Farming: Labor vs. Capital

Farming is an occupation that very few in our society have. I was lucky enough to grow up on a grain and livestock farm in Western Illinois where I had the opportunity to help my family and learn the ins and outs of farming. As I grew older and took on more responsibility I began to understand more of the inner workings of the business side of farming. While farming is still a very physical job, the business aspects are becoming more important as prices of inputs and commodities change with world supply and demand. My father and grandfather would always take time and explain what they do to keep the farm running from year to year. One point they always hit on was that you can farm with capital or with labor. This statement may not carry the same weight with everyone but as time moves forward I continually find more and more truth in that statement.

First I want to explain that farming is an occupation in which a farmer buys everything at retail prices and sells at wholesale. Farming also is greatly dictated by weather which is often very unpredictable in Illinois. Between the economic pressure and the pressure from mother nature farmers are in a never-ending battle to produce a crop and sell it at a price that will allow them to continue farming the next year. The only constants in farming is that no two years are the same and that one extreme follows the next. One year a farmer might make a good profit and the next a large loss. With this uncertainty and fluctuation there is often not tons of loose money floating around a farming operation to be spent. Farmers must spend money wisely in order to continue farming. This is where the capital vs. labor aspect comes into play.

Farmers make numerous large decisions each year and many of them surround the financial aspects of farming. For example some of the large decisions are about purchasing equipment or farmland or hiring farm hands.

Capitol can fix a lot of issues that arise on a farm. Using capital to purchase the biggest and newest equipment can cut down breakdowns in the peak spring and fall times as well as speed up field operations. These capitol purchases often decrease the amount of labor and man hours needed to complete tasks. With capitol you can also hire dealerships to make repairs or hire co-ops to perform some field operations. Often these services cost a fair amount but are highly effective at accomplishing the tasks.

Labor, or man power, is also a tool that a farmer can use to solve problems and accomplish tasks on a farm. Every farm is different but they are all the same in having work to be done on a timely basis. Having lots of farm hands can offset the larger or new machines that require high amounts of capital to acquire.  If a farm cannot afford to buy large machines a smaller one can do the same job, it just might take more time. A quote I can remember from my grandfather will attest to this, “A little horse can plow a big field, you just have to keep plowing.”  This still applies to modern farm equipment, a small tractor or combine can cover many acres if you have the man power to run the machine.

When I think about how my family’s farm manages its labor and capital I am proud at the balance we have achieved. My father and grandfather have always worked hard and used their time and labor to farm instead of buying lots of new equipment. The money they have saved by not using high capitol to farm has helped them purchase farmland and expand the family farm over the years. Using labor has its downfalls but we always work hard to maintain our equipment and improve our farm in order to provide for the family. There is no one right way to farm, whether you farm with labor or with capitol we are all farmers who work for a living to produce food for the world and to pass on the tradition to the next generation.




My name is Tyler Wilson, I am a senior at Western Illinois University studying agriculture business. I grew up on a grain and livestock farm near Murrayville, Il and hope to return to the family farm after graduation. Currently I am the president of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity at WIU and serve as the vice president of the WIU Collegiate Farm Bureau.


Farm Life: A Younger Perspective

IMG_6041Timber Ridge Farm was always a huge playground for my cousins, my brother, and me. Located in Cantrall, Illinois, which is about twenty minutes north of Springfield, the 900-acre farm had everything it needed to keep us busy for hours and hours on end. It had been in my aunts family for years until it was sold a couple years ago. Thankfully, my aunt continued to play a vital role in the farm operations, and that meant my cousins, brother, and I could still enjoy all the adventures Timber Ridge had to offer.  Rolling hills dotted with cattle, horses everywhere you looked, and the sound of tractors and four wheelers were common sights and sounds I remember experiencing every time I went out there and its something I really miss. As I got older my time spent at the farm lessened and lessened, but the opposite occurred for my brother, John, and my cousin, Sofia. They’ve spent a majority of their lives on that farm and regardless of their age they have always played an important role there. They both agreed that being introduced to farm life at a young age has definitely helped shape them into the people they are today.

Sofia recently turned seventeen and is one of the hardest workers I know. She has been coming to Timber Ridge Farm since she was just a little baby and it’s safe to say this place is like her second home. One her favorite things to do is spend time with all the other workers.

“We’re like a big family and I know any of them would be there for me if I needed them. They give me the same respect even though I’m the youngest out there which means a lot.”

