Alpha Gamma Rho Receives an Update

14495326_10102400171993185_3665850902738118334_n
The newly remodeled Formal Living Room and the Study Room that was added on.

Alpha Gamma Rho has been a fraternity at Western Illinois University since February of 1963. In 1964-65 academic school year they purchased the Horne Mansion, 1010 N Lafayette St. where the fraternity is located today, and in 1986 the house was added on to. The addition gave the house around a 43 man capacity. It has been many years since then, but a remodel at the Alpha Gamma Rho house was needed . Part of which was out of necessity and part was to modernize a few things along the way. The main push for this remodel was to get new sprinkler system installed by 2019 so the house would be up to code to living in. Since installing the sprinkler system would be hard to do without tearing out a lot of the walls and that a major update would be required in the near future the fraternity’s alumni board decided they should go ahead and do it all at once.

14484854_10102400172616935_6738369323207217905_n
Picture is taken standing on the Till Floor (cafeteria) looking in to the Chapter Room

The project started about two years ago with the contacting of architects, getting plans drawn up, and of course fundraising.  They have achieved the bulk of the fundraising cam from alumni donations in the past year. Deciding that they had raised enough to get started,construction began in May of 2016 and ended in October of 2016. The majority of it only took three months and the members planning on living there were allowed to move in before the start of the fall semester, even though it was still under construction.

Besides the sprinkler system being installed there were many other changes made to the house. All the bathrooms were updated and a separate shower room was created on the first and second floor. Also all the carpet was replaced by laminate wood floors and the whole house received a fresh paint. They also extended the formal living room by adding a study room on to it and added a second story above that portion to serve as a bunk room for the chapter members that choose to sleep there. The chapter house is maintaining a 41 person capacity while offering nicer amenities to the members that live there.

14606323_10102400172532105_989489101497737690_n
Hallway from the First Floor looking into the Formal Living Room

This remodel is so nice and the quality of work is amazing. I keep hearing from many members and alumni that they cannot believe how fast the remodel went,start to finish was about 5 months, and how nice the house looks now. The undergraduate members and myself  would like to think everyone that helped in any way and donated to make our house one of the nicest on campus.

nathan-dunlap

I am Nathan Dunlap, a senior at Western Illinois University from Carrollton Illinois. I am a member of Alpha Gamma Rho and have served on the executive board for two years. I have work with the Alumni Board who are heading this project and had the privilege to live in the house before, during, and after the remodel was completed. This is an incredible project and I can not believe the how fast they got it done.

Reaping What You Sow

farm_sprayer

With the continued falling grain prices and pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) nutrient management has become a bigger issue for farmers now more than ever.

thnds48h76

dead_zone_nasa_copyright1
Dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico

 

Illinois has just recently adopted a program known as the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Implementation. The reason that this program was adopted was to improve Illinois water quality. Illinois is one of many states contributing to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. According to Monica Bruckner at Montana State University, “the dead zone is an area approximately 6,000 to 7,000 square miles.” The reason it has been given the name “dead zone” is because aquatic life cannot survive within this area. The dead zone is caused by an increase of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in the Mississippi River that eventually dump into the Gulf. Agriculture is not the sole cause of the leaching of these nutrients into the river. Sewage treatment plants and home gardening fertilizer also leach these nutrients into the Mississippi.

thug6veewc  theb664oc3

            Farmers have to continue to become innovators when it comes to nutrient management. Just recently a law suit was brought against farmers in three counties upstream of the Des Moines water works in Iowa. Bill Stowe the manager of the Des Moines Water Works, explained why they are suing these counties upstream in an interview with Iowa public radio. Stowe explained “the source of these nitrates is pretty clear. Farmers spread nitrogen fertilizer on their corn fields, it turns into nitrate and then it commonly runs into streams through networks of underground tile pipes that drain the soil.” Stowe then continued to explain “Those drainage systems are managed, in some cases, by county governments, and Des Moines Water Works is now proceeding on the theory that those governments can be held legally responsible for the pollution that their pipes carry. When they build these artificial drainage districts that take water, polluted water, quickly into the Raccoon River, they have a responsibility to us and others as downstream users.” Stowe ends this interview by stating “We need to get down to specific steps that they need to take. If they aren’t willing, we’ll see them in federal court.” Agriculture will continue to have an increase in public pressure. It is important that farmers take their nutrient management plan seriously. If farmers do not take it seriously we may start seeing strict regulations when it comes to applying our fertilizer.

