One of the best aspects of farming is taking both full responsibility and full pride in whatever happens in my fields.

Illinois Farm Families Blog

Apr 21 2016

Hitched to the Universe - Earth Day 2016

I love this quote from John Muir, particularly as Earth Day 2016 is upon us and folks everywhere are taking a step back to assess their place on the planet.  

“When you try to remove one single thing, you find it’s hitched to everything else in the universe.” – John Muir, founder Sierra Club, advocate for national parks and conservation. 

On our farms and ranches, Earth Day is every day and is never about one single thing. Our livelihoods, our farms, our businesses are directly linked to the health of our natural resources – on our farm that refers to soil and water.  

On our farm, we use the latest in “tractor technology” to bolster our efforts in soil and water care.  For example, our John Deere 2630 Display is a touch screen computer that holds the maps and information about every field we farm. Each piece of equipment has its own screen.  The computers ‘talk’ to each other sharing information about our fields.  The homepage shows a map of the fields, its boundaries and the location of any waterways and fencerows. 


The equipment runs on RTK, which stands for real-time kinetic.  It uses satellites and a base station, which acts like a cell phone tower, to guide the equipment through fields with “sub-inch accuracy repeatability”.  Fancy terminology that means when my husband comes back to this field to cultivate, plant, fertilize and harvest, the equipment will follow the same paths within centimeters.  The same path can be repeated next year and the year after and the year after.  In this way we are essentially farming each square foot individually vs. treating the whole 80 or 100 acres as one unit.  We can control the amount of fertilizers and or pesticides applied, the number of seeds planted, and even learn how many bushels came from that tiny space.  

But all the tractor technology in the world won’t save soil or conserve water.  So we combine this with no-till and minimum till, cover crops and our new efforts to track soil moisture.  Soil probes placed in various fields wirelessly transfer information back to our computers giving us real-time guidance to our irrigation decisions.  All these things come together to give us the best opportunity to improve upon yesterday.  No single thing creates success on a farm.  Everything is most certainly hitched together.

Katie Pratt
Dixon, IL

Katie and her husband, Andy, are seventh generation farmers. Together they raise two adorable farm kids and grow corn, soybeans and seed corn in Illinois. Katie's family still raises pigs, cattle, goats and horses only a few minutes away. Katie was named one of the 2013 Faces of Farming and Ranching by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA). Read more from Katie on her blog, Rural Route 2.


Feb 15 2016

Valentine’s Day Farmer-Style

My Farmer and I have never been the typical Valentine ’s Day couple.  He has a standing order at the local flower shop, and a bouquet of daisies (my favorite flower) is delivered three times a year – Valentine’s Day, birthday and anniversary.  I fail miserably at staying on top of birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.  Rarely do I remember a card and usually try to prepare a nice steak and potatoes meal for the family to enjoy. 

While I appreciate the sentiment of setting aside one day to honor and celebrate relationships, often farm families and couples must plan around work.  My Farmer and I were married in September, therefore we’ve spent our anniversary together just three times . . . because it rained and harvest had to stop.

Because of schedules, kids’ activities and farm work, this Valentine’s Day was celebrated early.   
At the end of January, My Farmer and I spent a date night at a fundraising event for a local FFA Alumni chapter.  The group served a pulled pork meal complete with homemade desserts.  There was an auction, raffle and many friends and neighbors with whom we laughed.  

Cherry pieDuring the auction, I bought a pie. It was simple cherry pie made by the woman who served as my 4-H leader so many years ago.  She leaned forward during the bidding and whispered, “I used lard to make the crust.”  Best crust ever! 

My Farmer’s favorite pie is cherry and our little trees have yet to produce enough fruit to preserve for surprise winter pies.  I spent $150.00 on the pie and got a big thank you hug in return.


Dixon, IL

Katie and her husband, Andy, are seventh generation farmers. Together they raise two adorable farm kids and grow corn, soybeans and seed corn in Illinois. Katie's family still raises pigs, cattle, goats and horses only a few minutes away. Katie was named one of the 2013 Faces of Farming and Ranching by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA). Read more from Katie on her blog,Rural Route 2.

Jan 04 2016

From Chicken to Chocolate: Stop the Boycotts!

