Amazing Maize: The exhibit

After over five years in development the Indiana State Museum opened its Amazing Maize: The Science, History and Culture of Corn Saturday.  The exhibit will run for the next 16 months at the museum located in the heart of Indianapolis.  In those 16 months, Indianapolis will play host to two National FFA Conventions AND the Super Bowl.  Talk about the potential to reach out to the consumer.

A lot of companies came together to make this exhibit possible.  The Presenting Sponsors are Dow Agrosciences, Ford Motor Company and Case IH and National Starch is the Contributing Sponsor.  Not only was the exhibit supported nationally, but on the local level as well.  Locally, the Presenting Sponsor is the Indiana Corn Marketing Council; the Contributing Sponsor is Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance and the Supporting Sponsor is Brock Grain Systems.

The exhibit highlights the 10,000 year “genetic journey” that highlights the evolution of maize to our modern day corn.  Speaking of technological advancements, in one part of the exhibit they highlight the corn husking competitions that were held.  I was particularly proud – while the exhibit focused on the 1940’s, I thought about my family tree. My great-grandfather, Simon Oltman, was the Illinois Corn Husking champion in 1934.  With a total of just over 23 bushels of corn harvested he was named the “Dark Horse Husker from Woodford County”. 

If you’re ever in Indianapolis, take time to visit the Indiana State Museum and check out the Amazing Maize exhibit and take a walk through the history of a product that is a part of our everyday lives.

Jane Ade Stevens is the executive director of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and talks about why being a part of the Amazing Maize exhibit was important.  You can read more about Amazing Maize here.

Jane Ade Stevens


In The Field

The past four years of my life has been dedicated to agriculture in Central Illinois.  Every Tuesday during the planting, growing and harvest seasons we would catch up with agronomist from different parts of WMBD and WIRL’s listening area to see how things were looking as the growing season progressed.

I was able to develop a great relationship with area agronomists and value the copious amounts of knowledge gained from them.  One of my most cherished relationships is with Matt Montgomery.  Matt is the former County Director for the Mason County Extension (with the recent extension reorganization his title escapes me), but most importantly he’s always been my “bug man”.

I found it only fitting that Matt was my last in-studio interview this week.  We talked about crop conditions, concerns with this years crop – and of course some of the things that we need to look out for this year.

Matt In The Field


The theme this year for farmers Matt says – no matter where they are located – is going to be “SCOUT”.  You’ve got to be in there – rooting around – looking for problems and be able to utilize the many tools available to us in that always important tool belt.

Central Illinois Company Gives Back to FFA

We’ve all heard of Red Brand fence, right?  They’re a milestone sponsor of the FFA (in fact they’ve been doing so for over 60 years). Did you know that Red Brand fence is manufactured in Peoria, Ill.?  Keystone Steel and Wire Co began the Home Grown program in 2010.  It gave opportunity for local Red Brand retailers to give back to local FFA Chapters.  In its first year – the Home Grown program raised over $100,000 for FFA Chapters across the United States.  On average 704 FFA Chapters across the US received between $400 and $500 each.  One FFA Chapter in Platte, South Dakota was awarded more than $4,000.00.

It’s actually a pretty simple process.  As Christopher Bell, Regional Director with the National FFA Foundation explains all retailers have to do is sign up on Red Brand’s website and for every roll of Red Brand agricultural fencing purchased by a participating retailer $1 is donated to the designated FFA chapter or chapters of their choice.

It’s an easy way to give back and help continue to fund a program that does so much for the future of the agriculture industry.  Also a huge round of applause to Keystone Steel and Wire Co for giving back to a program that does so much (it makes a girl even more proud to be from Central Illinois).  Here’s to a successful 2011 Home Grown Initiative!

>Christopher Bell - National FFA Foundation

One Story of Many

I am supposed to write once a week… I may be a week or two behind – simply because things have been just a little crazy in my neck of the woods.  As you may have seen in Cindy’s post a couple of weeks ago – I have accepted a position at Brownfield Ag News in Indiana.  I will start there June 13th.  But the past few weeks I have been house hunting in Indianapolis and Lafayette… and I have yet to find anything.  I won’t lie – I’ve been whining about it all week.  But – we’re making strides and we’ll get there eventually.  I am however incredibly excited about writing the next chapter in my life.

