Caring for animals is a 24/7 job that requires knowledge, patience and the utmost devotion.

Illinois Farm Families Blog

May 07 2015

Farm Visit

As a part of the City Moms program, I have had some great opportunities to learn about farming in Illinois, and to share that information with my family. But another exciting part of the program was when we were all given a farmer pen pal, and to find out that mine lives less than an hour from my home! 

My pen pal contacted me right after our City Moms orientation in February, and invited my family out to the farm to see the calves in the spring. My boys were off school on a recent Monday and we were able to take advantage of this invitation! My boys enjoyed hearing about my visit to the hog farm in March, but actually getting to visit a real farm themselves was very exciting! We saw a five-day-old calf up close, and we got to bottle-feed an orphan calf that was just over a month old. 

We were at the farm during spring planting, so we got to take a look at some corn and soybeans that had just been planted a few days earlier and were already beginning to sprout – tying in to the lessons my second grader is learning in science right now! It was a great opportunity for my kids to learn more about where their food comes from and see it all first hand. They’re already talking about going back in the fall to ride the combine during harvest! We’re all looking forward to it!

Jen Meiring
Batavia, IL

Jen is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2015 City Moms. Throughout the year she will visit Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each visit, the City Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago Moms Meet Farmers.

Apr 16 2015

My Day at Goulds Pig Farm

We were bused off to the Gould Family Farm near DeKalb, Illinois  where Three generations of the Gould family generously opened their home and farm business to help educate the City Moms about pigs and farming. 

The Gould’s farm grows corn, soybeans and wheat, in addition to the  750 sows (female pigs) that they care for. Their farm focuses on the breeding, gestation, and farrowing (birthing) of piglets. They raise 16,000 piglets annually to be sent on to finishing farms. These pigs are owned by corporations and contracted to finishing farms where, when the piglets are weened from their mother and ready to eat solid food (18 days), they are grown to market weight of about 280 pounds each. Then they are sold to Harvesters (slaughter houses, in my day) who process and package the meat to be sold in the markets and grocery stores. 

The Goulds use the “gestation crate” method at their farm. There  are rows and rows of sow mammas in “hog slats” that had litters of 10-12 piglets text to them under heat lamps (piglets like it hot - 85 degrees). The moms could stand up, lie face forward, but barely lie on their sides and could not turn around or move around anywhere in the “crate”. This seemed so uncomfortable.

It was explained, by the Goulds, that these crates were the safest for the piglets. The piglets could not get squished by mom , Gould could implement proper feeding portions for each sow, health status conditions could be constantly monitored (they had personal chart cards for each animal they owned), and they could secure the general safety of the sows from other sows, - no fights. 

But this raises the question - IS IT HUMANE? I believe that this  comes down to personal choice. None of the animals were dirty, didn't look “unhappy” and were very safe and secure. I believe that, if enough people choose not to purchase and eat pork that has been raised in a gestation crate, it will force the farms to transition which will come with a price to the farmers and then eventually to the consumer. It will cost more for the farmers to group the sows into gestation groups according to what they eat, their behavior, etc. You can read more about this at look under the Management to Control Aggression in Group Housing article. 

Everyone wants to feel that they are purchasing pork that has been  raised as “Happy Pigs”. But really - how is it possible to be “happy” when a sows whole life’s purpose is to mass produce piglets? Let’s face it, these animals are raised for food, they are not our pets. It’s choice of how we feel would be the best environment. For the Goulds, they choose gestation crates because they feel that is the most cost effective, clean, safe controlled environment that they can create in order to do THEIR Job of producing piglets. 

Europe has banned the use of gestation stalls since 2013. Public pressure is the driving force behind outlawing the crates. Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods, harvesters, are encouraging farmers to transition away from the use of crates due to this pressure. 

Therefore, like I said, it all comes down to personal choice. Farmers and Harvester and Producers of pork are doing what they feel is the “right” choice to produce the best product they can. Their families rely on their business to raise their families and supply food. 