Fellow farmers and ranchers, foodies, scientists, agriculturalists and regular people who enjoy food but hate the shaming, marketing and random food labels clogging dinner conversations and newsfeeds . . . here’s a resolution for 2016.  Stop boycotts and start conversations with food companies.  Here’s why:

Hershey’s move from beet sugar to cane sugar was greeted with cheers from one sector of the food consumer industry and groans from the farm families who have spent generations growing beets for this essential s’more  ingredient. By their own admission, Hershey’s has stated this has nothing to do with concerns about safety of GMO food crops.  In fact their website reinforces what is repeated every day. GMOs and the ingredients derived from them are safe.

Hershey’s says they are listening to their consumers, and consumers want a non-gmo label.

In January 2014, General Mills announced they had reformulated the original Cheerios swapping out the tiny amount of corn starch and corn sugar (grown by U.S. farmers) for non-gmo versions of both – non-gmo corn starch and cane sugar, which is not grown by U.S. farmers.  The company claimed the change was the result of listening to their ‘fans’.  However, they themselves had no concerns over gm-derived ingredients.  They said so on their website.

A commentor on my open letter to General Mills stated what should be obvious to anyone studying food trends and marketing: “I personally haven’t eaten a bowl of Cheerios in about 6 years now and likely never will again.” Her food choices didn’t involve Cheerios anyway.  Changing an ingredient wasn’t going to put a yellow box in her cupboard.  Continued depressed sales of Cheerios and cereals in general confirmed her point. Cheerios’ fans hadn’t begged for the change.

This past fall, I found this (see below) on the grocery store shelf and after checking that Del Monte had a legitimate reason to put a non-gmo label on a can of peas (because there are no GMO peas to begin with), I called them out via Twitter and learned the company was just listening to its consumers.

Of course, buried in its website under frequently asked questions I found a statement on GMO safety: “The FDA, USDA, World Health Organization, and the American Medical Association have concluded that products containing genetically engineered ingredients are safe. Even though there are no health risks (allergens or negative nutrients) associated with GMOs, we decided to provide information about GMOs in our products to consumers so that they can make informed choices.”

McCormick spices are getting the non-gmo label also. Are spices genetically modified?  No.  However, the party line delivered in this article sounds very familiar, “Our effort to increase our organic and non-GMO offerings proves that we are listening to our consumers and are committed to continuing to evolve.”

What we must first understand and appreciate, is the “consumers” these companies are hearing from are not every day buyers.  These campaigns are well-funded, orchestrated movements coming from Green America, US Right to Know, the Organic Consumers Association, PETA, HSUS and other anti-agriculture groups like them.

When they claim success, our newsfeeds fill with calls from ‘ag’vocates and angry farmers for boycotts or comments to the company’s social media platforms.  Unfortunately, by this time the ship has already sailed.  Folks, here is the blunt truth . . . boycotts by our tiny two percent probably won’t register on a corporate sales report.  However, a positive public show of support to agriculture-friendly companies and organizations does make a difference.  As does a basic conversation about farming and ranching, as I discovered at a food conference two years ago.

Just this week the story of Domino’s saying no to PETA’s push for vegan cheese and meat options circulated. Back in 2012, I remember a similar situation which resulted in a mid-week Domino’s pizza party for my family.  The nationally promoted party was agriculture’s way of saying thanks to the company for saying no to the animal rights group.

Too bad, we couldn’t stave off Subway’s ‘antibiotic’ free meat decision. As Emily from Confessions of a Farm Wife pointed out Subway restaurants are the only option many rural, agricultural dependent areas have for a quick bite to eat.  Instead of plowing under sub sandwiches in protest to the company’s move (which by the way, was my favorite response to the whole situation. AND sparked a great discussion about antibiotic use in livestock), we should have been loudly ‘chewing’ our support for them . . . Ironically, Subway’s most recent promotion was for 50 percent more meat.

The Farmer’s Daughter USA wrote about how the Girl Scouts of America stood up to anti-agriculture groups who petitioned the group right at the time of cookie sales, to go GMO-free.  I bought a few more packages and I SHOULD have tweeted about that, but didn’t.