            It is not only for fear of regulations and public scrutiny that farmers should want to continue to improve their nutrient management plan. It is also in the best interest for their wallet as well. As grain prices continue to fall, farmers need to look at ways to maximize their input costs. With fertilizer being a top input cost for farmers, they need to ensure they are maximizing yield without over applying. There are many different ways that farmers can be more precise when it comes to choosing the right fertilizer rate. The first thing farmers should start with is a soil test. Soil tests measures how much macro and micro nutrients are in the soil. It also measures the PH of the soil and the soil electrical conductivity. There are two main types of soil sampling that are used today, zone soil sampling and grid soil sampling. Zone soil sampling is the method of soil sampling that has been around the longest. It consists of taking a number of soil samples in different zones across the entire field. In order to establish a zone it requires some pre existing information of the field, like a soil map, topography or a yield map to establish different zones. Grid soil sampling is newer and it does not include any prior information of the field.  Murray Welden states in an article with Corn + Soybean digest that grid soil sampling takes a sample generally every 2-3 acres. This is very beneficial because there are many differences in soil in every field. When we are sampling every 2-3 acres then treating every 2-3 acres specifically we can be more precise.

th
Zone Soil Sampling
tht03j6ydo
Grid Soil Sampling

 

 

When it comes to applying fertilizer, most is applied in the fall. Fall is more convenient for farmers to get their nutrients on because they do not have to worry about trying to apply it during the spring before planting. Applying all of your fertilizer  in the fall is more convenient but when this is done it is more prone to leaching and volatilization. This is especially true for nitrogen. The main form of nitrogen that we apply is in the form of anhydrous ammonia. Anhydrous ammonia is 82% nitrogen. thahn7j297The only problem when “fall applying” is that it gives it more time to leach out of the soil with rain into our ground water. There are a few different steps that farmers can take to prohibit this process from happening. The first thing a farmer can do is wait until the soil temperature is below 50 degrees. When the soil temperature is below 50 degrees it does not allow the nitrogen to turn into nitrate which is easily lost with water. Another step farmers can take to prevent the loss of nitrogen is using a nitrogen inhibitor such as N-serve. N-serve detours the nitrogen turning into the form of nitrate which as stated is easily lost with water. Farmers can also think about split applying their nitrogen. Split applying is best explained as applying half or three fourths of  nitrogen in the spring or fall and then applying the rest of the nitrogen during the growing season, when the crop is taking up nutrients. They can band the nitrogen between the rows or have it flown on with a plane in the form of a pellet. All of these processes will help minimize the loss of nitrates into our water.

Another nutrient that is commonly lost is phosphorus. Phosphate is mostly lost with soil through erosion. Some ways to prevent soil erosion is to plant grass water ways where water commonly flows out of fields. Reducing tillage, planting cover crops and planting grass borders around fields are all ways to prevent erosion which will also prevent the loss of phosphate.

thjggvz9s9
Erosion
thxzxesj3q
Grass Waterway

 

If farmers do not continue to be innovative with their nutrient management programs we could see more regulations and lawsuits in the future.  

Works cited:

“The Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone.” Dead Zone. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2016. <http://serc.carleton.edu/microbelife/topics/deadzone/index.html&gt;.

Masters, Clay. “Paying The Price for Clean Water in Des Moines.” Iowa Public Radio. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2016. <http://iowapublicradio.org/post/paying-price-clean-water-des-moines#stream/0&gt;.
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Putting Faith back in the Farmer

The time we are present in now is a turning point in what agriculture may look like and be talked about in the future.

