Illinois Farm Families Blog

Apr 18 2014

It’s Time to Plant Corn Week

Well, the week that the calendar indicates it is time to plant corn just wrapped up. The challenge is that the weather man didn't cooperate very well. We would like to see the soil temperature above 50 degrees and staying at that level or above before planting corn. It appears the part about staying there is the rub this year because we are looking at much colder temperatures for this coming week. I am not surprised, because typically there is little corn planted in West Central Illinois before Easter, which of course is still a few days away. What did I decide to do? I did plant one farm because the corn seed went into the soil as well as I have ever experienced on this particular farm, which is typically wetter than ideal during optimal corn planting dates which I consider to be April 10 to May 1 for our area. Now for the waiting game to see if I did the right thing. If I don’t get an adequate stand (plant population) then I will know in 30 days or less that I made a mistake, otherwise it may be harvest before I get indicators as to whether I made the correct decision.

Regardless of how that field turns out, I now know that when I put everything back in the shed it was operating properly. Of course, there is no guarantee that will be the case when I go to use them again because little gremlins seem to proliferate on my farm to provide little challenges to make life more interesting. I am relieved to get the first field under my belt so I can look forward to the corn planting rush with confidence. 

Friday afternoon I was surprised to find out my oldest daughter and son-in-law were coming home to do some fishing, and to let their citified doggies run off some energy. Even though I was in the tractor going back and forth pulling the field cultivator Friday and Saturday, it was nice to have them around. After some successful fishing Saturday morning they helped Lisa, my wife, place some dirt around a foundation, and then picked up dead trees and sticks in the pasture while their puppy played with the calves. One of my biggest joys and blessings on our family farm is that we can mix work, play, and family time all into one activity involving each of us as well as the farm animals. 

Burdette Rosendale
Augusta, Illinois

Burdette and his wife, Lisa who works off the farm, produce corn, soybeans, custom grain operations, and a few left over 4H/FFA cows in Hancock County. Their two daughters, who are or plan to be involved in the agricultural industry, frequently return home to help on the farm. Burdette is also the author of “Hope from the Harvest Fields – One farmer’s journey through God’s Word” where he shares some ideas about daily living gleaned from years of experience as a farmer and an accelerated journey of personal and professional development. You can learn more here.

Apr 07 2014

The 10 Best Things About Being a Farm Kid

10. The Stars 

You won’t appreciate how big the sky is or how many stars there are until you move to a city full of streetlights. The quiet of the night and the pressing dark are something you’ll only feel outside city limits. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a feeling of actually being alone; being able to clear your mind and look at the great-big, dark expanse above you, full of twinkling lights, is something that you don’t forget.

9. The Weather

On the farm, weather plays a big part in how crops are looking, and it seems like farmers are always wishing for that next soaking rain. Almost like an inborn sense of knowing what’s coming, you find that your senses are heightened at the slightest change in the air. You can feel that summer thunderstorm coming in, and it’s impressive to see the dark clouds rolling towards you along the horizon.

There’s also a fair share of tornado warnings, so it’s not unusual to be sent down to the basement at some point over the summer. The wind is something else, too. It ALWAYS seems to be windy, and wind speeds can definitely pick up with that first cool breeze before the storm hits.

Since I’ve been on my own, I’ve found myself compulsively checking the radar when I can sense rain coming. When I know we’re under some sort of summer weather warning, I have to go outside to look at the sky and have be able to see “what the weather’s doing” (also known as watching the storm come across the fields). I guess that’s the farm kid in me.

8. The Scenery

During the spring and summer, you expect your world to be green. The air is fresh from the oxygen given off of the crops and you are surrounded by nature. Few cars pass by the house (if the house is anywhere close to the road), and your neighbors’ houses are hidden behind cornfields for half the year.

7. Knowing Every Neighbor….In A 10 Mile Radius

“Neighbor” is every family in your rural community. The kids all go to schooltogether and you all attend the same church. These are the people that you’ll associate your childhood with. The older neighbor kids are your babysitters and your first “real” job will probably be babysitting the younger ones- just as soon as you’re allowed to stay home by yourself. Your closest neighbor is also at least a mile away.