I asked about activities she loved and enjoyed, and the conversation always shifted to unnamedhorseback riding. She talked about how many opportunities she had gotten all because of a hobby she took interest in as a young child. She’s made money from countless competitions she’s won and has met so many people from all over the country due to the shows she’s competed in. She has trained alongside a coach from the University of Illinois-Urbana and taken lessons from an Olympian.

After hearing about all these accomplishments I wondered who got her started. Without hesitation, she said her mentor was her mom. Riding has helped them develop not only a stronger mother-daughter relationship but also develop a friendship. She talked about how fun it was to not only get to do something she loved all the time but also having her mom by her side every step of the way. After sitting with Sofia for a while I asked what all she’d learned from working and riding at Timber Ridge. Immediately she told me she’d learned to be respectful and patient.

“I work with a lot of people older than me, so I’ve learned to respect workers with more authority even if I don’t agree with them. Having patience all the time is really important too. I remember a goat of mine was giving birth and more babies were going to be born than expected, which made it a high-risk pregnancy. My mom and I stayed up all night waiting for her to give birth. We wanted to make sure we were there if there were any complications.”

Overall she said her experiences at Timber Ridge have created memories that she’ll remember forever, and she hopes that more kids take interest in farm life because of all the lessons you learn and all the people you meet along the way.

IMG_6035John is twenty-three now and has been working at Timber Ridge Farm since he was sixteen years old. He’s been going out there since he was five, so you could say that a large portion of his life has been spent there. After I asked what a typical day was like he cracked a smile.

“Every single day out here is different. I think that’s my favorite part. I never live the same day twice.”

Coming from a family with barely any agricultural background, I asked who his mentor was when he was younger.

“It was definitely John Ridel. I spent hours and hours with him and he taught me just about everything I know about tractors. Working on a farm can be physically and mentally draining, but I can honestly say I never saw the guy slack off or take a shortcut. He is the ideal role model and even as a really young kid I thought he was the greatest. I work really hard these days because I hope younger kids look up to me the same way I looked up to him.”

John Ridel was the head farm caretaker for about four years until he quit in 2009. Even after eight years, John still reminisces on all the fun memories and things Mr. Ridel taught him. Mr. Ridel was the overseer on all the farm operations and did just about everything. He did field work, cared for all the various types of livestock, fixed and operated machinery and most importantly took time out of each and every day to share his knowledge about farm life with us kids. Looking back, it makes sense that Mr. Ridel was my brother’s mentor. I remember them going on and on about tractors and other farm equipment and even at a younger age it was easy for me to see just how much John looked up to him.

As the conversation continued, John explained how tough it was going through high school with a love for agriculture.

“People around that area just weren’t into agriculture and that was fine, but those four years definitely weren’t my favorite. I got called tons of names and I got made fun of for the way I dressed and all that. It’s funny though because I loved farming so much that I never thought about not wearing my boots to school or changing the way I dressed to fit in more. I knew that I had a place to go to after school every single day where I was accepted and respected.”

Growing up, John has always been my role model. His work ethic is second to none, he’s as honest and kind as they come, and I can’t remember the last time I ever heard him complain about anything.  I don’t think that Timber Ridge created the person that John is, but it definitely gave him a place to learn and to grow into the respectable man that he is today.

After talking with Sofia and John for a bit I realized that they don’t need or want a pat on the back or a gold medal for accomplishing something, and I think they’ve grasped the concept of thankless work. Different ages may play different roles on the farm, but they all work hard and are never looking over their shoulder for someone to notice. We hear a lot about older generations of farmers, and although every viewpoint is important it’s really interesting to listen to kids and young adults talk about how farm life has affected their lives and get a little view of that lifestyle from a younger perspective.

My name is Katie Varner and I am a senior at Western Illinois University. I am majoring in agricultural science with a minor in animal science. I am from Springfield, Illinois, and plan to pursue a career in livestock feed sales after graduation.

Are Micronutrients Depleting in Illinois Soils?

Row crop production in Illinois has gained efficiency by growing more with less. As yields have steadily increased due to genetics and agronomics, the search has been on for the next weakest link. Micronutrients like boron, copper, molybdenum, iron, manganese, and zinc, have been proposed to be this next weakest link. Specialty fertilizers introducing a mixture of micronutrients have been offered by many companies and have come with a substantial price. So I believe the next question is, will soils actually be depleted of micronutrients?

