AG Mag Good as Gold
As commodity prices continue to rise, so, too, does the value of farmland in Northern Illinois
Got cash? It’s been another good harvest and crop prices continue to be high. What does that mean for you? Your outlook: Local farmers look at the 2013 harvest and beyond. ‘Blend Wall’: Ethanol production in the U.S. has leveled off, and no growth is expected. A Publication of Shaw Media
Fall 2013 AG Mag
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AG Mag Northern Illinois
Publisher Trevis Mayfield Advertising Director Jennifer Baratta Editor Larry Lough
Magazine Editors Larry Lough, Jeff Rogers Page Design Jeff Rogers Reporters & Photographers Derek Barichello, Sarah Brown, Stephani Finley, Dave Fox, Lyle Ganther, David Giuliani, Philip Marruffo, Matt Mencarini, Alex T. Paschal, Terri Simon, and Christi Warren Published by Sauk Valley Media 3200 E. Lincolnway Sterling, IL 61081 815-625-3600 Articles and advertisements are the property of Sauk Valley Media. No portion of the Northern Illinois Ag Mag may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. Ad content is not the responsibility of Sauk Valley Media. The information in this magazine is believed to be accurate; however, Sauk Valley Media cannot and does not guarantee its accuracy. Sauk Valley Media cannot and will not be held liable for the quality or performance of goods and services provided by advertisers listed in any portion of this magazine.
Land values rising Between 2006 and 2013, Illinois farmland more than doubled in price. Paying the rent As market volatility continues, more farmers in the region are renting land instead of owning it.
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Index 18 Connecting farms & food
Challenges in the industry
Hitting a â€˜blend wallâ€™?
Weather, corn prices and other factors can impact the nomally â€œsteadyâ€? cattle industry.
Production of ethanol in the U.S. has leveled off in recent years and actually dropped in 2012.
32 A cash crop for local farmers
Gâ€™s Food Truck serves up dishes made with ingredients grown on local farmland.
Don Temple, who farms in western Whiteside County, says ethanol has been â€œa very good thing for corn growers.â€?
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Fueling the local economy
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Index An â€˜IH Boyâ€™ with his IH toys
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Northern Illinois Ag Mag file photo by Phillip Marruffo
STILL A GOOD INVESTMENT
Land values now closely tied to commodity prices BY MATT MENCARINI For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
ark Fassler and his brother Tim were finishing up their soybean harvest in early October. The brothers, who took over farming for their father, work 4,100 acres of soybeans and commercial corn between Sterling and Dixon. This year, the Fasslers had a little more land to farm. In December, they bought 145 acres of farmland “right next” 10 Fall 2013
to the land they already worked, a third of which belongs to the brothers, Fassler said. They rent the rest. “We’re farmers, and that’s what we’re in the business of doing,” he said. “We’ve had a few good years growing corn and beans, and we’re lucky enough to have enough equity to purchase some land.” In August, they bought 117 more acres, also near their current land. “I wish we would’ve bought these up 10 years ago,” Fassler said. “But [we] didn’t have the equity needed.”
Between 2006 and 2013, Illinois farmland more than doubled in price, from an average price of $3,640 an acre to an average of $7,900, according to Reuters, which cited the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Moving into this year, land values in western Illinois and eastern Iowa increased by double digits again, but did so at a slightly lesser amount than in previous years, signaling a tapering off. In Iowa, the gap between high-quality land and medium- and low-quality land is growing, said Kyle Hansen, a real estate agent and auctioneer working out of the Nevada, Iowa, office of Hertz Real Estate Services. CONTINUED ON 11
Alex T. Paschal/For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
Tim Fassler inspects and greases a combine as he prepares to harvest corn on the farm he and his brother Mark own in northwestern Illinois. The Fasslers have added to their 4,100-acre farm between Sterling and Dixon by buying 145 acres of farmland in December and an additional 117 acres in August. “I wish we would’ve bought these up 10 years ago,” Mark Fassler said. “But [we] didn’t have the equity needed.” CONTINUED FROM 10
Hansen also is the chairman of the Iowa Realtors Land Institute. In its October farmland values survey, it indicated that high-quality land increased this year to $11,661 an acre, up $224 from 6 months earlier. During the same 6 months, medium-quality land increased by $86, to $8,780, and lowquality land increased by $2 an acre, to $5,808. In its 2013 Illinois Land Values and Lease Trends survey, the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers found that while supply is down from a year ago, value is “up modestly.” In Illinois, excellent-quality farmland averaged $13,200 on July 1, up 3 percent, Dale Aupperle, of Heartland Ag Group and the ISPFMRA chairman, reported in a summary of the survey. Additionally, good-quality farmland increased by 2.5 percent to an average of $11,200, and fairquality land increased by 1.9 percent,
up to $9,000. “It’s just like the other stocks,” Hansen said. “It’s a cycle. It will go up and come down based on the commodity prices and other factors [like world demand for fuel and food]. ... But it still continues to be a cycle. It will come up and go down. Now it’s leveling off and taking a breath to see where we’re going from here.” Hansen said land values in Iowa are now more connected to commodity prices than they have been in the past. Mike Morris is the chief appraiser with 1st Farm Credit and has been based in the Bloomington-Normal office since 2007. He has been appraising since 1999, he said, and handles appraisals in northern Illinois. “I think if we don’t see much change in crop prices, I would call it a stable to slightly softer market,” he said. “If we see some real increase or decrease, that could affect the market. Right now, no one is really anticipating
that. “My gut tells me that we’ll still see some strong sales, but we’re not going to see anything that’s higher than [land value] in December, unless we see significant increases in commodity prices.” On Oct. 11, December corn was $4.3325 a bushel, down 5 cents from the day before, and November soybeans were $12.6675 a bushel, which was 21.25 cents lower than the market’s Oct. 10 close. Despite the falling commodity prices, in a market that’s been described by some experts as volatile, land values have been increasing by double digits for several consecutive years. Bruce Sherrick, an agriculture professor at the University of Illinois, said that rise follows good recent incomes for farmers and continued use of corn for, among other things, renewable energy that keeps demand for land high, but supply low. CONTINUED ON 12 AG Mag
CONTINUED FROM 11
â€œBecause so little farmland turns over, itâ€™s really, really hard to get a clear picture of whatâ€™s going on,â€? Sherrick said. â€œIncome in northern Illinois is higher than southern Illinois because you grow more. Because of the slow turnover, itâ€™s hard to get a clear picture.â€? Todd Slock works for 1st Farm Credit as a real estate appraiser out of the Rock Falls office. Heâ€™s been an appraiser for 6 years, and previously spent time working near Ottawa, in LaSalle County. Land sales usually pick up after harvest, when farmers have a better idea of how much they made on the yearâ€™s crops, Slock said. By early October, there hadnâ€™t been many listings, which could be the result of commodity prices falling and interest rates â€œbeing up slightly.â€? Hansen said that until the middle of September, the amount of availbale farm land in Iowa was bellow the average, but because of a softening market, landowners are seeing reason to sell now rather than later, especially with medium- and low-quality land. For the most part, high quality land is being held because it has shown greater appreciation, he said. Both pieces of land the Fassler broth-
People look at what their alternative is. And they look at a stock market thatâ€™s been volatile and CDs that arenâ€™t going to pay as well. ... I think in a lot of cases, people think they can make something off the land, so they hold on to it. Mike Morris, chief appraiser with 1st Farm Credit based in Bloomington-Normal
ers bought were from heirs who donâ€™t plan to farm and donâ€™t want to manage the land. For them, like the pension funds or investment groups, the land is a financial investment and not a farming asset. Bruce Sherrick â€œPeople look at what Ag professor at their alternative is,â€? the University of Morris said. â€œAnd they Illinois said itâ€™s look at a stock market hard to get a thatâ€™s been volatile and clear picture on CDs that arenâ€™t going land values to pay as well. ... I think in a lot of cases, people think they can make something off the land, so they hold on to it.â€? In Iowa, which has buying rules different from Illinois that make it more likely that farmers will buy land, some investment groups still are purchasing land, but more is going to farmers.
