I had the opportunity to go to the Farm Progress show in Decatur last week – not a place I would have ever imagined myself winding up if you’d asked me a few years ago! When I arrived, the first thing that struck me was the sheer size of the show – I’d gotten a map beforehand so I’d have some idea of the layout of the show, but my little 8 ½ by 11 piece of paper definitely did not prepare me for what I saw when I arrived! The show is huge – there are over 500 exhibitors – and there is farm equipment everywhere (you really can’t appreciate the size of some of this stuff until you actually stand next to it and realize how tiny you are by comparison).
Luckily Deb Moore, one of the farm moms who accompanied us on our tours, was there to guide me. We visited the Illinois Corn and Soy tents, learned more about how seed genes are studied at the DuPont exhibit, saw a number of different crops at the Monsanto tent, and spoke to bee researchers at the Bayer area. I also did a few interviews and spoke to a group of legislators about the Illinois Farm Families program. Considering I was at the show less than 6 hours, we packed a lot into our day – yet I still felt like I barely scratched the surface of seeing everything I would have liked to!
The biggest takeaway I had from the day was the reminder of how many different aspects there are to agriculture. I can’t think of another industry that draws from so many fields of study and has such an interconnectedness about it. I spoke to one gentleman about the stereotypes surrounding farmers, and never has that stereotype seemed more silly to me than at the Farm Progress Show. To think that farmers are able to just plant some seed and reap a profit is such a small part of it. Even the idea of farming being primarily a manual labor field is pretty far from the truth these days. Farmers have to be educated in and stay on top of so many areas – different types of technology, local and national politics, issues surrounding fuel and seed science, business decisions – and then the actual planting, nurturing, and harvesting of the crops themselves. There is a lot more involved in farming than most people from urban areas would guess!
Groups like Illinois Farm Families that educate consumers are yet another piece of the agriculture puzzle. Seeing all of the different aspects come together at the Farm Progress Show was a neat reminder of how big agriculture is, how many industries it relies on and gives back to, and how important agriculture is to all of us, regardless of where we live.
Betsie Estes, Elk Grove Village
Betsie was an Illinois Farm Families 2012 Field Mom. By serving as a Field Mom and visiting several Illinois farms, Betsie spent last year learning about where the food comes from that she's putting on the table to keep her active family healthy.