During AgChat’s 2015 Cultivate and Connect conference, a panel of agriculture advocates coached the audience in engagement.  They counseled us to show our appreciation of agriculture support NOW instead of waiting for another Del Monte to cave to labeling pressures.

Daren Williams, senior executive director of communications for the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, pointed out the perfect opportunity – Arby’s promotion of “The Meats”!  Why aren’t we celebrating this and thanking them publicly? he asked.

And that is the crux of the matter.  As if we farmers and ranchers, scientists, agriculturalists, foodies and regular folks need one more thing to do, we  must remember this – to routinely recognize the companies and organizations who are just doing what they do, and in those actions, are supporting agriculture in its entirety.  No labels.  No fear-mongering.

Culvers’ is the poster-child for this.  Aside from their antibiotic-free meat claim, which sticks a bit, the restaurant chain goes out of its way to recognize and showcase its farmers.  Agriculture has responded in kind.

The food war is only just beginning. There are many restaurant chains, grocers and food companies to target with a positive message of thanks and support.  There are also thousands of opportunities for every farmer and rancher to invite food companies to the farm. Regardless if your family grows a specialty crop, produces for a specific market or raises the raw commodity, each plays an important role in the food chain.  Claim that spot loudly. As a corn and soy farmer, I should be talking to any food company that uses starches, sugars or oils.

So in effort to trump the next campaign by anti-agriculture groups, I pledge to recognize the brands, companies and organizations doing right by agriculture.  It won’t be easy, wading through the marketing muck.  Which company will you target first?  Share and I’ll start our list.

Happy New Year!



Dixon, IL

Katie and her husband, Andy, are seventh generation farmers. Together they raise two adorable farm kids and grow corn, soybeans and seed corn in Illinois. Katie's family still raises pigs, cattle, goats and horses only a few minutes away. Katie was named one of the 2013 Faces of Farming and Ranching by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA)

Dec 18 2015

Why My Kids Won’t Get Technology for Christmas

Parents, the pressure is real, is it not? To purchase technology from gaming systems to i-anything for our kids this Christmas. The glut of seasonal advertising isn’t all to blame. My farm boy announced he is one of five students in his class who does not have a phone. Peer pressure is strong. The farm princess prepared her Christmas list. It includes an i-phone 6s, an i-pod and an i-pad. A stacked list might increase her odds.

Please don’t misunderstand. We are not a tech free home. We have a desk-top computer, a laptop tablet, a kindle, an i-pad and My Farmer and I carry smart phones. In my opinion, the kids spend more than enough time playing games on each.

As we consider what to give the kids this year, I’ll admit technology is a big part of the conversation. What exactly are we holding out for? We’ve endured more than one discussion about the lack of gaming equipment at our house, only to be told that is why ‘no one will come to my house. We have nothing cool here!’

However, a quick trip out to eat this weekend confirmed our choice.

We met up with friends and their kids. The boy, same age as our farm boy, jumped in our vehicle for the ride to town. After a few attempts to engage in conversation I realized why the backseat was so quiet. All three kids were staring at a phone screen. The boy, proud owner of the phone, was demonstrating a game and soon they were passing it around taking turns. No one said a word.

Dinner was quick, good and full of conversation among adults and kids. Later we settled in our respective vehicles and headed home. It wasn’t long before the farm princess asked me to tell a story. Soon, My Farmer was telling stories. The kids joined in. The tales grew in absurdity. Before long, the kids were sprawled across the backseat, holding their sides, giggling uncontrollably. You know the kind of laughter . . . just when you think you can breathe something strikes your funny bone, and the laughter begins again. It lasted all the way home.

As we entered the house, the farm boy tripping over another joke and the high pitched twitter of the farm princess filling the house, My Farmer grabbed my arm. “And this is why our kids won’t get technology for Christmas.”


Originally posted on Rural Route 2: Life & Times of an Illinois Farm Girl.

Katie Pratt
Dixon, IL

Katie and her husband, Andy, are seventh generation farmers. Together they raise two adorable farm kids and grow corn, soybeans and seed corn in Illinois. Katie's family still raises pigs, cattle, goats and horses only a few minutes away. Katie was named one of the 2013 Faces of Farming and Ranching by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA)

Oct 07 2015

What's Cooking Wednesday: Field Meal Edition

The only magazine I maintain a subscription for is Taste of Home.  I received the subscription as a gift one Christmas and fell in love with the pages of colorful, yummy photographs of good food.  After flipping through each issue, the magazine rests on my cookbook holder in the kitchen ready to offer dinner inspiration when this cook’s creative well has run dry.