â€œIt just shows that people are interested in it,â€? Hansen said. â€œEven without a background in farming, they still see long-term income opportunities there. But again, theyâ€™re competing with farmers, and farmers are winning.â€? Between 75 and 80 percent of land purchased in Iowa recently was done so by a farmer within 10 miles, he said. According to the ISPFMRA survey, the â€œvast majorityâ€? of farms in northwest Illinois were purchased by local farmers, and several counties saw sales of more than $12,000 an acre for excellent productivity tracts, and three counties had sales match or exceed $14,000 an acre. â€œI donâ€™t think thereâ€™s a big surprising story in any of this,â€? Sherrick said from his office at the University of Illinois. â€œItâ€™s kind of the new normal â€“ higher priced input and higher priced output. ... It adds to the amount of capital [needed] to get into the industry.â€?
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Alex T. Paschal/For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
Don Kilberg blows dust and debris off the radiator of a tractor while working with the Fassler family on their farm.
Market fluctuations lead to increase in variable cash rents
BY MATT MENCARINI For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
ohn Fassler farmed land between Sterling and Dixon for nearly 60 years before he retired and had his two sons take over the land. Some of that land they own, but most of it they rent. That land, and the entire Sauk Valley, is in a part of the state that has been slow to transition to variable 14 Fall 2013
cash rents. But if recent trends are any indication, variable rents are becoming more common. “I hope so,” Fassler said. Dennis Hoyt, an area vice president for Farmers National, said not only are variable cash rents becoming more common in the Sauk Valley and northwest Illinois, but also in Iowa and Indiana. “All three of those states have made a pretty big swing to that,”
he said. “The reason is because the volatility of the market never has been greater.” In 2008, the average corn price for the year was $4.78, but it dropped to $3.75 the next year. Then in 2010, the price was $3.83 before climbing to $6.01 in 2011 and $6.67 in 2012. This year, the average price of corn in January was $6.96, but in the middle of October, December corn was selling for $4.33 a bushel. CONTINUED ON 16
Dennis Hoyt Area vice president for Farmers National said “volatility of the market never has been greater”
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Mark Fassler of Sterling prepares his combine for the harvest season. Mark said he and his brother, Tim, decided to buy more farmland in the past year because â€œweâ€™ve had a few good years growing corn and beans, and weâ€™re lucky enough to have enough equity to purchase some land.â€? CONTINUED FROM 14
Similar but not as drastic shifts in soybean prices were seen as well. The shift to variable cash rents started about 2 years ago, Hoyt said, when about 10 percent of leases were variable cash rents. According to 2013 Illinois Land Values and Lease Trends from the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, thereâ€™s been a shift to variable cash rents, but the majority still are typical cash rents. â€œThere has always been niche markets where someone had a variable [cash rent] at some point,â€? Hoyt said. â€œThen we had recent volatility. If things head back to stable, then things will go back to cash. ... Most people think volatility is here to stay. Maybe
the conditions change.â€? Despite a shift toward variable rents to protect both the farmer and farm operator from a volatile commodity market, the majority of respondents (69 percent) to the ISPFMRA survey said they expected cash rents to remain the same in 2014 as they were in 2013. In 2013, for excellent productivity land, typical cash rental rates ranged from $400 to $325 an acre; from $325 to $265 an acre for good productivity land; and from $275 to $225 for average quality land. â€œMost of the [rates] going into 2014 are going to be fairly flat,â€? Hoyt said. â€œA huge factor is a demand for land. Most farm operations have been fairly successful the last few years. They need land as a part of the operation. Demand is starting very strong.â€?
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PLENTY OF VARIABLES
Alex T. Paschal/For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
Randy Faber raises cattle and corn on his rural Sublette farm. Faber said he has “been around cattle since the day I was born.” He said that having corn prices coming down this year “definitely helps [cattle farmers] to cut our feeder lot expenses.”
