Clean Energy is No Longer a Dream!

   By: Alison Riesing

Agricultural Education Major

   In the past, clean energy was thought to be only for the wealthy.  No More!  Clean energy is now a realistic alternative for the average citizen.  There are even several options to choose from depending on location and preference.  These options include solar energy, wind energy, geothermal, and tidal energy.  I will be focusing on solar energy because this is the energy that I am most excited about, followed in a close second by wind energy.  Continue reading to learn more about these clean energy’s.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is the most popular form of clean energy.  The main reason for this, if you could not guess, is that everywhere has sunlight.  We shouldn’t continue to pay to dig, harvest, refine, and transport fossil fuels when we can buy and setup a solar panel like any other type of appliance.

The only problem that faced solar energy in the past was storage.  This was not always a hindrance.  A man that my father knows rigged his solar panels to a car battery, then he rigged the battery to run his TV and computers at night.  It is nit optimal to have car batteries siting around the house, but where there is a will there is a way.  Today we have batteries designed to store solar energy.

lot solar

Figure 1 from

        Solar energy is suitable for individual homes, businesses, or even augmenting a city’s already existing power grid.  The Tesla company is in the process of building a factory that only runs on clean energy.  There are also several companies, colleges, and even high schools that are augmented almost completely with solar energy.

For those that live in a typically cloudy area, solar can still be for you.  A person would need to look at their areas ‘solar budget’.  This might lead you to only augmenting your current power supply, or adding a couple of additional panels to gather more sunlight.

The fact is that we have a solar powered space craft that has been successfully launched several times and already have solar powered cars on the road.  We now need to advertise the fact that these alternatives are available and affordable!  The largest amount of energy I have used in a month is 500 kilowatts.  According to the solar calculator at I would need a system that can produce 5555 watts.  According to this solar system would cost me $15,000 after a single federal tax rebate.  That may seem like a lot, but in the long run and with some additional rebates it really is not that expensive.  This site has even stated that these prices have dropped about nine percent from 2016.  I have even run across some sites and articles that mention payment plans.  I greatly encourage you to do the math for your area and see if solar panels are in your near future.

solar house

Figure 2 from

        The following information is form the website  I recommend that if you have any interest in the following energies that you post a blog as well to share the information.

Wind Power. The movement of the atmosphere is driven by differences of                 temperature at the Earth’s surface due to varying temperatures of the Earth’s surface       when lit by sunlight. Wind energy can be used to pump water or generate electricity, but requires extensive areal coverage to produce significant amounts of energy.”

This is no longer true.  They have now come out with a wind energy turbine that is roughly about 18 feet tall.  They have also solved some of the problems form the originals.  They have made them bladeless, so they will no longer induce seizure, throw ice chunks, or harm the local wildlife.  They have also made them nearly silent.  This means they will no longer drowned out all other sounds.

color windsize wind

Figure 3 above from and on the bottom from

   “Hydrogen and fuel cells. These are also not strictly renewable energy resources but are very abundant in availability and are very low in pollution when utilized. Hydrogen can be burned as a fuel, typically in a vehicle, with only water as the combustion product. This clean burning fuel can mean a significant reduction of pollution in cities. Or the hydrogen can be used in fuel cells, which are similar to batteries, to power an electric motor. In either case significant production of hydrogen requires abundant power. Due to the need for energy to produce the initial hydrogen gas, the result is the relocation of pollution from the cities to the power plants. There are several promising methods to produce hydrogen, such as solar power, that may alter this picture drastically.”

   “Geothermal power. Energy left over from the original accretion of the planet and augmented by heat from radioactive decay seeps out slowly everywhere, [every day]. In certain areas the geothermal gradient (increase in temperature with depth) is high enough to exploit to generate electricity. This possibility is limited to a few locations on Earth and many technical problems exist that limit its utility. Another form of geothermal energy is Earth energy, a result of the heat storage in the Earth’s surface. Soil everywhere tends to stay at a relatively constant temperature, the yearly average, and can be used with heat pumps to heat a building in winter and cool a building in summer. This form of energy can lessen the need for other power to maintain comfortable temperatures in buildings, but cannot be used to produce electricity.”


