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DeKalb County

Summer 2012

DeKalb County Farm Bureau

Celebrates 100 Years

Illinois Farm Families IFF Program hosts Field Moms

Women In Agriculture

Vickie Hernan-Faivre is among a growing segment of women joining agriculture

GPS and Farming

GPS navigation has become mainstream technology for local farmer Photo left: DeKalb County Farmer Tracey Jones

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DeKalb County Farmers have embraced change...

Leaders in Food Production and in Farm Bureau.

DeKalb County Farm Bureau... Celebrating 100 years!

Summer 2012 | DeKalb County AG Mag | 3

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DeKalb County

Table of Contents

6 DeKalb County Farm Bureau Celebrates 100 Years

Photo to the left: The present-day DeKalb County Farm Bureau Center for Agriculture serves as a one-stop shop for agriculture business and also is used by community groups.


Northern Illinois Agronomy Research

18 Illinois Family Farms


Crops & Agronomics

20 Women In Agriculture

Summer Agronomy Day on July 10, 2012 Russ Higgins educates farmers

10 County Corn & Soybean Plots

Ben Drake volunteers to be a plot host

14 New events highlight Summerfest

12th annual Summerfest and Antique Tractor and Farm Equipment Show

16 Dry Weather & Corn Roots

Lack of rain causing concern

IFF Program hosts Field Moms

Meet rural DeKalb Farmer Vickie Hernan-Faivre

22 GPS & Farming

GPS navigation has become mainstream technology for local farmer

23 Garden Story Time

Workshop series for kids offered by Sycamore History Museum

26 Bitten by the Steam Bug

Northern Illinois Steam Power Club (N.I.S.P.C.)


DeKalb County

Published by Shaw Media Publisher: Don T. Bricker Advertising and Marketing Director: Karen Pletsch Project Manager: Lisa Angel Design & Layout: Allison LaPorta We reserve the right to include and edit all editorial content of this publication.

Photo on cover: Tracey Jones grows wheat and corn and raises beef cattle. The fourth generation farmer will soon be harvesting wheat on his farm near Clare. (photo courtesy of DeKalb County Farm Bureau)

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Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center

Agronomy Day URBANA -- The Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center will be hosting its summer Agronomy Day on July 10, 2012. Join University of Illinois Extension specialists and researchers as they address issues pertinent to the 2012 growing season. The program starts at 9:30 a.m. and will finish with a meal at 12:30 p.m. It is open to all who wish to attend and there is no admission cost.

Weather permitting, presentations will take place outside in the research plots. Field topics include: - What does it take to produce high soybean yields? Emerson Nafziger - Update on corn rootworm issues and Bt Performance Mike Gray - Corn disease identification and management Carl Bradley - Nutrient removal by corn and soybean Fabian Fernandez -  2012 weed control challenges – Doug Maxwell

The 160-acre Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center located north of Shabbona has been conducting crop research since 1948. It is the northernmost research center within the U of I Crop Sciences department that is dedicated primarily to corn and soybean research. More than 45 research and demonstration projects are conducted at the center every year. Visitors are always welcome. The research center is located at 14509 University Road, about 5 miles north of U.S. Route 30 on University Road, which runs just east of Shabbona and a quarter mile south of Perry Road.

Photo courtesy of Dynamic Photography

For more information, contact Russ Higgins at 815-274-1343 or email

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DeKalb County Farm Bureau Celebrates 100 Years

Photos courtesy of DeKalb County Farm Bureau


When a group of DeKalb County farmers, bankers, journalists and other community leaders took stock of agriculture a century ago, they knew they had to do something -- fast.

Greg Millburg is the current manager of the DeKalb County Farm Bureau.

“Back then, agriculture was coming off a good time for farmers,” said Greg Millburg, manager of the DeKalb County Farm Bureau. “But they were depleting our soils, and production was going down because of it.” They felt strongly enough to make a decision that still influences agriculture in DeKalb County today. They formed a new group called the Soil Improvement Association. Its

mission was to educate farmers about techniques to improve their yields and ensure that the soil in which they grew their crops remained fertile and useful. “The wealth of Illinois is in her soils, and her strength lies in its intelligent development,” Genoa farmer and association “Founding Father” Henry H. Parke said at the time.

Henry H. Parke, “Founding Father of DeKalb County Farm Bureau”, was a leading figure in the Farm Bureau movement and the most influential spokesman for the Soil Improvement Association.

Until then, farmers had few up-to-date resources to consult, as the University of Illinois sent out experts to meet with local farmers just once or twice a year. The association decided to bring William Eckhardt, a University of Illinois soil scientist, to DeKalb County. His continuing presence in the community meant that farmers had a resource they could consult as needed, and who would visit their farms. In addition, he taught basic techniques, such as crop rotation, and science, including the use of limestone to balance soil acidity. The association worked so well that it took on new challenges, including obtaining better seed and developing corn hybrids. By 1926, the group had changed its name to the DeKalb County Farm Bureau and broadened its scope, which would propel it to a larger stage.    “The DeKalb County farmers and [agriculture] leaders led the state in organizing efforts to allow farmers to do together what was very hard to do individually,” said Mark Frels, Executive Director of Member Services and Public Relations for Illinois Farm Bureau. Their

Kishwaukee Service Company, an affiliate of DeKalb County Farm Bureau, provided petroleum products for farmers.