As riveting as my lamenting about house hunting is – I want to share a story that really touched my heart.  In fact – it reminded me how blessed I am to have a roof over my head.  Meet Ted Glaser.  He’s a farmer from Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana.  I spoke with him on Monday about some of the issues going on in the south along the Mississippi River.  Glaser is in a tough spot – he farms a 4,000 acre diversified operation.  One quarter of that is inside the Morganza Floodway.  Ted told me they gave them just a few weeks to get what they needed from inside that now flooded ground.

But the challenges don’t stop there.  They may be flooded in certain areas… But Glaser said just across the dam they are in dire need of a rain. He noted off the air he’d hate to be answering prayers from farmers this year…. His quick wit brought a smile to my face.  I have to admit – I’m always amazed at the resiliency of the farmer and the ability to roll with the punches.  No matter how big… or small.

I think that was the lesson learned.

Importance of Panama Canal Highlighted

With soybean  exports doubling over the last ten years and the continued demand for US soy, the question arises can we handle it?  Now, we know we can physically make that happen.  We plant, grow and harvest more efficiently and effectively than any other country in the world, the concern arises if our ports and infrastructure will last the next ten years.

Early last week, the Soy Transportation Coalition and the Panama Canal Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a promise to continue to develop global commerce.  Also involved in Monday’s MOU signing was the American Soybean Association and the United Soybean Board.  The objectives of the agreement are to undertake joint marketing efforts, data exchange to forecast future trade flows and market trends, and the sharing of information related to modernization and improvement projects.

With the Panama Canal increasing in size to be able to accommodate “Suezmax” ships – it could be a great thing for American Agriculture, especially since 60% of our exports currently travel through the Panama Canal.  Except our infrastructure is failing and the Department of Commerce thinks existing ports will be incapable of handling the shipments within the next decade.

I sat down with immediate past Chairman of the United Soybean Board and a farmer from Griggsville, Ill. and he detailed Monday’s announcement. Bradshaw Talks Panama

Washington Watch Wrap Up

This week was the National Association of Farm Broadcasting’s Washington Watch meeting in our beautiful Nation’s Capitol.  It definitely was an interesting time to be in DC after the events of last weekend.

Washington Watch gives NAFB members an opportunity to sit down with folks inside the Beltway and get an update on some of the major issues of concern to agriculture.  After Monday’s meetings broadcaster’s had a chance to delve deeper into the hot topics during Issues Forum.

Tuesday we visited USDA where we heard from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.  He touched on topics from the lack of planting progress this spring to the heartbreaking Birds Point New Madrid levee.  I think one of the most important items addressed was the decision to allow crop insurance protections for those affected by the Birds Point New Madrid levee situation (see Cindy’s post earlier this week).  We wrapped up Tuesday with a luncheon at the National Press Club with Former Secretary of Agriculture and Former Representative Larry Combest.  Tuesday afternoon left time for some Hill visits.  I had the opportunity to chat with my Representative, Aaron Schock, and his staff.  It’s always a good feeling to leave discussions with the confidence that the agriculture industry is in good hands.  Wednesday morning concluded with visits from several of ag’s biggest supporters in the Longworth Building.

One of the most touched on topics in DC this past week was the issue of trade.  I had the chance to speak with American Farm Bureau Federation’s Trade Specialist Chris Garza about the current pending free trade agreements.

Garza thinks there is light at the end of the tunnel…

Garza on Trade

A Gentle Reminder

The weather during the month of April has been strange for a lot of the United States and Central Illinois is no exception (my weather man on Friday said this would go down as one of the top ten wettest April’s on record).  While farmers are attempting to patiently wait to either get back in the fields or get into the fields for the first time – we’ve been talking a lot about on farm safety.  At WMBD/WIRL we have a monthly “webisode” called GROWMARK Gleanings and this month Safety Service Specialist with GROWMARK Doug DeFilipo addressed all aspects of safety.  I thought our conversation about chemical safety was one that could serve as a thoughtful reminder for everyone… Especially this time of year.  As always – here is to a very safe Spring Planting Season.

To steal a line from Mike Rowe Safety Third!

A Gentle Reminder

Investing Back In Agriculture

Illinois and fiscal responsibility aren’t exactly words that go hand in hand but Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is trying to change that.  Earlier this week Rutherford announced his Ag Invest program in conjunction with the Illinois Farm BureauAg Invest (formerly known as Cultivate Illinois) partners with eligible lenders to offer low-interest loans to Illinois farmers that can be used for operating costs, equipment purchases, construction related expenses and livestock purchases.