It seems like anymore the farmer is quiet.  Scared of the unknown that some anti-agriculture foundation or group would turn their own words around, and put a bad image back on the farmer. Why must we in agriculture feel so silenced?  I can understand the many reasons.  I often ask myself, Why not? Why not stand up, and stand firm with what we say and believe in?  We know the facts, better than anyone else would, for most of us agriculture is in our blood, it’s been a part of our lives for long before we were around.

The worries of what the opposite side will say can no longer, prolong our silence.  I understand the stand point and the point of view of where we are at in agriculture. We don’t want people twisting positive things we say around.  We don’t like people snooping and try to take videos or pictures that may incriminate us our business or agriculture as a whole.  I purpose a simple solution be encouraging when confronted by others that oppose you. Communication should be at the top of our priorities, and with communicating well to others that may be on the fence could be that reason, to believe in agriculture again.

The general public in this country thinks that we are hiding behind our big operation. I ask you, to find ways to give some relative comparisons to those others that oppose you.  Relate to them on a level that they will understand.  We are growing our farmers, the same way many small businesses were to gro.  If we do not grow, we will not be in the industry for very much longer. We are standing up for our passion, love, life of some whom have been involved in agriculture for multiple generations

Creating Transparency

In my recent internship last summer, I had the opportunity to be involved with a large food corporation Tyson Foods Inc.   In my internship I had to build a presentation and brain storm about new ways and how to effectively communicate those modern agriculture practices.  This was a great question to answer, to think outside of the box to try and create transparency with in our industry.

The review of our presentation was based solely on hands on.  Encourage large corporations to open up more to the public.  Partnering up on the state and local level, to help fund small productions scales of those new modern agriculture practices we use today.  Start the education process of agriculture at a young age and promote this throughout all schools around the nation.  The public must understand the average farmer is feeding more people per acre than they ever did before and the number is continually rising.  With the demand rising, those involved in production must be the most productive, efficient yet still keeping safety of the animal and food at the top of their priorities.  Give the general public a look in the life of a modern farmer. In this blog, I simple just wanted to say that it is truly up to our generation as what agriculture may look like in the future.  We must continually think outside of the box to promote wider acquaintances in agriculture that will continually help create a broader and better outlook on our industry.

The writer

I am Matthew St. John form Rushville, Indiana I am a senior Ag-business major and Animal Science Minor. I did not grow up on a crop or stock farm. I started working for local farmers through I high school and from there I wanted to gain more knowledge for the industry and went to study at Black Hawk East College. Ive had the opportunity to work for with some diversity of backgrounds with in the Industry. I have always looked forward to learning new things and new industries. I have learned one thing that I believe, that we must always work to communicate and spread the word of the Industry, and continuing to find new ways to communicate an educate the general public on modern agriculture practices.

 

 

AG – The Brand of Excellence

AG – Doesn’t that Stand for Agriculture?

As readers peruse through the blog posts from this semester’s AGRI 340 students, they will often see the word AG. 99% of the time, it stands for agriculture. However, my usage of AG is as an acronym. It stands for Armstrong Genetics, a brand of excellence in the swine industry. This blog will tell a story of this operation’s history, the struggles that they have faced, and they reasons that they are so successful today.

family

(Photo Credit – Firefly Studio)

A Brief Family Background

Robert (Bob) Armstrong grew up south of Jacksonville, IL, on a purebred hog farm with three brothers and one sister. He attended college at Illinois State University, where he met Rhonda Ummel. She was originally from Cooksville, IL where she grew up on a large dairy farm. The two began dating and eventually married. Upon looking for a place to settle down, they looked at several options. Bob located roughly 1,000 acres of crop and pasture ground for sale just south of Huntsville, IL in rural southwest Schuyler County. “The price was so low it was unheard of,” he said. Bob then mentioned, “What they didn’t tell me was that the yields were about 1/3 of what they were an hour to the south!” Although the crops tended to struggle initially, Bob moved the purebred Chester White and Spotted sow herds to the new farm after building a farrowing house, nursery, grower, Cargill feeding floors, and sow lots. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Armstrong’s continued to establish a deep sow herd through genetic progress and strong selection placement on desirable phenotype. During this time, Bob and Rhonda had two children. Daughter Kristi grew up to marry Kendall Bollin. The couple now has two children (two boys – Clayton and Logan) and they operate a large grain farm in Bowen, IL. Son JR grew up with an avid interest in the farm’s activities. He was an instrumental member in starting the Illinois Club Pig Association. He attended Lake Land College and Western Illinois University, where he was a member of the livestock judging teams at both schools. He married his wife Alison and together they have three children (1 daughter – Taylor and 2 sons – Mitch and Levi). JR remains full time on the farm.

