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DeKalb County

Spring 2018

Feels like rain

Late winter precipitation a delicate balance for spring plantings See Page 8


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ince 2015 the Dekalb County Corn & Soybean Growers have been a sponsor of and had a booth at DeKalb Corn Fest. Our focus is to help educate the non-farm public on the connection between farms and the food we all are consuming. There are a lot of misconceptions in the media about where our food is coming from and we are trying to provide clarity at this event in a fun family environment. To become a commodity sponsor of the DeKalb County Corn & Soybean Growers and receive recognition at this event and our other activities throughout the year contact the DeKalb County Farm Bureau. Remember that it is our job to tell our story and get the facts out there about farming and how safe and caring we all are.



DeKalb County

Table of Contents







Classroom programs harvest an early understanding of agriculture

Late winter precipitation a delicate balance for spring plantings

Farmers, politicians weigh in on farm bill


provide comfort from the cold

Egg-eating on the rise


est. 1851

Project Manager: Lisa Angel Design & Layout: Allison LaPorta Articles and advertisements are property of Shaw Media. No portion of DeKalb County Ag Mag may be produced without written consent of the publisher.

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FARM SCHOOL Classroom programs harvest an early understanding of agriculture By KATRINA J.E. MILTON


rowing up in Chicago, Gail Diehl thought there was only one type of corn.

in about 150 first- through fourth-grade classrooms in the county.

“To me, corn was corn,” Diehl said. “I had no clue there were different types: seed corn, sweet corn, popcorn, Indian corn. I never knew farm machinery was so massive, so big.

Volunteers included high school FFA members, working and retired farmers, teachers and agriculture and agribusiness workers. Teachers registered for the lessons in early January.

That was, until she met her husband, Rich Diehl of Sycamore.

Each grade level of students are taught different lessons, And each lesson includes hands-on activities. First-graders plant seeds to learn about germination. Secondgraders make their own ice cream to learn about dairy farming and nutrition. Third-graders dissect corn kernels and construct model corn plants, and fourth-graders identify products from Illinois agriculture and use maps to find agrelated locations. In November and December, fifth-graders are introduced to a progam exploring STEM careers.

“I learned so much about farming from my husband and his family. Now I know lots about corn and farming, and I think that it’s important to teach others about it, too.” To help the students learn about agriculture and farming, the Diehls share their knowledge with first-graders as part of the DeKalb County Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program. The farm bureau has coordinated Ag in the Classroom lessons throughout the county for more than 20 years. This year, more than 100 volunteers gave lessons and presentations

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Rhodora Collins, agricultural literacy coordinator at the farm bureau, said that by having a presentation in their

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classroom, elementary school students are able to learn about agriculture while at the same time integrating classroom curriculum, such as science, biology, nutrition and geography. “The population is getting more and more removed from farming, and many people do not have a direct connection to the farm,” Collins said. “Eggs and milk are not just items we buy at the grocery store. Ag in the Classroom is a great way to educate children in the community about agriculture, farming and where our food comes from.” Monica Winckler, a fourth-grade teacher at Dummer Elementary in Sandwich said that Ag in the Classroom teaches her students map skills and vocabulary words while connecting them to local agriculture. Katie Shimp, also a fourth-grade teacher at Dummer, said the presentations are a great way to incorporate agriculture into curriculum and lessons. “I grew up on a farm in Sandwich, and ag is an important part of students’ daily life, whether they realize it yet or not,” Shimp said. “These presentations help make them aware of how big a part it is and learn about all the products that are made or were invented by local farmers.” Retired agribusiness banker Jerry Lundeen of Sandwich and farmer Brian Miller of Leland have been giving Ag in the Classroom presentations for more than 15 years. To teach the students about agriculture and agricultural production, they bring maps of Illinois, items such as stalks of soybeans and wheat, corn cobs and canned pumpkin, and stories of life on the farm.