Weather, corn prices among things that impact ‘steady’ cattle farming BY DAVE FOX For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
attle farming is generally stable, but conditions that impact it can change a lot from year to year. “It can definitely be challenging,” Randy Faber said during a recent interview at the rural Sublette farm where the third generation farmer tends to his black Angus herd. 18 Fall 2013
An energetic 59 years old, Faber has “been around cattle since the day I was born,” he said with a laugh. He now works the farm started by his grandfather years ago, and also is a member of the board of directors for the Illinois Beef Association. Changing weather, feed costs, and market prices make for an interesting mix in this business from one year to the next. March calving season, for example, “was a real challenge this year,” he recalled, “because we had a cold, wet spring.” “When it’s cold, and the cattle have wet hides, they pump more blood to stay warm,” he explained, “which means the calves get more nutrients. CONTINUED ON 20
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Black Angus roam Randy Faber’s farm in rural Sublette. The fact that beef producers are bidding higher prices this year is a mixed blessing to the beef industry, Faber said. “The grocery store prices go up for consumers, so people look for pork or chicken instead of beef,” he said. CONTINUED FROM 18
“This year the calves were bigger than usual at birth. Bigger calves at birth aren’t necessarily a good thing; there can be problems sometimes.” Outside the cost and expense for an animal, “corn tends to be the next highest expense for feed lot operations,” Faber said. Corn prices were around $6 a bushel last year, he noted, but prices are now coming down. “Now we’re looking at prices of maybe around $4 a bushel this year,” he said, “so the corn market is doing what it’s supposed to do, balancing out like that. “Lower corn prices aren’t good for grain farmers,” he noted, “but it definitely helps us to cut our feeder lot expenses.” Lower corn prices also mean higher prices for the calves. “Now that corn is cheap,” Faber said, “[beef] producers are bidding up to $2 a pound on a 500-pound calf, which is 30 to 50 cents a pound higher than last year.” Higher prices can be a mixed blessing 20 Fall 2013
Now we’re looking at prices of maybe around $4 a bushel this year, so the corn market is doing what it’s supposed to do, balancing out like that. Randy Faber, rural Sublette farmer
to some extent for the beef industry. “When our prices get up to $1.28,” he said, “the grocery store prices go up for consumers, so people look for pork or chicken instead of beef.” Increased ethanol production indirectly helps livestock farmers because grain by-products can be more cost effective. “We’re within 60 miles of several distiller plants,” he said, “and that gives us an advantage in custom feeding.” As corn prices have increased in northern Illinois, Faber noted, custom feeding with distiller’s grains has increased. This can mean less expensive feed as well as ensuring efficiency in the use of all parts of the corn. While the beef cattle industry “always tends to be steady,” according to Faber, and prices are good this year, the weather always plays an important part
in the outcome, and for a number of reasons. “The weather can always potentially be a disadvantage,” he said, “especially in the summer, as well as winter. No one ever has control over the weather, and those two times of year it can go to extremes, especially in northern Illinois. That can be hard with livestock. “Our main weather problem in this region was the dry conditions this summer,” he said. “Pastures dried up on us. “The biggest challenge with that,” he continued, “is sourcing our feed, whether corn, hay or silage. It can be tough when a summer is hot and dry.” Seeing a healthy herd early in the year is one of the most pleasurable things about his business, Faber said. “Seeing new calves in a green pasture in spring,” he said, “is really a happy, fulfilling thing.”
Less money for extension offices in Illinois BY DAVID GIULIANI For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
Get in touch
Like just about every other state agency, county extension offices have seen their share of funding cuts over the years. The extension offices in Whiteside, Lee and Carroll counties officially merged July 1, 2011, based at Sauk Valley Community College. Since then, the offices have saved money in salaries and costs such as rent. Consolidations have taken place all over the state. Bureau County combined with three other counties, while Ogle County joined two others. The Whiteside-Lee-Carroll agency has three smaller versions of its former offices in Morrison, Amboy and Mount Carroll. And they are staffed with program coordinators and 4-H coordinators. But thereâ€™s no getting around that funding has dropped over the years. As for taking care of business with fewer resources, Extension Director Joseph Schwamberger said, â€œItâ€™s a load.â€?
Main office Sauk Valley Community College 173 Route 2, IF5, Dixon 815-835-2070 Branch office (Carroll County) 807D S. Clay St., Mount Carroll 815-244-9444 Branch office (Lee County) 280 W. Wasson Road, Amboy 815-857-3525 Branch office (Whiteside County) 100 E. Knox St., Morrison 815-772-4075 Schwamberger, who started as Lee Countyâ€™s extension director in 1999, became the director of all three counties when they consolidated. When George Ryan was governor more than a decade ago, the state gave a dollar for every dollar contributed by local communities to their extension offices.
That has since fallen to a 75-cent state match, Schwamberger said. â€œWe live and die by that state match money,â€? he said. Local funders such as county governments and private donors, including businesses and commodities groups, have been a great help for the extension office, he said. The counties have tax levies for 4-H and extension programs. â€œThe local funders have kept their end of the bargain,â€? Schwamberger said. â€œThe county boards have either maintained their funding or increased it in some years.â€? Extension offices provide programs in agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, nutrition, and wellness and youth development, including 4-H. Established in 1914, the Cooperative Extension Service was designed as a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and land-grant universities. The University of Illinois is the stateâ€™s land-grant university.
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Jill Guynn is county director for the University of Illinois Extension, Bureau, LaSalle, Marshall and Putnam counties.
Extending knowledge and changing lives BY JILL GUYNN For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
oin us in celebrating 100 years of Extension services! “Think anew ... act anew,” President Abraham Lincoln said as he signed legislation – the Morrill Act of 1862 – which created the Land Grant University System. The system was designed to make the benefits of education available to all people, not just those with
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FROM FARM TO TRUCK
G’s Food Truck a vehicle to connect residents to farmland around them
BY CHRISTI WARREN For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
t’s a warm, breezy October day, and on a 1-acre plot of land behind a home north of Sterling, Tony Garza and Stephen Gladhill are out picking popcorn and tomatoes. The tomatoes were grown by Maggie Plog, and tonight, Tony will use them for a salsa he’ll serve from his new food truck in Sterling. Together, he and Stephen are working to strengthen the relationship of the people of the Sauk Valley with the farmland that surrounds it – by feeding them. Their food truck, dubbed “G’s Food Truck” for the first letters of both their last names, serves up a menu that includes Italian beef, pulled pork, tacos and rotat-
24 Fall 2013
ing nightly specials. Tony is especially excited about his new idea for a “tough guy burger.” “When somebody orders it, I’m gonna be like, ‘We got a tough guy!’” he says with a laugh. Tony and Stephen are always laughing. “And it’s gonna say on the menu, ‘extremely spicy,’ like, if you’re ordering it, you’re a tough guy,” Tony said. “And it would just be hilarious!” “We try to keep it fun,” Stephen says. Tony first met Maggie a long time ago – one of her exboyfriends was a good friend of Tony’s – and when she found out that he planned to start a food truck, she saw an opportunity for them to help out one another. Maggie calls herself a “traveling farmer,” meaning she moves around throughout the area, planting and harvesting in plots of land borrowed from friends and family. “What do you do when you’re 29 and the economy is bad and you can’t get a mortgage for land?” she says. “You use other people’s.” CONTINUED ON 26
Photos by Alex T. Paschal/For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
ABOVE: Stephen Gladhill picks tomatoes at Maggie Plogâ€™s farm plot in rural Sterling for Gâ€™s Food Truck. Food served from the truck contains only fresh, organic ingredients. RIGHT: Plog calls herself a â€œtraveling farmerâ€? â€“ she moves around throughout the area, planting and harvesting in plots of land borrowed from friends and family. She works on three farms.
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Almost all of the produce for G’s Food Truck comes from Maggie’s farming. Next year, that amount will increase to 100 percent. The trio got a late start this year, Maggie explains, so G’s can use only what she currently has. But they’re already planning for next year, so she can buy the right amount of seed for what they’ll need. “That way there’s no guessing,” she says. For Stephen and Tony, keeping everything local is important. “We want our community to thrive,” Tony says. “And so if we buy local, we boost our community, our neighborhoods, our families.” “We like people to be healthy,” he says, still laughing. “Health is wealth.” For updates on G’s, and to find out where they’re parking, find them on Facebook at facebook.com/Gsfoodtruck.
