Page 1

Story of the farm

Children’s book tells kids where their food comes from – Page 6

Gifts of grain

Carroll farmers share the fruits of their Harvest for All – Page 8

Less influence

Farmers once filled legislatures; not so any more – Page 10

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Cover story: Todd Dail knows hogs; now he’s president of the Illinois Pork Producers. – Page 3 Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A supplement to Sauk Valley Media

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Todd Dail looks over piglets at one of his nurseries on his hog farm in Erie. Dail is the new president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. He previously served 2 years as president-elect of the organization.

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Erie man leads state pig farmers group Dail raises 1,000 hogs, runs Illinois Pork Producers BY KATHLEEN A. SCHULTZ 800-798-4085, ext. 535

ERIE – He has a passion for pigs and the people who raise them. Erie pork producer Todd Dail is the new president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. After serving 2 years as president-elect, Dail was elected to the 1-year term last month at this year’s Illinois Pork Expo in Peoria. “I want to be accessible to all pork producers in Illinois, if they have any concerns or suggestions for their association,”

Dail said in an IPPA news release announcing his new position. “I joined IPPA to help further promote pork and educate people about pork production. Consumers have become farther and farther removed from the farm and understand less and less about what happens on a modern-day hog farm. I like telling my story and having conversations with consumers, to help answer their questions about where their food comes from,” he said. Dail is just the man for the job.

“He’s very passionate about the pork industry, he’s very dedicated to what he’s doing, and he’s very sincere,” said Tim Maiers, IPPA’s director of public relations. “I think that comes through.” As president, Dail has the usual slate of issues to ride herd on, among them making sure, in these tough economic times, that legislators remember how important the pork industry is to the state and national economy. PORK CONTINUED ON 4

Today’s Farm celebrates agriculture in the Sauk Valley and beyond. It is published by Sauk Valley Media six times a year – in January, March, May, July, September and November. We welcome story ideas about interesting local people who are involved with agriculture. Call Jim Dunn at 800-798-4085, ext. 511, or send an email to

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3AUK6ALLEY-EDIAsMarch 11, 2014

Group supports research on herd protection PORK


Dail also lobbies to make sure regulations governing how animals are raised and processed are rooted in sound science, and not based on emotion or misinformation, he said. “We have the animals’ best care in mind,” he said.

“We want to take care of them the best way we can.” Speaking of animal care, for about year now, state pig farmers have been dealing with a devastating new strain of porcine epidemic diarrhea, or PED, a virus that causes acute and severe outbreaks of diarrhea and deadly dehydration. It spreads rapidly to pigs of all ages, although suck-

ling piglets are especially susceptible, and their mortality rate is high. People and other animals are not affected. So far, there’s no vaccine, it’s worse in cold weather, and researchers have no idea how the virus, found in pig feces, is spreading from farm to farm. Dail said the IPPA, in conjunction with the

National Pork Producers Board, will work hard to promote research into the disease, and to keep pork producers up to date on the best ways to protect their herd. He has his work cut out for him, but Dail is no stranger to the IPPA. This is the beginning of his third term on the board, on which he has served 6 years as an at-

large director. He has also been chairman of its marketing committee and its industry services committee. He has has been a delegate to the National Pork Forum and has made several legislative trips to Washington, D.C. He’s also a 2008 graduate of the National Pork Board Pork Leadership Academy. Dail also serves on the

Prophetstown Mutual Farmers Insurance board of directors and is the representative for the Sauk Valley Co-op on the MidWest Co-op board of directors. All that, and he actively farms with his dad, Max Dail, and his brother-inlaw, Alberto Olvera; their hog operation is Dail Farms Inc. DAIL CONTINUED ON 5

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They have a 1,000-sow farrow-to-finish farm, with a site in Sterling and one in Erie. They also raise 850 acres of corn, and the family does all of their own feed milling and trucking. Dail, 45, grew up on the farm in Erie, raising pigs as one of his FFA projects, which contributed to his receiving his state FFA degree. After graduating from Erie High School Todd in 1986, Dail Dail served in the President Navy for 5 of the Illinois Pork years before Producers he got an ag Association economics raises hogs degree from near Erie. the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana in 1996. After graduation, he worked for DeKalb Swine Breeders in DeKalb and then was an ag loan officer at Sauk Valley Bank in Sterling. But the pull of the pigs was just too strong, and he returned to the family farm in 2003. That, and “My dad wanted to semi retire, and he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,� Dail said. Now he and his wife, Rebecca, and 15-year-old daughter, Andrea, live close to his parents on the Erie farm. Rebecca is Dail Farms’ office manager. “Pork production has provided me an opportunity to be a viable partner in my family’s farm and raise my daughter in the community where I grew up,� Dail said. “I have enjoyed my time on the

Piglets stay in a heated nursery at the Dail hog farm near Erie. Todd Dail is the new president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. “Pork production has provided me an opportunity to be a viable partner in my family’s farm and raise my daughter in the community where I grew up,� Dail said.

