When you think of agriculture, what are some of your first thoughts? Mine are livestock, passion, farming, hard work, long hours, and male farmers. Most do not think about women within this industry. We, women, are rapidly changing this thought process for many people.
Women are becoming more visible within the agriculture community. Today, 31% of farmers are women. This number has increased from the 14% that was recorded in 2012. Female farmers are leery of assuming the title as a farmer. They feel as if it is a man’s role to hold and many do not feel deserving of the title.
I am frequently asked why I chose this field to study. It always gives me a sense of pride to answer this question. I feel as if the agriculture industry has some of the best people in the world working within it. These are the people that care enough about others to provide their next meal while working long hours for little pay. There are many qualities that this industry holds that I myself value, hard work, dedication, accountability, and wisdom are a few.
Through my educational career, I have had the opportunity to meet many inspirational women within agriculture. In high school, I took many ag classes taught by Jennifer Waters. It was then that she sparked my interest in agriculture. With her passion and drive, she has become a role model for many people including myself. After transferring to Western, I decided to rush for Sigma Alpha. This is the professional agricultural
sorority here at WIU. Becoming a sister within this sorority has allowed me to network and gain knowledge from young women with the same interests as me. I am fortunate to have built these relationships with great girls that I will have forever.
Now more than ever, there are many opportunities for women to become involved in agriculture. The Women Changing the Face of Agriculture is a large conference held every year to show young girls this. Many ag businesses come as well as guest speakers for the girls to interact with. I have attended this conference multiple times and each time has been a valuable experience. Being able to learn from and listen to women that have been in agriculture for many years is profitable for ladies who want to become involved. These women are inspiring young ladies, like myself to get out in the fields without fear of judgment.
With many ways to be connected within agriculture today, women are contributing to the success of the industry, more than we thought was possible.
About the Author:
Hello, my name is April Leinberger and I am a Junior at Western Illinois University. I am currently studying Agriculture Science. I am involved in Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and Ag Vocators. Though I did not grow up with a farm background, I am submerging myself into this industry. Choosing to attend
WIU was one of the best decisions that I have made within my educational career. I have made lifelong friends and gained invaluable education from this University. Next May, I will be graduating and taking the knowledge I have learned throughout my time here and applying it to the workforce.
To learn more about how to get involved visit these sites: womenchangingthefaceofagriculture.com & sigmaalpha.org
From the time I could walk, all I can remember is running around barefoot outside and doing chores. While my father, grandfather, and uncle ran the actual farm, my mother and I were running a farm of our own. Chickens, ducks, guinneas, turkeys, rabbits, goats, pigs, and the occasional bottle calf were just a few of the animals we fostered and raised. It was instilled in me at a very young age that feeding the world is the most fulfilling job out there. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t just a job, it was a way of life. There is just something about being up early on a dewy morning to check my animals that gave me a sense of peace. It brings such a sense of pride to see the fruits of your labor grow and be successful.
Growing up on a farm made me a stronger person and taught me lessons that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. These are the most important lessons I’ve learned growing up on a farm:
First and foremost, you learn to be humble. You won’t always be successful, and that’s okay. You learn to appreciate what you have, and appreciate your successes a whole lot more.
There are no days off in farming. With my livestock, I was up all night waiting patiently on a new litter of pigs or filling the water tank for the 3rd time on a hot day. Whether you want to or not, the job has to get done.
Dealing with Loss
I was a soft-hearted child, so this did not come easy for me. It was hard to accept the fact that not every animal is going to make it. You learn to cope with these sort of situations, however, it’s a part of life.
When you are a farmer, you are your own boss. No one is going to bark orders at you or remind you to complete your tasks for the day. You have to have the drive to carry 20 50lb bags of feed from the truck to every feeder or make sure that planter gets the seeds in the ground before tomorrows rain.
Even though it might be the 4th time that week that the cows got out, you learn to be less frustrated and more calm in these situations. You might have heard the saying “herding cats”; well herding chickens is not easier. Chickens are faster than they look, let me tell you, but they still have to be back in the coop before sundown. You learn patience with these uncooperative little things work better than curse words.