Photos by Alex T. Paschal/For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
ABOVE: G’s Food truck owners Tony Garza (left) and Stephen Gladhill pick fresh vegetables for their business. They choose organic ingredients grown by Maggie Plog in rural Sterling. ON PAGE 24: Garza and Gladhill use tomatoes and peppers grown by Maggie Plog to make fresh salsa for customers of their business venture, G’s Food Truck. The two began selling food made mostly from locally grown products this year.
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Big harvest should bring prices down
BY DEREK BARICHELLO For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
The harvest of 2013 has been full of surprises. Farmers planted late because of a wet spring and suffered through a flash drought in July and August, yet many yields are high – so high, in fact, this harvest might rank as one of the top three yields per acre. Corn farmers are seeing monitors on their combines hitting 200 bushels regularly. “They’re pretty proud of their numbers,” said Tim Wells, an agricultural lender at
First Midwest Bank in Moline. “I had a farmer send me a text of a picture of a monitor at 300, so there’s quite a bit of volume out there coming in. I haven’t talked to a farmer yet who isn’t pleased.” What does that mean for a Midwestern farmer sitting with a good yield? A large amount of corn acreage was planted this season, setting up for a glut of corn on the market, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. CONTINUED ON 28
CONTINUED FROM 27
Many soybean harvests also turned in a better-thanexpected yields. Unfortunately, harvest totals were being reported late because of the government shutdown. As happens with big yields, prices have dropped since Ryan Walsh reaching Commodities broker says a high of “prices may not $8.49 a be where farmers bushel last want them to be” summer and sat at $4.37 as of mid-October – a new low for the year. “Prices may not be where farmers want them to be, but there is a saying in farming, ‘Give me the bushels and I’ll be fine,’” said Ryan Walsh, a commodities broker for AgPerspective in Dixon. CONTINUED ON 29
Philip Marruffo/For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
A combine works a corn field off Crosby Road outside Morrison. This year’s harvest might rank as one of the top three yields per acre. In the Midwest, a large amount of corn acreage was planted this season, setting up for a glut of corn on the market, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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With 200 bushels of corn, and $4 prices, the farmer generally is making money. Be a seller on the futures market, lock the price in (as it’s expected to continue to slide), and be a storer, Walsh says. “Sell corn for delivery next July, store until then, and truck it in,” Walsh said. Because of the October harvest, corn has been late getting to the elevators, keeping the basis level strong, encouraging storage. Farmers who are putting it in their bins and not selling it face a market risk if they don’t lock it in. Also, once crop insurance floors are set, which are expected to drop off, the farmer won’t have that safety net, either.
We don’t anticipate an increase in farmers’ income. Kurt Downs, vice president and agricultural lender for Sauk Valley Bank in Sterling
The big forward sellers, who set their prices back in December, are cashing in nicely. “They are really happy right now,” Walsh said. Select farmers didn’t sell their 2011 crops, because they didn’t want the income and didn’t want to pay taxes on it. “Take the income; pay the taxes,” Wells said. While there’s something to putting corn in the bin, farmers need to take care of their liabilities. “Sell enough grain to make sure obligations are taken care of, then from there the market is the market, and you take whatever risks come with that,” Wells said. “That’s up to each individual farm to make their
Sell enough grain to make sure obligations are taken care of, then from there the market is the market, and you take whatever risks come with that. Tim Wells, agricultural lender at First Midwest Bank in Moline
call. Just make sure the bank is taken care of.” For farmers banking cash, now is a good time to leverage investments and plan for the future. That could mean setting up a retirement plan or acquiring land or equipment. “So long as it’s done with a plan,” Wells advised. “Every farm should have a 5or 10-year plan, and I’ll say that if they don’t have a plan, they’re risking way too much.” With that said, higher yields don’t always translate to higher profits. Prices are expected to decline as the supply grows. “We don’t anticipate an increase in farmers’ incomes,” said Kurt Downs, an agricultural lender for Sauk Valley Bank.
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A Q&A with four Northern Illinois farmers Brian Duncan Location: Rural Polo What is your harvest expectation? Crops on good soils were phenomenal. Crops on lighter soils were below average. Corn was anywhere from 200 to 275 bushels [per acre] on good soil. About 150 to 180 bushels on lighter soils. For soybeans, it was 60-plus bushels on good soil and 40 to 50 bushels on lighter soils. How does that compare to the norm? Soybeans were above average. Corn on good soil was considerably above average. What surprised you most about this year? With as little rain as we had, the cool nights in July and August meant the corn didn’t need as much moisture to pollinate.
I don’t have any major purchases on the board. Will you do anything different in 2014? I think I’ll keep the same cropping mix, with mostly corn. Prices are considerably lower than a year ago, but higher yields make up for it.
Lou Lamoreux Photo submitted
Brian Duncan, who grows corn and soybeans on his rural Polo farm, said “crops on good soils were phenomenal” this growing season. Do you have plans to make any land acquisitions or large equipment purchases within the next year?
Location: Rural Lanark What is your harvest expectation? It’s going really well for having a very dry July and August. Corn is doing really well, over 200 bushels. Beans are above expectations. Depending on the variables, some corn was coming in at 250 bushels. Beans at 70 bushels. CONTINUED ON 31
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Too early to tell. I don’t think I’ll be doing a whole lot different.
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How does that compare to the norm? This is one of the best years ever, after it was dry last year. Some farmers are fortunate enough around Milledgeville to get respectable yields last year. This year’s has been much better than last year. What surprised you most about this year? A lot of the success has to do with the hybrids or the technology in the seed. The corn is able to cope with the stress more. Do you have any plans to make any land acquisitions or large equipment purchases? Probably not land, although I’m always looking. Last year, I updated my machinery. Will you do anything different in 2014? I don’t think so. I think the technology in the seed is really showing. It’s been successful.
Matt Gusse Location: Rural Dixon What is your harvest expectation? It’s been a good one so far. Corn is coming in over 200 bushels. Also, beans are better than expected.
Jim Rapp (right), who farms north of Princeton, said this year’s crop was not the best ever, “but it was very close.” How does that compare to the norm? So far, this has been among one of the best corn harvests. What surprised you most about this year?: The better-than-average yields after a dry July and August. The cooler nights helped, but I think this is the year we started to see the results in the seed technology. Do you have any plans to make land acquisitions or large equipment purchases? Not certain at this time. Will you do anything different in 2014?
Location: North of Princeton What is your harvest expectation? Very good. Some variables meant some fields yielded more than others. A lot of corn averaged 220 to 240 bushels, but some didn’t make 200. How does that compare to the norm? It was not the best crop ever, but it was very close. What surprised you most about this year? I thought we had a really good run the first week of August, so I was anticipating a good crop. I wasn’t too surprised, in fact, there are some that I was a little disappointed. Do you have any plans to make land acquisition or large equipment purchases? I’m not sure just yet. Will you do anything different in 2014? It’s hard to say on that. I don’t know what I’ll do differently until I look at it closely. It’s almost too early to say. I did some corn on beans and some corn and corn. I’ll probably do some mix, maybe 80 percent corn. I’m not sure I’ll make a whole lot of changes.