IPPA board. I have met so many pork producers who are just as passionate as I am about farming. “We love what we do and we want to make sure the family farm legacy continues for future family farmers. I look forward to the opportunity to serve Illinois pork producers.�

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Breakfast comes from ‘cows, chickens and trees’ Farmer writes children’s book to stimulate conversation BY KAYLA HEIMERMAN Special to Today’s Farm

Kayla Heimerman/Special to Today’s Farm

Christopher Heimerman of Sterling reads “The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen” to his twin daughters, Anna and Elise. A farmer wrote the book to further children’s understanding of the origin of their daily meals. Oh, does Christopher look familiar? Yes, he is a former assistant sports editor and current night news editor for Sauk Valley Media.

Anna and Elise might not yet be old enough to understand the concept of farm-to-table; they are only 6 months old, after all. But my darling twin girls soon will come to appreciate the incredible role that agriculture plays in our lives. They’ll grow up with a garden in their backyard. They’ll watch teeny tiny seeds sprout and grow up into bountiful zucchini

and pepper plants and rows and rows of lettuce and spinach. They’ll grow up with fresh fruits and veggies at every meal – homegrown or picked up from the local farmers market, when possible. They’ll learn that the fresh stuff tastes better – and the homegrown stuff tastes best. They’ll grow up with a healthy appreciation for cows and pigs, as some of Mama’s and Daddy’s favorite foods (and undoubtedly, what soon will be some

of their own favorites) – cheese and bacon – come from those animals. They’ll hopefully see those items at the grocery store and be able to connect them with “moo” and “oink.” But until then, Anna and Elise already have some idea of where their food comes from, thanks to a boy named Patrick O’Shanahan and his Sat-

urday-morning breakfast adventure. “The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen,” a new children’s book by author and real-life farmer Diana Prichard, tells the story of a young boy, who always has known exactly where his food comes from: the refrigerator, via the grocery store, of course. BOOK CONTINUED ON 7

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Book helps kids find out source of their food BOOK


Always, that is, until a stocky cow, a few gregarious chickens, and some towering trees appear in his kitchen while his dad whips up a batch of his World Famous French Toast. Prichard, a Michigan farrow-to-finish hog farmer, presents a sweet story that introduces children â&#x20AC;&#x201C; itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s recommended for little ones ages 4 to 8 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; to the idea that eggs, milk and maple

syrup come, not from the refrigerator, or from the store, but from chickens, cows and trees. She uses simple but sensory language: Patrick plucks a â&#x20AC;&#x153;warm brown eggâ&#x20AC;? from underneath the chicken, draws â&#x20AC;&#x153;warm, frothy milkâ&#x20AC;? into a measuring cup. Little readers can begin to grasp that fresh-from-the-farm eggs or milk look and feel different from those in the grocery store. Illustrator Heather Knopf, a mother of two young boys, provides charming images â&#x20AC;&#x201C; with


As a farmer, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve learned a lot over the years, not the least of which is that there is a fine line and very delicate balance between idealism and realism in food production.


Diana Pritchard, farmer and author of â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Cow in Patrick Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Shanahanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Kitchenâ&#x20AC;?

a fuzzy-bordered, almost dreamlike quality, which lends to the whimsy of the story â&#x20AC;&#x201C; to draw in the wee ones and help communicate the message. Prichard says she wrote the book because she is passionate about the

farm-to-fork connection. â&#x20AC;&#x153;As a farmer, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve learned a lot over the years, not the least of which is that there is a fine line and very delicate balance between idealism and realism in food production,â&#x20AC;? she wrote in an email.

â&#x20AC;&#x153;I really wanted this book to be a launching point for more conversation; not a lesson in and of itself, but something that encouraged kids and their families to seek out lessons and information. â&#x20AC;&#x153;And last, but not least, as both a mother and a farmer, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m passionate about the future of food and our agricultural system. I hope that if thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s any legacy I am able to pass down to my kids, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not just a farm, but a farm that theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re able to run in a time when their peers better understand and

Book it â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Cow in Patrick Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Shanahanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Kitchenâ&#x20AC;? (Little Pickle Press, November 2013) is available at, and bookstores nationwide. appreciate what it takes from them to do it.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Cow in Patrick Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Shanahanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Kitchenâ&#x20AC;? is a poignant and punchy introduction to the idea that our food comes from the farm, rather than the grocery store.