With grain prices as low as they currently are, it is clearly important for farmers to be as efficient as possible. Through a discussion with Dr. Joel Gruver, I asked his opinion on certain occasions where micronutrient fertilizer packages may be used and he explained, “We are mining manganese from soils, however, production could be improved with manganese packages at site specific locations.” Soil types and organic matter are a large part of deficiencies. Central Illinois has a vast amount of organic matter, which eliminates most deficiencies of micronutrients in this area. Symptoms of deficiencies still appear within Illinois fields even though soil fertility is very high. The next step in this scenario, is to test soil pH.

Soil pH will be a large player in tying up micronutrients within fertile soils. A soil pH of 6.5 is considered the target. This is the optimum pH for macro and micro nutrients. Acidic pH soils (>6.5) offer availability of most micros and alkaline soils(<6.5) favor most macros. Nutrients are not depleted, but rather unavailable at certain pH conditions. A larger problem surrounding depletion, has to do with Sulfur, a secondary macronutrient.

Pictured is a mound of elemental sulfur with an analysis of 0-0-0-90S
Due to regulations surrounding the burning of low-sulfur coal and other fuels, less sulfur has entered the atmosphere and returned into the soil. Ironically, cleaner fuels have depleted the sulfur content and crops have recently began showing symptoms of deficiencies. Corn identifies shortages in sulfur by delayed maturity, and interveinal yellowing or “leaf striping,” Many scouts have observed early signs of this throughout Illinois. The USDA shows sulfate consumption around 534,000 tons in 1960 to 1,5000,000 tons in 2011. Many farmers are making the move toward sulfates to maintain soil fertility and yields. For additional information, a trustworthy source can be found at

Hayden Swanson, Ag Business major at Western Illinois University from Galva, Illinois. Member of Black Hawk East soil judging team from 2015-2016 with interest in pursuing a career surrounding soil science.

Work, School, Agriculture: Goal Driven.

So many students work during the year while taking a full schedule of classes and trying to achieve their goals. Why would I be any different? My name is Kassidy Quinn and I am a Junior at Western Illinois University. I am studying Agriculture Science with a minor in Animal Science. I’m still not 100% sure what direction I want to go once I graduate, but my options are apply and attend the University of Illinois to study Meat Science or to get a job as a Veterinary Technician at a vets office in Illinois or in Tennessee.

Meat science and a veterinary technician are two very opposite things, but two very needed positions at the same time. Currently, I am employed at Monmouth Small Animal Hospital. I have been working there since the beginning of 2014. I started out just being a kennel assistant and worked my way up to working as a vet tech assistant, receptionist, kennel assistant and janitor. I work as early as 4:30 some mornings and will work to as late at 11:30 some nights. Yep, you read that right! Some nights I don’t leave until 11:30 pm and still have to go home and work on homework. I work a full 40 hour week while going to school taking 20 credit hours.  It can get very stressful some days, but I have found a balance and work my way through it. My goal within my employment is to acquire a important knowledge to help ensure the health of companion animals, while also attending school to learn about livestock species and broaden that knowledge.

Senior photo taken by Shyvel’s. Monmouth, Illinois.

I also mentioned Meat Science as a goal or career option. Many people don’t realize that meat science exists or that people go to grad school for meat science. I started out my college career at the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign. While there, we had to take a meat science class for my animal science requirement. The meat science class started out with our professor giving us three different types of hot dogs to eat and we had to decide which hot dog tasted better and why. It was quite intriguing. After we did our taste test, we walked through the locker on campus and discussed the different cuts and grades of meat and I just found it so interesting. That is where my love for meat science came from.

Now, you may be wondering how this all ties into my studies at Western. Well, my life completely changed when I started at Western. I had always known I wanted to have a career in agriculture in some way. I grew up going to both grandparents’ houses and completing chores with my cousins. My grandparents had pigs and field crops. I always preferred to be out on the farm where life was stress-free. Ever since I was little and out on the farm, I always had a love for broadening my knowledge on field crops and the family’s hog operation.

Family Photo taken my family member. November 2016.

