Agriculture Production Differences from Maryland to the Mississippi

Image result for corn fieldPhoto credit: Inhabitat

At the discretion of the land

If a person were to get into a vehicle and start driving with a starting point at Ocean City, Maryland and start driving west, there would be many different observations made when traveling. One of the more obvious observations is the lay of the land. On the very east coast, the land is relatively flat. Then, when heading west the mountains start to become more apparent. Once one is over the mountains and into the central portion of Ohio, it seems to get flat again. From there it only seems to get flatter!

Another observation that can be made from Maryland to the Mississippi River is the agricultural demographic. There is produce, cereal grains, livestock, and seafood produced on the far east. Cereal grains, hay, and livestock become more of the top commodities produced when headed to the Midwest. I grew up in a town called Woodbine, Maryland. As a kid, I travel many times into the Midwest, mainly due to livestock shows. While driving the countless miles to and from the Midwest, many observations were made about the agriculture diversity that was involved between Maryland and Illinois.

Maryland

To start with Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay contributes to over 50% of the blue crab harvest in the United States. In Maryland alone, the seafood industry brings in over $600 million in annual income for the states economy. Commercial landings of seafood have averaged almost 57 million pounds in the past 15 years. Maryland Blue Crabs and oysters are among the crowd favorite when consuming seafood within the state.

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photo credit: The Crab Depot

Now Maryland isn’t known for just the seafood. Other agricultural industries in Maryland include the equine, poultry, beef, dairy, produce, hog, and cereal grain industries. Last year, there was an average of 164 bushels of corn harvested per acre, 40 bushels of soybeans per acre, 64 bushels of winter wheat per acre, and 69 bushels of barely harvested per acre. There was over 20 thousand pounds of milk produced per dairy cow annually last year also. Maryland.gov will tell us that there are more horses per square mile in Maryland than any other state in the nation! The Preakness Stakes is a highlight event in the horse industry that the state of Maryland hosts. Maryland.gov will also tell  us that “in 2015, Maryland ranked ninth among states in the number of broilers, or chickens raised”, what do all of these statistics mean one may ask? The numbers show how diversified the state of Maryland really is. There is not one industry that is of major focus, but there are many industries that really make Maryland agriculture and make Maryland so proud of what they produce.

Illinois

Now unfortunately for some, fresh seafood is non existent in the state of Illinois as it is in Maryland. Grain and livestock production is of a much larger scale though. On average there can be one cow/calf pair ran on about two and a half graze-able acres in Illinois. There are some parts of the state that 300 bushel an acre corn harvest is normal. At one point in time, Henry County, Illinois was known as the hog capital of the world because there were more hogs per square mile then there was at anywhere else. Now with the rise of new technology and different production practices, that is no longer the case, but there is still an extreme amount of livestock and grain production in Illinois when compared to Maryland. A very simple observation can be made by the soil color differences between the two states. On well maintained and highly productive Illinois ground, there is a very dark, rich, black dirt that covers the land. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois farmland covers nearly 75% of the states total land area. Illinois Department of Agriculture also states that exports from Illinois account for 6 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports. So even though Illinois may not host one of the largest race horse events in the country or have the delicious seafood readily at hand, the state is extremely important when pertaining to American agriculture.

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photo credit: Illinois Pork Producers

From Maryland to the Mississippi River, there are all different kinds of agricultural practices in place. From getting on a boat every morning in the Chesapeake Bay to go harvest that days catch of seafood, to getting in a combine to harvest 300 bushels of corn an acre on the rich black dirt of Illinois, and everyone between,  there’s a purpose behind everyone’s efforts. The purpose stands behind the red, white, and blue. The purpose is, American Agriculture!

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My name is Brandon Gruber and I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University. I’m originally from Woodbine, Maryland, where I grew up raising hogs and was very active in 4-H and other national junior livestock associations. I am currently employed at Minnaert Show Cattle of Atkinson, Illinois, and now call Annawan, Illinois, home where I plan on building a competitive showpig sow herd and stay diversified within multiple species at the completion of my time here at WIU.

Sources:  http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/html/agri.html

https://www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/Ag_Overview/stateOverview.php?state=ILLINOIS

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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Picture from Dreamstime.com

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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Picture from lifeholistically.com

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.