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hen it comes to ethanol mandates, an Iowa professor says, there are winners and losers. Corn farmers in Iowa and Illinois are the big winners. So is the environment. But livestock producers, who have to pay more for feed because of higher demand for corn – not so much. “Any state that exports corn is going to benefit from an increase in demand for the product,” said Dermot Hayes, an agribusiness professor at Iowa State University.” If we didn’t have a mandate, the price for a bushDermot Hayes el of corn would Agribusiness professor at Iowa be a dollar lower. State University Demand for corn would be less.” In early October, the price of a bushel of corn was $4.43. The United States is the world’s top ethanol producer, with Brazil coming in second. Since 1980, U.S. ethanol production has skyrocketed, increasing from 175 million gallons a year to 13.3 billion gallons – a 76-fold jump. The number of U.S. ethanol plants has grown from 50 in 1999 in 211 this year, with more than 40 in Iowa, which produces more ethanol than any other state. Production of ethanol has leveled off in recent years after seeing huge spikes from 2005 to 2009. It fell slightly in 2012. In August, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the lowering of its ethanol fuel mandate for 2014 because the demand for gasoline is lower than expected. The decision comes as proposals in Congress are circulating to change the mandate, which was first set in 2007. “There is absolutely no growth expected for the ethanol industry,” said Rich Nelson, a chief strategist with Allendale. “We are hitting the blend wall.” 32 Fall 2013
TOPPING OFF ETHANOL?
Industry might be hitting a ‘blend wall’
Phillip Marruffo/For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
Don Temple empties the corn from his combine into a chaser bin on his land in western Whiteside County. For the past 2 years, Temple’s corn crop has gone to an ADM ethanol plant in Clinton, Iowa. He farms about 500 acres of corn and 150 acres of soybeans. “Before, we had surplus corn. When you have more corn than what is being used, you don’t get paid really well. The ethanol market has been a very good thing for corn growers.”
Anti-ethanol groups say that ethanol consumes about 40 percent of the nation’s crop, but ethanol supporters counter that it’s nearer 28 percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rich Nelson uses the 40 percent Chief strategist number, noting that with Allendale Inc. about that much corn ends up at ethanol plants. But a third of the corn at the plants ends up as byproduct, which is used as feed for livestock, supporters say. Allendale Inc., a McHenry-based research company and broker, surveys corn farmers monthly about their expectations. Last year, U.S. corn farmers produced 10.8 billion bushels, a number that is expected to rise to 13.6 billion bushels – a 25 percent increase, according to Allendale’s September numbers. A total of 97.4 million acres are devoted to corn this year – the highest number since 1936, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports. The increase in demand for ethanol has led to the rising number of acres under corn production, supporters say. Monte Shaw “We grow a lot more Executive corn in the world director of the today than we used Iowa Renewable to because of the Fuels Association demand for renewable energy,” said Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. “Ethanol is cheaper, ethanol is cleaner, and it’s high-octane,” he said. “The majority of Iowa corn gets processed by ethanol plants. A third of all of that goes back to feed markets in the form of distillers grains.” As for 2014, he said: “I’m optimistic about next year. The economics will drive 2014, but it depends on what the White House and EPA will do.” To meet the federal renewable fuel standard, gasoline companies have blended ethanol into gasoline at 10 percent, known as E10. The ethanol industry wants greater availability of E15 and E85. E85, which requires 85 percent ethanol, can be used in “flexible fuel” cars, while E15 is for cars built in 2001 or later. CONTINUED ON 34 AG Mag
CONTINUED FROM 33
In Creston, Iowa, the Farmers Cooperative Co. service station started selling E85 ethanol in August – among more than 2,000 across the country that do. On an early October day, regular unleaded (E10) gasoline sold for $3.29. E15 went for $3.24, E30 for $3.06, and E85 for $2.59. The E85 has been good for business, with the Creston station seeing more customers, said Darin Schlapia, Creston branch manager for the Farmers Cooperative. That’s a story heard from many stations that are selling E85, Shaw said. “The consumers are picking a good chunk of higher ethanol blends,” he said. “This is a very important fight, giving consumers choice at the pump.” Hayes, the agribusiness professor, said that while the prices are cheaper for higher ethanol blends, they are not as efficient. “It’s 75 percent as good,” he said. “The $2.59 [price of E85 at the Creston station] would amount to $3.45. “The density of the energy in E85 is less,” he said. “Your miles per gallon are less.”
U.S. ethanol production
Number of U.S. ethanol plants
Production Year (in millions of gallons) 2000 ........................................ 1,622 2001 ........................................ 1,765 2002 ........................................ 2,140 2003 ........................................ 2,810 2004 ........................................ 3,404 2005 ........................................ 3,904 2006 ........................................ 4,884 2007 ........................................ 6,521 2008 ........................................ 9,309 2009 ......................................10,938 2010 ......................................13,298 2011 ...................................... 13,948 2012 ......................................13,300
Year ........................................ Plants 2000 .............................................. 54 2001 ............................................. 56 2002 ............................................. 61 2003 ............................................. 68 2004 ............................................. 72 2005 ............................................. 81 2006 ............................................. 95 2007 ........................................... 110 2008 ........................................... 139 2009 ........................................... 170 2010 ........................................... 189 2011 ........................................... 204 2012 ........................................... 209 2013 ........................................... 211
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Source: Renewable Fuels Association
Sarah Brown/For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
The Farmers Cooperative Co. service station in Creston, Iowa, began selling E85 ethanol in August. Here, cars line up for a special sale of the E85 for 85 cents per gallon at the station. On an early October day, E85 was selling for $2.59 a gallon, compared to $3.29 for regular unleaded (E10) gasoline.