Summer 2012 | DeKalb County AG Mag | 7 initial goal was to increase productivity and later to provide information and various programs and services and effect laws and regulations to represent farmers. They did that by organizing the DeKalb County Soil Improvement Association, which was the forerunner of the Farm Bureau movement.“ As the decades passed, the DeKalb County Farm Bureau would become a voice for agriculture at the local and state levels,” Millburg said, a focus that remains today and will most likely still be in place 100 years from now.

William Eckhardt, first farm adviser of the DeKalb County Soil Improvement Association (forerunner to DeKalb County Farm Bureau) is shown with his Roadster, offering crop and soil advice at the Nichols Farm. Clarence, Ruth, Ira, Charles and Howard Nichols are pictured with Eckhardt who holds a soil auger used to take soil samples.

“If you ask farmers the number one benefit of the Farm Bureau, they’d say legislative accomplishments,” Millburg stated. Newly elected DeKalb County Farm Bureau President Mark Tuttle agrees. “Years ago, we brought information from the university to the farmers, and now it’s information on legislative issues involving landowner’s rights,” the Somonauk Township farmer said.

“The world today may look very different from that of 1912, but many of the challenges remain the same,” Millburg said. “Businessmen then said, ‘We have to bring education to farmers – we need to get that expertise here in DeKalb County.’ They knew a prosperous agriculture meant a prosperous community, and that still holds true.” “What goes around, comes around,” he added. “It started as being more of an education mechanism for farmers, and we continue to provide education … but what started as education for farmers has become education for consumers, too.” “Now we bring information from farmers to urban people,” Tuttle said. For instance, in its Ag in the Classroom program, farmers go to local classrooms and teach children about agriculture. “A lot of these kids are three to four generations removed from the farm. Many of these kids have never been on a farm.”

Threshing crews involved several farm men who harvested crops and the women who then fed the hungry group. Latimer Bros. threshing outfit and neighborhood crew is shown at the August Nelson Farm. c 1913.

“A summer program brings agricultural literacy to teachers,” Tuttle added. As with any milestone, the Farm Bureau’s centennial celebration has prompted reflection on its past and future. “It’s been 100 years for us. We are honored to be part of this celebration,” Millburg said. “The best part is understanding where we started, where we’ve been and where we’re going. It’s gratifying to look back at the past and appreciate where we are today.”

The first office of the DeKalb County Soil Improvement Association was located on North Third Street, DeKalb. Lincoln Watson, Afton Township farmer, is shown with a load of seed in front of the office building in 1912.

DeKalb County Farm Bureau has been recognized as one of the top county Farm Bureaus in the state with the prestigious President’s Award. Here, Allan Aves (right), accepted the award at the state Farm Bureau meeting while serving as the organization’s president in 1980.

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88 || DeKalb DeKalb County County AG AG Mag Mag || Summer Summer 2012 2012 By CURTIS CLEGG

Crops & Agronomics Test plots and plant research help local farmers

SHABBONA – Russ Higgins is trying to grow white mold. “We are probably the only location in DeKalb County that is trying to get white mold,” Higgins said about the spore that sporadically affects local soybean crops. As a commercial agriculture educator for the Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center in Shabbona, part of Higgins’ job is to study the things that could adversely affect farmers’ yields. With cooler temperatures earlier in the growing season, and with the help of an irrigation system to provide water, white mold is growing in parts of the 160-acre research farm. By studying the mold under controlled conditions, Higgins hopes to find ways to reduce or eliminate its growth under natural conditions. Higgins is part of a team that studies a variety of subjects that affect agricultural yields, including fertilizer, crop management schemes, planting dates, seed varieties, and weed and pest control. The Shabbona farm is one of six facilities that the University of Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station and U of I Extension use to study traditional crop sciences. “We are the northern-most research farm that does corn and soybean research,” Higgins said. He noted that farms in northern Illinois can have average daily temperatures that are five degrees cooler than in southern parts of the state, and that northern Illinois farmers can have a growing season that is two weeks shorter than their fellow farmers in southern Illinois. The research stations gather, analyze, and distribute data that is specific to farmers in certain parts of the state. “My role is not only to work here, but also to get information that is gathered from the research here and other research facilities and get it out to the farmers,” Higgins said. “We do it (disseminate data) in meetings, on our blog and websites, and one-on-one with farmers,” Higgins added. The data is also available freely to crop consultants, advisors, the agricultural industry, the green industry, and commercial growers. Dr. Adam Davis, a research ecologist with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and associate professor with the Crop Services Department at the University of Illinois, is researching global change and geographic weed direction. One weed he is studying under controlled conditions at the Shabbona center is the Palmer amaranth. “It is pervasive in the south (part of the state) and I am trying to find out if it would survive up north,” Davis said. “It’s pretty widespread in the southern part of the state and it’s getting to be a bigger problem.” Davis has studied several strains of the weed that can survive in northern Illinois, and one of the goals of his research is to find ways to prevent the weed’s spread to the northern counties. He also studies ways to spread weed management throughout the weed life cycle, rather than focusing solely on herbicide control of weed seedlings.

Russ Higgins, Commercial Agriculture Educator with the University of Illinois Extension, stands in a corn field near the Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center in Shabbona, Ill. Photo by Curtis Clegg

“We destroy the plants once they reach the flowering stage so that they don’t reproduce,” Davis said. “But we have found that even at that point they compete with soybeans enough to reduce yields by 20 to 40 percent.”