 

 

 

Hogs Gone Wild

The United States records an economic loss of an estimated 1.5 billion dollars each year from feral hogs. From an agriculture stand point, feral hogs cause 800 million dollars of damage across the United States. The feral hog is becoming one the biggest problems in agriculture to date in the southern part of the United States and soon to be the entire country. More than 6 million feral hogs spread across 35 states. One of the main reasons why they are so invasive and spreading so rapidly is because of their litter size and gestation length. The range that a feral sow can give birth is anywhere from 1-12 piglets, a sow can also have two litters per year. With that being said, the rate of which feral hogs are being born is quite fast; this is leading to major issues with agriculture in the United States.

Hogs In Agricultre

Crop Production

Many people like myself don’t acknowledge feral hogs and how they impact crop production. We generally focus on how to eliminate invasive weeds, diseases, or pests that have effects on yields and not so much on these invasive animals. Feral hogs impact crops by rooting ground, digging, trample, and consumption of crops. Someone might ask, “what is rooting, and trample?” Rooting is where a hog uses their “snout” or nose to move soil aside; trample is the mixing of soil by walking on it and causing compaction leaving the soil harder for vegetation to grow.

Rooting
Photo Credit: wild-wonderings.blogspot.com

Livestock Production

One of biggest concerns livestock producers have are feral hogs. There are several different reasons why feral hogs may concern a livestock producer. A very strong concern would be that feral hogs are predators. If hogs get into a producers livestock they could quite possibly chase off the mothers and then begin to go after their young. The biggest concern would most definitely have to be disease. Disease is a very hard battle to fight, especially when a feral hog can contain up to 45 significant viral and bacterial diseases. This could potentially eliminate someone’s entire livestock population. All it takes is for one animal to get sick, then it is very challenging to catch it and stop it before it effects the animals dramatically.

Photo by USDA APHIS Wildlife Services

feral hogs in cattle by

How can they be stopped?

With the fast growing population of hogs there has to be some sort of way to control the population. There are two major ways that they can be controlled. One being nonlethal and the other being lethal.

Nonlethal

There are several nonlethal methods to control feral hogs, these methods intended uses are to relocate the hogs to get them off property or keep them off the owners property. The most common method would be installing high quality fencing and checking it regularly. This would allow the owner to keep them off his or her property with very low input cost. Another method to keep unwanted hogs off property would be by having guard animals; this would allow the owner to know when there are hogs near by. Lastly someone could set out traps. A trapping system can be very effective but also very ineffective as well. The way a trapping system works is the hogs would be baited into the trap and then closed behind them. Some people use circular traps that are elevated off of the ground and then by via camera they can drop the trap and then the hogs are in a pen essentially. Feral hogs seem to cooperate with this trapping method the best because they do not feel nervous like they would having to enter a trap. The goal is to have as many hogs in the trapping area as possible. The major flaw with this method is sometimes the hogs will out run the speed of which the trap is falling and then escape.

Lethal

In some cases lethal options for controlling feral hog populations is the only option. Feral hogs can be hunted all year long without a limit to an individual. People also will take controlling hogs to the sky. With this I mean people will have helicopters set up to where they can eliminate numerous hogs on a given property. This is an effective method for inaccessible places like marshes and swaps. Lastly, the most effective way to control an out of control feral hog population is by poisoning. This has not always been an option. In February 2017, the state of Texas made it legal to use poison as a control method. Other states are now considering adopting this law.

Problem Solved?

The feral hog overpopulation can simply not be stopped over night, but with more people getting involved and trying to stop the outrage the hog population could possibly slow down very fast. This would help benefit the farmers whose crops are getting destroyed, the livestock producers animals from getting ill and ultimately helping the economy.

Bio

My name is Brett Leahr and I am from Pittsfield, Illinois. I am a Junior at Western Illinois University studying Agriculture Business with a minor in Agronomy.  I am involved in Alpha Gamma Sigma at the university and plan to join more clubs in the future. I have a passion for agriculture, conservation, and animals.Professional Picture 2016

Sources:

Society, The Wildlife. “Feral Swine: Impacts of Invasive Species.” Feral Swine: Impacts of Invasive Species (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

“Feral Swine Impacts on Agriculture and the Environment.” N.p., n.d. Web.

State University, Mississippi. “Wild Pigs.” Wild Pig Info – Feral Hog Control and Management. Mississippi State University, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

Morthland, John. “A Plague of Pigs in Texas.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, 01 Jan. 2011. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

“Frequently Asked Questions-Wild Pigs.” Coping with Feral Hogs. Texas A&M, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

The Life of a Crop Scout

“Scouting fields for weeds, disease and pests is one of the best investments you can make during the growing season to protect crop yield potential.” – Missy Bauer, Farm Journal associate field agronomist.