I remember getting up early some mornings to help my grandpa and uncle out at the farrowing house. Besides hogs, there was always a dog wherever I went. Between livestock and companion animals, I knew I had to incorporate that into my career. Like mentioned before, my only issue with college is that I don’t know which direction I should go for a career.  I am taking other classes such as agronomy and forestry and enjoying them, which I never thought I would. I am only a junior, my goal paths can still change and they most likely will, but my end result goals will not.  My advice to those who aren’t sure what exactly they want to do within the agriculture industry, take different agriculture science classes. There is bound to be a subject you learn about or discover that just lights a spark and who knows, maybe that is what you’ll decide you want to do as a career! Western gives you that opportunity to branch in all directions and learn so many new things.

March 20th 193.JPG
Image taken in farrowing house at the family farm.

Having goals is the most important thing you can do when you start college. You want to explore and find a path to follow to help you achieve that goal. Paths will fluctuate, but the goals behind them won’t. The strive for success will always be behind those goals. My grandpa always told me,  “Agriculture is ten thousand goals in itself. Find one you’re interested in and never let it out of sight.”

The Untold Realities of a Gay Man With a Passion for Agriculture



Homosexuality in agriculture isn’t always what you imagine it to be. For example, farmers liking farmers or cowboys having the hots for other cowboys. Even if we do usually smell a lot better, dress better, and know how to win a lady’s heart more than the regular guys that isn’t the case. It’s about trying to be the person you are meant to be in an industry that may lack knowledge of a very diverse group of individuals. People often think less of gay men in agriculture because of their sexual orientation. They call them names and find themselves in awkward conversations due to lack of support because of lack of knowledge. I am Logan Runyen and this is my story of homosexuality in agriculture.

In the beginning

While attending grade school, I just wanted to be like everyone else and fit in, just like any other kid would want to feel. I enjoyed school to an extent when it didn’t involve doing math problems and defining vocabulary. I had the teachers and some family who made every day a lot more enjoyable or, so it seemed. Unfortunately, there was one thing that always hurt me and has forever scarred me. The bullies were often disguised as very close family members, friends, and strangers. I mention family and friends because they disguised themselves to appear as they would never judge me. They taunted me, called me names, and made fun of how I acted. I wasn’t like everyone else, and it didn’t make sense as to why it had to be me. There was always one phrase that included a specific word that scared me, haunted me, and made my stomach turn. It made me feel like I needed to disappear or fake it and never tell anyone. As the years went on, I seemed to get stronger but really it was only the beginning.

Everyone enters high school scared yet so excited about having only four short years left. I immediately wanted to join so many clubs and make as many friends as possible. After living in a small farming community, it was highly recommended to join FFA and be as involved as possible. I considered joining, and I instantly froze when I walked into the first interest meeting. I felt as if my heart was going to explode, and I could feel the pressure behind my eyes. I felt that feeling you get right before the first tear is about to make its way out of your eye. It was instantly a change of mind as I left to go back to my homeroom for the rest of the day. It was the bullies who I had done my very best to avoid because I couldn’t handle anymore name calling. They kept mentioning a word that continued to haunt me until my senior year of high school. Senior year had finally arrived, and this was going to be my best year ever. I finally was comfortable with people and didn’t let other opinions get to me as easily. FFA was going to be my thing even if it was the last thing I did. During all the great opportunities I was experiencing, I had neared a turn in my life I never knew I would encounter.

College is supposed to be the place and time when you start to form into the person you are meant to be. You get to figure out who you really are and plan for a future while hoping it all goes as planned. Over this period, I had several more people always ask me or would push me to think that thought I had been tormented with several years before. I avoided it as usual and did what I thought was best and forced myself to fake it. I hid the real me by having best friends who were girls, and it would make me feel as if this is what love really was. I had the friendship and that fake label in my head. I had a girlfriend, and that’s what I needed to have to make it through life.


My Personal Reality

I moved to Champaign, IL, in the summer of 2013 where I had my first internship and was no longer living at home. They say you never truly find yourself until you move away and live alone. That is exactly what happened to me, and it didn’t take me long at all. It was fall 2013 when things finally started to surface with a little help from a close friend. This was only three months into our friendship, and she wasn’t about to let me lie to myself. One evening, I was at her apartment, and she had noticed that I hadn’t been myself for a while because I was such a mental mess. She then proceeded to tell me that I knew what was wrong, and she wanted me to say it. I was sitting on the floor sobbing, my heart was racing, and all I thought was that I wanted to die right there. She asked me that same question again, and I lifted my head from my hands and told her. I admitted to having feelings for someone, and that they weren’t normal friend feelings. These were feelings of a crush, and it was exactly what I had never wanted in my life. It was love, and it was a real feeling but there was no way it would ever work because of his choices and who he was.

