Officially Engaged!

28 03 2011

For those of you who haven’t heard, I was proposed to and accepted the proposal March 19, 2011. While unexpected, it made our anniversary celebration all the more special. And wouldn’t you know, there is a spec of agriculture related to the engagement story. The lucky guy’s last name is Sturgeon. And if you are a good friend of mine you might think that is a species of bird. If you are trivia savvy you may know that this is the fish caviar comes from.

It looks like this.




Now, as a future bearer of the Sturgeon name, I am a little ashamed to say I had no idea a Sturgeon could get to be this large. In fact, at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago it has no place of glory but is merely a side note in a tank of other, “more interesting” fish. Tommie and I saw the Sturgeon at Shedd moments before he walked me out to Lake Michigan and proposed.

Now, as an agriculturalist I thought- how interesting that the commodity is the eggs. I would think it would be hard to save back some eggs to use to restock the breeding sturgeon line when there is money to be made! How must chicken farmers feel? There are no precious livestock lines or superior breeding qualities in sturgeons, or are there? Are fish missing the boat on selective breeding, especially the sturgeon? These questions cause for further investigation, obviously. Because as a land-locked citizen of Illinois, not that it is much of a factor these days when it comes to fisheries, I am clueless.

Also, as a strong supporter of genetic engineering-I find it hilarious (and intriguing!) to think about genetically engineering a sturgeon to mature twice as fast as conventional sturgeons, like the transgenic salmon of recent debate. Can you imagine that whale (perhaps literally in relation to size) of a fish!



Facebook: Use With Caution

28 03 2011

Facebook is a means of communicating. Duh. Oftentimes it is social but there are definitely professional entities entering the Facebook community. And as an aspiring professional, I find social networks encouraging dangerous situations-frustrating. My fiancée sent me this picture on Facebook:This looks crazy

Now ask me if a farmer would pause for this photo-op if entities like Facebook didn’t exist? I can’t see this picture making its way into our photo albums or family Christmas card. Why the bitter tone? The tipped tanks this man stands beside contains is 82.5 percent nitrogen to 17.5 percent hydrogen. Doesn’t sound too dangerous until you consider what this deadly chemical concoction can do:

Exposure Levels and The Human Body.

Exposure (ppm)-Effect on the BodyPermissible Exposure

50 ppm Detectable by most people-No injury from prolonged, or repeated exposure

134 ppm Irritation of nose and throat-Eight hours maximum exposure

700 ppm Coughing, severe eye irritation, may lead to loss of sight-One hour maximum exposure

1,700 ppm Serious lung damage, death unless treated-No exposure permissible

2,000 ppm Skin blisters and burns within seconds-No exposure permissible

5,000 ppm Suffocation within minutes-No exposure permissible

I know that it is tempting to laugh so the world laughs with you on Facebook rather than cry alone as the quote goes but if that puts you in potential peril, let words suffice for a picture and take safety precautions!

Building Barn Equity

23 03 2011

The phase B-E-A-U-TIFUL from the movie Bruce Almighty starring Jim Carrey comes to mind on a day like today. It was prefaced by sleeping with my windows open and began with a drive through the country with the windows down… and discovered that I can automatically roll down the right back window but I can only automatically roll it up using the button in the back…. odd.

Anywho. My rural route (pardon the pun) made me think of the theme of this blog and what blogging is all about. Wondering what blogging is about? Me too. But, if I had to guess… I would say it is about bettering oneself, others and our environment (literally, mentally and physically).

So my blogger advice for the day: Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.

Now where to apply this advice? Here:

I saw more decrepit barns than blades of grass…. okay that might be a little bit of an exaggeration. But still. I know repairing that old beast of another time period is costly and timely-two resources farmers never have enough of. However, small steps in the right direction can make a large difference.

Stave off rot and deterioration with a new metal roof. I know our family barn is missing a single or two going on several hundred… what better excuse to upgrade your barn and write it off on your taxes! Barns are not only nostalgic, great places for hoarding old equipment but they are also building equity:

Now, this is obviously not the only manner in which to utilize my daily advice but it is one way, and a great way at that!

Illinois… Wine Country

21 03 2011

This winter I had the pleasure of visiting true Californian wine country.

Now it seems that wine country refers to more and more acres across the whole of the United States, including former corn country-Illinois.

Did you know there is a Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association (IGGVA)? It is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing the viticulture and enology interests of Illinois. It provides information (and contests!) among Illinois grape producers and vintners.

Today, Illinois wineries bring in $253 million annually. This profit has encouraged the broke state of Illinois to contribute $550,000 to expand this niche Illinois industry and the awareness thereof.