“By teaching the students about these agricultural products, we are calling attention to farming and opening the door on how agriculture touches our lives,” Miller said. “We talk about popcorn, pumpkin pie, soap and Band-Aids. We’re teaching them the reality of where food and products come from and that farming is an essential industry.” Farmer John Frieders of Sandwich has been giving Ag in the Classroom presentations for about 20 years. He said he enjoys teaching third-graders about the corn he grows on his farm. He often shows them pictures of his farm and his planter and combine to explain corn planting and harvesting. “The kids are always surprised to learn how many different products corn is in,” Frieders said. “Corn and corn products feed livestock and are in pet food, toothpaste, gasoline and industrial products. I tell them being a farmer is a regular job. They’re always excited to meet a ‘real’ farmer and ask me questions.” Somonauk resident and Monsanto employee Angela Dickmann chose to teach the “More than a Seed” program to first-graders. “I think that it’s important to teach them where corn and food comes from and bring awareness to farming and agriculture,” Dickmann said. “I want to get agricultural knowledge out there into the schools because there are fewer and fewer farms.” Only about 2 percent of the population are farmers, when about 35 to 40 percent of people farmed 100 years ago, Lundeen said. “Ag in the Classroom is a way for us to share with students about the impact and connection farming has on their everyday life and on products and major industries. We volunteer to give the presentations every year because we enjoy the energy and excitement we see in the students,” he said. “They have inquisitive minds and ask great questions. They are our country’s future, and we think it’s important for them to know about agriculture.”

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Late winter precipitation a delicate balance for spring plantings By KATRINA J.E. MILTON

For Roy Plote of Leland, talking about the weather isn’t just shooting the breeze. He watches at least one daily weather forecast on the news, and he checks the weather app on his phone throughout the day. As a farmer, its important he pay close attention to rain, snow and temperature, especially as spring and the time for planting begins. “Farmers are eternal optimists,” Plote said. “Every year, we want to do better and have a good crop. It’s important that we have the right amount of rain at the right time.” Unfortunately for Plote, the ill-timed heavy rains in February left 10 to 15 acres of his 80-acre field, planted with winter wheat, underwater. “Ponding is somewhat normal, but last year the same field flooded out and it was filled with soybeans,” Plote said. “I planted the winter wheat to help add nutrients to the soil. Now they’re also underwater, the tile is at capacity, and the creeks are full.”

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According to Illinois’ state climatologist Jim Angel’s Climate of Illinois Narrative, flooding is the most damaging weather hazard in Illinois. Ever-increasing heavy precipitation since the 1940s has led to increased flood peaks on Illinois rivers. Flood losses in Illinois, $257 million annually since 1983, are the third highest in the nation. January and February are typically the driest months of the year. In January, 2018 DeKalb received 1.29 inches of total precipitation, slightly under the average of 1.52 inches. But come February, DeKalb received 3.08 inches, significantly more than the average of 1.85 inches. “Throughout the state, the first part of February was rather dry, but the last half of February saw a few days of heavy rainfall,” said Jennie Atkins, manager of the Champaign-based Water and Atmospheric Resources Monitoring program. In DeKalb, there was almost 2 inches of rain in two days, Feb 19-20. Add to that precipitation between 12 and 17 inches of snow in DeKalb County during the month of February, according to The Midwestern Regional Climate Center. “In January and early February, we were actually running a little below average on snowfall, even though we had some pretty cold

periods in December and January,” David Changnon, Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Northern Illinois University, said. “Before the heavy rains, we were sort of dry, but not dry enough to be a problem like other parts of the Midwest. This February was very wet, and we should be in pretty good shape for corn and soybeans.” Russ Higgins, commercial and agriculture educator with the University of Illinois Extension, said weather and the growing of crops go hand-in-hand. “Weather is absolutely the factor in plant growth,” Higgins said, “more so than any other factor over the success or failure of a crop in a given year. Farmers can do everything right, but rainfall will still have a dramatic effect on yield.” Higgins listed soil temperature and moisture, both weather related, as the next most important factors. “As long as there is enough moisture, the seeds will imbibe water and begin to grow,” Higgins said. “The seed’s enzymes will start functioning and the seed will start the

germination process. Usually corn is planted at the ground temperature of 50 degrees, and soybeans soon after, in late April and early May.” When it comes to rain, Higgins said timing is everything. “A plant in the ground as a seed without leaves is as susceptible as it can be in the growing season,” Higgins said. “Too much water and the lack of oxygen is what kills the plant. But later in the growing season, farmers would rather see a little bit of ponding in their fields than drought because the healthy, growing crop will usually make up for the ponded areas.” Jeff Craig, district sales manager of Wyffels Hybrids, said that as a farmer, he has to keep his eyes to the skies. “I’m always concerned about the weather,” Craig said. “I’ve had quite a bit of ponding on my farm this year, but this early in the season, it doesn’t matter a whole lot. We just have to get our equipment ready, do maintenance and wait until planting in April.”