6. Riding in the Combine

I haven’t met a farm kid that hasn’t gone for a combine ride every fall for their entire existence. You were probably driving it, with your dad on sitting on the armrest, by age 12 anyway. The real question here is “Red or Green?”

5. Kittens

Growing up on a farm, you spend half of your free time thinking up names for the new kittens in the barn and know that you can’t use the same name twice. You can also identify the cat sitting outside the barn or lurking just outside of the fence watching the dog from across the yard. By age 8, you’re an expert at catching and taming every kitten born each spring and fall in your barn.

4. The County Fair

Joining 4-H and FFA are a farm kid’s rite of passage. 4-H projects are where you’ll find your true passions and learn all of the skills you don’t in school. (Check out my 4-H post here). Everyone does it, and I remember counting down the days until I was finally old enough to join 4-H.

The county fair is the culmination of summer- all of those projects that you spent the entire summer working on are finally judged and the best week of summer begins. An entire week of hanging out with other farm kids and spending every waking minute with these friends.

3. Work Ethic

Farm kids tend to be stereotyped as the hard workers, which is a totally fair assumption. We all grew up with regular chores and were expected to help out on the farm. I can’t say that I particularly loved picking up sticks, mowing the lawn, feeding the cats, weeding the garden, or picking berries, but I can say that I have more of a work ethic than others in my generation. It’s easier to do something once you’re used to it, so getting tasks and other chores done in a timely manner is a normal thing to do. Bonus points if it’s done right the first time.

2. Helping Your Neighbors

Helping someone in need of assistance isn’t even questioned, you just do it. Pulled over on the side of the road? Chances are that we recognized your car a half mile back anyway. Lose a family member just before the busy harvest season? A dozen combines are headed over just as soon as the services are over. Tornado tear apart your community? Just tell us when to go. It’s neighbors helping neighbors. We all need a little help at some point, and it’s the sense of community that compels us to help out.

1. Being the Next Generation

Being a farm kid doesn’t imply that you love agriculture. But you do know your stuff and have an appreciation for the industry. The best part about being a farm kid is being a part of something bigger than yourself, YOU are the next generation to care for your family’s farm. You are learning to be stewards of your land and learning to be more efficient on the farm. You’re going to be there when grandpa finally admits it’s time to retire. You are part of the 2% that live and work on a farm in the United States. Being a farm kid isn’t a common thing anymore, and you give thanks every day that you were given this opportunity to grow up on the farm.

 

Living in town may be convenient, but I really miss my roots. I miss having my space and being able to see a sea of green for miles. I miss the sky and, most of all, I miss the stars. There is no doubt that I’ll be back on a rural route, just as soon as I graduate and launch my career in agriculture. Agriculture is a part of who I am, and I couldn’t imagine my life otherwise.

Originally posted on A Farm Kid's Guide to Agriculture.

Gracie Weinzierl
Illinois

A farm girl about to launch her career in agriculture communications and leadership, Gracie is a 4-H alum, Sigma Alpha sorority member, proud owner of two adorable kitties and senior at Illinois State University. Follow her blog at A Farm Kid’s Guide to Agriculture.

Apr 04 2014

Refusing to Take Part in the "Food Fight"

Last night a woman who I like and respect quite a bit posted a rather lengthy Facebook status.  Tammy and I met several years ago at the farmers market where I’m a vendor and she is a regular customer.  Her status bothered me so much that it’s now 3:00 AM, about 5 hours after I read the post, and I’ve given up trying to sleep, gotten out of bed, and am at the computer in our farm office, trying to regurgitate the thoughts I’ve had since the initial read.

She’s a mom of two, and is making all of the food choices for her family.  Her post centered around her feelings of being torn between “seemingly opposing sides” of the “local, heirloom, organic, grass-fed, humanely raised, sustainable, non-GMO, antibiotic-free, free-range” farmers and those who farm using conventional methods.

I’ve left the comfort of my warm bed to try to explain that, Tammy, you don’t have to choose a side.