What draws me in more than the recipes, are the stories of the home cooks who serve as Taste of Home field editors.  So many of them refer to cooking with their parents or grandparents.  My mother has joked she failed us kids in that regard.  Staying in to prepare a meal meant less time outside, and outside with our preferred place to be.  However, my mom and both my grandmothers put three home-cooked meals on the table every day with a wave of their magic wooden spoon.

That’s why this menu reminded me so much of “home”.  Two recipes from the magazine and two from Grandma June.

Menu 3: Skillet Pork Chops with Apples & Onions, New England Pumpkin Walnut Bread, Steamed Green Beans and Grandma’s Chocolate Pie

Skillet Pork Chops with Apples & Onions  (from Taste of Home, Tracey Karst, field editor)

New England Pumpkin Walnut Bread (from Taste of Home, Kim Forni, field editor)

  • 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

For Bread

  • 1 can (15 oz.) solid-pack pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 c. canola oil
  • 2/3 c. water
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts, toasted

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small skillet, combine oats, sugar and cinnamon; cook and stir over medium heat 4-6 minutes or until oats are toasted. Remove from heat.
  2. In a large bowl, beat pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, sugar, honey and vanilla until well blended. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt and spices; gradually beat into the pumpkin mixture. Fold in walnuts. Transfer to two greased 9 x 5-in. loaf pans. Sprinkle tops with oat mixture.
  3. Bake 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.

Steamed Green Beans

Pick green beans from garden, clean, cut and steam.  Grandma spent many hours in my kitchen helping me put up green beans for the winter. We’d stand over the sinks and ramble on about life, memories, kids, baking . . . I’ve got a pile of beans to finish today.  Gosh, I wish she were here.


Chocolate Pie (from my Great Grandma King and Grandma June)

  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 T. flour
  • 3 T. chocolate

Mix well.  Bring 1 1/2 cup cold water to a boil.  Add dry ingredients and stir constantly.  Add 2 T. butter after the above has thickened. Add 1 tsp. vanilla.  Cook together.  When cool pour into baked pie shell. Top with cool whip.


Originally posted on Rural Route 2: Life & Times of an Illinois Farm Girl.

Katie Pratt
Dixon, IL

Katie and her husband, Andy, are seventh generation farmers. Together they raise two adorable farm kids and grow corn, soybeans and seed corn in Illinois. Katie's family still raises pigs, cattle, goats and horses only a few minutes away. Katie was named one of the 2013 Faces of Farming and Ranching by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA)

Oct 01 2015

What Does Big Ag Look Like?

Early this fall everyone – farmers, ranchers and eaters alike – were talking about the New York Times’ Food for Tomorrow conference, its mission to discuss eating and farming better, and the fact that not one solitary make-a-living-off-the-land farmer or rancher was listed in the speaker line-up.

One Huffington Post blog captured what so many were thinking. If a group of “thought” leaders and food activists like Michael Pollen and Mark Bittman were going to discuss food policy, shouldn’t farmers be at the dinner table?

Thankfully, the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance stepped up as a conference sponsor and hosted a panel discussion – with farmers – titled “Big Ag, Big Food: How Being Good for the Environment Is Not about Size”. Watch the video of this panel discussion at fooddialogues.com.

Slate.com reported that post-farmer panel, the conference tenor changed from Mark Bittman’s opening declaration of war to his closing remarks. “We have so much in common . . .”

And the change seemed real as Bittman, clad in a “Team Iowa Beef” t-shirt, insisted, repeatedly, that farmers were not the ones under attack. We are a family, he said. The food movement includes farmers too. However, Bittman quickly made clear the type of farmers included in his movement, and it wouldn’t be those who grow corn and soybeans, farmers in cahoots with Big Ag.