After I had made my confession and began the process in showing who I really was I actually came across someone. This person had a roommate, and they both had the same feelings I did about a different person a few months before. This started to take a toll on me, and I had hit my first wall of handing it emotionally. I finally broke down one night and called my mom in the middle of the night to have her come see me. She drove to Champaign where that night I told her and told her how much I hated myself. She didn’t seem to understand whether this was serious or not. She had told me she would love me for whoever I was, and nothing could change that. I had a feeling she didn’t believe me and that she thought this was “just a phase.” I knew it wasn’t, so I took things into my own hands and reached out to a therapist and began to start to feel better. I wasn’t mad at my mom; I just wanted to talk to a neutral resource about my feelings. This all didn’t just happen overnight but months and months of breakdowns and moments of falling to pieces. After a year and a half, I continued therapy and slowly made my way to telling my friends who I really was. All of them accepted me for who I was and that started to spark the Logan I was meant to be over all these years. I avoided my family still and always would until I found that right person to share my life with.

Change finally happened

In June of 2016, I had met someone who turned out to what I thought would be my one in a million. We met for the first time in July, and that was when my world started to feel as if it was falling into place. August had arrived, and I made the choice I had always been scared to do. I admitted to falling head over boots and asked that they be my other half. The answer was yes, and that was the best thing to happen to me in what seemed to be forever. This inspired me to finally start my process of working toward the real me and to never let negative comments or suggestions get to me. Being three hours apart was by not any means easy, but we made the best of it. I chose to drop a ball over Facebook by changing my relationship status from single to in a relationship to see what would happen. This was my way of telling all my friends that I had started another chapter in becoming who I really was. There were so many positive comments, but unfortunately, I had family members who left some negative comments because they had never met the person I was seeing. I hadn’t told them for a reason because that was for another day. For the first week of releasing that news, it was rather hard. I had to face the facts and tell some family members. They didn’t care for it and hated it because they worried about how it would affect them. I didn’t want to tell them all that I had found someone who made me happy just yet. This relationship opened so many doors and has continued to do so. As the first year went by, I became more and more comfortable with myself. I began to drop small hints of him and me on Facebook and Instagram. After receiving several messages and comments, I have learned that this is who I am. This is who I have always been, and now is the time to fall in love with myself again and to never let myself fall back to the old and fake Logan. I, Logan, am indeed gay, and this is who I am meant to be no matter what anyone says. This is the life I am choosing to live, and I can’t possibly thank everyone enough for their continued support, even the ones who tore me down, the ones who showed me things I had never seen before, and to my amazing little sister who considers me her role model. I will always do my best to make sure she has one hell of an awesome big brother. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my life has in store for me as well as whoever I choose to spend the rest of my life with. Lastly, thank you to my best friends, friends, and my family. Cheers to the future, and I hope you will help share my story so that I too can inspire someone else to be themselves.

My experiences

After being in college for seven years, I have had so many experiences with people and the way gay men have been treated. I have only been openly gay in three of my jobs throughout my college career. One of them I worked for five years where I first began as an intern. I eventually left after transferring to another college to finish my degree. The company I worked for participated in PRIDE community events and even advertised that they were accepting of the LGBTQ group as well. When I first started there in 2013, they had still been a very conservative management, and I was still so far in the closet that there was no way I would say a word. I have since then gone back to visit my supervisors and my head boss. I recently came out to him, and it was one of the best feelings to know that I had the support from him. I have a very close friend who works there who is a lesbian. She and I have worked through a lot about being open in the workforce. I am not the fake straight Logan everyone seems to know but the fun and loving gay man who enjoys who he really is. The two of us have helped one another immensely about what it takes to stay strong in a rather one-sided industry. While attending Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL, I felt so welcomed and was never judged for who I was and or how I appeared. My first semester as a student I was welcomed with open arms from people who never batted an eye at my sexuality. People who I had never met before until the first Ag family gatherings loved me instantly. My new friends went way out of their way for me as if they had known how much I needed the shoulder to lean on.

Why is this an issue in agriculture?

The agriculture industry has a lot of people who are referred to as close minded or old fashioned. Those two labels are very common to what I had to deal with and still do to this day. Not all of them are that way, and it has been getting better as the LGBTQ community has opened. When you have a company in a small rural area, you usually get a lot of older generation companies that aren’t open about homosexuals. There are often people that get discriminated because of their lifestyles. Companies will often find ways to fire an individual because of their beliefs. They won’t fire them for being gay but find other ways such as being late to work or taking a day off without any notice. Things that you usually only get written up for are what cost you your job. People are often turned down because of their sexual preference. Some companies firmly believe that a person’s sexuality can influence their performance. In most cases this is never the scenario but is similar to judging a book by its cover.

Do I belong?

When choosing a career based upon agriculture I was often told that I wouldn’t survive because I was gay. I have dealt with several battles in my head about if this industry is really where I am meant to be. People would often toss around the idea of me not ever being manly enough or calling me any name you could think of. I have felt as if I am never taken seriously because I don’t like the same sex as the rest of the ag industry. While going through school I learned that I was not the only one who was in this boat. Like most gay men in the industry I get grief and jokes about liking guys which makes me feel better. Humor is one of the best solutions to any problem. You don’t have to be straight to be a farmer, but you do have to be a hard worker with the attitude to never give up. In this industry it was hard to feel like I belonged, but I managed to make it.



I have become part of a gay men in agriculture support group that has helped me in so many ways. Its people from all over the world but more in the U.S. Meeting people who have gone through the same struggles as I have has provided me with so much inspiration. When we have support groups, it provides help and links to resources that can help you better yourself. Everyone comes out at their own pace, but some never do come out and that is their choice. Learning from my experience with FFA back in 2007, we have come a long way. We need teachers who can help pull students in and inspire them to be who they are and to make them feel welcome. Nobody should ever be afraid to be their true selves because of what others think. A lot of things can apply to anyone in the workforce and not only the young adults. I graduated high school in the spring of 2011 which seems like ages ago but really isn’t. I had always debated coming out to my FFA advisor but wasn’t sure. In of March 2017, I attended and helped my advisor with a competition. I sat there on the bus and looked at my phone where I saw the photo of my significant other. It hit me, and I instantly started a conversation with my advisor and told her about someone I had been seeing. I showed her, and she told me how happy she was for me and that I deserve the happiness. The support that I received from her is what needs to happen now more than ever. This semester I came out to two of my professors and one who has been here only a few short months. As easily as they could’ve pushed me away they treated me no different. Both have been the most supportive and encouraging role models through the end of my college career. The future is ours, and we need to make a welcoming world for the children who have yet to arrive. We need to be the supporters to those who don’t have that shoulder to lean on or the ear to listen. You would be amazed to know how many people who are still out there trying their very best to talk about who they really are.

In response to family

Most of you may not agree with how I chose to publicize my news, but I hope you find it in your heart that I had to do it this way. This was the most comfortable way for myself and easiest way to reach everyone without calling a massive family gathering. To those who ask questions, please respect my family and to never show them any judgement. This was not their choice but mine, and if you have any further questions, please feel free to ask me.

Thank You

I would like to personally thank my best friends, family, my professors at WIU, and everyone who helped shape me into the person I am today. Huge thank you to former teachers and professors for helping me polish my story to help those who may need to hear this.

Need more help?

There is a resource that has had a major impact on many lives called “Cultivating Change Summit.” This is a three-day global agriculture conference that changes its location from year after year. This will feature educational opportunities including workshops, expert panels, networking mixers, and keynotes from prominent agriculture LGBT as well as the ally industry leaders. The purpose of the Cultivating Change Summit is to bring together agriculture LGBT employees, human resources and diversity and inclusion professionals, employee resources group leaders, executives and organizational leaders, allies, and others who are working toward an equitable industry environment for LGBT agriculturist everywhere. Over 200 global agriculture leaders and partners will join to share strategies and best practices to create a community inclusive of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions within the food, fiber, and natural resources industry. More information is available here:

NOTE: This post was not created to throw LGBTQ in anyone’s face regarding religion or personal beliefs. This post was created for many reasons to help others find the courage to be who they really are and to remind them that aren’t alone. It was also created to educate people who may not know what anyone in the LGBTQ world goes through in the agriculture industry.