Personal Choice - I didn't eat the pork for lunch - did you? (The rest  of the family loves Ham!!)

Kyle Cooper Rogel
Gurnee, IL

Kyle is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2015 City Moms. Throughout the year she will visit Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each visit, the City Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago Moms Meet Farmers.

Apr 07 2015

What does it mean to be a farm family?

Our City Mom visit to the Gould Farm on a beautiful spring-like day earlier this March began with a warm welcome by several members, indeed generations, of the Gould Family. That warm welcome and that up-close encounter with the family is what has stayed with me most about the hog tour. While many of my colleagues are much more interested in and well-informed about food safety and animal welfare, I have to admit I am always much more interested in the human side of things. 

What does it mean to be a farm family? I think the Goulds are the perfect example. Along with Eldon and Sandy, the patriarch and matriarch, their son, Chris, and his wife Dana, as well as their kids, ranging in age from high-school to college, it seemed like the whole family is involved in the farm in some way or another. This is important because running a modern-day farm requires a multitude of talents and knowledge, from using computer technology and sophisticated software to monitor breeding and average litter size to actually handling the animals and feed. 

During our visit, Chris` teen-age son handled a huge boar, as Chris demonstrated the artificial insemination process to us. As a high school teacher, I am always drawn to how teenagers think, how they learn and how they grow. Meeting Chris and Dana`s kids that day was so refreshing. They are regular high school kids who play sports and take AP classes, but also obviously know hands-on how to run a farm. 

Based on my very limited encounter with the Goulds that day, I can`t help but observe that farm families are doing much more than putting food on our tables.They are raising well-rounded, modern-day problem-solvers, who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. We need more young people like that in our country. 

Alicia Gonzalez
Chicago, IL

Alicia is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2015 City Moms. Throughout the year she will visit Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each visit, the City Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago Moms Meet Farmers.
Mar 31 2015

Hog Farm Tour: A New Perspective

To be honest, the hog farm was the City Mom tour I was least looking forward to. That’s why I chose it as one of my assigned blogs. If I was going to have negative preconceived notions, I felt it was important to write about what I saw and felt during the tour and reconcile my idea of a hog farm and my actual experience. 

Growing up we didn’t eat much pork. It wasn’t something my mother prepared often and, in turn, I don’t prepare much pork for my family. It never occurred to me why but I believe you usually cook what you’re used to eating. As the hog tour approached, I tried to think of why I was apprehensive about the tour as pork production was not a top-of-mind topic for me. I realized that it really came down to my fear of seeing how an animal is treated on a modern farm. This was the first tour in which we were going to come face to face with animals that are raised with the sole purpose of human consumption. 

It was explained prior to the tour that the Gould Farm specializes in the farrow to wean portion of hog farming, basically gestation and caring for piglets until they are weaned. This did not make the scenario brighter for me as the tour would specifically focus on mom hogs and their piglets. It was also explained that we would have the unique privilege of viewing the gestational stalls and the farrowing stalls. We were told that this was, indeed, unusual because of the constant fear of possible illnesses that could infect the resident hogs. The idea of viewing the stalls was a bit uncomfortable for me. Were the animals comfortable? Would they rather be free to roam?

The answer came down to perspective. This tour reminded me that the Gould Farm was preparing a product and its existence was driven by the demand for that product. This was not a petting zoo. This was an operating farm caring for animals that would eventually be slaughtered and sold in grocery stores to people like me and the Gould’s were doing this in the most safe and manageable way possible.

Here’s what I learned:

  • The Gould Farm specializes in gestation to ween in hog production. The hogs are sent to other farms contracted by the same company where they are “finished” and sent for processing.

  • The hogs aren’t owned by the Gould Farm. The Gould’s are paid to breed gilts/sows and raise piglets with feed and medical care supplied by Tri Oaks.