Down on the farm, Big Ag arguments fall flat. They are tiring, old and annoying. The Big Ag debate is similar to the corporate farm debate. The faceless entities so many claim as evil, have faces.  In farming communities across the country these faces are those of our neighbors, our friends, and our family. Faces of the people who keep our communities running, economies strong and people at work. Down on the farm things really aren’t that big or bad.

So, we raise corn and soybeans, as do a lot of Midwestern farmers. I’ve said it before, we live in north central Illinois with an average growing season, fairly decent rainfall and winters that test the most experienced cold-loving soul. History has given us an economic system that supports corn and soybeans. Not only do we have the climate and soils to produce these crops well, we also have the infrastructure, market accessibility and workforce. There are reasons why certain things are grown in certain places. It doesn’t always have to be about a BIG conspiracy theory.

Big Ag in my county looks like 835 farmers...

(The number reported in the 2012 Census of Ag). I’d venture 95 percent of these farmers are the third, fourth, or fifth generations of their families to farm. In our country block, a farm family has welcomed home their sons making changes to include this next generation.

Big Ag looks like our seed representatives...

who hail from many companies, not just one, and who are also neighbors or former high school classmates. The truck drivers who haul our corn, again neighbors, former classmates. One driver is the mayor of the village to the east of our farm. The mechanics who work on our equipment at the local Deere and Case dealerships are our neighbors, too. In fact several of these folks will join our family in our post-harvest celebration dinner.

Big Ag looks like no-till farmers, minimum till farmers and those who plant cover crops.

It looks like farmers who fertilize fields with nitrogen or manure from a neighbor’s cattle farm.

Big Ag looks like the group of guys and gals that showed up November 8...

to finish harvest for a young farm family who needed to catch a break. Seven combines, six wagons, ten trucks and 35 farmers showed up.

farm kid in tractorBig Ag is the eighth generation of our family’s farm...

spending hours after school in the field with his grandfather, learning about the farm, the soil, the crops, the weather, gleaning that generational knowledge that seems to be the foundation of the romantic vision of an American farm. 

Big Ag is my daughter...

leaving the i-pad behind to dump grain trucks, check moisture and type it all in the computer. She is seven.



Listening to Bittman talk, I find his view of corn and soy limited, reminding me of our encounter with two college gals who were biking across country a couple summers ago and ended up waiting out poor weather at our farm. During our visit they made two observations that I won’t forget.
  1. “I had no idea that all this,” and she spread her arms to encompass the acres of corn surrounding our farmstead, “belonged to and was cared for by a family like yours.”
  2. “All this corn and not a kernel to eat,” said Catrin.

Corn and soy is so much more than food. It is feed, fuel and fiber. It is the plastic of water bottles, the wax in candles, the turf on sports’ fields . . . thinking big doesn’t have to be bad. Maybe one day tomatoes will have alternative uses too.

What is missing, has been missing and I’m afraid will stay missing from these food conversations driven by eccentric activists, is a healthy dose of respect and awe for the diversity that is American agriculture. All of us – corn farmers, cattle ranchers, veggie growers, orchard owners – we have been working hard to accept our individual differences and contribute to the national discussion about farms and food. We have opened our farm gates and welcomed questions but more often receive scathing accusations and false allegations, all in the name of transparency. When will the rest of the “family” catch up and recognize that American agriculture takes all kinds and thankfully, supports all kinds.

Mr. Bittman. Mr. Pollen. By continually labeling family farmers, sorting us in to bad and good categories, you are systematically ostracizing a key group of people who are as dedicated to the future of food, health and nutrition as you are. My suggestion for next year’s Food For Tomorrow conference: pick a Marriott Hotel, schedule the event in the winter and invite a few farmers.


Originally posted on Rural Route 2: Life & Times of an Illinois Farm Girl.

Katie Pratt
Dixon, IL

Katie and her husband, Andy, are seventh generation farmers. Together they raise two adorable farm kids and grow corn, soybeans and seed corn in Illinois. Katie's family still raises pigs, cattle, goats and horses only a few minutes away. Katie was named one of the 2013 Faces of Farming and Ranching by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA)

Aug 28 2015

Baling Hay in Pictures

Baling hay and straw was my job on the farm and I do miss the dust, sweat and scratch of the alfalfa and straw.  Last summer photographer Greg Baker from Baker Studios spent a day with my dad and brother at my grandparents’ farm.  This particular hayfield is the one in which my Grandpa Ray kicked me off the tractor because I couldn’t drive the baler straight.  That was the day I started stacking bales and never quit.