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Photos courtesy of DeKalb County Farm Bureau

County Corn Soybean Plots Sycamore farmer volunteers use of 98 acres


Ben Drake decided it was time to volunteer to be a plot host. “The Corn and Soybean Association does this every year and every couple of years they look for a new host,” the Sycamore farmer said. Drake, a member of the DeKalb County Corn and Soybean Growers Association board of directors, has volunteered to let the association use about 98 acres of his farm land as a test plot for different varieties of corn and soybean hybrids for, according to the association’s website, “…educational and scientific purposes, including but not limited to the following activities: production, promotion and marketing of corn and soybeans and to generally further and develop the agricultural industry in DeKalb County, Illinois.” On the plot of land, three varieties of corn and soybeans, from three different seed companies are planted and compared. The samples are all planted in both till and no-till land for comparison purposes. “I have been monitoring them (the plots) in case anything unusual comes in,” said Rich Griesbach, plot agronomist for Hintzsche Fertilizer, who has monitored the progress of the crops for the association for six years. During the growing season, he monitors factors like soil nitrate release and will perform tissue tests of the plants on the plot for levels of ten different elements. He also monitors for signs of weed growth and insect infestation. “This year I am seeing corn rootworm beetles coming out earlier,” Griesbach said, noting that the warm weather earlier in the year led to the beetles’ early development. “They could end up being a problem this year.” Griesbach has also set up smaller demonstration plots near the crops to show row width comparisons, starter tests, and results of a planting date study. After the crops in the demonstration plots are harvested, Griesbach will analyze

Summer 2012 | DeKalb County AG Mag | 11

the yields and submit a final report of his findings for the season. The report will be available to the seed companies, members of the growers association, and members of the DeKalb County Farm Bureau. Drake’s plot of land is at the corner of North Grove and Church roads, northwest of Sycamore. The association will host a field day on Tuesday, Sept. 11, during which time the public can visit the plot and speak to association members and representatives from the seed companies. “During field day, all the signs will be up to tell you exactly what’s up and going on with the different varieties,” Drake said.

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DeKalb Summer County 2012 AG | DeKalb Mag County | Summer AG Mag 2012 | | 13

Grow a Garden to Eat! July 21, August 18

“Grow a Garden to Eat!” is a free workshop series for kids ages 7 to 11 offered by Sycamore History Museum at Engh Farm and University of Illinois Extension DeKalb County Master Gardeners. The workshop will be the third Saturday of July, and August at 10 a.m. at the Sycamore History Museum (1730 N. Main Street in Sycamore). Kids are more likely to eat vegetables that they participate in growing, so health conscious parents who want to entice kids to eat vegetables can start by teaching their kids to garden. Not all of us know much beyond our experiments of dropping some seeds in a spot and hoping rain & sun produce a plant. This workshop series is designed to give parents and kids the framework to start and motivate gardening to eat. Kids and parents will work with experienced gardeners to learn gardening basics, getting hands and knees dirty, while having a good time. The series began June 16 with Gardening Basics. Have you ever wanted to start a garden, but you just aren’t sure what you need? This workshop will teach soil preparation, plant selection, planting, and equipment basics. The second workshop will be held July 21 on Garden Maintenance which covers pest control and weeding. You’ll need to learn these skills to get the best food out of your garden. The last workshop will be held August 18. All your hard work will pay off with Garden Eating, presented by Hy-Vee. The workshop will focus on harvesting, cleaning, and cooking what you grow. Taste and see, the garden is good! Sycamore History Museum has a kitchen garden, vegetable garden, greenhouse, and shade gardens. These gardens were traditionally found on farmsteads. This excellent location is a great place to demonstrate, practice, and apply skills learned in workshops. Master Gardeners teach volunteers how to care and maintain these plants and the space allows for historical stories to be shared about farming. The museum is encouraging those interested in being a volunteer gardener to attend. This program is made possible in part by a grant from the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Program. “Grow a Garden to Eat!” workshops are free and open to the public, however, donations are welcome. For more information call 815-895-5762 or 815-758-8194. The Sycamore History Museum at Engh Farm is located at 1730 North Main Street in Sycamore. Check the website at or and like us on Facebook to get up-to-date information on future program topics. Reasonable accommodation is available for those who call one week in advance to request accommodation.

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New events highlight


WATERMAN – The Waterman Lions Club is putting the finishing touches on plans for the 12th annual Summerfest and Antique Tractor and Farm Equipment Show. This year’s show will be held Saturday, July 21, at Waterman Lions Park. The day will begin with a french toast breakfast at 7 a.m. and runs all day, ending with a fireworks display at 9 p.m. New to this year’s show is the Northwest Illinois Chapter of the American Historical Truck Association and their traveling museum, a vintage baseball game and a Cowboy Fast Draw contest. The Championship Garden and Mini Tractor Pull, which was a big hit last year, will run from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. It features most classes of garden tractors, including those with modified engines in the 100 HP-area. The annual parade of antique tractors and trucks will be held around noon. Other planned attractions include Dixieland band Barb City

The antique tractor show is a hallmark of Waterman’s Summerfest. This year’s festival is scheduled for Saturday, July 21. (Midweek file photo)

Stompers playing from 2:30 to 4:45 p.m., jam sessions by the Northern Illinois Bluegrass Association, crafter/flea market booths, a petting zoo, Waterman & Western miniature train rides, Lions Club food concessions, kiddie tractor pull, kids’ games and other family activities. The Lions will draw names in a draw-down raffle at 5 p.m. Pub West will host a beer garden starting at 3 p.m. A band, yet to be announced, will play at 8 p.m. Waterman Lions Park is located at 420 S. Birch St. in Waterman.