ag3

(Photo Credit – Armstrong Genetics)

Let’s Talk About the Operation

Today, Armstrong Genetics is a diversified grain and livestock operation that still runs out of the same location that Bob and Rhonda purchased in the early 1970’s. Along with Bob, Rhonda and JR, two full time employees work on the farm plus part time help with the show pig enterprise (the part time help could also be referred to as the author of this blog). They row crop 1500 acres of corn and soybeans on a rotational basis, utilizing the no-till method of conservation farming. They run 150 commercial cows as well, utilizing a 2-breed Charolais and Red Angus rotational cross. JR is a strong believer in this crossbreeding system. He states, “One year we can inject growth, muscle and cutability into our calves with Charolais bulls, and the next year we can add calving ease and marbling with the Red Angus influence.” The top 20% of heifer calves are kept as replacements, and all feeder calves are retained and fed out in the family feedlot. They are direct marketed through Tyson Foods in Joslin, IL.

2016-hlsr-classwinningchesterbarrow

 

My large interest and passion for this organization stems from the purebred swine production aspect, and that is what this family is known for across the nation. Bob and Rhonda started with the Chester White and Spotted herd in the 1970’s, and those two breeds continue as a staple today. Hampshires and Yorkshires were briefly added in the 1990’s. Berkshires were added in 2010 and continue to grow today. Currently, the family runs 150 purebred sows consisting of 70 Chester Whites, 45 Spots, and 35 Berkshires. The farm owns ten herd boars that service 90% of the sow base. Farrowing groups are split up in the following intervals: December through February (125 litters), April (40 litters), and July through September (125 litters). Generally, it can be figured that the top 50% of hogs in each farrowing group will have the quality it takes to be marketable. Of this top half, about 75% of the hogs are sold as youth, 4-H and FFA show gilts and barrows all across the nation. The majority of these projects are marketed through biweekly online sales during each season. In 2016, Armstrong Genetics hosted over 10 online sales with at least 40 pigs per sale. They also maintain a large order and delivery market for show pigs, particularly in the Southwest. The other 25% of boars and gilts are retained as replacements for the herd. The remaining 50% of hogs are fed out either on the Cargill finishing floors or in the finishing barn. They are direct marketed through Cargill in Beardstown, IL.

In the Midwest, show pigs raised by Armstrong Genetics have grabbed banners at the World Pork Expo, Team Purebred Junior National, National Barrow Show and over twelve State Fairs. In the Southwest, pigs have won championships at the Fort Worth Stock Show, San Antonio Livestock Exposition, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Oklahoma Youth Expo, Tulsa State Fair, and the State Fair of Texas. The firm has also produced multiple high sellers at the Fall Classic, Southwest Type Conference and the Summer Type Conference. Armstrong Chester Boars Safari, Power Fluid and Uno along with Armstrong Spotted Boars Black Ice, Double Reserve and High Hope have left great influence in each of their respective breeds. This past summer, their sale of the Chester White Boar “Salary Cap” to Purple Power Boar Stud for $39,000 broke all previous records in the breed. A recent online sale this fall featured a breeder from Oklahoma named Nick Hofschulte. He was selling Chester Whites out a sow that was purchased as a weanling pig from Armstrong Genetics. He said it best – “the mother of these pigs come from the Chester Capital of the World – Armstrong’s!”

Why Do I Write This?