Seeing a mundane farm task through the eyes of someone else is interesting. Seeing your parent in pictures, just doing what you’ve always known him to do... well... that’s my dad, folks. That’s my dad.

(And my “little” brother pictured at the end of the slideshow.  He is the next generation to take on farming.  I couldn’t be a prouder farmer’s daughter or farmer’s sister.)



Dixon, IL

Katie and her husband, Andy, are seventh generation farmers. Together they raise two adorable farm kids and grow corn, soybeans and seed corn in Illinois. Katie's family still raises pigs, cattle, goats and horses only a few minutes away. Katie was named one of the 2013 Faces of Farming and Ranching by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA)


Jul 24 2015

What is Fair Week?

If you follow any farmer bloggers, I would venture you’ve been reading a lot about fairs – 4-H fairs, FFA fairs, county fairs and state fairs. Fairs are the quintessential summer activity giving us funnel cakes, lemonade shake-ups, corn dogs, and fried . . . anything. Carnivals, pedals pulls, pageants. Ribbons, trophies, rodoes – some intentional, others not so much.

For fair families, fair week is one of the more chaotic times of the year. Project details are finalized at the. Very. Last. Minute. No joke. One year I pulled an all-nighter finishing a crossstich. My dad was adamant. You paid the entry fee, the project goes.

Dinners are relegated to a bowl of cereal, slice of cold pizza or 11 p.m. spaghettio’s (a friend posted that dinner pic with the caption, “It must be fair week.”). And as well-intentioned as most fair moms are – slicing fruit and veggies late at night, packing a cooler with water, homemade sandwiches and Grandma’s cookies – by day three, corn dogs and nachos fill a hungry kid just fine.

A fair family hopes to make it through day one without an epic meltdown. Meltdowns are standard on day four and completely excusable, but on day one . . . you’ll be getting sympathetic looks from the other fair moms.

Fair week, however, takes on a different meaning when your family is not only a fair family but a fair board family.

A friend who sits on our volunteer fair board of directors lamented early last week, “If only people got ‘fair week’.”

Because along with regular life stuff, fair board members are spending countless hours – literally, we can’t keep track –preparing for the onslaught of people, animals, questions, concerns, tractors, cars, pork chop dinners and wayward storms.

My Farmer and I are both fair board members along with an eclectic group of former 4-H members, community folks, 4-H leaders and guys who made the mistake of attending a board meeting. Now they are official fair officials.

Our fair week started yesterday. Holly Spangler wrote an Ode to Fair Board Members.  She includes this: “Oh, the fair board member. Answerer of endless calls and balancer of ever-slimmer budgets. Answerer of questions relating to everything from electricity to fair queens. They are the people who figure out how to keep decrepit buildings standing, to get another year out of the beef barn, to run another water line. They are the ones who debate adding a beer tent or closing the fair, because the money just isn’t there. They organize exhibits, move tractors and maintain grounds, and even more, make peace between the horse people and the cattle people.”

And that pretty much sums up fair week. Yesterday my farm princess was answering the landline, “Lee County Fair. My mom can help you in a minute”, as I was on my cell calming the nerves of a new 4-Her who was pretty sure she forgot to enter her dozen eggs in the poultry department.

Today, we are packing the car with materials for Kids’ Korners, Kiddie Carnival, Ag Olympics and the Corn Boil. My farm boy asked, “When do my projects get to go?”

Illinois 4-H Fairgrounds Lee County

My great grandfather was a founding member of the board who established the Lee Co. 4-H Center. The white fence that flanks our front gate bears my grandfather’s name. It is a memorial to him and other dedicated fair believers. My dad spent my 4-H years on the fair board.

And now it is my turn. Fairs, like farms, are generational. And our commitment to them is just as strong.

Thank you fellow fair board members – fair family members. We may not like each other by week’s end, but we’re in this together and for that I am grateful!

(The Lee Co. 4-H Fair & Jr. Show is July 23-26 at the Lee Co. Fairgrounds near Amboy.  It is the perfect throwback county fair! For more information find us at leecounty4hcenter.com or on facebook!)