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Crop Insurance

USDA cuts Farmers, politicians weigh in on farm bill By KATRINA J.E. MILTON

Paul Rasmussen of Genoa spent almost a week in California earlier this year – but it wasn’t a vacation. Rasmussen attended the Commodity Classic in Anaheim, a program of the national meetings of four different commodity associations: corn, soybeans, wheat and sorghum. A topic top of mind among participants at all the meetings – the federal farm bill. Mike Levin, the Illinois Soybean Association’s director of issues management and analysis, describes the farm bill as a multiyear law, governing an array of agriculture and food programs. This massive, wide-ranging legislation must be passed every five years, and the current bill expires in September. Its implications affect how farmers locally and nationally go about their business, impacting nearly every aspect of agriculture. “It covers farm credit, trade, research, food and nutrition assistance,” Levin said. “It acts as a strong safety net for farmers in producing food and the ability to produce that food. It affects everyone, the farmer at the local level all the way up to the trade and export of products and commodities.”a There are 12 “titles” covered by the legislation, including trade. The farm bill also covers conservation, nutrition, rural development, research, forestry, energy, specialty crops, horticulture and outreach programs for the socially disadvantaged.

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We’ve got to start thinking big and bold. A large aspect of the farm bill is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the new incarnation of the Food Stamp Program. The 2014 farm bill projected spending on SNAP to be between $80 billion and $75 billion annually for five years. That spending has actually been a bit lower – between $78 billion in 2014 and a projected $68 billion this year – because SNAP participation has dropped along with the unemployment rate, according to 2017 update. The USDA’s Economic Research Service, using data from the Congressional Budget Office, projects spending on the 2014 farm bill to cost about $489 billion. (Farm policy constitutes 0.26 percent of the federal budget. Price and income supports for farmers on commodities such as corn, soybeans and dairy are one of the most debated portions of the bill. Another point of contention is whether government should subsidize crop insurance for farmers and the insurers themselves. Rasmussen said he has been taking out federal crop insurance every year as a hedge against a dramatic drop in prices or unfavorable weather including floods, drought – or both. “In the past, the farm bill has helped lessen the cost of federal crop insurance so that a farmer can afford it,” Rasmussen said. “It allows us to farm with a little less risk. As a farmer, I think that the farm bill needs to stay strong in the Risk Management Agency/ federal crop insurance, conservation and market development.” About 10 percent of farm bill costs go to crop insurance. That safety net is something farmers, and lawmakers who represent agricultural communities, want to preserve, if not boost, in the next farm bill. Scott Newport, a farm business specialist with Illinois Farm Business Farm Management, said that a

Congresswoman Cheri Bustos during the 28th Annual Farmer Update Meeting in Deer Grove.

high percentage of farmers take part in federal crop insurance. “Crop insurance is a main concern for farmers,” Newport said. “Farmers are following news articles related to the farm bill and the issues being discussed, it’s still in the developmental stages. No legislation is marked up for congressional committees at this point, it’s all just idle speculation at this time.” That safety net may be more critical to farmers locally and nationally now than at any time in recent years. Farmers and ranchers have seen net farm income drop 45 percent over the past three years, according to the USDA Economic Research Service. Overall, the ERS forecasts a 50 percent drop in net farm income since 2013. That drop impacts everyone, not just farmers. It leads to fewer equipment purchases, higher food prices, reductions in the use of cutting-edge technology, and more. Farmers and the advocacy groups that support them say it is more important now than ever to push back against efforts to cut funding to risk management tools. U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon represents the 16th Congressional District and most of DeKalb County. He said preserving crop insurance levels is both the top priority and the greatest challenge of upcoming discussions. “It’s what farmers rely on the most, and it gives you the ability to plan and mitigate risk,” Kinzinger said. “That’s the No. 1 priority I’m hearing from farmers.” U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, who represents the 18th Congressional District in north central Illinois, said he wants to make sure crop insurance is protected. “We’ve seen some conservatives and liberals go after crop insurance,” he said during a visit to Macomb in January that was reported by the Canton Daily Ledger.