The recent round of fear-based marketing, most prominently displayed by Chipotle’s new advertising campaign introduced this week, will have you believe that there is only one correct choice and that it must be the one with the most adjectives attached.  I’m troubled by the increasing prevalence of emotionally charged fear mongering in food marketing and am especially bothered by how it’s affecting people like Tammy.  It’s beyond annoying to me when one method of production is misrepresented and put down to make another look good.  This tactic is being used not only by major food retailers like the burrito purveyor, but by farmers against one another.  It is this particular practice that makes me saddest, as the rift is non-productive and dangerous.  I would suggest that there is room for all types of production methods in today’s agriculture and that they can peacefully co-exist.  The reality is that there are plenty of markets for farmers today.  Consumers have a variety of desires and demands, from budget to niche related.  We also can’t overlook the fact that we’re facing a very real global population explosion and it will take all farmers, large and small, organic and conventional, doing what they do best, to feed it.

A farmer makes the decision on what kind of crop to grow andhow to grow it based on a multitude of factors, which include location, facilities, resources, market opportunities, availability of labor, personal preference, etc.  I’ll give some examples beginning with my own farm.  Here we have a herd of 60 beef cows.  It’s that size because of the amount of land, and the quality of land, that we have available.  The land where my cattle graze during the spring, summer and fall has been in my husband’s family since the 1840?s.  Because of the soil type and terrain (gravel in some spots, too wet in others) it’s not really suitable for growing a crop but makes a great pasture.  That reason, coupled with the fact that both my husband and I enjoy working with cattle, is the reason that we raise beef, and are the size that we are.  If there was more of the same type of land available we might choose to increase our herd size, but would have to consider other factors such as the need to hire more help to care for the additional animals.  Sixty cows is the size that works for us.

The decision about how to market our beef, which is directly to consumers, was made based on the fact that here in McHenry County we’re physically located in a fairly populous and prosperous area between two major population centers, Chicago and Rockford.  Because of that proximity we can market our products direct, or choose to sell through traditional markets.  I have friends who raise cattle in North Dakota.  They’re in a remote rural area literally 100 miles from the nearest Starbucks and 80 miles from a McDonalds.  Marketing direct to consumers is not an option for them simply because the population is not there to draw from, the market simply doesn’t exist for them.  They also have about ten times the number of cows that I have.  They are that size because they have more land and more labor available; there are actually 3 generations of their family working together.  That’s the size that works for them.  It’s not better or worse than what we’re doing here.

I choose to not use growth promotants in my beef.  It’s because my customers tell me that they want it that way.  As a consequence of that choice, my cattle grow a little slower than cattle from herds where they are used, so mine will require more feed.  The cost of that feed is passed along to the consumer, thus my beef is more expensive than the more efficiently raised alternative.  I’m very aware that there are people who can’t afford my beef.  That’s OK and I’m happy that there is more affordable beef in large retail stores available to them since I believe that beef is a terrific source of necessary protein (not to mention iron and zinc), and it’s great tasting, too!  I would never suggest that there’s anything wrong with the less expensive beef that is raised in a different manner.  Growth promotants have been used for decades and are completely safe.  I personally would not hesitate to buy beef from the grocery store if I did not have my own home-grown supply.  Similarly, I do not have a problem feeding my own beef to my family or selling it to others even though it does not carry the “organic” certification.  The bottom line is that I have found a market for my beef, while other farmers have a market for less expensive, efficiently-raised beef, and yet another group finds buyers who are willing to pay extra for the organic label.  We find what works best for our own farms.

I also market my beef as “natural”.  This term on a label means (by USDA definition) that it’s minimally processed with no artificial additives.  There are no preservatives or food coloring in my beef.  Again, I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong with either of these, just going along with the preferences of my customers.  In fact, the absence or presence of a growth promotant, a preservative, or food coloring has absolutely no effect on the nutritional value, taste, or safety of beef.  And remember that all beef, regardless of the number of adjectives used to describe it, must always be handled and cooked properly.  A person can become ill from improperly prepared food, whether it’s organic, sustainable, free-range or not.   Getting back to the customer…I’m able to fit my production methods to the demands of my clientele.  These days, they tell me that “local” and “natural” are important to them, they don’t have strong feelings one way or the other about “organic”. They do like know that the money they’re spending is staying in the county.  They want to have a relationship with their farmer and know how and where their food is raised.  I’m happy to comply.  If things change and price, or something else, should become the priority, I will have to adapt my production methods accordingly.