Originally posted on Rural Route 2: The Life & Times of an Illinois Farm Girl.

Katie Pratt
Dixon, IL

Katie and her husband, Andy, are seventh generation farmers. Together they raise two adorable farm kids and grow corn, soybeans and seed corn in Illinois. Katie's family still raises pigs, cattle, goats and horses only a few minutes away. Katie was named one of the 2013 Faces of Farming and Ranching by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA)

Apr 05 2015

Responsible Use of Antibiotics

Mar 06 2015

Why Antibiotic-Free McDonalds is Different from Antibiotic-Free Chipotle

The opening line of the news story caught my attention. “McDonald’s is going the way of Chipotle and Panera with their announcement of sourcing only antibiotic-free poultry,” said the newscaster.

My heart sank. Every time a food company adds a label to their hamburger, burrito or soup, farmers are left explaining what the label really means versus what the company wants you to think it means. It’s Marketing 101 and that will never change. But after reading a bit more about McDonalds’ move to antibiotic-free chicken, I discovered this bit of marketing is being served with a healthy dose of reality.

In their own press release, McDonalds recognizes chickens have a right to be healthy and free of illness. Antibiotics are a part of that healthcare plan.

“While McDonald’s will only source chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine, the farmers who supply chicken for its menu will continue to responsibly use ionophores, a type of antibiotic not used for humans that helps keep chickens healthy.” 

And thankfully, news sources from the NY Times to Fox News have included this fact in their reporting. 

According to the National Chicken Council, “The vast majority of these antibiotics are never used in humans. McDonald’s, veterinarians and animal scientists recognize their importance to minimize the use of those antibiotics that are important in human medicine.” Read their full statement here.

You see there are two classes of antibiotics, but we never hear about that when these food companies make big sweeping statements about a new label. Antibiotic-free isn’t necessarily true. Limited antibiotics may be the better term, referring to that fact that farmers aren’t going to stand by and watch an animal suffer if an antibiotic can make them better.

Livestock farmers already pay close attention to the medicines they use in animals, working closely with veterinarians to determine treatment options when needed. As Katie, an Iowa turkey farmer wrote, “. . .before turning to antibiotics, farmers work hard to prevent disease in other ways. We use vaccines to keep turkeys healthy. We limit exposure to germs by limiting visitors and changing clothes and showering between barns. We give them quality nutrition and clean water, and we also minimize stress on the birds by keeping them in a climate controlled barn.” (Read her full post titled, Does Antibiotic Use On Farms Affect Your Health?) Ineffective antibiotics are no good to anyone. Farmers must steward the technology and science as much as humans need to pay attention to their own medicine cabinets.

By adding the antibiotic-free label, McDonalds is joining ranks with Chik-fil-A, Culvers’, Panera and Chipotle. But unlike the latter two restaurants, McDonalds isn’t demonizing the farmers responsible for raising their food. Instead through their Our Food. Your Questions campaign, people can see exactly how chicken nuggets are made, or meet the farmer who grows potatoes destined to be McDonalds’ french fries.

Chipotle, however, relies on a scarecrow and the ill-conceived Hulu mini-series “Farmed & Dangerous” to push their food with integrity agenda. Have you visited their website lately? I barely made it through a few clicks. Information via animation is not how I prefer my facts. I’ll take them from the people who make their living raising food, harvesting it, processing it and serving it.

Don’t misunderstand my message. McDonalds is a big company that wouldn’t have made such an announcement if a dollar wasn’t to be gained. However, their willingness to deliver the information without an idealistic picture of a backyard chicken coop is greatly appreciated by this farmer. At times, we can find truth in marketing.

For more information on antibiotic use in livestock and antibiotic resistance, please visit these farm gals who raise livestock and are involved in the poultry community.

Katie Pratt
Dixon, Illinois

Originally posted on Katie's blog, Rural Route 2.

Katie and her husband, Andy, are seventh generation farmers. Together they raise two adorable farm kids and grow corn, soybeans and seed corn in Illinois. Katie's family still raises pigs, cattle, goats and horses only a few minutes away. Katie was named one of the 2013 Faces of Farming and Ranching by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA)