you”, “I’m not really sure” and avoiding them in their diet because of the effects on the body.  When asked what a GMO is responses were “Genetically Manufactured….O”, “General Modified Ingredient”, “I don’t know, I know it’s some corn bad stuff”, and many others.  We cannot continue to allow people to go uneducated about GMO’s any longer.

So how do we educate all consumers about GMO’s and prevent them from thinking the way they did on Jimmy Kimmel Live?  The first step needs to come from the pro GMO side.  Once interest in educating people is shown, anti-GMO individuals, as well as neutral people will begin to show interest in the subject as well.  Advertisements like commercials or possibly a TV documentary could be a way to get people interested in learning more about GMO’s.  Proof of accurate and sufficient testing as well as product labeling on food would also help consumers feel more comfortable about GMO’s.  This is my way to reach out to people, educate yourself!  Don’t just assume or believe what others are telling you!


I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University.  I grew up just outside of Rio, IL on a family farm.  I have worked on my family farm, as well as getting my CDL to work for the Rio Township in the summer, and working for Farm Business Farm Management (FBFM) during the winter.  I received my Associate’s Degree from Carl Sandburg College in December of 2013 and will be receiving my Bachelor’s Degree from Western Illinois University in May of 2016.


Pancake Breakfast: An Event You Don’t Want To Miss!

Come out and join us on November 11, 2015 for the annual Collegiate FFA pancake breakfast. Members will begin cooking bright and early on that Wednesday morning to prepare a delicious breakfast for fellow students, staff, alumni and members of the Macomb community. Breakfast will begin being served in Knoblauch 239 at 7:00 am and will be served until 11:00 a.m. that morning. The breakfast will include pancakes, sausage, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, coffee and juice.

If you would like to get a ticket for the Collegiate FFA pancake breakfast you can do so by contacting a Collegiate FFA member or by calling the WIU Ag Office at (309) 298-1080. Tickets will be sold in advance for $5, but can also be purchased at the door that morning for $6.

If you are a WIU staff member, be sure to check out the new delivery ordering system that the CFFA will be using this year. If you have a meeting that morning or just can’t make it over to Knoblauch, you can pre-order your meal in advance and have it delivered to you on November 11th. The delivery route will be posted to the WIU School of Ag website at a later date. The route will tell you what time we will be in each building. If you are interested in having your meal delivered, please contact Christian Thurwanger at He will take your order in advance and then members will deliver your breakfast that morning. All pre-ordered meals must be in by November 6th. With this new delivery system, we are hoping to be able to serve more people on the WIU campus.

© 2015 Baldwin Center
© 2015 Baldwin Center

Members of the Collegiate FFA look forward to this event every year as it is a great opportunity to get to work together to serve fellow students, professors and members of the community. All funds earned from this breakfast go to help fund club activities. Some of these activities include putting on workshops for agriculture education majors, hosting contests for FFA members, and participating in the State PAS contest. Members have been working hard for the past month planning this event to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

The Collegiate FFA members look forward to seeing you all on November 11th for their annual pancake breakfast fundraiser. Be sure to get your ticket and get this event on your calendar. This is a breakfast you will not want to miss!

Mackenzie Buyck
Mackenzie Buyck

I am Mackenzie Buyck, and I was born and raised in Liberty, Illinois. I transferred to WIU last year from Iowa State University. Here at Western I am a senior majoring in agricultural business with a minor in finance. I will be graduating in May of 2016. I am an active member of Ag Vocators, Collegiate FFA, Ag Business Club and Alpha Zeta.

Potential Hay Shortage

Due to the heavy rains the Midwest experienced in late spring and most of the summer, there is a good chance that livestock and dairy farmers will be hunting for hay in the near future. The continuous rain made it hard to get the hay mowed, dried out, and baled. Livestock farmers need a hay supply large enough to feed their herd through the winter months. These farmers had some cooperative weather in late July and August to bale hay, but will more than likely not be enough for the fast approaching winter. With this becoming more of an issue, they will be looking to purchase hay to gain the supply they need.


With livestock farmers having to buy hay, this could cause a raise in prices in beef and dairy products. Purchased hay will raise the farmers input costs, and in turn raise the price of the sold goods to consumers. Being both a livestock owner and hay producer, the supply and demand of hay this coming winter will put a strain on farms that do not produce their own hay. This could not only impact their wallets but also their hay quality.


I am Austin Tarter, a senior at Western Illinois University. I am majoring in Agriculture Business with a minor in Agronomy. My family farm consists of corn and soybeans, as well as 15 cattle. We also run a family owned fertilizer business. I am passionate about agriculture and the preservation of its heritage.

Meet the WIU Livestock Judging Team

Looking at livestock is a daily routine to the livestock judging team members here at Western Illinois University and honestly we wouldn’t have it any different. Life in a 15 passenger van is where memories are made and best friends are found. No matter the miles or the hours on the road, we’re a family and dedicated to what we do.

2014-2015 Team
2014-2015 Team

As a college student it becomes a game to see how long you can stay awake in class after a late night looking at calves, show pigs, or lambs. Although, how many miles is too many? No matter the miles we travel any distance to see the best livestock in the country that will prepare us for competition. Let’s be honest, not many teachers will give you an excused absence for standing in a pasture 200 miles away while you should be in class. As a result we practice early in the morning, late at night, and on the weekends when most college students are out with their friends. Life on the road is not just a saying for rock stars, although sometimes our playlists might indicate that we think we could be. Senior Hank LeVan reflects on his judging career to this point, “Coming from no judging experience in high school, Black Hawk helped me become confident in my ability to sort livestock. However, my time at Western has allowed me to develop into the person I am today. I’ve made some of my best friends, learned about our industry and ultimately prepared myself to be successful in the future. I can’t say enough about the coaches, the people, or the education I’ve received. It’s simply second to none and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Meet our 2014- 2015 team:

Sam Bair- Elkhart, IA

Brenen Diesen- Pocahontas, IL

Tyler Gradert- Geneseo, IL

Heath Harper- Lafayette, IN

Ashley Kauffman- Danvers, IL

Hank LeVan Woodstock, OH

Katie Lewis- Clay City, IL

Cassie Lindsey- Ashland, IL

Jennifer Livermore- Media, IL

Assistant Coaches- Walter Colvin & Sam Mattingly

Coaching a livestock judging team requires much more than most people might think.  The time away from family and important events is something that only a select few are cut out for. Dr. Mark Hoge is our fearless leader and often spends more time with us then his own family. Over the years Dr. Hoge has been very successful as a coach here at WIU. “Not only does he serve as a coach to us and help to better our knowledge and ability evaluating livestock but more serves as a mentor to help each one of us grow for life and achieve as much as we can to be successful. He is someone never willing to just settle for average but yet someone seeking for different and the best. While he pushes for that still we all stay humble and hustle hard,” stated by dedicated Senior Heath Harper.

Livestock judging is a passion and is not for the weak. The dedication and willingness to learn is what makes us so successful. In a short three weeks this year’s judging team will officially call it quits but not by our own free will. As the contest in Louisville will be the last trip the seniors will embark on together. After the dust settles and we make our last trip as a team the knowledge and connections we make along the way will trump any award we have won. “In the moment we complain about the things like the weather, our lack of sleep, and the loss of our free time. However, I know when the day comes that we step out of the pungent smelling, poor climate controlled van for the final time it will hit us like a ton of bricks. Our life as we “knew” has now come to a close. The only things we are left to complain about is how bored we are, and how much we miss life on the road with our makeshift family,” perfectly put by Senior Jen Livermore.

To stay updated with the team make sure to like WIU Livestock Judging Team on Facebook!

Thanks for reading my post! My name is Ashley Kauffman and I am a senior here at WIU. I am an Ag Business Major, Graphic Communication Minor. I am also a member of the WIU Livestock Judging Team. I love showing livestock, photography and have a passion for agriculture marketing and design.

Fallen Soldiers 5K Run/Walk

Fallen Soldiers 5K Run/Walk

 Photo Credit: Sarah Ritter
Photo Credit: Sarah Ritter

On October 10th, Western Illinois University hosted their 4th Annual Fallen Soldiers 5k Run/Walk. In the last 3 years, of putting on the Fallen Soldiers 5k, the University has raised over 50,000 dollars for the Fallen Soldier’s Scholarship Fund. The Scholarship Fund is in honor of two WIU alumni who were killed in the line of duty, Capt. Derek Dobogai and Lt. Col. Robert Baldwin. The Scholarship Fund helps support veterans and service members that are currently enrolled at Western.

The pre-registration entry fee was $25 per person and the entry fee for the day of was $35 per person. The 4th Annual Fallen Soldiers 5k Run/Walk has raised over 20,000 dollars. Digger Oster whom is a member of the 5K planning committee stated that “this year there were 595 people who entered, which was 86 more than the previous year. There is a great turn out this year and I am happy everyone comes out and supports the event.” WIU students, professors, faculty, along with the local community all came out to support the Fallen Soldiers 5k. The WIU band started the run/walk off by playing The National Anthem to honor Capt. Derek Dobogai, Lt. Col. Robert Baldwin, military families, and all the military members out there. Blowing in the wind were 207 American flags lining the route. The American flags help guide the runners though out the Fallen Soldiers 5K.


