Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

Whew. This weekend we finally saw some spring-like warm weather and it was wonderful! So many tractors out in the fields, working ground and planting the last few acres of beans.

There were also some pretty cool ag and non-ag stories this week:

  • This story, from the Huffington Post, about potential health risks for kids who consume gluten-free diets.
  • This, because it’s awesome. Protractor
  • This story, from the New York Times, about vertical farms in urban areas which are striving to meet the nutritional needs of a growing population.
  • This story, from the Washington Post, about a Minnesota and Wisconsin cold snap which damaged vineyards that support the states’ wine industry. I mean, seriously, how sad is that?
  • This, because it’s the story of my life. Weeds
  • This story, from Forbes, which talks about the importance of vocation education for all students, not just students who may choose not to go to college. It’s a great piece and reinforces what I have said time and again: vocational education programs, like FFA, can change and influence students in phenomenal ways.

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It’s Earth Day!



Happy Earth Day, everyone! Here in central Illinois it was a nice, warm day with a little bit of sun.

Most Illinois farmers were doing their normal Earth Day thing, working ground or even trying to get crops in the ground.

We often talk about farmers being the original conservationists — and that’s true — but on today’s farms, farmers are doing more than ever before to be good stewards of the land.

Essentially, they’re celebrating Earth Day every single day. And that task has been even easier this year with the help of nutrient stewardship grants made possible by the Illinois Farm Bureau.

Twenty-nine Illinois county Farm Bureaus were awarded grants under the first-ever Nutrient Stewardship Grant program. Illinois Farm Bureau awarded the grants – totaling more than $100,000 – to help promote local nutrient stewardship, soil health and water quality projects.

Sounds like Earth Day to me.

“We’re beyond talking about nutrient management and moving to actually help our members adopt and implement strategies and practices,” said Lauren Lurkins, director of environmental and natural resources, IFB. “We’re trying to move the needle, and these grants will help us do just that.”

Projects tackle nutrient issues relevant to local needs, soils, and farming practices, with the ultimate goal of achieving nutrient loss reduction goals under the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS).

Announced by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in July 2015, the NLRS calls for a creation of an Agricultural Water Quality Partnership Forum to “steer outreach and education efforts to help farmers address nutrient loss.”

The plan tasks wastewater treatment plants, urban areas and agricultural areas with reducing the state’s phosphorous load by 25 percent and its nitrate-nitrogen load by 15 percent by 2025. These actions will assist in addressing water quality problems in Illinois rivers, lakes and streams. The eventual target is a 45 percent reduction in the loss of these nutrients to the Mississippi River.

The projects, which are happening this summer across the state, range from water testing and cover crop plots to saturated buffer construction and stream bank stabilization.

And farmers are doing more than just participating in the grant projects — they’re employing their own stewardship and best management practices on their own farms, independently.

Farmers rely on the land to support their families — and grow the food on which we all depend. If they don’t protect it, they’re the ones who lose.

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So, you know how I love dairy cows? Wait, sorry, that was a stupid question. If you’ve spent more than three seconds here, you probably know that.

Anyway, it’s my love for all things dairy that drew my attention to this article in Forbes Magazine.

Okay, it was actually the article’s headline, Big Agriculture Gets Its Sh*t Together, which really sparked my interest. Then I saw cows and, well, I was a goner.

Despite the snarky title, which, let’s be honest, I love, the article is a treasure trove of information about how today’s dairy farmers are working to make their farms more sustainable with fewer resources.

If you’re curious at all about how big — and I mean BIG — farms operate, this article is for you.

The focus of the article is Fair Oaks Dairy, located in northwest Indiana. Fair Oaks is one of the largest dairy farms in the country, housing around 36,000 cows.

With that many animals in one spot — not to mention their hog operation — there’s bound to be some poop. And the way that Fair Oaks deals with manure is on the cutting edge of farm technology.

They’re turning their manure into an energy source for the farm, reducing their environmental footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.

To top it off, the dairy itself is open to the public for viewing, tours and questions.

How cool is that? Looks like they really did get their sh–well, stuff, together.



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