  • The manure on the Gould Farm is not stored in lagoons, instead the manure is held in tanks below the animal housing. The manure is not sprayed as I originally thought. It is injected where it is needed after the soil is tested.

  • Hormel buys hogs from farms that follow stringent guidelines. These guidelines must be met with consistency without exception. Doug England was the Hormel representative that spoke with us. He was in charge of purchasing hogs for Hormel. His description of the purchase, delivery, and processing of the hogs reassured me that companies like Hormel were interested in producing a quality product and a huge part of that was the care of the animals. Sick, injured, or stressed animals were not part of the equation.

This tour put in perspective the reality of animal farming. The reality is that I eat meat and I prepare meat for my family. I care about the safety of the meat I purchase and cook for my family and I care about the welfare of the animals that are raised for this purpose. I walked away from Gould Farm with a better understanding of the realities of hog farming and what needs to occur to provide safe and healthy environments to produce pork for human consumption. I was also impressed by the Gould family’s intent to explain this to us. Again, I was totally awestruck that these very busy people have the foresight to take the time to educate us, the people on the other end of the equation, the people who want reassurance that they are preparing healthy, safe food for their families without unneeded animal suffering.

Bridget Evanson
Crystal Lake, IL

Bridget is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2015 City Moms. Throughout the year she will visit Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each visit, the City Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago Moms Meet Farmers.

Jan 05 2015

That Christmas Ham You’re Going to Eat; What do you Know About It?

Last year, I did something that I never imagined I would do in my adult life. I volunteered to go to a pig farm to see where all of the wonderful pork that the Houseful loves to consume comes from. It was definitely something that I think every person who does consume meat products to do. Whatever way you fall after visiting is totally on you. Either way, it was educational, and even a lot more enjoyable than I anticipated.

Boy did I get an eye AND nose full! It was definitely a sensory overload in the olfactory, auditory, and visual sense. I’m glad that I went though, and was able to learn so much about the forms of pork that I do eat. Getting to know the pork farmers wasn’t half bad either. Their penchant for hog farming was strong. The love of it radiated from the dad all the way down to the smallest farm baby.

As part of my participation in the Illinois Farm Families, I visited the hog farm of Steve Ward and his family in Sycamore, Illinois. I wasn’t entirely sure of what we were in for, but I was open to the fact that I would learn something. You always should be, correct? I’m eternally grateful to Steve and his family, including his very gracious father and mother, for opening up their farm to us.

On the bus to the farm, we were given a talk by a couple of the farmers who were along with us on general farming concepts. Acreage (did you know that an acre is roughly the same size of a football field?) and the massive amounts that lot of farmers have. We’re talking 1200 acres of land to take care of on a daily basis. I think that I would faint with just one acre of land, and these families are taking care of 1200. Steve even let us know that if he worked from sun up to sun down during planting season, he would be able to get through one hundred acres of land. Catch me now as I faint from exhaustion. I did get to pretend to drive a tractor. The thing is massive. Literally. One wheel is taller than I am, and the cabin is so far off the ground that those of us who are a little afraid of heights may not deal well, but we pretend and take a photo anyway.

The learning process started immediately. We were told that Steve’s farm was a wean to to finish hog farm (meaning, they get pigs that have been weaned from their mothers and raise them until it’s time for them to be processed.) for Illini Farms. He has four hog houses – two for the smaller pigs, and two for pigs that are about 75 pounds and over. If you should ever get to this farm, as they do tours and the such, make sure you ask Steve how to wrangle a pig. It’s quite an art. It kind of reminds me of the way that I wrestle one of my children who has just been bathed and been told that it is now time for bed. Yeah, that.