So why tweak Cultivate Illinois?  Rutherford says their goal is to give Illinois farmers the opportunity to pay less interest in operating expenses.  He adds along with increasing the amount producers can now borrow – the Illinois Treasurer’s office has made the loan process less cumbersome for lenders and farmers.  By reducing the paperwork and tedious questions they are able to streamline the lending process.

The changes made to Ag Invest are key for Illinois Farmers.  Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson says, “Farming is a capital intensive industry and having access to capital is important to farmers.” He adds this is a positive step the Illinois is taking to assist its largest industry.

Ag Invest

Peace. Love. Bacon.

I love bacon.  No really.  So much so I have even contemplated giving it up for Lent.  I thought I was being cute a few years ago when I’d tell people to support their local pork producers because everything is better with bacon.  Apparently, I wasn’t off the mark – in recent years bacon has become sexy.  A pop culture icon.  And now – You can always have bacon (of some sorts) at your fingertips.  There’s bacon ice cream, chocolate covered bacon, bacon vodka, bacon flavored lip balm and even a bacon air freshener for your car (I’m not sure of that one – but people keep giving them to me as gifts – I’ll have to try it out eventually).  You can even celebrate your love for bacon with thousands of your closest friends.

There are bacon celebrations scattered all over the United States.  In 2008 Andre Vonbaconvitch (not kidding – that’s his real bacon loving pseudonym) and two other friends came up with the idea to bring Baconfest to Chicago.  This year the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) became the presenting sponsor of Baconfest Chicago. What a partnership – the people that are responsible for makin’ bacon presenting the festival that honors the  absolutely deliciously sexy food that so many people adore.  How much fun is that?

But here’s the serious stuff… Not only were the volunteers from IPPA able to interact and continue to tell the message of the Illinois pork farmer with the 2,000 attendees of this years Baconfest – they were able to raise more than $1,600 in donations alone from their highly popular Peace. Love. Bacon. t-shirts for the Pork Power program.  Attendees were asked to bring a food item to donate for the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) and IPPA would match the donation pound for pound with pork.  The GCFD food drive collected 1,653 lbs of food.  Illinois Pork Producers will be donating nearly 2,500 lbs of pork to the Greater Chicago Food Depository (1,653 pounds of pork – matching the food collected PLUS 850 pounds of pork that they will purchase with the $1,622 raised from the t-shirt donations).

All in all a pretty amazing feat from some of the nations best pork producers.  One other “fun” thing from the weekend – my friend Tim, Director of Public Relations with Illinois Pork Producers, recites this years winning Ode to Bacon written by Joel Chmara called “Johnny Baconseed:  A Poem For The Hopeless Romantics”.

So many great things came from this partnership – Afterall.. Everything is better with bacon.

Johnny Baconseed

A Little Intro… A Little Business

This is my first post on AgWired and Cindy asked that I write a little about myself.

Here are some of the facts:  I’m the daughter of a fourth generation family farmer.  I think I have the greatest job in the world. I get to tell the story of American Agriculture.  Whether it is educating the consumer about the real facts of agriculture or talking to the farmer about new and exciting things related to their industry every day seems to be an adventure.  I am the Agri-Business Director for WMBD and WIRL located in the heart of corn country (Peoria, Ill.).  And the fun stuff… I like to think I’m eccentric.  A little artsy.  I like funky music, even funkier jewelry and creating art from behind the lens of camera. That’s me in the photo with my friend and fellow NAFBer Rick Coyle with Northern Ag Network.

One of the great things about my job – I constantly hear about “new and innovative things”.

While Farmer’s Markets may not be “new and innovative” they are certainly a “hot” topic all year long.  John Aikman became a statistic of the recession.  After Aikman lost his job he says his idle time and over active mind came up with the concept of “Home Grown Cow”.  So what is it?  He’s created a virtual meat market of sorts with a goal or pairing farmers with eaters (what a concept, huh?!) with  some networking along the way.

Often times when I hear ideas like this and it is aimed at promoting organic farming practices only.  What caught my attention with John’s site and business venture – it supports all types of farming practices.  Traditional or organic.  Beef, chicken or lamb. Bulk or cuts.  You decide.  Find a farmer that suits your eating needs.  Aikman says his goal is to make farmers the price makers instead of price takers.

Aikman’s vision will soon become a reality.  While they aren’t quite ready to take orders yet – they are signing up farmers and hope to be fully operational soon.

You can check them out at Home Grown Cow and listen to John’s story here: John's Story