About the Author

My name is Logan Runyen and I am currently a super senior at Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL. If anyone who wants to contact me personally please feel free to comment or shoot me a personal email. I will keep you discreet and do my best to help path your road to success and happiness. My personal email is:


Rotational Grazing


More than a quarter of agricultural ground in the midwest is some kind of pasture. About 80% of these pastures are not properly taken care of. Because of that they have issues with uneven fertility, erosion, and weeds. One of the most common reasons for poor pasture health is being continuously grazed throughout the season. Continuous grazing results in very low pasture yields and makes it impossible for it to fully recover. Pasture ground needs to be managed in a way that improves efficiency and productivity. Rotational grazing will dramatically improve pasture quality.Summer_grazing_landscape_LG

What exactly is rotational grazing? Rotational grazing is when pasture is split into sections. This way livestock can graze a section at a time, so the other sections can regrow and recover. Then when that section is grazed down, livestock is moved to the next section, which is fully grown up. For this cycle to work well, rotations must be timed with the forage growth. A common problem with this is that some livestock producers rotate based on a schedule instead of the growth stage of the pasture. When done correctly, rotational grazing can improve an operation’s efficiency in a number of ways. When my grandpa had cattle he would always rotate them, and so does the farm I work for now.

Some of the positive impacts of rotational grazing include increased production and yields, time saving, environmental benefits, animal health and welfare, and obviously increased pasture productivity. The midwest has a lot of farmers using rotational grazing right now. A Wisconsin survey found that in the 1990s there were almost no farmers using this. Now over half of beef and dairy operations are using this management system. However rotational grazing is not just for cattle, it can be used with sheep, horses, goats, and chickens. This management practice benefits the farmer, animals, and the land. It also allows the farmer to profit from the land. Grazing systems have become much more common as people begin to see the improvements it brings.


Kevin McCutchan. Aledo, Illinois. Senior at Western Illinois University.

Sigma Alpha: Not your typical sorority


sigma alpha fall group

Prior to coming to Western Illinois University to further my education, I always had told myself, “I would never join a sorority.” I had thought that sorority girls were nothing but a bunch of rich girls who always had to wear a new outfit to go out or that they bought their friendships. However, I am now a sorority girl and the thoughts I had about Greek life were wrong.

Sigma Alpha, the Professional Agriculture Sorority, is the sorority I chose to get involved in at Western. Sigma Alpha is a sorority of girls who share the same interest and love for agriculture. The best way to describe Sigma Alpha is to look at it’s objective:

“The objective of Sigma Alpha 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 for achievement in scholarship, leadership, and service, and to further the development of excellence in women pursuing careers in agriculture.”

But why choose Sigma Alpha? Through my experience, automatically meeting over 20 girls who would all end up so close in your MC (membership candidate) class made you feel like you were back in kindergarten where everyone wanted to be friends with everyone. Getting your Sigma Alpha “mom” and finding out that that one person would soon be a friend and just a call away when needed. Getting to meet the active girls and only hoping the MC process would speed up to be able to get your first stitched letters. Within those 6 weeks of the process you learn about Sigma Alpha and learn to appreciate the organization as a whole.

A few words from our current President, Elizabeth Miller, “My experience within Sigma Alpha has truly been such an eye opening and rewarding experience that I think every girl should have at least once in their lives. I’ve watched the sorority as a whole change and adapt to the times as well as the girls within our local chapter change. Just because it’s a professional agriculture sorority doesn’t mean you grew up on a farm or both of your parents are in agriculture, or it doesn’t even have to mean to have declared agriculture as a major. You just simply need to want to grow within a sisterhood that supports and has similar morals to those agriculturalists in society. And because of those beliefs within the sorority, I was able to find my “home.”  A piece of advice I’ve been giving to all our new members is this; whether it’s within Sigma Alpha or in another organization, be sure to get involved within the leadership roles of the organization you choose.”


     Sigma Alpha gave me sisters I don’t ever want to lose contact with, and with the bond we have through sisterhood I don’t think I ever will. So when looking into sororities, think about Sigma Alpha. It will be the best decision you will never regret. I know it was for me.

    Hello, my name is Breann Knapp and I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University studying agriculture business, with a minor in marketing. I am from Ashland Illinois, a town of about 1,200 people with farming being a huge part of the community. At Western I am involved in many clubs through the school of Ag; Sigma Alpha (sisterhood chair), Ag Vocator Team, Collegiate Farm Bureau (treasurer),and Hoof n Horn Club.