I have neighbors who grow vegetables.  Their farm is located on a state highway, perfect for a farm stand, given the amount of traffic in our suburban county.  They can market a large amount of a wide variety of their vegetables directly to consumers right from home.  I have other friends who also grow vegetables but their farm is off the beaten path, actually on a gravel road.  A farm stand at home is not an option for them (they like their quiet location, and admit that they would not enjoy hosting the public at their home on a daily basis as others do), so they’ve chosen to load a truck several times a week during the growing season and sell at farmers markets, or sell to the wholesale market in Chicago.  Another friend from the farmers market has a very small amount of acreage and grows heirloom (and other varieties of veggies that you don’t see everywhere) using organic methods.  She chooses this because it’s what her customers want; the “organic” label is important to them and they are willing to pay for it.  She’s able to comply because her small scale is manageable for her without much extra help.  Her veggies do cost more due to the cost of organic certification and market expenses, but she’s found a niche for herself and gets a premium for her products.  The neighbors with the farm stand have a large amount of land with fertile soil types.  They choose to raise their veggies using conventional methods and fairly large equipment.  They don’t believe there’s anything wrong with organic, but their choice is based on the fact that organic production requires more labor which is not readily available to them, and more importantly, their customers are happy with the variety, quality, and quantity of what they produce.  It’s the size and method that works for them.  Each has chosen what works best, not necessarily “a side”.

So for Tammy, and other consumers who are struggling with food choices amidst overwhelming labels, adjectives, and headline-grabbing, myth-based marketing campaigns, I say pick whatever works best for YOU.  Don’t be mislead by fear-mongers and unjustified guilt.  Ask questions of those who are actually growing the food, and discount the opinions of those who must tear down someone else’s choice to make theirs look most appealing.  Buy what you want given your own budget and preferences.  And remember that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing; there is no rule against buying conventional one day and organic the next.  Whether you’re buying food for your family at a small farm stand, the local farmers market, Jewel, Trader Joe’s, Target, or Costco – with no adjectives or a list of adjectives as long as your arm – know that there’s a farmer at the other end who made choices too.  There’s no wrong answer.

Okay, glad I’ve gotten that off my chest.  The day is now beginning, time to start my day the same way farmers and ranchers all across the country do, regardless of the number of acres they own, animals in their care, or method of production they’ve chosen for their farm.  We’re all getting up and checking our animals; making sure they’re comfortable and secure, that they have plenty of feed, water, and a dry place to rest.  Our livestock comes first no matter the adjectives attached to the label.  No choice there.

Originally posted on Willow Lea Stock Farm.

Michele Aavang
Woodstock, Illinois

Michele and her husband, Gary are full-time farmers raising corn, soybeans, alfalfa, wheat and oats in northern Illinois. Michele takes on the role of marketing their beef right to consumers at farmers markets, giving her the opportunity to educate people about agriculture. Learn more about life on the farm for Michele on her blog, Willow Lea Stock Farm.

Mar 12 2014

Women Changing the Face of Agriculture Event Recap

Wow! The 5th annual Women Changing the Face of Agriculture event was a great experience! The Illinois Agri-Women host the event that started with member Penny Lauritzen’s vision of linking young women that are the future of agriculture with women currently working in agriculture. It has been a success, growing exponentially since the first run in 2009.

Location rotates annually to increase likelihood that schools across Illinois can send students. Regardless of location, the event draws students from near and far. As Alexis Johnson, senior at Kewanee High School, notes, it’s worth the trip. “The WCFA conference made me feel inspired to make a difference! I feel confident in myself and my power as a female to help my (FFA) chapter using the things I learned. I know women are strong and believe in their powers now more than ever. I would definitely take the 3 hour drive again any day!”

