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.

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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.


Common Misconceptions on Food Labels

Have you ever been at the grocery store and put something into your cart just because it had a specific health claim on the label? Or have you paid extra for an item just because the label says “all natural”? More and more people today are paying higher prices for items containing labels that claim to have added health benefits when in reality they are no better for you than similar products without the fancy label.

I am here today to clear up some common misunderstandings that people may have when reading a food label.

When looking at a food product with a label that claims to be
“all natural” people might assume that there isn’t any preservatives or unhealthy substances in it. But having a label that says “all natural” just means that the company hasn’t added any synthetic products or artificial flavors/colors to their product, they are still able to add things like high fructose corn syrup. People  generally also th

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ink that “all natural” on a food label means that there wasn’t the use of any pesticides or GMOs when growing the crop, but typically that isn’t the case.

People will also spend roughly 50% more on products just because they have an “organic” sticker on the front of them. They genuinely believe that organic products are healthier for your body than conventionally grown products, even though studies done by Stanford University showed no added health/nutritional benefits. Another misconception people have when seeing the word organic on food labels is that the farmer who grew their produce used no pesticides whatsoever. This is a false statement, they almost certainly used pesticides, just not ones with any synthetic products inside of them.

“If some consumers believe that it’s better from the point of view of their health to have organic food, God bless them. Let them buy it. Let them pay a bit more.” – Norman Borlaug

Another huge misconception that people make when looking at a food label is what “free range” or “cage free” means in terms of poultry products. Most people believe that seeing

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the label “free range” on their chicken products or eggs means that the bird spent it’s life outside without ever seeing the inside of a housing facility. In reality for a product to receive the title “free range” there just needs to be access to the outdoors (even if it is only for a short period of time each day.) Some chickens with the label free range have never even been outside. The same goes with cage free labels, this doesn’t mean that the chickens were always outside, it just means they weren’t confined to their cages indoors. So some people will pay roughly $1.50-$2 more for free range or cage free eggs that came from a chicken who never left the facilities.

All in all, everybody has their own opinions on what is healthy and right for their life styles but I do believe you should know exactly what it is you are paying for.


My name17918878_10212859267299467_1229249935_n is Brooke Gulbranson, I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University where I major in Agricultural Business. Before transferring to WIU I went to Sauk Valley Community College which is located in my home town Dixon, Illinois. Before coming to Western I had no idea how much work goes into the food that we consume and feed our animals everyday. Now I am proud to be able to say that I am part of that elite group of people who do that work.




History of Antibiotics and Use in Livestock Production

Antibiotic use within livestock production has been a hot topic for the United States, even the world, for years. Antibiotics are used in the production of livestock to increase growth and treat animals for illnesses. The general public of the U.S. did not approve of the widespread use of medicines entering their food supply. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) issued a Veterinary Feed Directive Jan. 1st of this year to control the amount of antibiotics used within our food production.

Discovery of Antibiotics

Antibiotics are medicines that are used to treat illnesses caused by microorganisms, such as, bacterial infections. Paul Ehrlich and Alexander Fleming are thought to be the original inventors of antibiotics, but antimicrobial medicine was found to be used in ancient civilizations long before modern medicine. Tetracyclines were found in the skeletal remains of ancient Egyptian peoples. This means the civilization had a diet that contained tetracyclines. Another instance of antibiotic use is within traditional Chinese medicine. They used many herbs in their remedies to cure all sorts of ailments. One such herb was the Artemisia annua, Wormwood. It contained a compound known today as artemisinin, which is used in many antibiotics.

Paul Ehrlich was searching for the panacea, or cure all, of microbial diseases. He started work against microbial diseases in the early 1900s. He started by creating a large screening system in an effort to find a cure for syphilis. After hundreds of trials, he created a cure for syphilis that was named Salvarsan. Salvarsan was later replaced in the 1940s by penicillin. Ehrlich’s mode of screening for drugs that could cure disease causing microbes was adopted by the pharmaceutical industry, which led to the discovery of many more antibiotics.