One thing that most city people would not really be prepared for would be the smell. It hits you before you even step foot in the door, however when you enter, you wonder where it’s coming from since the pens are literally spotless. Well thanks to modern innovation, the pens all have slotted flooring, so that all urine and fecal matter can drop into an 8 foot pit and not contaminate any of the pigs food. If you’re thinking that they shouldn't care about the food being contaminated since it’s all slop anyway, you would be wrong my bacon-loving friends. The food is delivered in a timing system, and consists of grains such as corn, soy and wheat. They eat from stainless steel troughs and they are quite happy with it. The smell did stay with me for a few days. From my biology class memory, I know this is because the scents had embedded themselves into my lipids. When we asked Steve about this, and his wife, they both stated that it’s not really that noticeable to them. However, if she is away from him all day, she can certainly notice a scent.

I do remember learning when I was younger that pigs were social animals. I found out that my teacher did indeed know what they were talking about. As soon as our group walked through the doors, the pigs were pretty excited to come and interact with us. They also followed Steve around as he walked through the pens randomly petting or checking them. He did inform us that they are very careful not to refer to the pigs as pets, because then a connection is created that’s pretty tough to break once they have to go and be processed. While we’re talking about processing pigs, I was as relieved as can be by the actual processing process if you will. You don’t want any of the meat that you are going to ingest to go through any levels of stress when being slaughtered (the real word for processing) since it will toughen it up and make it nearly impossible to sell. I remember my aunt in Mississippi explaining that to me back in the day when she let me know that some ham hocks that I was enjoying came from the pig that I had just seen last year. She told me that you don’t want those pigs frightened, otherwise you have to wait a day or two until they calm down so that their meat can be tender for eating.

So when you’re picking out that ham for your Christmas dinner this year, know that it was processed by hardworking men and women getting up at the crack of dawn to make sure that everything is perfect. While I know that I’m a bacon lover, and pork chops, and heck – pork shoulder butt, I’ll be thinking the same thing.

The things that I really enjoyed learning were:

  • The pigs are kept in climate controlled housing instead of outside to fare in the very random Illinois weather.
  • Pigs are fed a diet that consists of grains and not random slop
  • Pig pens are not messy in the least. They are formatted to make sure that the pigs have sanitary areas to eat, sleep and live in.
  • Overcrowding is not an issue on this farm. All pens have more than enough room to allow the pigs to roam around as necessary.
  • The “processing” of the pigs are done with as little stress as possible. No electricity and no knives (which is what I always thought.)
  • Farmers realize that food must come from somewhere, and everyone is not going to be a vegetarian. They want to make sure that those who do consume pork products, are given the best product that they can find.
  • Pig scent stays with you for a couple of days. I know that Mr. Houseful loves me, because he kissed me BEFORE telling me that I was smelly.
Natasha Nicholes
Chicago, IL

This blog originally appeared in Natasha's blog, Houseful of Nicholes, on
Dec 20, 2014.

Nov 03 2014

Let's Go On a Field Trip!

Last year about this time I had several conversations with my friend Barb (check out her 2014 City Mom profile) about some of our concerns with the food we have been buying at the grocery store. We talked about everything from washing our lettuce to what foods really mattered when it came to buying organic. Our topics of conversation wandered over a range of questions that neither she nor I could really answer ourselves. What does Cage Free really mean? Are GMO products harmful? Why are GMO products being produced? Should I be buying hormone free Beef? Should I be spending more on milk that has no added growth hormone? Are my children being harmed by the foods we eat? The amount of questions and concerns were overwhelming and my wallet was not big enough to cross out all questionable foods from my shopping cart and replace them with all organic etc. 

Barb sent me an email with a link to the City Mom program through Illinois Farm Families. Needless to say, after reading through what was offered I was very hopeful I would be selected to enjoy the experience! Thankfully I was selected and able to go on every farm tour that was offered and would love to share a short rundown of my experience.

As guests of Illinois Farm Families, we (Barb and I and a whole group of other women from across the Chicagoland area) were given 5 opportunities chalk full of learning about our food. Our transportation and lunch were provided for, and at each tour we had question-and-answer sessions with experts, such as veterinarians, nutritionists, and more. 