Many of you are probably thinking that was a long write-up about just one family, right? That may be so, but I truly believe they are as good of a representation of American Agriculture as any. God, Family and Friends come before all. Hard work comes before play. And once you have had the opportunity to meet this family and do business with them, you have not only purchased a high quality show pig with a good chance of winning but you have created a life long friendship that the Armstrong family will cherish forever. I cannot begin to thank this family for all that they have done for me over the years, whether it was selling me my first AG Chester White Gilt at 10 years old or the opportunity to be a part of their successful operation while attending Western Illinois University. I truly don’t believe I could ever repay them for all that they have taught me about the game of hogs or the game of life, but I suppose this blog is a start.

About the Author

2016-stc-2ndplaceberkbarrow

My name is Hayden Wilder and I am from Remington, IN. I grew up on a small grain farm and was actively involved in showing pigs at the county, state and national levels. 4-H and FFA filled up my daily routine in high school. I attended Black Hawk East prior to WIU where I was a member of a successful livestock judging team. Here at WIU, I am majoring in Ag Business and minoring in Animal Science. I have greatly enjoyed my time and successes in the judging van with Dr. Mark Hoge. I am also the president of the Hoof ‘n Horn Club. Throughout college, I have completed two sales internships with Essential Feeds and have enjoyed the opportunity of judging several hog shows. After graduation this spring, I hope to either obtain a sales job with a feed company or continue my education in swine nutrition. Thanks for reading my blog!

Agriculture equipment continues to advance

Agriculture has evolved tremendously over the years. Farmers produce higher yields while being more efficient than ever. Today’s average farmer in the US feeds roughly 155 people annually compared to 61 people in 1960 (USDA). Advancements in technology have been the leading factor in this evolution. From genetics to equipment, it has all improved drastically.

One big reason the US is dominate in agriculture is the improvement of equipment. In the past, farmers used horses to pull plows and planters. Horses were replaced by tractors, which were more efficient. Farmers would have to allow time for

gem_v3_i3_may_1968_07-2
Ford’s first model (Credit Ford’s archives)

horses to rest and tractors were faster. In the early and mid 1900s, Ford was a major player in the tractor industry. The company’s first model went on the market in the US in 1918 (Gas Engine Magazine). Even though it wasn’t the first or best tractor, it became the most popular. Why is this? It was affordable. Henry Ford, the founder of Ford, found a way to mass produce a tractor that the average farmer could afford. Even though Ford got out of the tractor business, they will always be remembered for how they changed the industry.

Companies have been upgrading tractors ever since. In 1939, the Model B Tractor was produced (Living History Farms). This was a huge improvement. It had an electric starter, rubber tires, and higher horse power. It wasn’t until 1973, tractors came with a sound-guard body (Living History Farms). This protected farmers from weather and dust while providing a panoramic view. It also allowed farmers to listen to the radio. In more recent years, tractors have GPS. This opened the door to several possibilities. This allows tractors to have auto-steer, yield monitors in combines, and many more advantages.

Another area of great improvement has been the evolution of planters. The first planter came out in 1853 (Living History Farms). It was pulled by a horse and planted two rows. The horses were soon replaced by tractors. Before this, farmers had to plant by hand. It wasn’t until the 40s when they started to make planters bigger than 2 rows. Companies started making 4 or 6 row planters. Today, the biggest planter made has 64 rows, but most farmers use 16, 24, or 32 row planters.

8370rt_field_2_low
John Deere Archives

It is important for farmers to be very precise when planting. It can ruin the whole season if not done correctly. It is critical to plant each seed at the right depth and consistent distance between each other. If the seed is planted too deep, it’s less likely to emerge. If is planted too shallow, the crop’s roots system won’t develop fully. This can all have a huge impact on yield. Precision planting has allowed planting to become a more precise act. It vacuums the seed to a plate and places it into the ground at the right depth and distance apart. Each row is monitored and gives them the option to adjust them individually. A farmer can see all of this data with the monitor in the cab. This allows the farmer to make changes before it is too late. Auto-steer has made it possible to plant straighter rows. This is where the tractor is steered using GPS until the end of the row when the farmer must turn it around. The auto-steer will then line the tractor up at the proper distance and continue through the field.