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16 | DeKalb County AG Mag | Summer 2012

In better-watered areas of Illinois where the corn crop is well established, the return of warm temperatures has caused very rapid growth. Corn planted in central Illinois in midMarch and not damaged by frost has accumulated about 900 growing degree days (GDD) by now and thus, has reached stage V9 or V10, the point at which stem elongation accelerates. Such fields will likely show tassels by mid-June. Corn planted in early April has accumulated about 650 GDD and is at V7. Corn planted in mid-April is at V5, having accumulated approximately 520 GDD. Though the crop is in good condition in most areas, the dry weather pattern is causing some concern. Water use accelerates as corn reaches V7-V8, but it is still only about an inch per week. Dry surface soils have meant low evaporation rates, so most water is moving out through plants, which is an efficient way to use water. In most areas, plants are still growing well by extracting water from the soil, and the drying of surface soils is encouraging deeper root growth. “In deeper soils that can provide 8 to 10 inches of water to a crop, there should be enough water to keep the crop growing well into June,” said Nafziger. “At some point, of course, we will need rain to keep the crop growing up to its potential.” While the state’s corn crop is nearly all planted and much of the crop is growing well, there are reports of “floppy” corn plants in western and northwestern Illinois and into southeastern Iowa. “Given the better-than-average planting conditions this year, this was not a problem that we expected

to see,” said University of Illinois crop sciences professor Emerson Nafziger. “It’s an easy problem to spot,” said Nafziger. Plants develop using water provided by the seminal (seed) root system up to the 3- to 5-leaf stage, after which the nodal roots -- those that develop from the base of the stalk -- take over and become the main root system for the rest of the season. If the nodal root system fails to develop, the plant become wobbly and may fall over; hence the name “floppy” corn. This problem has also been called “rootless” corn due to the absence of nodal roots. This year, the problem appears to be most common in corn that was planted in the last week of April and that is now at or just past the V3 stage. It has been observed in both notill and tilled fields, though it is probably more common in no-till fields. This is because the no-till planting furrow can act as a barrier to nodal root growth. Another source of difficulty for nodal roots is what has been dubbed the “high-crown syndrome” (HCS). This is a relatively rare phenomenon in which the base of the stem (the crown) ends up positioned at or very near the soil surface instead of at its normal placement about three-fourths of an inch deep in the soil. As a result, the plant ends up perched atop the soil. Because nodal roots of such plants emerge above the soil surface, they often have great difficulty penetrating the soil, especially under dry conditions. Why plants end up perched above the soil like is not clear.

Summer 2012 | DeKalb County AG Mag | 17

The crown (base of the stem) is usually set when light strikes the tip of the coleoptile as it emerges above ground. At this point, the coleoptile and the mesocotyl stop growing and the crown depth is set as the first leaf breaks through the coleoptile. One possible disruption of this process can be rapid growth in warm soils, when the tips of coleoptiles that emerge in the evening do not stop growing until the next morning, at which point the crown is already near the soil surface. But because soil temperatures were only in the 50s in late April this year, that is not a likely explanation. Another cause of high crown placement is soil subsidence due to rainfall after planting into dry soils fluffed by tillage. If the planting furrow opens as soils dry after planting (this is most common in no-till), the crown will be set near the seed, placing the seed and seedling above the soil. Finally, PGR herbicides such as 2,4-D can, if they reach the seed or seedling during this process, cause rapid growth of the mesocotyl and push the crown to the soil surface. “Once plants can no longer stay upright due to a lack of anchoring roots, water uptake and photosynthesis slow down and the supply of sugars starts to decrease, limiting the ability of the plant to grow or to form roots,” Nafziger said. “If the plant is lying on soil that stays dry, it may break off its mesocotyl anchor and die.” In some areas that stayed dry in May, even fields where the crown is at normal depth have plants that are struggling to establish nodal roots due to dry surface soils. Roots cannot grow into soils from which they cannot extract water. “The usual first sign of inadequate root systems is curling of leaves in the afternoon,” explained Nafziger. “As the water shortage progresses, leaf curling takes place earlier each day and plants may start to lose their green color.” Plants growing in dry soil often show some degree of purpling as well. Having plants turn purple may be preferable to having them turn pale green. “This is because purpling results from sugar accumulation in the pIant, and sugars cannot accumulate without photosynthesis,” said Nafziger.

Sugars accumulate when there is no place (such as roots) where they can move, or when there is not enough phosphorus to help them move. Roots that are growing poorly do not need much sugar and have difficulty reaching the phosphorus in the soil, so plants with poor roots often turn purple. Some hybrids do this faster than others, but a return to normal root growth quickly alleviates the purpling, usually with no harm done. “However,” Nafziger said, “there is little to be done once the lack of nodal roots causes corn plants to fall over.” There are reports that some of this corn is already being replanted. The only source of quick relief from problems with nodal roots is rainfall, and even that needs to happen before plants start to fall over. Root tips can dry out and suffer damage by contact with hard, dry soil. In theory, moving soil into the row to keep plants standing until it rains will help, but it would have to be done before plants start to fall over. Watering down the row might help; however, wetting the soil in a band 4 inches by 2 inches over 30-inch rows requires approximately 1,500 gallons of water per acre and may not be practical. One question is whether plants perched on top of the soil will recover to become fully productive even if rain wets the soil enough to allow nodal roots to penetrate it and grow. Such roots tend to grow downward at a steep angle, which might give the plant a small advantage. But there may be fewer roots, and rapid water uptake might be a challenge. The risk of lodging will also increase due to less anchoring by the root system. “With their delayed start and the fact that some roots initiated above the soil surface often do not penetrate the soil surface very well, such plants may become fully productive only if the season turns out to be relatively free from stress,” Nafziger said. “Even though we’re pleased with the early planting into generally good conditions, 2012 has not been stress-free so far, at least in some areas.”

University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences United States Department of AgricultureLocal Extension Councils Cooperating University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment

18 | DeKalb County AG Mag | Summer 2012


Family Farms

By Renee Messacar

A year ago,

when Amy Rossi of Naperville imagined living on a farm, she pictured a quieter, simpler life. “I had a romanticized view of farming,” she said. “I pictured what I’ve seen in movies with a little red barn and a few animals grazing in the fields. But that picture’s been blown out of the water now. I have seen now how much work it is.” Her viewpoint changed this past year while she volunteered as a “Field Mom” for the Illinois Farm Families (IFF) program. The program allowed her and nine other Chicago suburban women to visit Northern Illinois farms and meet farmers. Previously, the moms’ main experiences with agriculture were limited to visiting pumpkin patches and apple orchards. “So many people today are two or more generations removed from the farm,” said Mike Martz, a grain and cattle farmer with Larson Farms Partnership, which is about 10 miles east of DeKalb. “They have a lot of misconceptions about what we do. We formed (IFF) to be a part of the conversation.” “Some misconceptions include overuse of hormones and antibiotics in livestock, lack of conservation, inhumane treatment of animals and corporate ownership of the majority of farms — none of which are accurate, he said. Families own 94 percent of Illinois farms,” he said. He and his wife, Lynn, also a farmer, wanted to give the public more realistic views. They gathered with members of the Illinois Farm Bureau, the Illinois Beef Association, the Illinois Pork Producers, Illinois Corn Marketing Board and Illinois Soybean Association about two years ago to study how to improve communication with the public. “We wanted to open communication lines for people with questions about their food, so they would have a farmer to ask,” Lynn Martz said. “It’s a different world now with computers. People have information at their fingertips, but it isn’t always accurate.” “The coalition’s study showed that mothers would be the best segment of the population to reach,” said Carla Mudd, manager of consumer communications for the Illinois Farm Bureau. “We are focused on moms because they raise more questions about food and farming than anyone else,” she said. “These consumers don’t know any farmers and might have never visited a farm.”

After a visit to the Moore Farms, Illinois Field Moms were given Case IH model tractors as a reminder of their farm visits and to encourage them to share the truth about agriculture. (Photo by Cyndi Cook; Illinois Farm Bureau Photographer).

Summer 2012 | DeKalb County AG Mag | 19

DeKalb County farmer Lynn Martz, left, describes grain and other cattle feed ingredients to “field moms” Farrah Brown, right, Glendale Heights, and Angel Ishmael, Chicago, second from right. (Photo by Illinois Farm Bureau Photographer)

The program has been a “once in a lifetime experience,” Rossi said. She had always wanted to visit a farm and is interested in food production. With six children between the ages of 2-15, her family goes through a lot of food. She wanted to make sure she was making the best choices for them. She has learned a lot this past year, such as how complicated farming is. Mike Martz acknowledged this as a common response they get from farm visitors. “People are surprised at the amount of technology, science and math we use,” he said. “But we have to make the business as efficient and successful as possible, because it supports eight families.” Rossi also learned she couldn’t own livestock. “I am too used to animals as pets,” she said. Seeing hogs penned and kept inside was difficult for her. “My emotional side came out,” she said.

The coalition formed IFF and put out ads for Chicago-area women who were interested in food and had children in the home. Seventynine mothers applied. The group narrowed it down to 10 mothers after conducting interviews and background checks. Nine remain active participants. The women share their experiences through blogging, tweeting and posting on Facebook, in an effort to reach others with what they’ve learned.

“The moms use their own time and resources to visit the farms and blog about their experiences,” said Mariam Wassman, DeKalb County Farm Bureau director of information.

The coalition also selected seven “Farm Families,” such as the Martzes, to represent the different types of farming.

The coalition members intend to keep the program going with a new group of Field Moms to be chosen soon. Mudd would like to take the mothers through the entire food process — from farm to plate. The members also hope to expand the program to include children.

“We chose people who are passionate about farming,” Mudd said. The Martzes and other families hosted the moms, giving them farm tours, showing them the equipment and giving presentations. While the women visited Larson Farms, Mike and Lynn Martz demonstrated how to ultrasound cattle to see how much meat the animals have, how to environmentally store manure for fertilizer and how to operate farm machinery. “They really seemed to enjoy coming out on the farm, riding in the combine, seeing how big the equipment is, and seeing how fast the corn is harvested,” Lynn Martz said. “They really eat it up.” The combine was Rossi’s favorite part of the visit.

“The moms have learned a lot,” she said. “The farmers are able to share their stories on how they grow our food. This has created a great relationship between the farmers and the moms.”

“My kids would love this,” Rossi said. “I am sure they’d like to ride the machinery. They would get a lot out of this program.” Mike Martz said he would be happy to see this sort of expansion. “It is an honor they want to visit us,” Mike Martz said. “And we look forward to hosting (the Field Moms) again.”

For more information on

Illinois Farm Families visit

“I loved riding the combine,” she said. “The technology was really impressive. I was blown away that it can drive itself. I was also impressed in how everyone there loves what they do. It is a different feeling than going into a grocery store where half the cashiers don’t want to be there.”

Illinois Farm Families hosted seven field moms for a tour of Mike and Lynn Martz’s farm and Dale and Linda Drendel’s Kane County dairy. (Photo by Illinois Farm Bureau Photographer)

Photo courtesy of Dynamic Photography

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Women In Agriculture ure A growing trend

By Renee Messacar

As Vickie Hernan-Faivre of rural DeKalb prepares for work each day, she doesn’t have to worry about fixing her hair perfectly, selecting the right outfit or making a long commute. Instead, she worries about how much rain is coming, whether her crops will survive insect attacks and when her daughter’s show cattle will give birth. She and her husband, Robert Faivre, own a 4,800-acre farm just east of DeKalb. The farm has four full-time employees, three part-time employees and seasonal workers. Hernan-Faivre is among a growing segment of women joining agriculture. Women make up more than 30 percent of U.S. Farm operators, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2007 census. The roles women play in agriculture also have shifted, said Mike Martz, a DeKalb County farmer. “Women in agriculture are becoming more and more a part of the organization than they were 30 years ago. They contribute to all aspects of the business, such as handling finances, marketing, driving semis, drying corn and tending livestock,” he said. His wife, Lynn, is an integral part of operations at Larson Farms Partnership. “We would not be where we are today without her expertise and input,” he said. “Everyone has a job for which they are responsible for and we couldn’t make it work without (women). And yet people think this is a male-dominated field.”

Vickie Hernan-Faivre on her rural DeKalb Farm Along with raising her two children, she acts as president of G.P. Faivre, Inc., keeps the farm partnership and grain company’s books, and dries, stores, inventories and ships grain. A typical workday for Hernan-Faivre might include driving a tractor, helping in a construction project and acting as the group’s human resources representative. “You learn as you go,” she said of various skills she’s gained during her 23 years of farming. “Farming used to be more labor intensive,” said Carla Mudd, Illinois Farm Bureau manager of consumer communications. Modern machinery has allowed women to do more of the physically challenging work. “I work just as hard as everyone else around here, and sometimes harder,” Hernan-Faivre said. “You have to earn respect.” She hadn’t intended on becoming a farmer. She earned a degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin and worked for 10 years in the insurance industry. After meeting and marrying her husband, she joined him in working on the land his family has farmed since 1943. “We don’t have jobs where we are done at 5 p.m. and walk out the door,” she said. Farmers face concerns office workers don’t, such as being dependent on the weather and staying up all night tending crops or livestock. But the payoff, she said, is in being her own boss. “There is a pride of ownership,” she said. “I get enormous satisfaction and pride in having a good year. This sense of independence and ownership has drawn more women into the profession,” Mudd said.


“People don’t often think of women working in the fields. I am sure there are still farm women who make big breakfasts and take them out to the men in the fields, but that is mostly gone now,” she said.

She knows many women who are avid gardeners and ultimately expand their interests into owning small farms. “They have the

Summer 2012 | DeKalb County AG Mag | 21

opportunity to be engaged in something they enjoy doing, and they become their own bosses,” Mudd said. Being a farmer is never dull, as each year and crop is different, and technology constantly improves. She also has enjoyed helping with 4-H and giving agriculture lessons in schools, where she ran into some misconceptions on farmers. “I had to explain that the Monsanto guy chewing wheat stalks and wearing overalls isn’t true for most of us,” she said. Her wardrobe has suffered since she became a farmer, she said with a laugh. “But when working in an office, I got sick of dressing nicely every day,” she said. “I wanted to wear jeans and a sweatshirt. Now sometimes I miss dressing up.” While speaking recently with a group of Chicago women who had little experience in agriculture, Lynn Martz encountered similar sentiments.

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“One of the women said I didn’t look like a ‘farm mom’,” she said. “I said, ‘Why would I? I shop at the same places as you.’”

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Despite the misconceptions, being at the mercy of the weather and other difficulties of the job, Hernan-Faivre can’t imagine being in a different profession.


“At this point, I couldn’t take living in the city and working in an office again,” she said. “I love what I do.”


22 | DeKalb County AG Mag | Summer 2012

GPS & Farming


When Steve Faivre of Sycamore first started to use yield mapping on his family’s farmland in DeKalb County in the late 1980s, he had access to real-time data that told him what the precise corn yields were on any particular acre of land, or even parts of an acre. However, it was not until Global Positioning Satellite technology came along that Faivre was able to precisely modify the family’s farming techniques in order to maximize their yields. “By 1991 we were using GPS to be able to plot those yields on a map,” Faivre said. By 1995 he was recruited by Case / International Harvester to help them start their Position Farming Group, which led to the eventual development of allowing GPS receivers to take steering control of tractors, combines, and other farm equipment.

Photos by Curtis Clegg Trent Sanderson, Ag Management Solutions consultant with DeKalb Implement Company in Sycamore, Ill., sits in the cab of a John Deere combine to demonstrate the Global Positioning System equipment that can be added to farm equipment. In Sanderson’s lap is the receiver that is used to communicate with positioning satellites.

