Growing Up In A Small Town

Growing up in a small town was pretty simple, there wasn’t much to do other than drive around, go to school, get a job, and for some, work on the family farm. I did everything there was to do the in neighboring towns, since I lived in the country, but there was something missing. I was ten years old when I started fully working and having large responsibilities on the family farm. My father worked two jobs, he was a farmer and he was a seed sales manager at Inness Farm Supply in Galesburg Illinois. One day my father came to me and asked if I wanted to come to work at IFS with him, being a young kid, I accepted the invitation.

I loved every part of my father’s job, the data entry, talking to customer, going to meetings, palletizing seed, going on seed deliveries, putting up field signs with variety and brand numbers, and consulting other farmers on what seed would fit their need. I asked the owner of the company, George Inness, if I could assist my father as a job and he said,

“You’re a young man, and I think it’s a great idea that you get a job where you assist your father. I’ve seen you work with your father and how hard you work reminds me of myself at your age.”

I started at ten dollars an hour and during the summers and I would work fifty hours a week and earned a steady paycheck. Not too bad for a ten year old I must say. I would work on breaks from school when there was no classes and would hang out with friends after that. It was a good life and I soon learned that I was destined to work in agriculture. Seeing that business flourish I felt that I wanted to make my mark in the area with a business of my own.

After a couple years of working and saving money and helping the family of IFS with their summer sweet corn business I saw the economic opportunity of sweet corn. The next year I was thirteen and I asked my dad if we could section off a piece of our 1,000 acres to plant a sweet corn patch. My dad said,

“Yeah, we can take one acre out of the field around the house near the road and plant some sweet corn. I found a sweet corn variety that would work great on that soil.”

We then got started on planning the business around planting season. We use a 12 row corn planter with 2 pounds of seed distributed between all the units evenly. In short that season didn’t fare too well because it wasn’t glyphosate resistant sweet corn and once we sprayed the main field for pests the sweet corn withered away and there wasn’t much more than 20 ears that were edible and presentable. My heart was crushed but instead of sulking over the failed season we just planned for the next. My father found a glyphosate, corn borer, and ear worm resistant variety and the next year we planted it.

That season, once the sweet corn came up we sprayed a post emergence chemical program and not surprisingly the sweet corn survived. Not just survived, but flourished in that one acre patch. The ears were big and beautiful and destine for sale. About a week before the sweet corn was ready for consumption I contacted the manager of the local McDonalds off I-74 and asked if we could set up a sweet corn stand out front. She was delighted by the idea if we kept the area, where our stand was, clean and free of clutter.

The time to sell was approaching fast as was the Knox County Fair. We made signs with our prices of $3 a dozen, a dozen meaning 13 or 14 ears a bag, a pop up canopy, and a cash box which was an old ammunition can. We would use five gallon buckets and a wheel barrow to pick the sweet corn early in the morning. It was my sister Sarah, my mother Sharon, my father Phil, and myself. We picked and picked until the bed of our pickup was stacked and full of sweet corn, stacking instead of just throwing ears in would save space as well as be more presentable.untitled

We sold 100 dozen a day for a whole week and even got money donations, because I was saving for college. That season was amazing and I learned a lot and had very interesting conversations with my customers. That summer was one of the best summers of my life.

We continued with the business for another year using the same business plan as before and then my father and I decided that it could be even more productive. We took out two acres and we put seed only in selected rows to make an alley way for the wheel borrow to go through. We stacked the rows and snapped off the shank at the end of the ear for more of a visual aesthetic. The selling season was a little different than previous years because everyone knew who we were and I received an offer from Hy-Vee grocery store to buy 120 dozen at bulk cost of $2 a dozen. I accepted the offer and my sweet corn brand continued to grow. I also sold to Hi-Lo in Galesburg, similar to Hy-Vee, and they bought 75 dozen.

A few years passed and the business stayed the way it had been with selling at McDonalds and to the local grocery stores. By the time I was 17 a lot of people would stop by the stand at McDonalds and even told me they saw my corn in grocery stores. I felt that it was the time to expand and open another stand up. My best friend Zach had a pickup truck and we worked out a deal with Serloin Stockaid to set up his truck with a stand in Galesburg but it didn’t last long. That stand didn’t last because of the amount of traffic, or lack of. By that time everyone saw the opportunity of sweet corn and decided to grow and sell their own but I felt that my business was superior because of the visual, price, and deliciousness of the product being sold. We sold out of corn day by day and after two weeks we picked the field dry. This season was a total success.

My business was working great with the location, price, and the fact that it was a small town, everyone knew me personally and strictly bought from me and they were also aware of my charitable contribution to the Galesburg homeless shelter. Business was booming, so much so, that we stacked the truck up with a heaping load of sweet corn every day during the next season. Then it was off to college.

I got accepted at Western Illinois University, I’m now in my third year as a junior majoring in agriculture business and economics and I still go home every summer to sell sweet corn to the people that come by the Knoxville McDonalds. This year will be tough to do so because I received an amazing opportunity, working at the agronomy field lab for WIU with Dr. Mark Bernards. I’m very excited for this job but I still want to sell the sweet corn that I have for the past years. Oh well, this is a once in a life time opportunity and I don’t want to give it up I might not have to, in order to run my childhood business because I can do it on the weekends and during my times off of work. I excited for the summer to come.

My name is Ethan Deane Johnson and I’m a junior majoring agriculture business and economics with a minor is scuba diving. I grew up outside a town of 400 in central Illinois called Gilson. I’m a 7th generation farmer and my hopes are to take over the farm one day.

Thanks for reading.


The Ins and Outs of Veterinary Feed Directives


Photo Credits: Zoetis US

First of all, what is a VFD?

VFD stands for Veterinary Feed Directive. According to the FDA, “a VFD drug is intended for use in animal feeds, and such use of the VFD drug is permitted only under the professional supervision of a licensed veterinarian.” Basically, the FDA is regulating what, when, and how producers can feed their animals.

What are the requirements?

Any type of “drug” used in animal feed must have a written prescription from a licensed veterinarian. Those veterinarians must follow strict rules that are outlined by the state on the basis of “VCPR.” VCPR is the veterinarian-client-patient relationship. In other words, the veterinarian is responsible for providing a VFD to their client. The client, or producer, then is required to follow that VFD when feeding their livestock, which is the patient. All of this has been created by the FDA.

The requirements for VFD’s can be very specific, including feed ratios and expiration dates. Producers must now have a prescription (VFD) in order to administer antibiotics in feed or water and those antibiotics are only allowed to be used for the specified animals.

What does this mean for producers?

Producers already have a tough time raising livestock to meet the criteria of consumers everywhere. Everyone wants clean, safe, and healthy livestock production. The US has the safest food supply in the world, which could be attributed to the precautionary and preventative measures taken by the producers.

When livestock are being produced in a large-scale setting, it’s difficult to pick out the one or two animals that are sick. This is why preventative medicine is crucial to providing healthy animal protein to the consuming public.

Producers also run into an ethical question. They may be forced to choose between feeding preventative medicine or letting their livestock get sick. Veterinarians have to follow strict rules when issuing VFDs, so if a producer has a currently healthy herd they may not be allowed to feed any preventative medicines. Over time, animals will get sick and the producer has to treat them afterwards. Humans get vaccines to prevent certain disease, why aren’t livestock treated the same?



Hi everyone! My name is Tyler Dawson, I originate from Rushville, Indiana. I am currently a Senior Agricultural Business student at WIU, with a minor in Animal Science. I was a previous member of the Livestock Judging Team and current member of the Hoof N’ Horn Club. I am very passionate about livestock and animal health; I hope that I can one day incorporate that into my career. Thanks for checking out my blog!

Sigma Alpha: The Sorority that might just change the face of Agriculture


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Sigma Alpha is a professional agricultural sorority at Western Illinois University and many schools across the country.  Sigma Alpha stands for Sisters in Agriculture. Our mission is cultivating Professional Women in Agriculture. Sigma Alpha has four pillars that we value and uphold within the chapter leadership, scholarship, fellowship, and service.  When I rushed in fall 2015, I thought I was just going to be getting involved with other girls that had the same interest, but now looking back at it, it is so much more than just a group of girls with the same interest getting together every Monday night. These girls have given me a home away from home, support and a better network.    IMG_6442 Without this group of girls I would not have the network and support needed while being away at school. Many of these girls I have really gotten close to and Sigma Alpha has given me the opportunity to meet other girls with the same interest from different states. I never thought I would be in a sorority but I am glad I did. The objective of this sorority shall be to promote its members in all facets of agriculture and to strengthen the bonds of friendship among them. It is the purpose of the members to strive to achievement in scholarship, leadership and service, and to further the development of excellence in women pursuing careers in agriculture. IMG_6048

Now that our membership is at a steady 42 girls, we are ready to branch out and get more involved within our community. After nationals, which is the Sigma Alpha governing body, was here back in February we sat down as a chapter and determined that our next big step was to make the best philanthropy we could. We then established a committee that would bring all of our thoughts together in an organized way. After just a few short months we have organized our thoughts and are now working on a philanthropy for this upcoming November where we hope to have a successful trivia night that will bring in money to a local organizations that’s called Linda’s Fund, which offers support to breast cancer patients and their families that visit McDonough District Hospital.

It might just sound like all we do is work, with meetings on Monday nights and working to create a philanthropy. Which is not completely false, but as a group we like to have fun as well. We partner with our brother fraternities, Alpha Gamma Sigma and Alpha Gamma Rho at least once a semester for a social. We also try to have at least one alumni event during WIU homecoming, but thats not all. My personal favorite is our formal each spring semester. The past two years we have gone to Stoney Creek in Quincy, IL and there we are able to unwind with our sisters after a stressful semester.

You can see that we work a lot and try to have fun occasionally too. Although I never would have though in a million years that an agriculture sorority could turn my life around with a meeting every Monday night and some fun times in between. I know that one day I will be able to tell my kids that a sorority is not like what you see in the movies, a sorority is where you make memories that will last you a lifetime!






My name is Kaylee Kirby,  I am a Senior at Western Illinois University with a major  in Agriculture Business and Minor in agronomy. I am an active member in Sigma Alpha, Hoof n Horn, and Ag Council. I am from Greenview, IL where my family farm is located, but currently resided in Mason City, IL.  I have always been passionate about agriculture and plan to continue after graduation in May 2018