Figure 4 from

   “Other forms of energy. Energy from tides, the oceans and hot hydrogen fusion are other forms that can be used to generate electricity. Each of these is discussed in some detail with the final result being that each suffers from one or another significant drawback and cannot be relied upon at this time to solve the upcoming energy crunch.”


Figure 5 from

        We already have designed and use many different forms of clean energy.  Now we only need to refine the designs we already have.  If we put all the energy we put into improving our gizmos into clean energy, even if for only a year, think where we will be.  I cannot wait until everyone in the world is no longer dependent on fossil fuels, if for no other reason than cost alone.


Agriculture Education, Is That Even A Thing?

Agriculture education was a very important aspect of my life through my high school years. I grew up in a rural community so it was common to have agricultural classes in high school. Once you migrate outside of the rural areas, this becomes an uncommon trend among schools. I believe that with the increasing issues in the agriculture industry, it is very important that high schools implement agriculture education into their programs so that we can educate the public.

When I started writing this blog, the first person that came to my mind for valuable input on this topic was my high school agriculture instructor Steve Buyck. When I asked him what he thought the key points were about agriculture education in high school, the first thing that he mentioned was creating agriculture literacy. He said, “Fewer and fewer students are coming from a production agriculture background, so agriculture needs to continue to educate those students of the importance and what agriculture does for them.” I thought this was a very fitting comment given the fact that I am taking an agriculture issues class currently and this is something that we have discussed quite often. With agriculture being such a vast industry, I believe that it is important to have this education in high schools. Agriculture education is not just for the rural communities. If it is offered in a public high schools around the nation, or even the world, we can have a much larger voice for our industry.

The second key point that Mr. Buyck said was careers. He said,”Agriculture continues to evolve and needs people. Agriculture creates many careers and agriculture needs people to fill those careers. Students need to explore the vast number of careers available to them in agriculture. Many of the students do not realize all the careers

National FFA Emblem. Courtesy of the National FFA

available to them related to agriculture. Agriculture needs people with a basic understanding of agriculture to continue to meet the challenges of the non-agriculture minds.” Agriculture is not just corn and soybeans or cattle and swine. Deep in the heart of some urban cities sit some of the largest agriculture based companies in the world. Agriculture education can make the connection with these companies to set up future careers for students. They offer many types of internships in all areas of agriculture. This gives students a feel of what part of the industry they have an interest in. With agriculture education in high school, there is more of a target for the agriculture industry to find future employees.

The agriculture industry is the base of our world’s economy. If anyone is even remotely interested in this industry, agriculture education can give them that knowledge and know how to succeed. It is a vast world out there and agriculture education can help bridge that gap from student to employers. Through scholarships and internships, the agriculture industry wants its people to succeed. I firmly believe that putting agriculture education into all high school programs will not only be a benefit to students, but to the community and industry as a whole.

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My name is Tyler Lentz, I am a senior at Western Illinois University studying Agriculture Business with minors in both Agronomy and Animal Science. I grew up on a small family farm raising a herd of 25 head of beef cattle. I am actively involved as an alumni member of my FFA Chapter. I truly do believe in the future of agriculture and all that it can do. I plan to be involved in agriculture with every aspect of my life upon graduation of college. I want to see our industry succeed and hope that one day I can leave my mark on an industry that has given so much to me.


Beef Bungalow

Many know that livestock nowadays are commonly raised in buildings that can be strictly monitored, and that it’s one of the most efficient and beneficial ways to raise them for both producer and animal. Although raising cattle in a building is a little more uncommon than say hogs or chickens, it still poses many great benefits.

I work on a cattle ranch here in west central Illinois, and we have a monoslope cattle barn.IMG_2830-2 Four Aces LLC, Vermont IL

The barn contains two different pen designs for the cattle. It contains pens with slats that are quit similar to a hog barn. These slatted pens have rubber mats on them to prevent cattle from slipping, although the concept is the same where the manure falls below to a twelve foot pit, and can be pumped to be utilized for crop ground fertilizer. The other pens in the barn are called dry-packs or dry-stacks. Dry-stacks consist of a lime base along with bedding a top, in our case we use cornstalk round bales. Twice a week we will go into the dry-stack pens and bed with two new bales atop the stack and scrap the looser manure from directly in front of the feed bunks for each pen. The dry-stack becomes a mixture of manure and bedding, now saying that one would think it would be sloppy, but the bedding absorbs the moisture like a sponge and the stack is actually very firm where people and of course the cattle can walk on it with out sinking at all.