Antibiotic Use in Livestock Production

The use of antibiotics in livestock was introduced to treat microbial diseases, just like in humans. The antibiotics were used on farms to treat certain diseases if an event occurred. Then antibiotics were used to control the spread of a disease within a herd, which led to healthier herds. Farmers started to notice that animals started to grow larger and at a faster rate due to the antibiotic treatments. These treatments had actually improved the animals feed efficiency, or ability to turn food into the desired product. Whether the goal is to put on lean muscle or increase milk production, a higher feed efficiency will aid in achieving said goal.

Using antibiotics in such a large scale has improved the well being of many livestock species. It has, however, started a dialogue around the world about “superbugs” and antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics do not always get rid of all bacteria within the body, human or animal. These antibiotic resistant microbes can then multiply and begin to increase the number of resistant microbes. The fortunate thing about this is that the FDA, USDA, and CDC collect and monitor our food to ensure that none of these microbes reach human consumption. Antibiotics are also monitored within livestock to ensure that they never make it to the general food supply. Each medicine has a “withdrawal date” or time it takes to pass through an organism. For some antibiotics, the withdrawal date may be as little as 24 hours. Other antibiotics take several days or weeks. Data is recorded each time something is administered to an animal to ensure that it does not carry antibiotics into human consumption.

Another way the FDA has combated the introduction of antibiotic resistant microbes, is the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), that was issued January 1st of 2017. This VFD has limited livestock producers to use certain antibiotics to promote growth

VFD graphic

within their herds. They are still able to feed Ionophores and other basic antibiotics that are only used in the animal population. Human medicines, like penicillin, are important to the human population and have been restricted in their use in livestock production. These antibiotics must be acquired under veterinary supervision to be used for the treatment of diseases. Promoting this moderate use of antibiotics slows the development of antibiotic resistant microbes within a livestock animal.

Even though the livestock industry uses a large portion of the
world’s antibiotics to produce a product, it does not mean that the product has become harmful to humans. Animals are able to live healthier with the aid of antibiotics, and provide a safe and healthy product for human consumption.


Bio: My name is Michael Lammersfeld. I am a Senior Agriculture Science student at Western Illinois University. Originally from a small town, Capron IL, I came out to WIU to pursue a lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian. Along the way, I got to work with many amazing animals on the farms at Western, join Phi Mu Alpha, and even become captain of the Cheerleading team for our Fighting Leathernecks!

Inside the Wildfires

As an aspiring cattlemen, the news of wildfires rolling through Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas was very devastating. A total of 1.5 million acres, an area the same size as the state of Delaware, were burned. The amount of livestock whose lives were lost is even more staggering: 13,700 head of cattle and 8,400 head of hogs died as a result of the wildfires. It is estimated that $21 million worth of livestock, pasture, fence, feed and supplies were lost.

This disaster turned the lives of many ranchers upside down. Gardiner Angus Ranch, one of the most prominent Angus operations in the country, lost around 500 head of cattle to the wildfires in Clark county Kansas. With their production sale in April, the wildfires were even more detrimental. The sale went on, and the ranch was able to average $5,754 on 702 lots and gross $4,654,600. Luckily, Gardiner was able to save the lives of his donor cows, preserving generations of genetics. However, Greg Gardiner, co-owner of the operation, states that it will take three years to replenish their cow herd.

The GAR crew leading up to the sale

Many other ranchers were forced to euthanize cattle that were in excruciating pain from injuries caused by the fires. When asked about what he had to do after the fires, Mark Kaltenbach, 69 year old rancher, stated “We did what had to be done, They’re gentle. They know us. We know them. You just thought, Wow, I am sorry.” Mark was just one of the many families that watched their entire livelihood go up in flames. They had to bury hundreds of cattle, and watch even more burnt cattle stumble around, hardly able to see or breathe, just before they put them out of their suffering.


This disaster also sparked a great deal of political debate. Most ranchers, along with the rest of the agricultural community are traditionally very conservative, however, they felt rather abandoned by President Trump in this time of need. He neglected to mention anything about the devastating fires on his ‘famous’ Twitter account, let alone go out and visit with the ranchers and see the damages for himself.