Today, GPS navigation, which was once classified military technology, has become a mainstream technology in daily life. GPS technology is built into cell phones and into navigation systems that give automobile drivers precise turn-by-turn directions to their destinations. Now, the agriculture industry is embracing the technology to increase farming yields, reduce operating costs, and to lessen the negative impact that crop production can have on farmland. “I would guess that over 50 percent of the total acres farmed in DeKalb County use GPS,” said Trent Sanderson, Ag Management Solutions consultant for DeKalb Implement Company in Sycamore. Sanderson’s job is to install GPS navigation systems and automatic steering mechanisms on John Deere farm equipment. “Each pass in a field is within one inch of the previous pass,” Sanderson said. By allowing the GPS system to guide the equipment so precisely, farmers can apply varying and precise amounts of seed, fertilizer, and insecticide to different parts of a field in response to differing factors like soil type and water permeability. For safety reasons, the farmer always has the ability to instantly regain manual control of the equipment. The precise application of product saves on fuel costs, equipment wear and tear, and seed and fertilizer costs use since fewer passes are needed in each field. GPS technology also reduces farmer fatigue since the farmer does not need to steer the tractor, and it reduces the impact of agriculture on the farmland because excess fertilizer is not sprayed where it is not needed. “Anyone who has tried this technology is blown away by it,” Sanderson said. He has never had a customer regret installing a GPS system on their farm equipment. Sanderson tells farmers that investing in GPS equipment is a sensible move. The technology is costly, but Sanderson sits down with each farmer to calculate a return on their investment. “We can take a calculator and look at the acres they farm and the size of each piece of equipment they have, along with all the field operations they have during the season,” he said. “Then we can show them real numbers, how much money they can save and how much they can increase their yields.” Sanderson believes GPS technology will shape the future of agriculture. “Ten years from now, I believe 100 percent of the farms in DeKalb County will be using GPS,” he said.

Steve Faivre of Sycamore

Summer 2012 | DeKalb County AG Mag | 23

Photos courtesy of Sycamore History Museum

Garden Story Time • July 18 & 25 “Garden Story Time” is a free activity series for kids ages 3 to 6 with a guardian offered by Sycamore History Museum at Engh Farm and University of Illinois Extension DeKalb County Master Gardeners. The activities will be on July 18, and 25 at 10 a.m. at the Sycamore History Museum (1730 N. Main Street in Sycamore). Children will be reading a story, singing a song, learning a finger play, and completing a handson activity with Master Gardeners. Each session will have a different theme. July 18 will focus on insects and the series will finish July 25 talking about vegetable gardens. Sycamore History Museum has a kitchen garden, vegetable garden, greenhouse, and shade gardens. These gardens were traditionally found on farmsteads. This excellent location is a great place to demonstrate, practice, and apply skills learned in workshops. Master Gardeners teach volunteers how to care and maintain these plants and the space allows for historical stories to be shared about farming. The museum is encouraging those interested in being a volunteer gardener to attend. This program is made possible in part by a grant from the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Program. “Garden Story Time” activities are free and open to the public, however, donations are welcome. For more information call 815-895-5762 or 815-758-8194. The Sycamore History Museum at Engh Farm is located at 1730 North Main Street in Sycamore. Check the website at http:// or and like us on Facebook to get up-to-date information on future program topics. Reasonable accommodation is available for those who call one week in advance to request accommodation.

Sycamore History Museum is located at 1730 N. Main Street. For more information call 815-895-5762 or visit

24 | DeKalb County AG Mag | Summer 2012

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Calendar of Events July 10 • Agronomy Day Northern IL Agronomy Research Farm, Shabbona 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. 815-274-1343

Kids Farm Safety By: David Thomas

A farm can be a very dangerous place for a kid to live and work at. This was a great reason for the DeKalb County Farm Bureau to create a Farm Safety Camp. The annual event, held at Jonamac Orchard in Malta, focuses on safety topics for children who live or work on farms. The camp is open to all children in DeKalb County 8 years and older who have some sort of connection to a farm, whether they live on one, work at one or live close to them. “Over the decades that kids have been involved in farming, there have been a lot of accidents with young kids because they want to be with their mom, they want to be with their dad ... they want to be a part of the family farm and that involves being involved with some of the equipment,” said Kevin McArtor of Jonamac Orchard in Malta, which has hosted the camp since 2000. “We all know some horribly tragic stories that have happened to families over the years.” In addition to farm machinery, children also learned safety tips on how to operate all-terrain vehicles and lawn mowers, and what to do in case they run into a downed power line. For instance, if a power line falls onto the truck they are in, a representative from ComEd advised the children to stay in the vehicle, as touching the outside of the truck could electrocute them, but if the truck happens to be on fire, the children should open the truck door carefully, and jump out of it as far as they can. Mariam Wassman, the farm bureau’s director of information, was unable to say if there has been any drop in farm-related accidents or deaths in the county since the camp’s inception in 1994. “It’s hard to measure, but we can’t help but think that we’re doing some good,” Wassman said. “I think we’re doing good. The parents say yeah, the kids learned a lot, they had a great time. We hear positive feedback. Did we prevent an injury or accident from happening? We hope so.” Each of the presentations engaged the kids in some way. At the lawn mowers and garden tractors station, Tom Newquist of DeKalb Lawn & Equipment and Dave Kohlagen, a Toro representative with PMA Outdoor Equipment in St. Charles, showed kids how to operate two kinds of lawn mowers before letting the children use them. “It’s a part of growing up,” Newquist said of learning lawn mower safety. “We all have to cut grass or cut hay, whether they are working on their farm or on their parents’ yard. You have to have safety. You have to have basics of how these machines work.