The 2014 event, held on March 7 at John Wood Community College in Quincy, drew a whopping 460 students and 61 teachers/leaders representing 65 schools/groups, including 11 students from urban areas. This is nearly four times the student attendance in 2009! In the picture below, students who arrived early are waiting for the conference to start.

Attendees had the opportunity to network with more than 175 professional women in agriculture. There were 75 companies, government agencies, non-profits and colleges involved as professional presenters at one of 45 career fair booths or 25 class break-out sessions. 

In the morning students rotated between booths to hear from professional women, with time to ask questions about the careers and companies represented. In the picture below, students listen as Barbara Stille, Executive Vice-President of Operations & General Counsel for 1st Farm Credit Services, shares her experiences during the career fair. 

Jessica Carolan, another representative from 1st Farm Credit Services, presented for the first time. She enjoyed visiting with participants and other presenters while sharing her journey through agriculture. Jessica notes “the event was a great opportunity to cultivate and grow interest in an agriculture career among a great group of young women.”

In the afternoon students attended two breakout sessions based on their preferences. Some breakout sessions were career focused ranging from food and product development quality testing to grain and livestock marketing to exploring global agriculture. Others, such as the session I led, “Conquering Credit,” were focused on life skills. I provided tips for building a strong credit history, what your lender looks for, and why that’s important, even to a high school or college student.

A highlight of the day was the lunch hour which not only included a delicious meal, but also the featured speaker, Katie Pratt of Dixon, Illinois. Katie was named one of the 2013 Faces of Farming and Ranching by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. Hannah Libby, sophomore at ROWVA High School, thought Katie was an awesome speaker and explains how the message inspired her saying she “learned that you can make a positive result of anything, just like Katie’s kids did with their popcorn stand.”

I am thrilled to be part of the planning committee for such an exciting event! For two years, I have assisted on the facility committee as the meal organizer. Thank you to the rest of the committee and the 50 Illinois Agri-Women, community members, and student volunteers who helped on Friday for your time and efforts. On behalf of the planning committee, another thank you to our sponsors whose generous donations make the day possible.

The event has previously been held in Bloomington, Champaign, and Carbondale and will return to Bloomington next year on March 6, 2015. For more information visit the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture website. If you are interested in helping with or participating in the 2015 event comment on this post with your email address.

Krista Swanson
Oneida, Illinois

Krista is a portfolio analyst for 1st Farm Credit Services. She and her husband, Brett, farm in Illinois with his family and run Swanson Seeds, a Pioneer and small seeds sales business.

Mar 10 2014

Ask a Farmer

Last month Cheerios announced that they were eliminating GMOs from their cereal. My twitter feed lit upt as many of the moms and food bloggers I follow shared their excitement about this news. This made me reflect on my farm tour where I heard from farmers who use GMOs and those who farm organic. Prior to that visit I knew very little about GMOs. All I knew as that they were controversial, but after hearing from farmers (parents like myself) who where on both sides of the fence I had to take a step back. 

One of the great things about social media is that you can throw out a topic and get people thinking and talking about important issues. So why not have a conversation about this? Why not ask my followers, what questions would they ask a farmer if given the opportunity. The wonderful folks at Illinois Farm Families were able to send the questions to farmer Donna Jeschke, here are her responses.

What is your stance on GMOs?

We use GMO seeds on our family farm. Simply, for us using this seed technology is a more acceptable alternative for controlling pests than using insecticides and other pesticides.  

Do you get incentives for GMO production?

We are not paid by the companies who produce GMO seeds to use their products.  In fact, the price of GMO seed is actually more than non-GMO seed.  However, our  "incentive" or "payback" is not having to purchase, handle or apply certain pesticides to our soils and crops.  Also, we have better insect control and grow healthier plants with GMO seeds than with non-GMO seeds.

How much sleep do you really get?

As far as sleep goes...that depends on the time of year.  During the planting, growing and harvest seasons (spring, summer and fall), we average 5 1/2 to 6 hours each night. During the winter months, it's usually 7 hours.  

As an urban consumer, what's the best thing I can do to support responsibly run farms?