Farming is not always picturesque; farms go under, crops fail, livestock perish. Farmers work their tails off to make sure that the next generation have a successful business to take over. Looking back, I am very thankful to have experienced life on the farm because it gave me an immense respect for how hard farmers work despite setbacks. Setbacks in life are inevitable, but we have to push through these tough times and continue to look towards a brighter future.
Hi, my name is Kate Elliott and I am from Palmyra, IL. I am a junior at Western Illinois University studying Agriculture Science with a minor in Agronomy. I am a member of the Sigma Alpha professional sorority and a proud farmer.
As many of us small-town kids that come from predominantly rural or agriculture-based areas can attest to, Crop Production Services (CPS) is a very popular ag retailer. CPS is the largest retailer in the country that focuses on agriculture product sales.
They are located in many small towns all over the United States, with their divisional or corporate offices in bigger cities. CPS focuses on the production, sales, and application of agriculture inputs such as seed, chemical, and fertilizer.
Their mission is, “We are committed to being the leading provider of agricultural inputs in each of our markets. We will attract and retain outstanding employees by motivating and rewarding them for their accomplishments in providing exceptional service to our valued customers.”
CPS prides itself on its value and loyalty to it’s customers as well as supporting farmers and agriculturists of any shape and size. They also support the fact that farmers are the leaders as environmentalists and strive to be stewards of natural resources. With a strong tie to agriculture, CPS is committed to upholding agricultural tradition.
History of Company
Crop Production Services itself was established in 1983, but its predecessor companies started operating around 1860. There has been may changes since the start of agricultural retail. Some of the major retailers that have been acquired by CPS have been Western Farm Service in 1995, United Agri Products (UAP) in 2008, and Royster Clark.
CPS has had predecessor companies for over a century and without them they would not be the leaders they are today. As of last year, under their parent company of Agrium, Crop Production Services had 326 facilities and satellites in 24 states East of the Rocky Mountains. They also have 21 divisional offices, 44 terminals, and 12 distribution centers.
Newest Technologies and the Future
With their former focuses primarily on seed, chemical and fertilizer, CPS has evolved into even more of an agricultural powerhouse. They are also in the industry of custom application, agronomy, and precision agriculture along with their original focuses.
Their newest technologies have come in their products, services, and programs used to implement farm services. Crop protection technology done through research and development is becoming
more of a focus. Improved chemistry in full range herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides are being tested and monitored all year around. The application of these pesticides is becoming more unique with more efficient sprayers that are ran by GPS, that map out all aspects of the field in use.
Also, the use of fertilizers and nutrition is becoming more industrialized. Their patented ESN Smart Nitrogen is becoming popular. This coated fertilizer delivers benefit to growers in the aspect of a predictable and reliable source of nitrogen. ESN maximizes nitrogen use efficiency, boosts yield potential and helps minimize impact on the environment.
CPS has also launched their precision agriculture program called Echelon. This precision platform allows the grower to quickly maneuver through information like planning, soil mapping, applied data, and yield results. The CPS crop advisors then work with growers to apply variable rate seed and nutrient prescription.
Along with the current improvements in technology, CPS’s parent company Agrium just merged with Nutrien Retail, which is a nutrient mining company that focuses on Nitrogen, Phosphate, Potash and retail. Now part of the growing family of Crop Production Services, in the near future everyone will see CPS with a new name; Nutrien Ag Solutions.
How This Relates to Me
As I will be graduating this May, I was lucky enough to land a job with Crop Production Services (Nutrien Ag Solutions). I will be hired on as a divisional crop consultant sales trainee. This will be in the West Central, Illinois and Missouri Division, based out of Hannibal, Missouri. I will report to all of the locations within the district while promoting and training employees and farmers on the Echelon precision platform. I will be doing this along with research trials and sales training in the retail sector. After my year as a trainee, the vision is to become a sales manager at any of the locations within the division. I am looking forward to this great opportunity to prove myself and seeing where my future goes within this top-tier company and the ag sales world.