Once the runner/walkers crossed the finish line they were all awarded medals for all their hard-work they had accomplished. Water, bananas, granola bars, and chocolate milk were all handed out at the end of the race to help the runners/walkers rehydrate. Prairie Farms donated around 600 half pint chocolate milks. Chocolate milk is great for repairing muscle tissue, while using carbohydrates to restore muscle glycogen. Chocolate milk is the best source of protein and carbohydrates they have available. It was a beautiful day out for the 5k and the runner/walkers enjoyed the event.


This 5k run/walk will continue to help those student who qualify for the scholarship for many years. The Fallen Soldiers Scholarship Program will continue to honor, for years to come, the two men who gave their lives for their country.

Miranda Langen

Post Grad Thoughts Got You Sayin’ “I Just Can’t Adult Today?”

With graduation getting closer and closer by the day, upperclassmen everywhere are beginning to feel the pressure. We are torn by trying to make this the best semester yet, and the dream of having a great job right after graduation. Sometimes the intensity of it all just makes us want to go back to bed.

Now, I can’t ease your thoughts by employing you, but I can provide you with some helpful tips and reminders to consider when preparing for post graduation.

First, have a resume. I highly recommend that you have your resume looked over by your local career development center. Western Illinois University’s career development center is located on campus in Memorial Hall 125. They will be able to give you constructive advice to make your resume clean and polished for potential employers. If you have little to no experience to put on your resume, consider volunteering. Not only will this give you something to put on your resume, it can help the community and give you a feeling of satisfaction by putting your hard work into helping others. You could even volunteer for something in your desired career field.

Brand yourself by creating a professional profile with, LinkedIn, or any other social media site. Also, clean up your personal social media accounts. Potential employers will look for you on social media outlets, so don’t ruin your own chances because of one inappropriate post. Sometimes completely deleting your accounts and recreating new profiles is the easiest and most accurate way to ensure only appropriate posts are seen.

Find a professional mentor who would speak on your behalf. Often employers will ask for a letter of recommendation, be sure you are networking with mentors, professors, previous employers, current employers and so on. These relationships could also lead to potential jobs. Network, network, network!

Do something crazy! Get away from your comfort zone and do something that challenges you, and that you have never done before. I know time is precious right now, but having different experiences will help you know what you really like to do, and it will show employers that you are not afraid to try new things.

Be active in job searching. Having a professional profile is a good start. Some other things to consider are attending career fairs, internet search everyday even if it is for only 20 minutes, go to businesses, dressed business professional, and talk with them. Give them your resume and thank them for their time. Be persistent and follow up with every lead.

Finally, don’t be ashamed to settle for less. You are freshly out of college. Although, landing your dream job and making bank freshly out of college is not impossible, it is very unrealistic. For now, settling for less is okay. Just like this degree that you are about to earn didn’t come instantly, dream jobs come with time.

When you’re feeling anxious about post graduation, do one of these tasks. It will not only help prepare you for a career, but you won’t be saying that you didn’t “adult” today!

Congratulations graduates! Best of luck to you in your futures!

Hello everyone! Thank you for reading Western Illinois University’s School of Agriculture blog. My name is Alissa Henley and I am a senior agriculture business student from Tovey, IL. Like many students, I struggle with the thought of life after graduation. I know I am in the right field, I just haven’t found my specialty. I started my journey at Western because I knew I wanted to further my education, but I needed my independence. I never would have thought that I would major in agriculture, let alone be successful at it. I have completed two internships. One of which was with Five Star Coop in Ventura, IA as a crop scout, and my most recent internship with Monsanto in Monmouth, IL with the Technology Development team. I am passionate about crops, advocating for agriculture, and Western Illinois University’s School of Agriculture.

Again, thank you for reading the Western Illinois University Agriculture blog. We appreciate your interest and would love to hear your feedback!

Western Illinois University and Black Hawk College: The Dynamic Duo of Livestock Judging

WIU Blog update

Build (v.) to construct something complex by assembling and joining parts

Building a program takes several years, and building a legacy may take decades. The livestock judging teams of Western Illinois University (WIU) and Black Hawk College have certainly made their mark in collegiate competition history. Dan Hoge, father of WIU’s Mark Hoge, who began the livestock judging program at Black Hawk College states, “I often say, “you need to know how to walk before you run,” in building a program. Determine what you are good at as a teacher and a coach, and emphasize that as you recruit and build.”