The main concept of a confinement cattle barn is very similar to any animal feeding confinement, and that is to limit and attempt to control the many ever-changing variables that comes with raising livestock to maximize their potential. The weather is one very good example of this varibles.

The design of the building’s monoslope roof is to act like a airplane wing or a giant funnel. So while it is hot in the summer the shape of the roof allows airflow to come in the large open side and funnel towards the narrow end and creates a constant breeze keeping the cattle cool. The way the barn is orientated the large open side faces south allowing the sun to help warm the barn during the winter. And obviously having shelter over the cattle helps tremendously during precipitation and for shade.

Feeding fat cattle can be very tricky some times, trying to maximize the cattle’s intake without over doing it and wasting feed. As I mentioned many factor can influences the animals ability to eat. Weather being a major player, but also having an adequate supply of clean water. Just another way where the cattle barn has an advantage. Ours in particular has its own water reservoir, and then supplies two automatic drinkers per pen at our barn. The drinkers are also cleaned twice a week to ensure that the cattle are getting the purest water availble. These cattle have access to fresh feed and clean water 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

There are many benefits to raising livestock indoors as there is with plants. It helps the process be more efficient and economical. It is beneficial for both the producer and the animal.


My name is Jacob Farrell, I am a senior at Western Illinois University. I am majoring in Agriculture Science. I also attended John Wood Community College. I grew up in FullSizeRenderJacksonville, IL working on a cow/calf and grain operation where my interest in agriculture took off. I now work on a cattle ranch in Vermont, IL where we partake in all areas of cattle production along with a small grain operation.


The Early Bird Gets… The Pancake?

On February 22, 2017, the CFFA/AgEd/PSA hosted its semester annual all-you-can-eat Pancake and Sausage breakfast. The breakfast was open to anyone who wanted to come and enjoy delicious all you can eat pancake, sausage, and biscuits and gravy breakfast. The members in the club host and run the breakfast at Western Illinois university, in Knoblauch hall 206, which is the kitchen on the second floor.

Their day starts off about an hour before the first hungry breakfast seeker arrives. They arrive at 6 a.m. to fire up the griddle and throw the sausage in the oven. Once they have got the food started the members start to get the dinning room ready for the customers, by  getting ice cold drinks ready, my favorite is the chocolate milk, and placing the syrup on the tables, and setting the silver wear and napkins out.


( Picture was taken by Jana Knupp)

Once the customers start to arrive around 7 a.m. they get to pick what they would like for breakfast. Most people say they want the full order which is 2 pancakes, 3 sausage links, and a nice order of biscuits and gravy. Now you may think a breakfast like that should be about $7-$8, but this lovely breakfast comes in right at $5. The best part about this breakfast is its all you can eat so if you’re still hungry after your first helping all you have to do is ask and they will run and grab you another plate of what ever you want.

The club served almost 100 people that day, which brought in about $500 for the club, a pretty successful fundraiser. All of the money brought in was profit thanks to the clubs sponsors Dot Foods who donated the pancakes and gravy and Prairie Farms who donated the drinks. The money that was made during the breakfast is used through out the year in a couple different areas the first is using it to fund different events like National PAS and Ag Olympics, the other way is that the money can be used to fund scholarships in the department.

Senior Logan Runyen says. “After helping out with this for my second year here, I would say it was really successful and we had a great turnout. I’m so glad that we are able to provide breakfast for the faculty as well as the students. This is one of my favorite things to help with every year!”


By: Abbi Smith


About me:

I come from Canton Illinois, where I live on a farm with my family. I have been attending Western Illinois University for the past four years. While being here I have been on the WIU Track and Field team. I am a part of CFFA/AgEd club.