About the Author
My name is Austin Plogger, I am a senior here at Western Illinois University. I am currently pursuing a Bachelors degree in Ag Business, with a minor in Finance, and will be graduating this May. I am from Greenfield, Illinois and will be joining the divisional sales team with Crop Production Services in West Central Illinois and Eastern Missouri.
If there is one thing you need to know about me, it is that Nigerian Dwarf Goats are my life! When I think about what motivates me to talk and engage with others, it is frequently on a goat related topic. The journey I have taken pursuing my passion for goats over the past decade has shaped me.
I currently belong to one of the best families I could ever imagine, the Nigerian Dwarf Goat (NDG) community. My association with this community started back when I was in high school when my family moved from the rural town of Kirkwood, IL to a small hobby farm just outside of Galesburg, IL.
This was a time of transition that helped to shape my personal identity and allowed me for the first time to begin to know what I truly valued. The transition to the farm was great for my personal identity because when you grow up in a small rural town you learn early on from interacting with others in the community the importance peers place on showing livestock at the county fair. So, when my family and I moved to a farm I knew I wanted to show some sort of livestock; I knew it was what farm kids did. That spring the county 4-H club that my friends and I belonged to held a dairy goat workshop. I became quite excited about going to this workshop because very few of my peers knew anything about goats. When I talked it over with my parents and got their okay to go to the workshop they placed a few conditions on my participation. I had to call and register for the clinic and ask for directions to where the event was scheduled to be held. This was quite the challenge for me; I was terrified to call and talk to someone I had never met before on the phone and was not the best at taking directions for locations located in rural settings. Little did I know that the person I was calling on the phone would soon become one of my lifelong friends and a true mentor for me in the Nigerian Dwarf Goat community.
I spent several hours a week during that summer volunteering at my mentor’s farm learning and caring for her herd of goats through hands-on experiences. She showed me how to care for the goats–from clipping hooves, to shaving hair for shows, to disbudding new born babies. When my summer experience was over my mentor presented me with my first Nigerian Dwarf Goat (NDG), who still lives on my family farm today. Over the next couple of years, I continued to learn about goats from my mentor and through additional reading/research I conducted. I soon began to travel with my mentor and her daughters showing NDGs all over the central United States. By the end of the second year showing with my mentor and her family, I had purchased a few does to add to my own show string. During my first show season, of owning my own goats, my small herd did well as we placed middle in of the class at most shows. Our final show of the season was the Illinois State Fair. Walking into the ring that morning to the senior dry doe class, little did I know that my doe would be selected for reserve grand champion. I was filled with joy, all my hard work had paid off.
Prior to my senior year in high school, my mentor, her daughters and I decided to start our own dairy goat club called Land of Lincoln Nigerian Dwarf Goat Club (LOLNDGC). Our new club was designed with families in mind. At LOLNDGC it is not about who wins in the show ring, it is about being with family, having fun, and learning about the breed. It is amazing for me to think that a chance phone call all those years ago would lead to the development of a new community of people gathered together to share in a common experience and love for goats. Today our club has families from all over Illinois, Iowa and Indiana.
During my sophomore year of college, I spent the summer at a medium scale NDG operation in Georgia. During my time in Georgia I learned a great deal on how to handle and work goats by myself. My supervisor at the time stressed to me the importance of learning how to disbud and other tasks by yourself, because you will not always have someone to help you. One of my favorite things to do in Georgia was feeding baby kids 3 times a day. When you walk into a building filled with 35 plus baby goats it will make even the hardest of hearts melt.
Soon after returning from Georgia with the help of my mentor I obtained my Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) testing license. This license allows me to travel and test other people’s goat herd for milk quality. The test gives feedback to the breeder about their animals; SCC (Somatic Cell Count), Butterfat, Protein, Total Solids, MUN (Milk Urea Nitrogen), and Lactose. Through milk tests animals can earn milk stars based on the results of the tests.
As Lincoln Land Nigerian Dairy Goat Club (LOLNDGC) was growing the club hosted more shows and clinics during the year. Our small club soon grew to a club that hosted 3 main show weekends a year with an average of 5 different shows being held in one weekend. In the summer of 2016 the LOLNDGC was asked to hold the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association judges training in Macomb, IL. During the 3 days of intense training we studied and talked deeply about what the NDGA looked for when judging. After the third day we took a writing test over the judging manual as well as had to place 4 classes of goats. I am proud to say that I passed the training and am happy to represent NDGA as a judge. Since obtaining my license I’ve had the opportunity to judge in Oklahoma, Illinois and Iowa. I was not only able to judge Nigerian shows, I have also judged county fairs and other goat breed association shows. In 2016 I decided to give back to the organization that has given so much to me over the years. I decided to join the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association Board of Directors. Currently I am the youth chair for this amazing organization. With the help of the other board members I continue to learn and gain knowledge about the goats as well as the organization.
My journey with goats has been clearly shaped by the values I hold important and the communities I choose to belong to. The extended family that I belong to today is larger than I could have ever imagined and helps to motivate me to learn and achieve more knowing I have their support.
My name is Cori Sargent and I’m from Cameron, Illinois. I am currently a senior here at WIU and I’m majoring in Ag Science with a minor in Animal Science. Who would have guessed that a 4-H workshop would have turned into a passion.
Most of the time when you think about the point in a person’s life where they make their biggest discoveries, you usually think they are around the middle of their lifetime. This age is the point where they have gained enough experience that they have finally been able to develop that big idea, right? Actually, that may not always be the case. Some of our biggest ideas that have taken off in our society like Facebook, Apple, and Windows were all developed by students who were completing their undergraduate degree. What would our world be like if universities and other organizations promoted the ideas that college students think of? Here at Western Illinois University, we do just that!
Thomas E. Helm Undergraduate Research Day
The Centennial Honors College hosts the Thomas E. Helm Undergraduate Research Day every year and this year it was held on April 18, 2018. It has been a staple event for the college since it became an annual event in 2003. The day is named after Dr. Helm who was the director of the college during the time that the research day began. It is open to every student on campus whether they are members of the Centennial Honors College or not. There are three presentation categories that students can be judged in and win a monetary award for 1st through 3rd place. They include performance, poster, and podium presentations which offer students different ways to present their research and information.
Performance presentations occur in the morning of Undergraduate Research Day and are used as a way to educate others about the history of the fine arts. These performances are a way for students who are majoring in fine arts like music and theater to showcase items they have learned in classes while also educating the public.
Poster presentations take place during the middle of the day where students present the research they have either just started or completed during the previous year. They will present their information on posters which show why the student is completing the research and why it is important. The posters are on display for the public to walk around and view while also being able to hear summaries given by the students that explain their projects. Judges will listen to their presentations and then select one project from each department to be judged in a separate contest to name the best poster.
Podium presentations occur in the afternoon and consist of a PowerPoint presentation and speech to a panel of judges if they wish and any public who wish to watch. The presentations can be about anything they want to talk about like past discoveries or other topics.
Most of the presenters are Centennial Honors College members who are conducting research to complete their requirements for Departmental Honors. Members have the opportunity to earn Departmental Honors by completing a number of in-course projects which usually involves them doing a project that goes above and beyond what the rest of the class is doing as well as a thesis before they graduate. This award is presented at graduation if the student completes all of the requirements. Even if the student is not a member, they can still present during the research day, and it offers every student the same benefits no matter their membership.
As stated earlier, anyone can present during Undergraduate Research Day as long as they have a faculty sponsor working with them on their research. There are many agriculture students who participate even if they aren’t Centennial Honors students and this year’s research day was no exception. Out of the 132 posters on display, 16 posters were presented by 22 agriculture students, and were mentored by 1 of 5 different agriculture professors as either a requirement for a class or as a Centennial Honors student.