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‘A very good thing for corn growers’
BY DAVID GIULIANI For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
Ethanol production has increased nationally in the past few years, and northwestern Illinois is no exception. In the past 2 years, farmer Don Temple’s corn crop has gone to an ADM ethanol plant in Clinton, Iowa, which the international company bought in 1982. “They’ve had a pretty strong push in the price. They’ve had good bids for ethanol,” said Temple, who farms 500 acres of corn and 150 acres of soybeans in western Whiteside County. In other years, he has taken his corn to Bunge’s river terminal in Albany, which is along the Mississippi River. One factor that goes into his decision is transportation costs. CONTINUED ON 36
In the photo Don Temple has been working to harvest the 500 acres of corn he farms in western Whiteside County. Ethanol, Temple said, has played a role in higher corn prices. “When you have more corn than what is being used, you don’t get paid really well,” Temple said. “The ethanol market has been a very good thing for corn growers.” Phillip Marruffo/For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
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Don Temple drives his combine as he harvests his corn crop on his farm in western Whiteside County. Temple farms 500 acres of corn and 150 acres of soybeans. In the past two years, he has taken his corn crop to an ADM ethanol plant in Clinton, Iowa, he said, because “they’ve had a pretty strong push in the price.” CONTINUED FROM 35
“I’m close enough to Albany to deliver the corn easily myself,” Temple said. “It costs more to go to Clinton.” Ethanol has played a role in higher corn prices, he said. “Before, we had surplus corn. When you have more corn than what is being used, you don’t get paid really well,” Temple said. “The ethanol market has been a very good thing for corn growers.” The export market has also been good for farmers, he said. Northern Illinois has three ethanol plants, according to the industry’s online map. They are Illinois River Energy in Rochelle, Adkins Energy in Lena, and Patriot Renewable Fuels in Annawan. On the other side of the Mississippi is an ADM plant in Clinton, Iowa. 36 Fall 2013
The combine heads harvest corn on the farm of Don Temple. Many plants went online in the past decade, with the increase in the ethanol market. Rochelle’s plant started in 2006 and expanded a year later, while the Patriot plant celebrated its 5-year anniversary in August. The Lena plant opened in 2002, and
ADM bought its Clinton operation in 1982. Danelle DeSmith, manager of the Lee County Farm Bureau, said farmers in northwestern Illinois now have greater opportunities to sell their crop. “We are lucky that we have enough outlets to choose from,” she said. “We have the river, rail and ethanol plants. In other parts of the state, farmers don’t have all that.” Gene Griffith, president and CEO of Patriot, said he doesn’t expect more ethanol plants in the region. Instead, the existing operations will add to their capacities. In 5 years, Patriot has produced 550 million gallons of ethanol, which was worth $1.2 billion, he said. “That’s $1.2 billion we don’t have to send to foreign countries for crude oil,” Griffith said. “We’re making a difference on independence from foreign oil.”
PATRIOT GAINS Submitted photo
Corn is dumped at the Patriot Renewable Fuels ethanol plant near Annawan. Since the plant was built in 2008, more than $1.1 billion of grain has been bought from farmers and county elevators.
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A $175 million initial investment in the Patriot Renewable Fuels ethanol plant near Annawan in 2008 has blossomed into a regional economic impact of $1.1 billion some five years later. “We are owned by 200 local investors,” said Judd Hulting, commodities manager at Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC. “Our goal is to return a benefit to those stakeholders in Bureau and Henry counties.” The plant, alongside Interstate 80 in Henry County, each year processes millions of bushels of corn from 220,000 truckloads. From that grain, the plant has produced 120 million gallons of ethanol each year; 550 million gallons have been shipped in 18,000 railcar loads in the past five years. CONTINUED ON 38
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Patriot also produces 320,000 tons each year of dried distillers grain (DDGS), which is exported for poultry and livestock feed, contributing to a $300 million reduction to the U.S. trade deficit. One yearâ€™s worth of DDGS production helps feed five million pigs in Asian countries. â€œThis is a multimilliondollar export to a growing population overseas that we didnâ€™t know about five years ago,â€? Hulting added. More than $1.1 billion of grain has been bought from farmers and county elevators since 2008, and the plantâ€™s 50-plus employeesâ€™ compensation and benefits have exceeded $18 million since 2008. â€œWe are also another outlet for corn in the area,â€? he said. â€œWe are a new market for corn and renewable fuel in this area.â€? Huling said the majority of the corn used at the
Lyle Ganther/For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
Patriot lab employee Shannon Overton displays bags of DDGS, dried distillers grain, which is exported for poultry and livestock feed and ultimately contributed to a $300 million reduction to the U.S. trade deficit, industry officials say. Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC ethanol plant, as well as the employees, come from a geographic area from Princeton to Geneseo and from Kewanee to
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first ethanol producer to implement a Zero Liquid Discharge program, meaning the company uses less water per gallon of ethanol produced than most other plants. All water is recycled, and no water or other waste products are discharged into streams or groundwater. Gene Griffith of Geneseo and Jeff VandeVoorde of Annawan were the cofounders of the ethanol plant. Griffith, the president of Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC, worked for John Deere Construction Equipment Co. from 1967 to 2005, retiring in February 2005. VandeVoorde, one of Patriot Renewable Fuelsâ€™ directors, is the co-owner and president of VandeVoorde Sales Inc., a construction company that provides millwright services and specializes in grain handling equipment sales and service. He also operates a custom farming business.
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A $175 million initial investment in the Patriot Renewable Fuels ethanol plant near Annawan in 2008 has blossomed into a regional economic impact of $1.1 billion some five years later. The plant, along Interstate 80, each year processes millions of bushels of corn from 220,000 truckloads. From that grain, the plant has produced 120 million gallons of ethanol each year.
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Larry Gerlach, who works at Birkey’s Equipment, in Prophetstown, has been collecting International Harvester tractors since the 1960s. Gerlach, 72, has roughly two dozen of the tractors in his garage in Yorkville.
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BY MATT MENCARINI For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
Driving west into Yorkville on state Route 92, you’ll see a tan-and-brown building with a “Gerlach” sign above the big garage door. Behind that door sit 20 International Harvester tractors and one John Deere. In all, 72-year-old Larry Gerlach estimates he has two dozen IH tractors, some as old as his 1939 M. He collects and restores them and sometimes lines
them up along the highway. He even describes himself as an “IH boy.” “Probably about 25 years ago I decided I wanted to maybe just save some up and restore them,” he said. “I just kind of got into it, and I stayed with it.” He finds tractors by looking through newspapers, websites like www.TractorHouse.com, and just by talking with friends, family and farmers. CONTINUED ON 42
Photos by Alex T. Paschal/ For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
Larry Gerlach’s IH tractor collection has been featured by Max Armstrong on RFD-TV. Gerlach has been loyal to IH tractors going back to 1962, when he started working for Binters and Allen, which today is Birkey’s Equipment, in Prophetstown.