These are a couple of the advancements in the farm equipment world. The industry has come so far, but is not done yet. Technology will keep on evolving and find new ways to improve yield and efficiency. It is an exciting time in the agriculture industry.

Hi, my name is Chad French, and I’m a senior at Western Illinois University. I will be graduating in Spring of 2017. My major is in Agriculture Business with a minor in Agronomy. My plan is to find a full time job in the agriculture industry where I can be a part of the evolution in agriculture.

Sources
“Briefing on the Status of Rural America – USDA.” USDA. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
De Angelis, George. “The Fordson Tractor.” Gas Engine Magazine. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

“History of Tractors.” Living History Farms. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

Fowl Farming

There are many types of farming practices that we think about daily as agriculturalists. Examples being your standard conventional farming, no-till, organic, etc. In these practices we are all after a common goal, to produce high healthy yields for a profit. Some people have a different outlook and strategies on how to produce those yields. What if there is another type of farming out there, a type of farming that is not trying to produce high bushel crop, but instead, high yields of waterfowl and wildlife. I’m talking about a farming practice for the conservationists, for the guys that like to duck, deer, pheasant, quail, and turkey hunt. This is a farming practice that is for hunting purposes. Basically planting a crop and leaving it to the wildlife as a food source.  Some might be a little confused by this strategy and think that planting a crop and maybe not even harvesting it is absurd.  In someway this is true, but our vision is habitat. We are doing this to create a healthy environment not only for wildfowl, but for ourselves as well.

The main focus here is waterfowl, focusing directly towards duck hunters. The only thing we are trying to achieve is to have a good waterfowl population for our own hunting/recreational pleasure. A lot of people want an area for waterfowl to stage and relax. Some guys may or may not know how to achieve this, but most all of them do not see the small benefits this creates. “Cells” are your first plan of attack, it doesn’t matter how many or how big, that all depends on how much room you have. Lets say you have 80 acres that you want to turn into waterfowl habitat. Making a levee around your 80 acres then levee off each crop section. You want to split it up into your “cell” sections. Example being 4 sections of 20 acres or 2 sections of 40 acres, how you split it is up to you.  We want to do this that way you have a crop rotation of moist soil crops and a grain crop. Most of us know that corn in the dominant plant when it comes to staging waterfowl. This is all true, but planting corn year after year starts to deplete your nutrients in your soil, and more and more fertilizer goes on for a better corn crop. What you might try is planting millet, milo, buckwheat, flax seed, natural grasses, even wheat, in three of the cells, and plant one cell with corn. What this will do is provide early season food and late season food. Early season being your grass species and your corn late season when they need that high energy from starch to migrate. As temperatures rise and drop, these different types of food provide ducks with what they need. They will fluctuate from moist soil plants early in the year to corn later in the year when temperatures begin to become cold. If you create something like this I can promise you will hold waterfowl for years to come. “If you have food and habitat, you will have ducks, if you have food, habitat, and weather, you will have a lot of ducks”-Frank Bellrose

The grass species will act as a filter for water that you pump or drain in. Cleaner water is a must for our ecosystem and yes as stewards of the land we are getting better about water quality. These grasses will act as a natural watershed, which is an adopted practice being brought up by many farmers. There is even some government funding for these practices. What the grasses will do is filter out most of the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, along with other nutrients in the water, grass species will actually take up and use these nutrients in their own growth. With water being on your millet or Milo this will also provide habit for waterfowl. Grass species are also excellent for keeping fertile soil. Taller the plant gets the deeper roots go, when in time with crop rotation each year,  you will have a healthier corn plant. Remember the more root depth you get the healthier the plant you have. The clean water that has been depleted of excess nitrogen and other nutrients can be flooded onto your corn acres. The corn cell you can do what you want with. If you want to pick it and make some yield off of it you can or leave it standing that’s your choice to make, it still provides food and habitat.