Take Kelsey Bergman for example. She presented 3 posters during the day, one being an in-course honors project, another being her honors thesis, and the third poster fulfilling her requirement for her Weed Science class.
Her project topics and abstracts ranged from “Soybean Yield as Affected by Planting Date and Seed Treatment” with faculty adviser Dr. Mark Bernards, “Breeding ALS Resistance into Winter Field Pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.)” mentored by Dr. Winthrop Phippen, and finally “Dicamba Volatility and Weed Control Efficacy as Influenced by Rain-free Period” which she completed with fellow group members Miranda Wright and Courtney Forney and was overseen by Dr. Bernards.
Another project that was very successful was Allyson Rumler’s research poster entitled “Waterhemp Seed Production and Seed Viability as Affected by Sublethal Dicamba Dose” which was sponsored by Dr. Bernards. Allyson is not an honors student, but instead has a very unique reason why she completed her research. She spent a summer working for Dr. Bernards as a research assistant. During the summer, she was asked to complete a project and from there it grew into the research poster she presented that day. Allyson was chosen as the Agriculture Department poster winner and then went and competed against the other department winners later in the day where she was awarded 2nd place out of the whole university!
Many students and faculty all agree that they see the a benefit of Undergraduate Research Day as well as completing research in general, but they differ depending on who you are talking to. Kelsey believes that the biggest benefit of completing research and presenting at the event is to gain experience conducting research and then learning to communicate it to someone else. Allyson said that by doing the project, it has helped her change the way she learns and thinks. She now thinks about things differently and has learned to question things and grow her knowledge even more than she would have without completing the project.
The professors see many benefits for their students as well. Dr. Phippen has had students present their projects at Undergraduate Research Day from its beginning because it teaches students what a Master’s or Doctorate program would be like. He also believes it is important for agriculture students because we come from a very hands-on discipline. By allowing students to complete research, he is helping them prepare for their future in order to set themselves apart from others and to grow their education even more than what they could learn from a textbook.
Dr. Bernards believes that students gain new opportunities by completing research that they can’t get from just sitting in a classroom. He believes that since students are earning a Bachelor in Science when they graduate, if they complete research it helps expand their education by teaching them to think critically.
Dr. Richard Hardy, the current director of the Centennial Honors College, described why he believes Undergraduate Research Day is a positive asset to Western Illinois University:
Everything starts in the mind of one person; therefore, someone had to create everything. No one has a monopoly on brains and great ideas can stem from everywhere. Creativity is best done when you are young. Therefore, we need to showcase what our students are doing and provide ways for them to get feedback which can lead others to discoveries, unleashing unlimited potential.
Undergraduate Research Day offers students many opportunities to gain more than what can be taught in a classroom. Hopefully, more of us in the agriculture department can take advantage of these opportunities and discover the next big thing for the industry.
About the Author
Hi everyone! My name is Nichole Miller and I am a junior Ag Science student with minors in Agriculture Economics, Agronomy, and Plant Breeding here at Western Illinois University. I have also been a member of the Centennial Honors College for three years now, have completed 3 in-course honors projects, and presented at Undergraduate Research Day once. I am from a very small town called Carlinville, IL, where I lived and worked on my family farm until I started school. I am very passionate about agriculture and the future it offers not only me, but other students as well.
I hope you enjoyed my blog and I want to thank you for taking the time to read it!
We have come a long way since having horses as our main source of power to haul objects. The invention of the internal combustion engine during the Industrial Revolution really set not only the agricultural industry, but the world, in motion-literally. This has allowed us to invent something as simple as the tractor, that can perform numerous jobs with different attachments, as well as something as complicated as the combine, which is built to complete one overall job but does multiple tasks simultaneously.
Due to the drastic rise in population, the need for food is constantly increasing. Agriculture has to be one of the most advanced industries in the world to be able to keep up with the demand. One way the industry has been able to keep up with the demand is through genetics. Every year we are creating new hybrids that keep producing higher and higher yields.