I was very impressed with the organization and preparedness that the people working for and with Illinois Farm Families presented. They treated us very respectfully and as their guests. Each of the farms we went to were run and operated by families. These families took us directly into their homes. We saw intimately how their farms were run. We were treated to lunches prepared from family recipes and for the day, felt a part of each farm family. 

Our first tour was a simple grocery store tour and interview session with a nutritionist.  We learned about labeling and what labels on our foods really mean.  Did you know "natural" has no real meaning on our food labels?  Did you know that hormone free labels on poultry are irrelevant? All poultry is hormone free.

Factory Farms! This label gives the impression that the environment is cold and unfriendly. Many family run farms in Illinois are considered factory farms. The Hog tour (see my hog tour run down here) I was a part of this year at the Gould Family Farm is a factory farm or CAFO. I learned that factory farms are subject to much higher standards and have to comply with government regulations. This is a positive to me. The biggest thing I was impressed with at the tour was the concern that the farmers had for the environment. Can you imagine the amount of waste products created by all those hogs? Don't worry. These farmers have it down and they do it in an environmentally friendly and sustaining way. 

Our next few tours were to a corn and soybean farm, and a Dean's Milk (a link to my dairy tour rundown)  and dairy farm tour, and last a Beef tour. Each of the photos above are different farmers I and the pleasure to meet and learn from. You can check out all of the farmers that participate with this program here. It seems that farming isn't just a paycheck to these farmers. They put their heart into it and they shared that with us on these tours.

I had a wonderful time learning from all these farmers and chatting with and meeting other Moms around the city who shared the same concerns as I do. This program offered me the opportunity to really spend more time thinking about my food.  As a result of this program I feel more prepared as a Mom to enter that grocery store and select foods for nutrition rather than how they are labeled. I also have a greater interest in farming and hope to share that knowledge with my community and friends. Throughout this program I felt as though I had one foot in the farmers shoe and could see food from his/her perspective. 

Let's go on a field trip! If you have questions about where your food comes from, how it is grown, and what it is exposed to along the way, then you might be interested in learning more about the City Mom program with Illinois Farm Families. Check out their Website at Become a 2015 City Mom today!

Originally posted on Interiors In Color.

Heather Caulfield
Mt. Prospect, Illinois

Oct 27 2014

A Glimpse into the Life of an Illinois Beef Farmer

When I picture beef farming, images of cattle grazing on pastures in Texas quickly come to mind. As I toured Larson’s family farm in Maple Park, I was surprised to learn that beef production is increasing in the Midwest. With Illinois close proximity to ethanol plants and the latest scientific studies and technology, Illinois farmers are committed to producing high quality beef and promoting compassionate animal care. 

First, beef farmers are committed to providing high quality and safe food. Beef is one of the most naturally nutrient-rich foods in the meat group. Consumers want leaner beef choices. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited that many cuts of beef have 20% less fat and 14 out of the top 20 popular cuts meet government guidelines of “lean” compared to 20 years ago. These leaner results are due to the latest scientific studies and technology that assess the cattle’s diet and meat quality.

Next, beef farmers promote compassionate animal care. The Martz’s barns had rubber mats on the floor for the cattle’s comfort, as well as curtains to keep out the cold during the winter months. The cows have enough room to move around in the barns. The cattle remain indoors due to our variable Midwest weather and lack of pasture. The rest of the farmland is used for growing corn, soybeans, and wheat, which become part of the cattle’s diet. Also, the cattle have access to water, to fresh feed, and to vet care all the time. The family uses curved corrals, designed by Temple Grandin, to reduce stress, panic and injury in animals being led to their feedlot and to slaughter. The family and employees keep meticulous records of each cow, such as nutritionist and ultrasound data.

Thank you to the Larson Farm Family for a great day touring the farm, producing high quality meat, and promoting compassionate animal care. Their combine was vastly different than my grandpa’s combine he operated in the late 1970s. I can’t wait for my family to make and to eat the delicious Yumsetta dish we sampled during our fabulous lunch buffet! Thanks again for a glimpse into the life of an Illinois beef farmer!