Aaron Sawyers, an agriculture extension agent for Kansas State University, was very disgruntled by our government’s delayed response to the fires.  “This is our Hurricane Katrina” Sawyers stated. He is now fully convinced that Washington is completely detached from production agriculture. Sawyer is quoted saying “None of them are worth a damn, Republicans or Democrats”

On the other hand, the ranching community is a very close knit family, and when one’s family is in trouble- they respond. The relief efforts put forth by cattle producers have been highly impressive. There have been countless Cattleman Associations, Universities, and other groups raising funds to help support fellow ranchers in such a devastating time. Breeders World hosted an online sale April 3rd that was able to raise $58,365 for panhandle fire relief, this is just one out of the many benefit auctions held to help ranchers in need.  Outside of shear money, many families from here in the corn belt have been headed west with round bales to feed cattle that survived the fires.  As of April 1st the affected areas have been completely stocked with hay and feed, but are still seeking out fencing supplies. You can contact your local cattlemen’s association for information on how to help!

One of the countless loads of hay being delivered in Kansas


My name is BFullSizeRreck Debnam and I am currently a senior majoring in Agriculture Business at Western Illinois University. I am from Damascus, Maryland where I grew up on a grain and cattle operation. I am currently employed at Lowderman Cattle Company in western Illinois and hope to manage a purebred cattle herd here in the Midwest when I finish my education.




The Afghanistan Poppy Farmer

The country of Afghanistan has been at war since 1979 with the Soviets(1979-1989), Civil War(1996-2001), the Taliban and the United States of America(2001-Present). This does not help the advAfghanistan_physical_enancement of infrastructure, let alone, agriculture. Afghanistan is made up of warm and cold desert climate with the Hindu Kush mountain range in the middle and northeast part of the country. The country is known for producing some of the finest fresh and dry fruits, but it is more known for its opium production. According to the CIA World Factbook, Afghanistan is the largest producer of opium at 211,000 hectares, or 521,392 acres in 2014.

The Taliban instituted a ban on poppy production in 2000 due to U.N. pressure of sanctions and there were close to zero poppy fields in the countries southern region, and none that were under Taliban control. This left local farmers without any income and the price of opium shot up from $28/kilo to $350/kilo according to the DEA.

Weeks after September 11, 2001 the regional price of opium had dropped from an all time high of $746/kilo to just $95/kilo, according to DEA reports. Everyone knows that war costs money and with the need for weapons and ammunition on the rise, the Taliban reauthorized the cultivation of poppies. “Wali Jan, an elderly farmer cultivating opium, said that “we cannot be more grateful to the Taliban… they have brought us security so we can grow our poppy in peace. I need the poppy crop to support my 14 family members”(Foreign Policy Journal).”


Opium poppy production is not a new thing for the country of Afghanistan, it has been going on since the Soviets invaded in 1979. Farmers could get $50 a pound for poppies, a lot more than any other traditional crop. The production of this crop grew so much that warlords in the southern providence’s in the late eighties threatened farmers with castration or death if they did not plant poppy seeds. According to an NPR article from 2013, farmers grow poppies because it is the only crop that has a market. They can not export their crops and get a good price for them let alone provide for their families. One farmer in the article said that in the past two years the government gave them an alternative of cotton at a higher price, but they never showed up to buy his product at the subsidized price, so he’s back to growing opium.

In order to make money from this drug trade the Taliban taxed not only the farmers but also the truckers transporting the product. For farmers who want to grow a legal crop, where the Taliban has an influence, they are welcome to do so but the farmer has to pay the Taliban the equivalent amount of what that land would produce in opium production. “We grow poppy, but the drug smugglers take it from us,” said Haji Ramtullah, a farmer in Maarja district. “We sell it cheaply. Then they take it over the border into Pakistan. They make twice as much as we do.” The Taliban also offers protection of poppy farmers by building defensive positions around fields or planting mines and Improvised Explosive Devices(IEDs)  ahead of visits by eradication police. According to Afghan and NATO(North Atlantic Treaty Organization) officials, the Taliban also attacks security checkpoints to allow drug convoys to pass, along with conducting attacks to lure Western troops away from an area where a major shipment would be passing through. An interview of Governor Delawari expressed what drugs do to a country, “We get called a narco-state and the money ends up outside the country.”