Probably about 25 years ago I decided I wanted to maybe just save some up and restore them. I just kind of got into it, and I stayed with it. Larry Gerlach
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Collecting and restoring the tractors is a hobby for Larry Gerlach, who at 72 still works full time. Gerlachâ€™s father was a John Deere man, so Larry keeps one green one in his collection. But this 1953 Super M is among one of his standout IH possessions. CONTINUED FROM 40
Among his IH tractors is a 1953 Super M, a 1947 M, and both a restored and a yet-to-be restored Farmall Cub. It will take him 2 to 3 months of working at night or on weekends to repair and restore the dusty Farmall Cub, which sits among other clean and running tractors. This is something he does as a hobby, after all, so heâ€™s in no rush. While his collection has grown during the past 25 years, itâ€™s far from complete. â€œI want to get a 450 diesel,â€? Gerlach said. â€œOr a Super MD, and I havenâ€™t got-
ten that yet. I have to look to get that sometime. Iâ€™ll find one sometime.â€? Gerlachâ€™s father was a John Deere man, but Larry has been loyal to IH tractors going back to 1962, when he started working for Binters and Allen, which today is Birkeyâ€™s Equipment, in Prophetstown. His got his lone John Deere tractor after playing a game of poker, but not the way youâ€™d think. About 7 years ago, Gerlach said, he was in Nebraska and playing poker with a man who mentioned he was selling a square-axle 1953 John Deere A.
â€œAnd I thought, â€˜My dad had one; maybe I want to try to buy it,â€™â€? he said. â€œHe told me about it, we started playing cards and the next thing I knew I said, â€˜OK, Iâ€™ll buy her.â€™â€? After the agreement, Gerlach still had to get the tractor back to Yorkville. He was heading to a wedding in Des Moines, Iowa, and asked whether they could meet halfway. â€œSo I drove a truck and trailer out there. We met that morning and loaded it up. He got married, she got married,â€? he said, referring to the bride and groom. â€œAnd we came home with a tractor.â€?
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I am confident that Abe would be pleased and proud to see how his efforts have evolved to ensure that all people have access to the services and education of the research base of the university system. Extension is for everyone and delivers programs in your communities through agriculture and natural resources training and workshops, community and economic development seminars, 4-H youth development programs, parenting, consumer sciences, and nutrition education programs. It also provides online services and unbiased information to help make important decisions. Extension is here for you â€“ offering a wealth of resources. Please take a few minutes to become familiar with what you can benefit from as you need information or special programs to meet emerging needs for your family, school, community, business or farm operation. Here is a snapshot of a just a few of the vast amount of resources available to you when you need it: s #OMMERCIAL AGRICULTURE s !G BLOGS WITH CURRENT CROP INFORMAtion updates and research highlights. s 4HE FARMDOC WEBSITE (ARNESSING
Extension is for everyone and delivers programs in your communities through agriculture and natural resources training and workshops, community and economic development seminars, 4-H youth development programs, parenting, consumer sciences, and nutrition education services. It also provides online services and unbiased information to help make important decisions.
the power of the Internet for todayâ€™s farm business. s 0LANT #LINIC /UR SERVICES INCLUDE plant and insect identification, diagnosis of plant disease, insect, weed and chemical injury (chemical injury on field crops only), nematode assays, and help with nutrient related problems, as well as recommendations involving these diagnoses. s 0RIVATE 0ESTICIDE 3AFETY %DUCATION Program - online class s ,OCAL &OOD 3YSTEMS AND 3MALL &ARMS team website s &ORESTRY WEBSITE s 4HE )LLINOIS 7ATER 2ESOURCES #ENter s (EALTHY )NDOOR !IR WEBSITE 7HILE commonly called â€œseptic systems,â€? todayâ€™s systems range from a standard tank and drain field to more complex systems that involve pumps, air compressors, and other types of
mechanical devices. #ONTACT YOUR LOCAL %XTENSION OFFICE or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about getting involved as a volunteer (4-H, Master Gardener, Master naturalist and more), or to participate in local programs of interest to you. Visit our state website at http:// web.extension.illinois.edu/state/ index.html and your local Extension WEBSITES SEE THE h&IND AN /FFICEv TAB on the state website) to meet staff and volunteers ready to assist with your needs for information, services and lifelong learning programs for special situations and stages of your life. Jill Guynn is the county director for the University of Illinois Extension, Bureau, LaSalle, Marshall and Putnam counties.
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SWCC students gain advantage by studying energy crops BY STEPHANI FINLEY For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
nergy crops may be the wave of the future for Midwest farmers. Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa, has been growing perennial grasses through its agriculture program since 2010.
Erika Blair, agriculture instructor at SWCC, said energy crops are an added educational component to the college’s ag programs. “The advantage is, instead of just being corn and cattle, expanding an agronomy field and looking more into the different parts of the agriculture industry,” Blair said. “The biofuels and the biomass crops are obviously something that’s very up right now in interest.” CONTINUED ON 45
In the photo This plot of perennial grasses at Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa, is being used for education and reseach of biomass crops. The tall grases in the back are Miscanthus × giganteus, which along with native switch grasses are grown as an energy crop. (Photo by Stephani Finley for Northern Illinois Ag Mag)
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Danielle Wilson, research assistant with the Department of Agriculture at Iowa State University, demonstrates the height of the perennial grass Miscanthus Ă— giganteus at a plot site at the university. CONTINUED FROM 44
According to Emily Heaton, assistant professor in biomass crop production at Iowa State Universityâ€™s Department of Agronomy, the SWCC site was chosen because it is a visible demonstration and teaching site, â€œperfect for getting the word out about perennial bioenergy crops in southwest Iowa.â€? Heatonâ€™s interest in perennial grasses was inherited from her father, John D. Caveny of Illinois.
The beginning Caveny is president of Environmentally Correct Concepts Inc. of Monticello, Ill. In 2002, ECCI, University of Illinois Department of Crop
Sciences and Dynegy Midwest Generation of Baldwin, Ill., received three grants from the state of Illinois, which funded renewableenergy research programs to assess the feasibility of growing Miscanthus x giganteus. Miscanthus, a cool-season relative of sugar cane, was planted on Caveny Farm in May 2002. At the end of a successful three-year research period, remaining Miscanthus reverted to Caveny Farm. In 2008, Caveny Farm and the Sun City, Fla., company Speedling Inc. came to an agreement whereby Speedling propagates and sells plugs of the Illinois clone of Miscanthus originating from Caveny Farm. CONTINUED ON 46
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Benefits Blair has used the large plot of perennial grasses south of the ag building to educate students and the public about the benefits of energy crops. â€œAny kind of exposure to the students of something different other than what they are used to is a good educational purpose,â€? she said. â€œFrom my standpoint Emily Heaton here at SWCC, any time you can educate Assistant the students a little professor in biomass crop bit more, give them production at hands-on experiIowa State ence with a different University situation, thatâ€™s the most valuable part for me.â€? Heaton said in addition to their educational value, energy crops have many uses. â€œGenerally speaking, our goal with energy crops in Iowa is to use them in a multifunctional way,â€? Heaton said. â€œThat is, they can provide not only a crop to sell for farmers, but also a lot of environmental benefit.