“It’s a safety net for our farmers, but it’s a program over the years that’s been refined and reformed. I think it’s effective, efficient and accountable. But it’s been a target of the past.” LaHood said he met recently with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, and U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who is chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. Perdue, in a blog last month on the committee’s website, said that maintaining crop insurance is a priority. “We are talking about having a safety net that’s not so high that there’s no risk, but not so low that it’s so dangerous people can’t farm again,” he said. “So, that’s the challenge of the ag committee and Congress to write that farm bill.” Legislative work this upcoming farm bill began three years ago. In fact, because of the scope of the bill, the work never really ends. The House committee, for example, had 117 hearings on farm-bill-related issues between 2015 and 2017. “It’s important to work strongly with governmental representation to make sure our positions are being seen, that we’re all working together on the same page,” Levin said. U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline sits on the committee currently composing the House version of the bill, while the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry work on the Senate version. At the Farmer Update Meeting earlier this year, Bustos, who represents the ag-heavy 17th Congressional District, said that as the state’s top industry continues to evolve, younger farmers are adapting, and legislators need to advocate for the agriculture community as the bill is crafted.

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“We’ve got to start thinking big and bold,” she said, adding that the biggest challenge facing those in farm bill talks is the Trump administration’s proposed 21 percent cut to the USDA budget. Even lawmakers who aren’t on the committees forming the next farm bill still are talking about it with constituents. “Farmers across the district are concerned about high health care costs,” Kinzinger said after a meeting with farming constituents. “They want support for RFS (renewable fuel standards), E-15 sales and ethanol. “The agriculture community values the importance of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and want free trade to be protected on our agriculture goods.” Once the House and Senate committees each pass their own bills, they go to the full House and Senate. LaHood said he expects those votes in June or July. Those bills will be different, perhaps vastly so. This means a conference committee of members of both houses will combine the bills into one that will be voted on by the full Congress, then approved by the President. If a bill is not passed and signed by the fall, Congress can approve extension periods for the existing bill until a new one is finalized. “I understand that in negotiations with the farm bill there are competing agricultural groups,” Kinzinger said, “but it will be critical that we work together even when we disagree. That’s how we will get it done.” The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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provide comfort from the cold


I’ve really come into my own as a 30-year-old home cook. I don’t pretend to be a chef, but there are a few things I was put on the planet to do, and cooking comfort foods is one of those things. I enjoy eating healthy and I think it’s important, but comfort foods like chili, barbecue pulled pork and Italian beef sandwiches, soups and pastas need love, too. They can warm you up during these nights when the temperature is still hovering around or below freezing. We need these foods. If you’re asking me, we need these foods even when it’s July and sweltering outside. You’re thinking to yourself, “Barbecue pulled pork sandwiches during the summer? Sure. But chili? This guy’s nuts.” I keep trying to tell people: I have an unhealthy obsession with chili. I’m working on it. But, while it’s still cold outside and cooking heavier dishes like chili, soups and meatloaf is still acceptable to all, let’s get cooking!

BARBECUE MEATLOAF Prep time: 25 minutes Cook time: 60 minutes Serves: 8 2 lbs of ground pork 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs 2 large eggs 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil 1 yellow onion, diced 1 orange or yellow pepper, diced 4 garlic cloves, minced Seasonings to taste: Salt, pepper, oregano, Tony Chachere or other Cajun seasoning Note: You can use your favorite store-bought barbecue sauce or create your own. I always like creating my own barbecue sauce. For this creation, I mixed traditional barbecue sauce with ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, salt, pepper and other assorted spices. I rarely have exact measurements when making sauces, because it’s not that type of process. Play around with it. Add your own flare!

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2. In a bowl, combine pork, seasonings, bread crumbs and eggs. Mix well by hand until everything is absorbed. Prepare onions, pepper and garlic. 3. Add oil into pan, and saute onions and peppers. Add garlic near the end. 4. Add cooked contents to the pork mixture and some of the sauce. Mix well. Spray non-stick loaf pan and place pork in pan. 5. Press pork to form it evenly in pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until internal temperature of meatloaf is 165 degrees. 7. Remove meatloaf from oven and add remaining barbecue sauce to top of meatloaf while it rests. Cut and serve with vegetables. (Mashed sweet potatoes and fresh green beans paired nicely with this hearty dish.) – Adapted from recipe

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Get crackin!