There are over 70 wineries and 450 vineyards across the state of Illinois, a far cry from just 12 wineries in 1997. The oldest was established in 1857 by Emile Baxter and sons in Nauvoo, Illinois. Today is run by the fifth generation of Baxters. Today the winery is open Baxter’s Vineyards offers free wine tasting & self guided winery tours daily and there is a beautiful Bed and Breakfast across the way.

By 1900, Illinois was the fourth largest wine-producing state in the country. Who would’ve guesse! And here I thought Illinois was all about pumpkin production (and corn, and soybeans….).

If a glass of locally grown and crushed wine interests you (or if you are looking for a day-trip/destination trip for those of you non-Illinoisans) checkout IGGVA’s google map of Illinois wineries.

And if your winery travels carry you to the Mackinaw Valley Vineyard this summer to enjoy music-filled summer evenings, you might just see a familiar blogger.


It’s Officially St. Patrick’s Day!

17 03 2011

Happy Official St. Patrick’s Day, as people at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign like to say! Hopefully today’s festivities find you “festooned” in green, just like the Chicago River:

Now, don’t forget St. Patty’s Day = Feast Day.

So make sure to include agriculture a little agriculture while celebrating. That could be in the form of corned beef and cabbage, Irish spice bread, or a host of other Irish recipes.

But don’t forget the number one agricultural product associated with this holiday: beer. And the number one agricultural lesson that should be associated with this holiday: safety. With that, I will leave you to enjoy this somewhat gloomy on the outside, happy and lively on the inside-holiday!


Food vs. Fuel

17 03 2011

We all knew this day would come. The day when Rural Route Review would dive into one of the hottest agricultural debates of the day: food vs. fuel.

It is a touchy subject for the original parties in production agriculture and the new guy on the block, ethanol. Grain producers, livestock producers, consumers and yes, newbie ethanol producers are all up in arms about the hottest commodity in America. I’ll give you a hint, it’s golden, comes out of the ground… and the answer is not gold, but corn (albeit the two grow closer in value daily).

It seems like everyone has got to have it and the morals our parents taught us, like sharing and cooperation, are falling to the wayside.

Common misconceptions make understanding corn usage values difficult. I thought for a time that the government was paying many farmers not to use their farms. While this has been true throughout periods of agricultural history, today farmers are paid to use small amounts of poor agricultural acreage for environmental benefits and wildlife habitats.

Rising prices of food and corn may seem like causal relationship, with ethanol to blame. However, there are other factors at work that many of us forgot to factor in. Prices for everything are going up. Inflation and dependence on foreign oils are all factors. Ethanol helps limit that dependability.

The fact is there is a growing number of people using cars and needing to be fed. Corn helps alleviate the stress in both these areas, but not in the way some of you might suspect.

True, there is corn in your corn flakes (imagine that!) but a majority of corn that you see in fields along the interstate or in rural areas is used for livestock feed–not your corn flakes! Now, obviously it still effects the human food chain because livestock eat the field corn and we then eat the livestock. Higher corn prices=higher beef, pork, dairy, etc prices.

However, just because some of that feed is diverted into ethanol production does not mean the industry is stripping livestock of their food. Ethanol production uses starch from the grain leaving protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins – to be concentrated into “distillers grain”-a valuable feed for livestock. A 56 pound bushel of corn will produce at least 2.8 gallons of ethanol and 17 pounds of distillers grain. Distillers grain can be fed to dairy cattle, beef cattle, swine, and poultry. It is an economical partial replacement for corn, soybean meal, and dicalcium phosphate in livestock and poultry feeds. This ethanol byproduct can even be used for aquaculture! It is a win-win situation.

Another byproduct of ethanol: carbon dioxide. It can be used to carbonate beverages, to manufacture dry ice, and to flash freeze meat.

And of course, the end product-ethanol-is vital for our fuel sustainability. As gas prices creep closer and closer to $4.00 a gallon (again!) it is important to value alternative fuels that support our economy.  

As a country, we need to learn to share corn amongst ethanol and livestock producers, and even China. As Americans we take for granted how little we pay for food compared to other countries. In the United States, we spend 12.4 percent of our budget on food and 17.6 on fuel.wheredidthemoneygo

Let’s trust agriculturalists to feed and transport the world-oh wait, they already are!

The Less Glamorous Side of Agriculture

15 03 2011

Are you wondering what this is a picture of? Snow? Red, wet confetti? Guess again!

Ground up pig entrails trailed through Bluffs, Illinois is not the glamorous side of agriculture. It is actually the disgusting (not to mention smelly). Seven miles of bloody remains on Rt 100 makes a pungent problem and as the hours draw on the, the problem only becomes… well stinkier.

But one town’s suffering made the pork chop I had for dinner last night and the bacon I ate at lunch possible. Thanks, Bluffs!

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