National FFA Week Alumni Spotlight-Jay Solomonson ’02


National FFA Week WIU Alumni Spotlight-Jay Solomonson ’02

Jay Solomonson is the Director of Career and Technical Education & the Agricultural Education and Cooperative Education Instructor at Orion High School (Orion, IL). He is currently on a sabbatical leave with the school district as he is working on his doctorate in agricultural education at Iowa State University.

Jay chose WIU for the hands-on approach used for instruction, the fact that all of the students and faculty knew one another, the leadership opportunities available through student organizations, and the quality of education that you receive at an affordable price. WIU left it’s mark on him as well. “My years at WIU were some of the best years of my life. Besides taking classes, I was very active in many student organizations on campus where I had the opportunity to develop as both a leader and as an individual. The people I met through these organizations have become some of my best friends, and I continue to keep in touch with most of them even today.”

There are several memories throughout his career that make Jay feel proud, but he is most proud when “a senior or former student tells me that they are going to go into an agricultural career that they weren’t considering before taking my class. It warms my heart to hear that I was influential in their decision to enter the agricultural industry, especially those students who tell me that they want to go into agricultural education.”

Jay understands the challenges that agriculture education students now face. His advice is to “Stick with it! There are many hoops and obstacles one must go through to earn their professional teaching license now days. Don’t get discouraged and keep with it. Working in the classroom is one of the most rewarding experiences one can have. It is completely worth it to finish the program and get certified. You will not regret it!”

We look forward to seeing what the future holds for the soon-to-be Dr. Jay Solomonson.

Think Purple. Think Agriculture. Think Western.

National FFA Week-Student Spotlight, Anna Shupe

National FFA Week Student Spotlight-Anna Shupe

Anna Shupe, an agricultural education student from Ursa, IL,
was very reluctant in joining FFA at first. “I had no intentions in getting involved at all. After my first month as a member I was absolutely in love with the program. I had gained so many leadership skills and knowledge about the agriculture industry. After my first year in FFA I decided that I wanted to always be involved with FFA and wanted to help students find their own love for FFA and decided to become an agriculture teacher.”

Anna’s first pick for college was WIU due to its great agricultural education program. “While here at Western I have gained so much knowledge and have been able to network with other individuals in the agriculture industry. I am in six different agriculture clubs at Western and each one has helped me grow as a person.”

We look forward to what the future holds for Anna and are proud that she is sharing her passion for agriculture and FFA with students.annashupe

National FFA Week Spotlight-Jason Kilburn ’94

National FFA Week WIU Alumni Spotlight-Jason Kilburn 1994 WIU Alumnus

Jason is the agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at the Monmouth-Roseville High School. Proximity to home and the small student to faculty ratio brought Jason to WIU and if he had the chance to do it over again, he would.


“My time at WIU was very enjoyable and challenging in a good way. I felt that I was pushed to be the best that I could be. The knowledge and experiences I gained by attending WIU was very valuable. I was able to network with many professionals within the agricultural education field. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would not change a thing. I would go to WIU again!!”

Jason credits his involvement with Collegiate FFA and Ag Mech Club for gaining experience in the industry, building a network of professionals, and improving time management skills.

When asked what his proudest moment of his career has been, Jason cannot pick just one. “I am proud all the time of my students and FFA members. I measure the proudest moments by seeing young individuals strive to achieve goals and reaching them. Working with them on that journey and seeing the satisfaction on their faces when they achieve them, knowing that they had their doubts but keep on going anyway. Getting a student to compete in Career Development Event that you know is not their strength but they compete anyway to become a better rounded student. These are moments I’m the proudest of.”

Agricultural educators continue to be in demand. Jason added a few words of advice for those pursuing degrees in agriculture education. “Agriculture education is a rewarding field to be in, but is also challenging at the same time. Be sure to stay patient and know that it will get easier as time goes on. Teaching high school agriculture and being an advisor of the FFA can seem overwhelming at times. The time you get to spend working and guiding the young people is worth every moment. Stay patient, dedicated, and take time to enjoy the little successes you will have while teaching the leaders of tomorrow.”

Thank you Jason for your dedication to the leaders of tomorrow.

Think Purple. Think Agriculture. Think Western.