Egg-eating on the rise By KATRINA J.E. MILTON

Both Nancy Higdon and Cheryl Lorden of Sycamore love to eat eggs, but they were tired of the same scrambled-egg and egg-salad recipes they always used.

“I love eating eggs, but I wanted to learn how to do something else with them,” Lorden said. “I wanted to do something different and learn new healthy recipes. I think eggs are very healthy and can be an inexpensive meal.” To learn more, they both signed up for local class, Ingredients for Healthy Living: Exquisite Eggs, offered at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital’s Leishman Center for Culinary Health in Dekalb. “I like that eggs are very versatile,” Higdon said. “You can just fry an egg or make them fancy as an eggs Benedict. Taking the class is a way to try something new, try something healthy and have fun.” In addition to learning about different types of eggs and nutrition facts, the Exquisite Eggs class also taught basic cooking skills and recipes, such as a poached egg salad with greens, baked eggs, frittata with greens and vegetables with parsley pistou and cardamom maple mini macaroons. Peggy Marchini, a registered dietitian and nutrition professional at the hospital, said that she hopes the classes help students “find motivation and passion to include more whole foods in simple, practical ways and the benefits of why they might want to. “Eggs are an inexpensive high-quality protein, containing Vitamin D, B vitamins and choline,” Marchini said. “Eggs not only offer protein, but other health benefits as well.” The class was part of the “Ingredients for Healthy Living” series. Upcoming classes will teach knife skills, the many uses of microgreens, understanding food labels and quick springtime meals. Adult classes and classes for 9- to 12-year-olds are taught year-round. Classes for teens 13 to 17 years old are available in the summer. The classes are led by Jo Cessna, healthy culinary instructor, Rachel Koroscik, healthy culinary coordinator, and Marchini, with special lessons taught by guest instructors. Cooking classes offered at the Leishman Center for Culinary Health focus on implementing healthy foods and whole foods, such as legumes, whole grains, nuts and fresh produce, into recipes. “Food is medicine, and what we put into our bodies affects the rest of our lives,” Koroscik said. “We love teaching fun and easy ways to

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cook in your own kitchen. Eggs are a very common ingredient and they’re already in your fridge, so why not learn new ways to cook them?” Eggs are indeed found in most consumers’ homes: according to the American Egg Board’s annual tracker research, the number of heavy egg users (who purchase three or more dozen eggs per month) has increased from 38 percent to 45 percent over the last four years and the number of medium users (who purchase two dozen eggs per month) has increased 10 percent since 2009. Eggs also have been named one of the fastest-growing foods (in annual eating per capita) by NPD, a global market research firm. The United States Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Chicken and Eggs Study, published this February, states that egg production from January to November 2017 totaled 106 billion, up 4 percent from 2016. Production of table eggs, or eggs fresh and in the shell not eggs used for the hatching eggs of chicks, was 92.1 billion, also up 4 percent from 2016. Farmer Russ Deverell of Kingston’s family raised chickens for eggs from the early 1960s to the mid-1990s. Deverell now buys eggs from a farm near Freeport and supplies about 1,000 dozen eggs per week to local restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations. Deverell said that even though the egg business has changed through the years, people’s love and demand for eggs has remained strong. “I remember helping my dad deliver eggs house to house on an egg route in DeKalb when I was around 10 years old,” Deverell said. “We had about 100 dozen eggs and went around making deliveries, just like the milk man. It’s totally different these days.” Deverell still has a few chickens on his farm, enough to provide eggs for use in cooking or to sell to passersby that see his sign advertising eggs for sale on his driveway. “We love eating eggs, we bake, use them in omelets and almost always have a few hard boiled eggs in the refrigerator,” Deverell. “Eggs are an economical way to make a quick meal. The egg market fluctuates up and down, but eggs have always been popular. Family events and holidays, especially Easter, are always a good time to buy, sell and eat eggs. Any time is a good time to eat eggs.”

For more information about Ingredients for Healthy Living classes, call 815-748-8962 or visit the Leishman Center for Culinary Health’s website.

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