Using grasses in your cells you provide healthier soil and water quality for years to come. Management of these areas are crucial in order to get the outcome you are looking for. If you rotate crops every year with grasses and corn, you will have a much better corn crop, much more fertile soil and much better water quality, with low inputs of fertilizer, and yes a high yield in waterfowl and wildlife numbers.

by:  Jason Hire

I am an Ag Science major at Western Illinois University. I love everything there is about agriculture, though I didn’t grow up on a farm I grew up hunting with my dad and grandfather. I guess this is where my love of Ag came from because I wanted to give something back to nature. The only way I could think of was learning how to grow crops better.

 

Farming: Why We Love What We Do

Why do farmers work four hundred hours a month to feed people who think they are trying to kill them?  There is an easy answer to this question, we just simply love what we do.  Farming can be defined as the activity or business of growing crops and raising livestock.  When you lay it out like that it sounds simple, but there is much more to it than feeding a cow and planting a seed into the ground.  Farming has become a very technical and time consuming art with the large advancement in technology in recent years.  Feeding a planet of seven billion plus is not an easy task to say the least.

When the typical person thinks of a farmer they probably picture a rough looking male or female who drives a truck, always hogging up the road in their tractor, and always looks filthy.  Though all of these traits may be true that is not all a farmer is.  From my standpoint being from central Illinois there are only two basic types of farming, that being row crop or livestock.  Row crop farms in Illinois primarily consist of corn and soybeans.   That being said every operation is run differently and managed different, none the less the main goal year after year is to produce the best crop possible at the lowest cost.  Now one who doesn’t know much about farming may think that farmers just put the seed in the ground and harvest it when it’s ready, that is not even close to correct.  Farming is a very sensitive and risk taking profession that most wouldn’t understand unless they grew up around it.

Row crop farming starts first with the seed.  Farmer book their seed orders usually around July/August to plant sometime in May/April.  That doesn’t sound so hard right?  Not until you’re the one in bank every year taking out a loan anywhere between $50,000-$750,000 risking it all for a tiny piece of seed.  After the seed is planted or even before there are stressful decisions to be made about fertilizer rates or preplant spraying.  Once the seed has emerged farmers basically only have the responsibility of managing pest control through spraying on their own or crop dusting with an airplane.  But without proper weather conditions during the growing season anything could happen come harvest time.  Some farmers ground may be ruined from flooding or hail, but the next morning they still get up and work because they love what they do.  Other farmer’s may be blessed and have no damage come harvest and that’s what it is all about.  Taking the risk pouring all of your money into one basket to be rewarded after all the hard work and long hours put in over the course from March to October, that’s why we love what we do.

Then on the other side of things we have livestock.  Livestock can be many different animals but around here it mostly consists of cattle and hogs.  Livestock farming and row crow farming are very far apart from another in a lot of aspects.  In row crop you’re taking out huge loans and working long hours for certain months of the year but there is eventually some down time.  Livestock involves a different type of person, one who is patient and much more focused and particular.  The thing with livestock is that it is a twenty-four seven, three hundred sixty five day a year job.  Livestock, just like humans, need attention, fed every day, pins need cleaned and maintained.  Something that can’t be predicted is if the herd breaks out with a sickness, or busts through a fence and runs loose, someone has to be there to go get them and guide them back home or give out shots and call the vet.  With livestock you’re on your toes at all times.  Farmers can go days on minimal hours of sleep during calving season after they just put in a 12 hour day fixing fence and feeding animals.  Livestock is a whole new world, and it takes a whole different type a person to do it day in and day out.

Agriculture is an industry that we as humans will always need and will not be dying out anytime soon.  With the population growing and practices continuing to evolve who knows where we’re going to be five, ten, fifteen years from now.  Most people don’t understand why some would want to do it, but we just love what we do.

compositeHello! My name is Joe Breece and I am a senior at Western Illinois University where I major in Ag Business with a minor in Finance. I grew up in the rural town of White Hall, Illinois where my parents ran the local pharmacy and I worked on a row crow/cattle farm. I have developed a passion for advocating for the agricultural industry, and I hope that it only continues to grow stronger.