Sarah Decker
Grayslake, Illinois

Sarah is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2014 Field Moms. Throughout the year she visits Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each visit, the Field Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago Moms Meet Farmers.

Sep 23 2014

Conventional Milk is the Healthy Choice for my Family

As a mom, I’m at the grocery store about 2-3 times per week and I always make a stop at the dairy aisle to pick up some milk. Once I’m at the dairy section I always wonder if I’m making the right decision of milk product for my family. At most dairy aisles there are many different brands of milk, different fat content of milk, different types of milk, organic, soy, almond, and lactose free milk, and when I purchase the cheaper store brand milk product I wonder if I made the right choice. I often ask myself if my family is missing out on nutrients by purchasing the cheaper conventional milk. Would it be better to buy the organic brand, maybe the higher priced name brand milk is better quality. What about the other non-dairy milk like the almond and soy milks – are those milk products healthier than the dairy milk?  As many households can agree, milk is a staple in our household, I have 2 growing boys, 11 and 8 years old and milk gallons disappear as quickly as they are replenished.

I am very fortunate to be a field mom and last week we took our dairy tour – and I was quite excited to learn and see more. We first toured the Dean’s processing facility that processes the milk for most of our Chicagoland area. For starters, I was shocked to see that the name brand milk and the store brand milk all come from the same place – yes, the same processing plant. This facility plant takes many tests and inspects the milk before it is accepted into their plant to process. The facility does track and knows where each gallon of milk came from, and which farm provided it. One important factor was the heat treating method they apply to the milk to kill off bacteria and it doesn’t diminish the nutrients the milk contains. You might not know just how quickly the milk is processed, but it can take as little as 48 hours for the milk to come from the farm to your house – yes it’s that fast and fresh! 

Feeling a little bit better about having bought conventional milk for my family, we then toured Drendel’s Dairy Farm in Hampshire, IL. There we learned the difference between conventional and organic milk. The difference here is that organic dairy farmers have to ensure they don’t give their cows any type of antibiotics. As a mom, I ask myself “how do the antibiotics make a difference on the final product?”  We learned that any type of antibiotic material in the conventional milk does absolutely nothing because our digestive system breaks it down and it has no affect to our bodies. So the major difference between conventional and organic is the price!  We also learned that soy and almond milk do not contain nearly as much nutrition as dairy milk. In fact most of the non-dairy milk contains more sugar than conventional milk.

After learning all this information regarding dairy milk I feel so glad about purchasing conventional milk for my family. Not only is it delicious and healthy for us but conventional milk is the best choice for me, I’m not going to spend double the money for organic brands knowing it’s absolutely no different in nutritional value than regular milk and I’m certainly not going to spend money on the other non-dairy milk items that contain more sugar and less nutrients than dairy milk. I’m so glad I had the privilege to take this tour, now I don’t doubt myself when I’m at the dairy aisle. 

Veronica Ortega
Berwyn, IL

Veronica is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2014 Field Moms. Throughout the year she visits Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each visit, the Field Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago Moms Meet Farmers

Sep 19 2014

Annual Ag Day

So what all goes into preparing to compete for County Fair Queen? Of course you’re going to have your regular practices where contestants learn to walk and interview, but our County has added one thing to the list. An annual Ag Day has vastly become one main focus into what agriculture is all about. Each year 4-Hers, FFA members, and other farming families come to compete at the fair to showcase their projects and hard work from the past year. If you only attend the main attractions at the fair, such as the concerts and evening shows, you are completely missing out on an entirely other side of the excitement. The arguably most important of all- what the fair is all about!

July 14th our contestants had the opportunity to go around our County to learn more about agriculture and all the hard work that goes into preparing for the fair. Our first stop was at the County Farm Bureau office to meet with Agriculture Awareness and Family Nutrition Program Coordinator Sharon Knorr.  Knorr covered  the steps of growing and producing our food on farms, and then the cycles our food goes through to end at the grocery store. Fun fact! Transportation is one of the more expensive steps in that entire process. To end the lesson, contestants made homemade butter!