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Grain gifts mean ready cash for food banks Carroll County Farm Bureauâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Young Leaders raise thousands BY DAVE FOX Special to Todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Farm

The morning of Jan. 25 was similar to a lot of mornings this winter: snow, wind, and frigid temperatures prevailed across the region. The holiday spirit of cheerful giving had dwindled somewhat, with many folks thinking about staying inside. Not so for eight young men who drove semitrailers around Carroll County and the farmers they went to call on. The young men were part of the Carroll County Farm Bureauâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Young Leaders program. GRAIN GIFTS CONTINUED ON 9

Carroll County Farm Bureau

The Carroll County Farm Bureau Young Leaders collected $27,207 this year for the Harvest for All program, which benefits four county food pantries. Those who helped are Ed Livengood, Justin Rahn, Trevor Fransene, Drew Nesemeier, Jason Vos, Chris Flikkema, Chris Meier, and Jeremy Flikkema, chairman.

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During 9 years, $188,000 raised GRAIN GIFTS


Their effort was a huge Harvest for All grain collection fundraiser to benefit the countyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s four food pantries. Young Farmers called ahead of time to ask for donations of grain. On the designated Saturday, five semis headed to donor locations where the grain was collected and transported to Eastland Feed and Grain, Shannon. Eastland matched prices based on what would have been paid at ADM in Clinton. In its ninth year, the fundraiser produced astounding results: $27,207. That means each of the countyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s four food banks received about $6,800 to help feed the hungry. The 9-year total raised? More than $188,000. Chas Welch is the manager of the Carroll County Farm Bureau. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Last year was a huge year for this,â&#x20AC;? she said in

an interview. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We raised over $37,000 then, so each of the four food pantries got over $9,000 each to stock their shelves with.â&#x20AC;? Carroll Countyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s chapter of Young Leaders consists of 20 young men between the ages of 18 and 35. The group used to be known as Young Farmers, but that name was changed awhile back because not all members were involved directly with farming, Welch said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;All of our members are involved with agriculture, and many are directly involved with farming, but we also have members who work with supply, management, feed, and implement dealers as well,â&#x20AC;? she said. The grain collection to benefit food pantries came as a result of brainstorming the first year. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Members were trying to think of different programs they could initiate and become involved with, and this idea came up. It sounded good, so some planning went into


The majority of our donors are also Farm Bureau members, but not all of them.


Chas Welch

it, and it took off really well,â&#x20AC;? Welch said. The Young Leaders donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t keep a penny of the proceeds for themselves, she said. On collection day, there usually are 14 to 19 members involved, in addition to the truck drivers. Donors are found countywide. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The majority of our donors are also Farm Bureau members, but not all of them,â&#x20AC;? Welch said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Sometimes new people donate from one year to the next as well; many donate grain, but some just give checks. It just depends on the circumstances.â&#x20AC;? Grain donations are usually around 100

bushels each. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Farmers know the importance of what theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re doing to raise safe and affordable food for our country, and this is one thing they can do to go a step beyond just the basics,â&#x20AC;? Welch said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Carroll County is a small county, and for us to raise that kind of money is just astounding. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It just speaks very highly of the farmers and the ag community in our county,â&#x20AC;? she said. Illinois Farm Bureau bestows an honor known as the Harvest Row Award for top work done statewide. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We have won that award every year in our category, and that speaks highly of our Young Leaders members,â&#x20AC;? Welch said. Members who participated this year are Ed Livengood, Justin Rahn, Trevor Fransene, Drew Nesemeier, Jason Vos, Chris Flikkema, Chris Meier, and Jeremy Flikkema, chairman.


IN BRIEF Cattlemen plan spring banquet MORRISON â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Jerry Carroll, a farmer and comedian, will provide entertainment March 22 during the 53rd annual Whiteside County Cattlemanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Association banquet. A roast beef dinner will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m., with the program at 7:15 p.m.

Tickets are $14 for adults and $6 for children (6-12). Call Eric Benson, 815-4411989, Vernon Smith, 815631-7611, Dale Pfundstein, 815-632-8349, Connie Spears, 815718-4770, Scott Wetzell, 815-716-0798, Ed Larson, 815-631-4410, Doug Vandermyde, 815-772-4902, Bradly Spears, 815-7184471, or Cliff Pfundstein, 815-632-8350.