For those of you that don’t know what a crop scout does, they monitor corn and soybean crops to ensure that the field doesn’t have any weeds, insects, or disease pressure.

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Picture from Dreamstime.com

In the beginning of the year after planting has happened I will receive my field assignments which typically ends up being 10-15 different fields per day. Throughout the day I will travel to these fields and I will do stand counts, this means I will count how many plants within a 17.5 ft. row and figure out an estimate of what the population will be. After doing the counts I input my data into the iPad so the growers can see an idea of what they will be working with. Also while doing my stand counts I will be looking out for different weed species that may be present. Once the crop has begun to emerge we will scout for a pest known as the Black Cutworm. We have to keep a watchful eye out for this insect because they will lay their eggs in the foliage (leaves) of the crop and once they hatch the larvae will feed on them. This isn’t a huge problem in the beginning but if the problem isn’t spotted and taken care of, they will travel to the bottom of the plant and feed on the stems of the seedlings which causes them to wilt and die. If I spot a cutworm issue in a field I will report the issue to my supervisor so that he can let the farmer know, who will then spray the field accordingly.

Towards the middle of the season is when a crop scout is busiest, this is when the crop is roughly waist high and I will be primarily going to fields to look for insects, weeds, and diseases, pretty much anything that could harm the plants. In northern Illinois I

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Northern corn rootworm (picture from Iowa State)

am mostly scouting for rootworm beetles, earworms, Japanese beetles, armyworms, and European corn borer. These insects are the most common and will cause the most damage to a farmer’s crop. I am also looking for weeds such as waterhemp, common lambsquarters, ragweed, marestail, velvet leaf, and morning glory. These weeds will invade a crop and take away nutrients and water that are essential for proper growth. The main diseases that I am scouting for at this time are northern corn leaf blight, gray leaf spot, common rust, anthracnose, and gosses wilt. When looking for diseases you have to make sure they are spotted before they reach above the ear leaf because that is when substantial yield loss is likely to occur.

At the end of the growing season towards harvest is when I will be doing yield counts. This is when I will grab 5 corn ears from each corner of the field and count the number of kernels length wise and width wise. This will give the farmer a good estimate of how his crop did throughout the growing season. Once this is done we will bag the ears of corn and take them to the correct plant for further inspection. During this time of the season I am pretty much finished looking for pests in the field and am focusing on yield and harvest.

I thoroughly enjoy being a crop scout because it is a way for me to be hands on involved in the growing process instead of being stuck in an office all day. I believe that it is a great learning experience for anyone who wants to go into the agriculture field and it has prepared me well for the Ag work force.

My name is Dylan Eisenberg and for the last 4 summers I have interned as a crop scout with various companies in Illinois. I am from Amboy, Illinois, a small town upstate. I am a senior this year at Western Illinois University majoring in agricultural science. I decided to transfer into the ag program after working a few summers with Pioneer. After graduation I plan to continue to work in the industry as a crop supervisor.

There is No “I” in Team

 

Growing up on the farm, I always knew I was different. I drew pictures in class of cows having babies, wrote stories about helping my dad haul manure, and explained in detail to the other kids about where that lunchroom cheeseburger came from. Oh my poor elementary school teachers trying to understand what type of child my parents were raising. Yet that’s just it, growing up in agriculture or more simply on a farm, we are different. Not in how we look, how we dress (unless it is our dirty work clothes), or how we act, but it runs much deeper in the lifestyle we live.

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It was always hard to explain to my high school best friends that no I could not come over at 7 pm to eat supper and hang out. I tried every excuse in the book at first, but then, I started to realize that I was proud of what I was doing. 7 in the evening was when I started rinsing heifers. They could not be turned out until at least 9 pm when the sun went down. Yes I could make the late night bonfires but I was always the first to go home, because there was a to-do list with my name at the top for tomorrow. From hauling hay, to mowing the grass, to running seed around to help dad in the fields, there was never a shortage of work. Being 21 now, I enjoy social events just as much as any other student, but there is not a free weekend I have spent at school because there are too many jobs at home that need to get done and it is not only a family affair, but a team effort.

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Collegiate Livestock Judging, attending national livestock shows, and merely attending three full years of college in the agriculture divisions at both Lake Land Junior College and Western Illinois University, have shown me how close the agriculture community is. I became very good friends with a girl at LLC whose dad happened to go there some 30 years previous with my dad. One of my dad’s former teachers was a substitute professor and allowed me the opportunity to work on his cattle. Most recently, we had a guest speaker in my agronomy class who is a professor at Mississippi State. He and Dr. Bernards, my professor, knew each other when they both were getting their masters, one at Purdue and one at Michigan State. Now basic geography tells us, these schools are not close together, but conferences brought them both together as they had similar interests, and to this day they bounce ideas and information off of one another.