The biggest advancement of my lifetime is the evolution of farm data. This includes yield mapping, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), monitoring systems etc. In the early 1990’s, products were being introduced that could monitor real time factors like what the crop was yielding, moisture content and much more. It accomplished this just by putting sensors on the auger, which had never been done before.
Then in the early 2000’s, farmers were able to transfer all of their data to their home computers to have on file for future reference. This was a huge advancement, because in years to come, it made decision making for farmers a lot easier. Farmers could be at home and easily pull up the software to see what a certain crop yielded at a certain location. In the mid to late 2000’s, using drones and various crop sensors to map fields become a very popular scouting option. This was much more efficient, and usually cheaper, than paying someone to spend all day in one field.
Around 2014, along with the rest of the world, agriculture went totally wireless. No USB’s and no plugging into computers. Newer software has done a very nice job using a “cloud” system where you simply have to log into your account on different devices, whether your phone, tablet, or monitoring system, to access all of your data. This is somewhat of a culture shock, especially to older farmers, but the developers make it simple enough for anyone to quickly learn.
My name is Kevin Blindt, and I am a junior here at Western Illinois University. I am a member of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and ag business club. I am on track to graduate in May of 2019 with a degree in agriculture business and a minor in precision agriculture. I am from a small rural town called Vermont, IL, which is about 25 minutes southeast of Macomb. Thanks for reading! (Picture is from gamya.com)
Global positioning systems have taken the agricultural industry by storm. This satellite device has been helping producers meet maximum accuracy when working in the field. GPS technologies enable data collection with accurate information, leading to efficient analysis of large, geographical areas. GPS applications are being used for planning, field mapping, soil sampling, guidance, crop scouting, rate applications, and yield mapping. In years past, it has been difficult for farmers to obtain precise accuracy. This limited effective strategies that could have enhanced production. Today, precise applications of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers are dispersed more accurately throughout the field, thus reducing expenses, and producing higher yields. Precision agriculture is changing the way producers and agribusinesses view specific treatments to increase agricultural production. Precision agriculture is more accurate, cost effective, and user friendly. New innovations rely on the integration of computers, data collection sensors, and GPS time and position reference systems.
What more can we expect from global positioning systems in the agriculture industry? Through the use of GPS and remote sensing, inform-
ation is collected to analyze and implement improvements for both land and water structures. For additional benefits, producers combine better utilization of fertilizers and other soil amendments, determining the economic threshold for treating pest and weed infestations. GPS equipment manufacturers have developed several tools to help producers and agribusinesses become more productive and efficient in precision agriculture. GPS receivers collect information for mapping field boundaries, roads, irrigation systems, and problem areas in crops such as weeds or disease. The accuracy of GPS allows farmers to create maps with precise acreage for field areas and accurately navigate to specific locations in the field, year after year, to collect soil samples or monitor crop conditions.
Crop advisors use data collection devices with GPS for accurate positioning to map pest, insect, and weed infestations in the field. The same field data can also be used by crop dusters. Crop dusters equipped with GPS are able to fly accurate swaths over fields, applying chemicals only where needed, minimizing drift, and reducing the amount of chemicals needed. In the future, we can only expect further improvements as GPS continues to modernize. To remain accurate and cost efficient, global positioning systems with become further advanced, precise, and continue to enhance production agriculture.
Hello, I am Cody Wilkens. I am a senior at Western Illinois University and will be graduating this May with a bachelors degree in Agricultural Business and a minor in Agronomy. I am from a small town, Lewistown, MO, thirty miles west of Quincy, IL. All my life I have been exposed to agriculture. My grandpa operates a small farm just outside of Nauvoo, IL. I have spent most of my summers helping with cattle, hogs, and harvesting during the fall. I enjoy what agriculture has to offer, such as hard work, dedication, and responsibility. I am excited to see which new technological advancements agriculture has to offer and the ability it has to increase production.