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3AUK6ALLEY-EDIAsMarch 11, 2014


Rural lawmakers struggle to be heard Farmers are fewer, farther between in state capitols BY STEVE KARNOWSKI The Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS – They’re an endangered species in many state legislatures as more Americans move to urban centers or suburban cities: the rural lawmaker who knows what it’s like to care for a herd, plant a crop, or drive on gravel roads. Indiana Rep. Bill Friend, a pork producer, said it’s challenging to explain modern farming to colleagues who no longer have personal connections with agriculture. He calls it an annual educational project, as he knows of only one other state legislator who makes his living primarily from farming. “They’re one, two, three generations removed from food production and agriculture. It’s kind of a foreign topic to them,” said Friend, the Republican majority floor leader

Photos by AP

ABOVE: In a Jan. 22, 2014, photo, Colorado state Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, speaks at the podium inside the chambers of the Colorado State Legislature, at the Capitol in Denver. RIGHT: State Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg sits on a tractor on his ranch near Sterling, Colo., in a 2010 photo provided by his family. Sonnenberg, a rancher who is the only farmer in the Colorado House of Representatives, plans to push a radical idea this session: give each of his state’s 64 counties one House seat apiece instead of electing representatives from districts with equal populations. in the Indiana House. Lawmakers and political experts say the dwindling number of farmers, ranchers and others who make their living off the land affects not just agricultural policy but other

rural concerns – highways, health care, schools and high-speed Internet access. Urban and suburban lawmakers might be sympathetic, but they’re often unfamiliar with

particular concerns. One Colorado legislator, a rancher, has even gone so far as to suggest each of his state’s 64 counties have a single House seat instead of awarding representation

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It was once the opposite. Rural interests had outsized influence in state capitols back when districts were often based on geography rather than population, said Tim Storey, a senior fellow with the National Conference of State Legislatures. That changed when a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s said legislative districts must have roughly equal populations to ensure the principle of one person, one vote. “That just makes it more difficult for the rural voice to be heard. It doesn’t mean it can’t be heard. It’s just more challenging,” according to Doug Farquhar, the conference’s program director for agriculture and rural development. Colorado state Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg’s radical idea of one representative per county comes out of his frustrations over not being heard – he is the only rural voice in the House. Currently, the state Legislature’s votes are heavily concentrated in the greater Denver and Colorado Springs areas. He concedes the idea is constitutionally dubious, and follows a mostly symbolic ballot initiative in 11 rural Colorado counties last year to secede and form a 51st state amid disagreements over gun control, renewable energy mandates, and other issues. “I think it is an argument worth having,” said Sonnenberg, who represents a sprawling district in the northeastern plains. “But I have no

illusions this would ever go into effect.” Illinois was the nation’s top soybean producer in 2013, and ranks No. 8 in the U.S. for number of farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture report release last week. But Democrat John Sullivan is the only active farmer in the Illinois Senate, with 200 acres of grain and a State Sen. few cows. John Sullivan Sullivan, D-Rushville an assistant majorThe lack of ity leader, farmers in the Illinois General l a m e n t e d Assembly that the “makes it Senate agrimore difficult to explain and c u l t u r e committalk to my colleagues” tee’s chairabout man and ag-related other memissues. bers don’t have agricultural backgrounds. He expects a struggle to make the farming opinion heard as the chairman pushes legislation to require labeling of foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients. “It just makes it more difficult to explain and talk to my colleagues when they’re only hearing one side of it from opponents of GMO crops,” Sullivan said. In Minnesota, Rep. Rod Hamilton has long argued that rural concerns get neglected in St. Paul, where the number of farmers in the House stands at six – down from 14 as recently as 1995. Hamilton, a Republican and pork producer, said he plans to work with other rural lawmakers from both parties in both

chambers this session to protect shared interests against a leadership that’s mostly from the Twin Cities area. “You don’t need that many votes to make an impact,” he said. Forming partnerships has been key for the only full-time farmer in the

Maryland Senate, Thomas McLain “Mac” Middleton. Maryland has some of the country’s richest counties, but its poor, rural areas share many of the same problems as urban areas such as Baltimore – poverty, unemployment, teen pregnan-

cies, and lack of opportunities, Middleton said. So, he’s made common cause with his urban counterparts to ensure that rural communities have access to education funding as well as highspeed Internet service. Though his 250-acre farm has been in his fam-

ily since the 1600s and his ancestors grew tobacco, Middleton converted the property mostly to agritourism. He hosts school groups and families to visit barnyard animals, take hay rides, navigate a corn maze, or pick strawberries and pumpkins.


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Drago reduces butt-shelling and overall shelling loss.

s Perfect crop?

Drago is the perfect choice. 340 N. Metcalf Ave., Amboy, IL    s