Many professions claim to be very close through constantly seeing similar patients, meetings or seminars that they see each other once a month at, or maybe they talk every day at the office. Agriculture though runs much deeper than just a conversation. The passion it takes to put everything you have on the line on a daily basis is something anyone outside the industry may never understand. It takes long days, sleepless nights, and constantly praying mother nature and the markets go in your favor to be able to have the funding needed to buy the newer piece of equipment, that next semi load of livestock, or another 100 acres of land to help next year be even more prosperous.

The industry is not just those farmers and ranchers out in the fields. It includes the insurance agent that helps fund the purchase of a year’s worth of seed. The trucker who hauls milk to and from the farms to be processed. All the way to the grain elevator in charge of storing and purchasing the end products. There is trust and honesty needed in these relationships to keep an oiled running machine that is constantly running.

We in agriculture need to remember to all stand together. As an industry we have been more and more in the spotlight and not for the positive reasons we should be. Many are criticizing the way things are done because they believe false videos, incomplete information, and the newest trends that make people become highly opposed to what agriculture is doing in the ways of trying to feed, clothe, and allow variety to a constantly growing world. Standing together as agriculture enthusiasts to highlight the truth on one of the closest and most important industries that exists, (we do feed people more than three times per day), is a necessity to speak out on our behalf.

The recent wildfires that destroyed thousands of acres, homes, and took the lives of many livestock and humans, have brought out the best in ag. From sending fencing supplies, precious hay bales, or sending man power to help get the challenging jobs done, we will always rise above. It is a team effort to pull through and move ahead even through hard times. In agriculture, you are never truly alone because your neighbors are always there and ready to help. There is never a day to rest, feel sorry for ourselves, or try to solve the world’s problems, but there is always time to be thankful, feel blessed, and appreciate the many opportunities, close relationships, and people agriculture brings together.

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My name is Olivia Claire and I am currently a junior at Western Illinois University. I have a passion for showing cattle, livestock judging, and anything to do with working outside. This farm girl just so happens to also be a fair queen promoting agriculture! I attended Lake Land College where I received my Associates in Science. I now am working towards a Bachelors in Agriculture Science with a minor in Agronomy, Agriculture Business, and Animal Science. It is truly an honor and great experience being part of Leatherneck Nation!

 

Lifestyle of the Cattle Industry

There is a certain lifestyle that only few people are cut out for, and that is the show cattle industry.  Parents that understand how this industry works, would never want their children growing up any other way.  As for me, being one of those kids, I would not change one thing growing up either.  One might ask why this industry means so much to these families.  The answer is simple, it’s the values learned.  These values are not learned over night, they’re learned over years.  There are numerous values this industry holds, the main ones that stand out to me, are the passion, trust, work ethic, and responsibilities learned.  These are all key values that can be translated over to the real world.

First on my list is passion. Without the passion or the desire to compete, this lifestyle becomes irrelevant to some.  A passion is something that one holds strong and is hard to control emotions.  Another term I like to replace passion with is “the drive.”  Without the drive a young kid can’t sit in a truck and travel thousands of miles over the fall months searching for their next show calf.  Once the family finds that next show calf, they spend countless hours working on it, for a specific goal they have set for that year.  Sometimes these goals are met, and the feeling of winning that ribbon, trophy, or banner is an ecstatic feeling.  But not every year contains a ribbon, trophy, or banner.  When losing after all the hard work is put into this project, one has to reflect and look back on that year and take away the positives, such as the values learned.  Ultimately though, the passion and the desire to succeed is what drives you to continue on to meet those goals the following year, and not once think about giving up.

FullSizeRenderThe trust within this industry can be looked at numerous ways.  There’s a special type of trust between a young individual and their show calf.  For instance, imagine being ten years old and leading around a 1,400 lb. steer that could potentially do whatever he wanted to you.  But the ten year old doesn’t look at it this way.  Why? Because that ten year old and that steer have built an enormous amount of trust between one another.  Another type of trust seen commonly in this cattle industry, is trust between the youth and their peers.  There are many adults involved in this industry, which raise these show calves, and clip them.  Many of these adults reach out to the youth and educate them on feeding strategy, working hair, skin conditioning, evaluating and clipping these stock.  These kids learn to believe in their peers and without a doubt learn to trust them with no questions asked.  I personally have a handful of peers that I admire very much.  These peers have provided advice in hard times, strategy when needed, and recently job offerings.