 I would suggest that you you actually have conversations with farmers.  Dialogue with farmers via technology or face-to-face, ask questions, and express concerns you may have. Visit a corn, soybean, vegetable or livestock farm. Experience what is really happening on farms today and share that information with your urban friends.

This is just one farmer's response. I want to encourage you to get to know the people who make food for you and your family. Emily at Confessions of a Farm Wife encourages this dialogue. How empowering would it be for us to break down the (imaginary?) wall that exists between consumers and farmers?

Have a question? Ask a farmer. 

Originally posted February 17, 2014 on Only Laila.
Reposted with permission.

Only Laila
Illinois

Laila blogs about balancing her career responsibilities while also striving to be an engaged mom. Follow along on her blog, Only Laila, as this Illinois mom posts tips on everything from parenting and crafts to education and living well on a budget.

Feb 28 2014

Why I Love Farming: Peace and Quiet of Country Life

I am a part-time farm worker and grew up on a farm in the Carlinville area. I went on a different course in life but have always loved being in the field. I love meeting other farmers and learning so much from the new farmers of today. I also love the beautiful scenes I see when I am in the field, like the one I photographed this fall [above]. The peace and quiet of country life and farming is the best there is.

Ron Schneider
Pawnee, Illinois

Originally featured in November 2012 in Prairie Farmer Magazine.
Reposted with permission.

Feb 24 2014

Why I Love Farming: Love and Success

Though I’m only 20 years old, I can still say harvest time “takes me back.” I have memories of nights spent sleeping on the floor of the combine, using Daddy’s Carhart jacket as a blanket and pillow. I have memories of days spent in car seats, strapped into the grain truck next to Mom as we made trip after trip to the elevator, collecting Tootsie Pops as we went. I can remember my 6-year-old self doing math homework in the combine, as I carried on about my day at school. And who doesn’t have memories of playing in the beans?

Looking back, it’s no wonder I fell in love with this work, with this way of life. Now that I’m at the University of Illinois pursuing a degree in agribusiness,  I find myself making special trips home to sit in our combine, to hear the rustle of the corn, even to breathe the red dog. For better or for worse, in good years and in bad, this farming lifestyle is the one for me.

Erin Ehnle
Princeville, Illinois

Originally featured in November 2012 in Prairie Farmer Magazine.
Reposted with permission

Erin Ehnle is the girl behind "Keeping it Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl." She combines beautiful photography with key farm facts to share the story of agriculture with consumers via social media. Check out her Facebook page to learn more.

Feb 21 2014

Why We Love to Farm: It's About Family

The primary thing I love about farming is that it is a family business. Everyone is involved in some capacity, even when young. We all work together to care for our animals and there is a lot of fun involved even when we are working hard and the weather is not cooperating. When we “work” cattle (give vaccinations and identifying ear tags) even our teacher daughter-in-law will help out. One of the nicest things my farmer husband ever gave me for Christmas was a propane heater for the barn so when we had to work cattle in the winter I could be comfortable. He has been teased about that for years, but I appreciated it! 

I have done everything on the farm in some way, but I am mainly the bookkeeper. Our farming daughter-in-law has taken over the combining for the most part. My husband, son, and hired hand do most of the work. Our attorney son helps out on weekends when he can. We have hired students from the local Junior College for summer work and our current helper is one of those graduates.

Since we feed cattle, someone has to be available every day to feed them and make sure they are healthy. Spring and fall field work makes for long days. That’s when everyone really chips in.  We all work well together to get the crops planted or harvested. Sometimes just little things, like a snack brought out in the middle of the morning, can make the difference in how things go.

With all the work, though, we have some flexibility in our work days. As long as someone is available to feed and care for the cattle, we can leave the farm for time off for appointments, visits, and even vacations.  Now that we have a third primary person, it makes it even easier.

Even though our farm is technically a corporation, we are all family!

JoAnn Adams
Sandwich, Illinois

Throughout the month of February, we're asking farmers what it is they love about their job. Whether it's being good stewards of the land or working alongside their families, we'll be sharing stories from different farmers. Do you farm? Share with us why you love what you do in the comments below!

Feb 15 2014

Calves in the House and Kids in the Barn

It's funny the things that will catch people's attention.