Plants capture CO2 from the atmosphere every year, and through photosynthesis, turn it into plant biomass. â€œThat biomass can then be burned, like coal for electricity, or converted into petroJohn Caveny leum replacements President of like gasoline or diesel. Environmentally It could also be turned Correct Concepts into ethanol.â€? Inc. of
have leading potential in Iowa are switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) and Miscanthus (Miscanthus Ă— giganteus), as well as prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata), Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans). Switchgrass has been studied across the Midwest for several decades, mainly because it is native to the area and was once on the tall grass prairie. The Department of Energy and others have labeled it as a â€œmodelâ€? bioenergy crop.
Danelle Wilson, ISU research associate, said the SWCC program also is being used by ISU for reseach. â€œWe have been using them to teach SWCC students about energy crops and working with students to collect some research data about plant growth and yield,â€? Wilson said. â€œWe have had ISU Extension workshops at SWCC and use the plots to show people what they can expect on their own farms. â€œThese grasses are not like your lawn or pasture â€“ they can get pretty big. Sometimes people just need to walk into one of the plots to really experience the difference.â€? Wilson said perennial grasses that
Crop of the future Wilson said energy crops can be an advantage to Midwest farmers. â€œMidwestern farmers should adopt perennial grasses as part of their â€˜portfolioâ€™ of crops to diversify their cropping systems,â€? she said. â€œDiversification of cropping systems will impact environmental, social and economic changes, including improved water and soil, increased microbial activity, increased soil carbon, more jobs and markets when bioenergy companies become more widespread, among many other things. CONTINUED ON 47
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“Diversification across the landscape will provide many ecosystem services while producing biomass from the land. Although the biomass crops may not be as high yielding as the traditional and more conventional corn system, the benefits in the long term will outweigh those in the short term.” Blair said she has found the perennial grasses to be hardy during weather extremes this year. “From what I’ve seen out here the past two years, in a drought situation it’s grown well and still has high yield,” she said. Blair said perennial grass also will grow in areas where corn and soybeans won’t. “It does well, like on hillsides, where corn won’t grow, or terrace areas,” Blair said. “If they can still use that in a valuable way and receive some profit for it, I think it has a place.”
John Caveny inspects a crop of miscanthus at his farm in Monticello.
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Lifetime of enjoyment Wetzell says farming has given him freedom BY DAVE FOX For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
Alex T. Paschal/For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
Richard Wetzell of rural Rock Falls has been farming all his life. â€œI enjoyed having the freedom to make my own choices,â€? Wetzell said.
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His bronzed, muscular appearance betrays his 70-plus years as Richard Wetzell speaks of his commitment to farming. â€œI always enjoyed farming,â€? Wetzell said with a grin during a recent interview at his home south of Rock Falls. â€œI enjoyed having the freedom to make my own choices.â€? Born into a farming family south of Tampico, Wetzell said it seemed a natural thing to farm with his fatherin-law once he married in 1953. He branched out on his own in 1959. â€œWe started having children,â€? he said. â€œMy wife and I decided the farm was the best place to raise the kids, and I just never got away from it.â€?
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Farming has always been as unpredictable as the weather itself from one year to the next, “and making ends meet back in the early years was a challenge,” he said, recalling 12- and 13-hour days for the first 30 years or so. With a sharp memory for details, Wetzell said diversity was important in his vocation. Cattle, hogs, chickens and grain blended to help ensure a steady income. Variety “was important because if one area didn’t produce well during a given year, we always had the other areas to fall back on,” he said. “In the early years, milk was about $3.50 per hundredweight [roughly 12 gallons],” he recalled, “so I was glad we always had other things to bring in money as well. “We always had food,” he recalled. “Between the crops, livestock, and the garden, we never went hungry. There was always meat, milk and grocery money.” Corn prices averaged around $1 a bushel when he first started, and prime farmland sold for $550 an acre in 1959, he recalled, a sharp contrast with today’s costs. He started out with a four-row planter later on, and it’s been interesting to watch equipment grow in size and cost as well.
Alex T. Paschal/For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
Richard Wetzell recalls 12- and 13-hour days for the first 30 years or so of farming. “Making ends meet back in the early years was a challenge,” he said. Losing his wife, Lois, last December after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease was the hardest thing he had to deal with, he noted, but there also were many good things about being a lifelong farmer. “There was always a lot of enjoyment in farming,” he said with a smile. “Harvest time was always a good feeling,” he said, “just seeing the result of
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Mount Carroll teen raises pigs, sells meat through her business BY CHRISTI WARREN For Northern Illinois Ag Mag
Clare O’Connor has it all figured out. This kind, clever and modest girl might dispute that, but after 10 minutes on the phone with her, it’s pretty apparent. The Mount Carroll 17-year-old has a lot going on in her life: school, family, philanthropy, a part-time job as a dental assistant, 4-H, FFA vice president (last year, she was president), varsity cheerleader, playing flute in the fourtime state champion West Carroll High School band, plus she just got accepted to her No.1 college choice — Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, which her father attended. She plans to study dental hygiene. “For some reason, the acceptance letter got sent to my best friend’s house,” she says, laughing. And then, somehow, on top of it all, she finds time for her business: Clare’s Genuine Homestead Pork. CONTINUED ON 52
Photos submitted by Elizabeth Chambers
Clare O’ Connor, a 17-year-old West Carroll High School senior, raises pigs for her 4-H club. “They’re not as much maintenance,” Claire says, comparing them to the bucket calf she raised during her first year as a full-fledged 4-H member.
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It all started with her 4-H involvement. Clare has been part of the Carroll County Kids 4-H Club since she was in third grade, starting out as a Cloverbud. She got involved because of her mother, she explains, who was a 4-H leader for years and now works in the University of Illinois Extension Office in Mount Carroll. During Clare’s first year as a full-fledged member, she showed a bucket calf, but that endeavor didn’t last long. “It was fun, but it was a lot of work,” she says. “Like, we had to get up before school and bottle feed it when it was dark and in the cold. I was pretty young still.” Then, the family started talking pigs. “They’re not as much maintenance,” Clare says. “So it was a lot less stress.” And the rest, as they say, is history. Raising the pigs is for 4-H, but selling the meat is for FFA. Every year, FFA members have a goal of making
$1,500 from their project – a goal that Clare has met, and exceeded, continually. One April, her family bought a few pigs from a family friend who lives in Polo. This year, they bought 11. Eight were Clare’s, and her two younger sisters raised the three others. “We raise them all summer, and then in the first week of August, we show them at the fair,” she explains. This year, Clare won the Senior Showmanship Award, and for the second year in a row, she got Outstanding Swine Exhibitor. After that, the pigs go to Johnson’s Processing Plant in Chadwick, then Clare really starts bringing in the bacon. Ranging from $3.50 to $10 a package, Clare’s Genuine Homestead Pork offers ground pork, ground sausage, sausage links, bacon, pork chops, country style ribs and pork spare ribs, and pork roast. Anyone interested in purchasing meats from Clare can contact her at email@example.com.
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