Photo Above: Avery Plote of Leland gets some lawnmower instruction from Dave Kolhagen with the Toro company. Toro teamed up with DeKalb Lawn & Equipment to show young children safety measures in mowing lawns with both riding and push lawnmowers. (Photo courtesy of DeKalb County Farm Bureau)

July 18-19 DeKalb County 4-H General Projects Show DeKalb County Farm Bureau Building, Sycamore 815-758-8194

July 28 DeKalb County Farm Bureau’s Centennial Celebration Family Fun Day DeKalb County Farm Bureau Lawn & Building, Sycamore 3-7 p.m. • 815-756-6361

July 31 DeKalb-Kane Cattlemen’s Association Steak Fry Indian Oaks Country Club, Shabbona 6:30 p.m. 815-756-6361

August 3-5 DeKalb County 4-H Livestock Show Sandwich Fairgrounds, Sandwich 815-758-8194

August 28 DeKalb Area Pork Producers Annual Business Meeting DeKalb County Farm Bureau Building, Sycamore 6:30 p.m. • 815-756-6361

September 5-9 • Sandwich Fair Sandwich Fairgrounds 815-786-2159

Sept. 8 • Northern IL University’s Ag Day Huskie Stadium, DeKalb 815-753-1966

September 11 DeKalb County Corn & Soybean Field Day Catherine Lanan Farm operated by plot hosts Ben & Dave Drake, Sycamore 3-7 p.m. • 815-756-6361

26 | DeKalb County AG Mag | Summer 2012

Bitten by the Steam Bug

Northern Illinois Steam Power Club board member Dave Stevens (left) and club member Liam Dancey, both of Sycamore, Ill., operate a steam engine manufactured in about 1916 by the Illiinois Thresher Co. in Sycamore during the 55th annual threshing bee at the Taylor Marshall farm near Sycamore on Sunday, August 14, 2011. The engine is one of only three known still-functional engines manufactured by the company. (MidWeek file photo)

I first became involved with the Northern Illinois Steam Power Club (N.I.S.P.C.) in the spring of 2010, when I had become old enough (13) to become an active member. My passion for these machines of the past began long before that, however, and I have been captivated by them for as long as I can remember. I first attended the Steam Show in Sycamore, IL when I was two years old, after I had shown a great interest in machines. This is when I was introduced to the behemoth steam tractors, which created a lasting impression in me. I can clearly remember them in all their glory, blowing clouds of hissing steam and lazy smoke into the air, and the shriek of their whistles. As I grew up, my love of these gentle giants increased, and eventually I joined the same club that had influenced me so much. I started out in a group, officially dubbed the ‘Green Team,’ which restores smaller engines and tractors. It is comprised of kids from ages 10 to 14, and helps teach engine mechanics and know-how to the participants. However, I was more eager to pursue the steam tractors of my memory.

This began when Mr. Dave Stevens, a long time club member, took me under his wing. Over the past two years, he taught me all he knew about steam engines as I learned how to operate the Steam Power Club’s very own 1916 steam tractor, which was built by the Illinois Thresher Co. of Sycamore, Illinois. It is one of only six known to exist, and one of only three in operable condition. I was taught how to clean it, maintain it, fire it, and operate it. Running and preserving steam engines is truly a lost art. As I expanded my knowledge, I began running and restoring other types of machines. Most notably, and probably my favorite, is a 1920’s era Erie Steam Shovel, built by the Ball Engine Works of Erie, Pennsylvania. It is the only one of its type known to exist, and is one of the highlights of the Steam Show held each August. The Steam show itself is my favorite time of the year. It is host to displays and demonstrates old types of agricultural equipment, from century old steam engines to tractors built up to the 1960’s. There are threshing demonstrations, steam plowing, a sawmill, and the daily, ‘Parade of Power,’ all combined by nostalgia, Americana, and great food! Plus, the show in Sycamore is in the ideal location for many steam engine owners, as the club is one of only a few in the country that has an average of about 27 steam tractors each year. One of my favorite parts of the show happens at noon each day. Since engineers aren’t encouraged to blow their whistles through the day (because it could be considered annoying) unless you are warning that you are going to move, they have what we all call the noon whistle. This is when all engineers can blow their whistles relentlessly for about three minutes to let off a little steam, and signal, “Lunch Time!” The Club doesn’t operate just at showtime, however. Another factor that makes N.I.S.P.C. unique from other clubs is that we have scheduled ‘work days’ (volunteer work) throughout the year. This is when members get the many tasks done to help make the show run smoothly. Some of the regular activities that go on are firewood chopping, mowing, general cleaning, some engine repairs, trimming of the trees, and repairs to what happens to need it at the time. The Club also grows its own wheat over the year for threshing, which we harvest using a vintage binder, and throw the bundles onto wagons for showtime. It is always fun to see the old machine put through its paces. Hopefully, the show will continue to grow as more people become interested and the next generation of machinery buffs take over.

-Liam Dancey, 16 Northern Illinois Steam Power Club member Liam Dancey, (left) and board member Dave Stevens, both of Sycamore, Ill., pose with a steam engine manufactured in about 1916 by the Illiinois Thresher Co. in Sycamore during the 55th annual threshing bee at the Taylor Marshall farm near Sycamore on Sunday, August 14, 2011. The engine is one of only three known stillfunctional engines manufactured by the company. (MidWeek file photo)

Summer 2012 | DeKalb County AG Mag | 27


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