Contestants then rushed over to our local Farmers Cooperative to talk with Kent and interns Andrew, Brooklyn & Andrew. Topics covered were the use of GMO products. GMOs are plants that are modified to excel in various soil conditions and resistance to pest. Also covered was how UFC services their customers with providing feed for livestock and their many locations. Contestants then toured the process of reading grain markets to know when to buy and sell, weighing a semi full of grain, sampling the grain to test moisture and grain quality, then dumping the semi and moving the grain into silos. We also learned that some of the grain sold by UFC is even sold into Japan. It's pretty wild that corn and soybeans grown right here in our County can travel all over he world!

Next stop was the Doyle livestock farm. Contestants met with the Doyle family to learn about their horse and cattle. Dave, Andrew and Amanda showed off their young heifers as the contestants got to watch the feeding process. We then got to meet their friendly steers who were eager to make new friends. The Doyles showed us the ground corn, silage and gluten fed to their animals. We learned that livestock eat a more balanced diet than we do! Before we left, we can't forget all the fun the girls had climbing, jumping and taking pictures on the gigantic round bales!

Our last stop was at the Asher farm. Contestants did many activities, starting with marketing their grain. They toured the grain bins and learned about the benefits of storing grain to market. After breaking into teams, each group got to decide how much grain they wanted to sell that year. We then did an activity where the contestants got to sell their grain when they thought the market was right! Contestants learned about the constant rising and falling of the grain market and the huge role it plays in agriculture. Contestants then created their own budget. Items were listed and teams had to decide if they wanted to sell or invest. One team sold all while others strategically invested in their future farming operations. I must say, we have a lot of business minded contestants this year! They did a great job!

Contestants then got to tour and explore a combine and grain truck. This was our biggest photo opportunity as the girls loved getting their pictures in the large combine tire! Then the competing began  as our contestants learned about the import role a shop plays in farming. They then had a scavenger hunt finding as many tools as they could in five minuets. The girls were surprisingly knowledgeable and did an excellent job! Items ranged from a welder to a grease rag. To end the day, contestants competed in a bale toss. 1St and 2nd place landed only a foot apart. Our furthest toss was about 25 feet!

Here are some of the responses to “what did you learn about agriculture?”

  • “Farming is more business than it seems”
  • “I learned a lot about the grain market” “The markets change a lot!”
  • “Farmers get paid based on their product”
  • “I learned a lot about the plants and crops”
  • “I learned a lot about the Ursa Farmers Coop”
  • “I learned a lot about the budgeting part of farming” “A lot about how to run a farm”

I am so excited these ladies got to share this opportunity with me and took initiative to learn more about agriculture! Our county is so proud of you and each and every one of you would represent us well! Best of luck!

Rachel Asher

Rachel and her husband Garrett raise corn, soybeans and cattle with the Asher family on their farm in Adams County. Rachel grew up raising pigs and dairy cows. 

Aug 29 2014

An Impromptu Farm Visit

In June, farmers Adam and JoAnn Adams met with a group of SYSCO sales reps in Chicago. They were invited to give the farmers' perspective on the beef industry. This was a good conversation between farmers and consumers. Many good questions were asked and insight was gained for everybody.

One of the fun things that came out of this presentation was one of the sales reps visiting the Adams' farm with six third graders. Third graders who had never been on a farm before. Everyone had a great time. After visiting the farmstead, the group moved the cow herd to a new pasture. The kids were fearful when Alan first called the herd up to the Kubota. But soon the kids were mimicking his call as they drove through the woods surrounded by cows and calves.

Below are a few pictures from this visit. This is the perfect example of how farmers and consumers can get to know one another and make informed choices on food and farming.

Alan and JoAnn Adams
Sandwich, Illinois