Another tremendous value that comes from showing cattle is work ethic.  An argument could be made that this is by far the most valuable trait to have in todays’ society.  When competitively showing it takes countless hours of work, not to mention the early mornings and late nights spent in a barn.  Most kids go meet up with their friends, go to movies, play Xbox, or even party.  Showing holds you accountable, being in the barn to go feed early in morning and working hair late at night.  This teaches the young adults what to prepare for, come the real world.  This value has become a rarity in today’s workforce.

“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vince Lombardi

My personal favorite quality that comes along with showing cattle is the responsibilities that it teaches you.  All livestock species need fed twice a day, morning and night.  This ties you down, no going on vacations for the weekend or going to do all day events.  Also the responsibility of washing, blowing, and working their hair.  If you don’t do these, you simply won’t be competitive in the ring.  In other terms, what you put into it, is what you get out of it.  The responsibility of preparing for a show, forces you to plan ahead, getting hotel rooms booked, buying supplies to fit your calf, and the amount of feed you need to pack.  There is an uncountable amount of responsibilities that this industry holds for the youth.

I personally find many values in showing cattle and being a part of this industry.  There is no other industry that can cover all of these values to such depth this one does.  I plan in the future to have my children participate at a high level, so as they grow up they understand what passion, work ethic, responsibilities, and trust are.  This hobby prepares the youth for the workforce, teaches them how to deal with success and failure, and to always keep moving forward.

 

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My name is Cal DeWitt and I am a junior at Western Illinois University.  I grew up on a small farm in Clinton, Wisconsin.  I have had a passion for showing cattle and the agricultural industry my entire life.  I transferred to WIU from Black Hawk East where I received my Associates Degree in Agricultural Business.  My college experience has been nothing short of excellent.  It’s always an honor to be a Leatherneck!

What “Prime Beef” means to me

When most people think of the term “prime beef,” they think of it as a juicy, tender, and flavorful cut of meat. To me, it means something very different.

Growing up in Monmouth, Illinois, and having parents who are involved in the community, I’ve had the chance to be a part of a festival that has given me memories to last a life time. This festival is called the Warren County Prime Beef Festival. In this blog, I will mention a few events of the fair that make me want to remember my definition of “prime beef.”

My “prime beef” definition begins with the Warren County Prime Beef Festival Princess Pageant. As a senior in high school, I had the chance to be in this pageant and let me tell you, it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Getting to hangout with a large group of girls, some from another school, and making lifetime friends made it more important than just a competition to me. In those couple months of practices, I probably had more laughs then I’ve ever had in my life.
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“Prime beef” means starting the week off at the hog and steer shows. At these events, young children have raised their animals to be shown in front of a judge. They are all out to see who has the best hog and steer. This is determined by body condition, weight, etc. They enter a ring with the others in their class where they have to look good while leading their creature around the ring. Although this can put a lot of stress on the children and parents, it’s an amazing event that gives the kids chances to meet new people and become more comfortable in crowds. I’ve seen some of the best friendships come out of the barn.

“Prime beef” to me means rushing out of school to get to the parade. Who doesn’t want candy, right? This parade is by far the best parade around (Although I didn’t think that when I was a baton twirler and had to walk the whole thing.) For this event, bands come from a variety of different schools and put in hard work to do a great performance. There is a contest that determines who the best band is. There’s advertisement for different companies, fire trucks, horses, baton twirlers, flag twirlers, veterans, floats, the pageant girls that I mentioned earlier, and much more! I also have to mention it’s a whole mile long!

“Prime beef” to me means ending the fair week with the best event, in my opinion, the races! There’s three different races that include the figure 8, the oval, and the demolition derby. Yes, cars crash into each other on purpose. Although this may seem different for some, it’s a pretty big deal around here. For some reason, people love the thought of mud slinging off the tires of the cars and flying into the bleachers. I am one of those people.

If you’ve never attended the WCPBF, I would recommend it. This festival takes place the first week of September in Monmouth, Illinois. There’s many other events I didn’t mention. For example, the chicken scramble, calf tagging, auctions, the fair rides, and much more. The whole week is filled with many events to keep everyone entertained! WCPBF has made many memories in my life and other’s lives as well. “Prime beef” is more than just a cut of meat to me.

For more information, you can visit http://www.primebeeffestival.com/.

My name is Emily Lovdahl and I am from Monmouth, Illinois. I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University and will graduate in may. My major is Ag Science with an Animal Science minor.