Afghanistan has natural resources like coal, iron ore, uranium, natural gas and petroleum, but most of these resources have not been tapped or harvested. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the untapped mineral deposits are worth between $900 billion to $3 trillion. The country of Afghanistan has huge potential in agriculture and natural resources, their farmers just need freedom to grow/harvest and a much better infrastructure to help transport their crop so there can be a market.

My name is Graham Garrey, I am a senior at Western Illinois studying Agribusiness. I am from Somonauk, Illinois and I am also a member of the Illinois Army National Guard.

Sources: How Opium Profits the Taliban

CIA World Factbook

NPR Article

ABC News

Foreign Policy Journal

CRP: Low-Maintenance Conservation

In the constantly evolving field of agriculture, it can be hard to keep up with all all the seed technology, improving equipment, new techniques, changing regulations and different cultures that exist today. While things seem to be rapidly changing, one thing that has held constant is the need for good land and healthy soil. The Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP is a valuable tool that can be utilized to improve the quality of the land in sensitive areas and improve soil health. Dedicating portions of one’s property to CRP will have benefits that will last for many years.

Photo from Stephanie Mercier

The Conservation Reserve Program is a government program introduced in 1985 designed to help conserve our soils, to avoid agricultural disasters like the Dust Bowl that crippled the United States in the 1930’s. The Conservation Reserve Program allows farmers to remove parts of their property from agricultural production for a designated period of time (usually 10 years) to restore the soil health. While the property is out of production, the farmer will receive annual rent payments as compensation. This can be especially attractive to today’s farmers as they face extremely low corn prices. With that said, there are limits to how many acres of one’s land can be on CRP with the county limit set at 25%. As the CRP land returns to its natural state, it has many environmental and ecological impacts.

Maintaining the physical, biological and chemical components of soil can be a difficult task for any farmer, even with the help of soil professionals. Converting land to CRP will restore soil health by increasing biodiversity. Decades or even centuries of mono-culture farming can really take its toll on the soil. Restoring the soil to a natural, more biologically diverse environment will rejuvenate the soil by establishing a proper balance that we find in undisturbed soil.

In recent years agriculture production’s environmental impacts have been a focus of public attention. The effects that production has on water systems is arguably the largest concern in the eyes of the general public. CRP along waterways, especially adjacent to production areas, can keep soil and a large portion of what is within the soil from ending up in lakes and rivers. In general CRP property is covered in very dense grasses, which act as a natural filter or a buffer for any water that is draining from the production areas. This filter helps minimize soil erosion which keeps the production areas healthier, but it also helps keep major waterways from being polluted by any runoff.

The Conservation Reserve Program is also a very effective tool for improving or sustaining land for all kinds of wildlife. These natural environments can become a haven for everything from insects to large mammals like deer. CRP property becomes a haven for wildlife to flourish as the area remains untouched by man for an extended period of time. This also creates opportunity for sportsmen to enjoy hunting on the renewed property.

The Conservation Reserve Program continues to prove itself as one of our government’s great success stories. The program is a viable option for farmers to help take care of the land that they care about, without losing large amounts of income. CRP improves soil health, water quality, and wildlife protection without requiring much input from the farmer. Programs like CRP are important for ensuring that future generations enjoy the fertile soil and productive lands that today’s farmers and their families have enjoyed for generations.



My name is Mick Nelson and I am currently a senior majoring in Agriculture Business at Western Illinois University. I am from Saint Paul, Minnesota and hope to move back there when I finish my education. I am also involved in athletics at WIU going into my final season of NCAA Division I football next Fall. I hope to continue my education at WIU by enrolling in the MBA program before finding a career in agriculture sales.

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.