Last week, I did an interview with John Cody, a Chicago broadcaster with WBBM radio. He had read this blog post by Betsie Estes, a former Field Mom with the Illinois Farm Families program. Betsie blogs at Super Suburbs and is a fabulous young suburban mother I've gotten to know after meeting at Larson Farms a couple years ago. We've become social media friends, and after seeing one of my posts about caring for livestock during the polar vortex of earlier in January, sent a set of questions for my husband and me to answer. From there, she put together a very well-written post for her blog readers about what Illinois livestock farmers were doing.

Mr. Cody's questions mostly rehashed Betsie's: what did we do to prepare for the storms and the cold, what is this business with frozen waterers and pumps and light bulbs, and most interestingly, why would we bring a calf in the house?

He was intrigued by that one. Really. John and I have said, for the past several weeks, we are just fortunate to not be calving yet and we have every hope temperatures will moderate a bit before we start in a couple weeks. But as any livestock farmer knows, when a calf/lamb/goat/etc. is newborn and cold and not doing well, it comes in the house. Mr. Cody was fascinated by the idea that we might bring a calf into the basement or the bathtub, or even the garage. And I think he was quite disappointed that we didn't have one in the house on that exact day, but fortunately he was able to talk with Michael Prescott, a central Illinois cattleman and Illinois Farm Families volunteer, who did. Score one for the farm team.

He also asked a lot of questions about our kids – their ages and whether they helped with the animals in the cold. And of course, I answered that they did. The older kids have heifers and steers, and the youngest has a rabbit, and they all go out to care for them.

"Caroline? The five year old?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered. "She has a rabbit, and we have it bundled up in its hutch but it still needs feed and unfrozen water every day."

And that is, apparently, what made the airwaves. A couple of my co-workers heard the broadcast on their way into work the next day and confirmed: "All of Chicagoland now knows Caroline, age 5, is out taking care of her rabbit, Penny, every day in the cold!"

For the record, my older two were aghast that Caroline got all the credit. "Seriously?! I feed Penny about half the time!" Jenna said. Which is true; Caroline, age 5, is also good at asking her sister to do her quick chore while she's out there. And Jenna and Nathan are endlessly faithful to head out and do their chores. Oh, the irony.

But of course, like bringing a calf in the house, this is all just normal to farm people. Melissa Rhode shared last week that in her husband's absence, her sons Garrett, 12, and Preston, 9, were out doing chores for their dad.

Good kids, just doing what needs to be done. And taking care of the animals they love. No matter the temperature.

Originally posted February 7, 2014 on Prairie Farmer.
Reposted with permission.

Holly Spangler
Marietta, Illinois

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois growing crops and producing cattle as well as raising their three children. Holly is an associate editor for Prairie Farmer magazine, a publication dedicated to sharing information about farm life and farm business. Read more from Holly on the Prairie Farmer blog.

Feb 14 2014

Why I Love Farming: A Welcome Burden of Responsibility

I farm because I believe that hard work, forged in the crucible of faith, family, and challenge, is the grandest lifestyle anyone can pursue. No joy surpasses what a farmer earns—wages for work, but also fulfillment in serving others. I stand on some of the same earth doing the same things that my Great, Great Grandfather did, and I pray that my Great, Great Grandchildren will choose to do. Times change, values do not. We face challenges, but do so with the welcome burden of responsibility: to past generations in their honor, to succeeding generations for their future, to our community and world for their health, and to ourselves for the dignity farmers have in helping life beget life - one plant, one animal, one neighbor, one friend at a time. This is why I farm. 

Andrew Bowman, fifth generation farmer from Oneida, Ill., pauses from planting soybeans to watch the sunset. Andrew and his wife Karlie have one son, Ryker, and farm with Andrew’s parents, Lynn and Sally Bowman in addition to serving farmers through insurance and consulting enterprises. 

Throughout the month of February, we're asking farmers what it is they love about their job. Whether it's being good stewards of the land or working alongside their families, we'll be sharing stories from different farmers. Do you farm? Share with us why you love what you do in the comments below!

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