Coach (v.) to give instruction or advice to in the capacity of a coach

Western Illinois University

Dr. Mark Hoge- Associate Professor

“Livestock judging team experiences and approaches are different for everyone. I would encourage students to practice as you wish to compete. Success takes great commitment, focus, and effort. Those that have the taste to learn and be successful will be. Those that simply go through the motions will do exactly that.”

WIU Blog 7
Photo from Western Illinois University

Black Hawk College

Mr. Dan Hoge- Professor of Animal Science

“Be PASSIONATE! Be PATIENT!  Progress in livestock judging can be very slow and somewhat discouraging.  My favorite saying is “Never, ever give up”.  I say to students “you will know when that time or day comes when the evaluation of livestock and giving reasons is natural for you.”  We encourage all beginning students to study all four of the species we judge attempting to understand  the priorities and selection of each.”

Photo from Black Hawk College

Mr. Jared Boyert- Agricultural Instructor

“Any place that you choose is a good choice to continue your education, at the end of the day the experiences and friends you make will be more important than how you ever did in competition.”

WIU Blog 9
Photo from Sullivan Supply: The Pulse

This trio of coaches is second to none. They work alongside each other, build off of each other, and learn from each other. Boyert, a graduate of both Black Hawk College and WIU, states, “It is fun to travel with your mentors to talk and discuss livestock, I do feel that by traveling with both Dan and Mark that we have fun and make it more than just riding in a van judging livestock, but turn it into an experience for students to meet new people and see new things.” WIU and Black Hawk College have common goals of developing their students into well-rounded livestock people, and that is what makes it so easy for them to travel together.

Diligence (n.) constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken

It takes a lot of hard work and genuine passion for the livestock industry to be part of a livestock judging team. Both of these teams practice 3-4 days a week, if not more. They learn to place and evaluate livestock, and then they must give a set of oral reasons on why they placed the class the way that they did. Mark Hoge remarks, “Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and National Barrow Show. I love those contests and I love the way that we prepare for those contests. It is exciting to watch student growth during those two times and the industry leaders that we visit are simply incredible.”  It takes time, it takes effort, and you have to want it. Hard work certainly pays off in the end. Dan Hoge says, “Our students have the upmost respect for Mark and the WIU livestock judging team members he works with in terms of understanding and describing selection of livestock. The maturity and leadership of the judging team members at WIU serve as an incredible role model to our students.” These two teams simply build off of each other, and that is how they are able to diversify their knowledge and continue to develop into better livestock people.

Western Illinois University claiming their High Team Overall title at the 2015 National Barrow Show

WIU Blog 2
Photo from WIU Livestock Judging Facebook Page

Black Hawk College claiming their High Team Overall Title at the 2015 National Barrow Show

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Photo from Black Hawk College Livestock Judging Facebook Page

Success (n.) the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors

There is no question that WIU and Black Hawk College started the year off right. They both received the title of High Team Overall at the 2015 National Barrow Show. This was very special to Dan Hoge because this year was his 32nd National Barrow Show win for Black Hawk College. Dan says, “This is only the second time since Mark has been coaching that we have been high team the both divisions, in the same year. It is difficult to explain the feeling of pride when both programs are successful in the same year. It doesn’t get any better than that!” The success of these two programs is certainly noted on a local and national level. It is amazing to see the state of Illinois succeed in such a highly recognized collegiate extracurricular activity.

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.”

-George Sheehan


Please “Like”  These Pages on Facebook to Stay Updated on Team Results

WIU Livestock Judging and Black Hawk College Livestock Judging

Definitions accredited to


Written by: Mallory Espenscheid

IMG_0630Hello Everyone! Thank you for visiting the Western Illinois University Agricultural Blog, we appreciate all of your support. My name is Mallory Espenscheid, I am currently a Junior at Western Illinois University studying Agricultural Business with a minor in Communications. I transferred to WIU from Black Hawk College because of its high regards in terms of the Livestock Judging Team and Agricultural Program. I grew up on an acreage where my family and I have a purebred Angus cattle operation. I grew up showing cattle on the local, state, and national level. I am a livestock enthusiast, avid journalist, and passionate agriculturist. Please continue visiting the WIU Agriculture blog, I ensure that you will be reading posts from many talented students who share the same passion for agriculture that I do. Enjoy your day, and always remember to appreciate agriculture.