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ffa t shirt weeding seeding breeding

Dirty shirts prove cover boosts soils and cotton's sustainability story

Three dirty t-shirts, two of them all cotton and one of them a 50-50 cotton-polyester mix, played starring roles at this year’s Cotton Field Day at the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station in Rocky Mount.

North Carolina State University Cotton Agronomist Guy Collins displayed the three t-shirts to illustrate the benefit of cover crops and to hit home the point that cotton beats polyester by far as a sustainable fabric.

North Carolina State is encouraging cotton farmers to consider implementing cover crops to better manage weeds, conserve soil moisture, reduce erosion, and improve water infiltration. A key benefit of cover crops is increased organic matter, which results in higher microbial activity in the soil.

Collins explained that the three t-shirts do a great job illustrating the point.


The first t-shirt is 100 percent cotton buried underground for four and a half weeks in a field of regular no-till with no cover crop.

The second t-shirt was buried for the same length of time two inches deep under a heavy rolled rye cover crop system.

The third t-shirt was buried for the same time at the same depth under the same tillage system, but it was a 50 percent cotton, 50 percent polyester blend.

“The first shirt shows you cotton can degrade over time. You can see a few holes here and there,” Collins said of the cotton t-shirt that was under the regular no-till system with no cover crop.

“In this second shirt, you see a lot of shredding, a lot of different holes and quite a bit of degradation. This is basically a reflection of that microbial activity that results from increased organic matter and how well it can degrade this fabric. The only difference is the heavy rolled rye cover crop system associated with this t-shirt,” Collins said.

“This third t-shirt was buried under the rye at the same proximity. There is hardly any degradation at all. The only difference? This shirt is half cotton and half polyester,” Collins said.

The cotton-polyester t-shirt that fared better than the all-cotton t-shirts illustrates the sustainability of cotton, compared to synthetic fibers, hitting home the point that cotton is more environmentally friendly than polyester, according to Collins.


At the field day, Collins discussed the microfiber contamination issue that is impacting both fresh water and salt water. Synthetic microfibers don’t degrade rapidly and often end up in places where they are unwanted which is raising alarm with conservationists.

Collins shared research by Cotton Incorporated that shows in salt water over a 30-day period, cotton degrades 67 percent, cotton-polyester degrades 33 percent and polyester degrades zero percent.

In fresh water over a 30-day period, cotton degrades 86 percent, cotton-polyester degrades 37 percent while polyester degrades zero percent.

“This is a very important message that we have to get out to the general public, not just cotton growers. Cotton is a crop that can be sustainably grown as we have illustrated with this tillage system. Not only that, the end product is a sustainable product. Cotton fiber degrades much quicker in the natural environment than manmade fibers. This is a good selling point for cotton that we really need to get out and emphasize to the general public,” Collins said.

Collins; Dr. Charlie Cahoon, North Carolina State Extension weed specialist for corn and cotton; and Dr. Rachel Vann, North Carolina State Extension soybean specialist, who has done previous research on cover crops in cotton, are conducting tests across the state, comparing a no-till system with a heavy rye cover crop to regular no-till with no cover crop.

They are seeking ways to optimize cover crop benefits in cotton and soybeans.

Collins also noted the research shows higher soil moisture in regular no-till compared to no-till with the heavy rye cover crop before the cover crop is terminated. The green cover crop pulls much of the water out of the ground.

“This could be both good and bad. It depends on the kind of year we are encountering,” Collins said.


In years that are abnormally cool and excessively wet as farmers get into the planting season, waiting to terminate the rye cover crop right before planting could be an advantage because it will pull some of the excess moisture from the ground under conditions that are too wet or too cool and allow those fields to be planted earlier.

In years where it is warmer and dryer at planting, Collins noted it is better to terminate the rye at least a week or two prior to planting to give you another chance at another rain event between the day you terminate your cover crop and roll down the rye before you plant your cotton and ensure you have enough moisture at planting.

In years where there is periodic drought stress, cover crops can pay off in cotton because they allow the crop to retain soil moisture longer.

“Throughout the years, what we do see most of the time is an advantage with this rye system in regard to moisture retention. It means we can take an inch of rain, or however much rain we encounter, and make it last two to three to four days longer than when we would not have that cover. In years like that, it could mean a major difference in yield,” Collins said.

Vann notes that an early planting date for cover crops helps to maximize biomass, ideally by mid-October for cereal rye, but she admits that can be a challenge because cotton and soybeans are often still in the field and a busy harvest is often underway.

In later planted cover crops, Vann encouraged a nitrogen fertilizer application on the rye to help it overcome late planting.

“Some farmers in the state aerially seed their cover crop into soybeans or cotton prior to defoliation. That can work well, but success in aerially seeding is heavily dependent on soil moisture and rainfall,” Vann said.

Maximizing biomass is an important component of cover crops and Vann noted that one way to help with biomass is through seeding rates.

“Recent research across the Southeast indicates that farmers may be able to drill less rye seed per acre than previously thought without impacting ultimate biomass accumulation. This should allow farmers to more economically implement this system,” she said.

Ffa t shirt weeding seeding breeding

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Wahoo Public Schools

2020-2021 FFA

Numerous members earn honors in annual Career Development Events

On Thursday, January 28 FFA competed in Career Development Events (CDEs), which are designed to allow students a chance to develop hands-on skills related to career areas within agriculture. Each contest consists of different components related to specific careers. Congratulations to the following FFA members for their achievements:

2nd place team – Floriculture (from left: Chisum Wilson, Anna Tvrdy, Aspen Eckley, Hilary Kabourek [not pictured: Avery Mayberry]): students are tested on their general knowledge of floral design, horticulture principles, and propagation techniques. Individuals also have to be able to identify different types of flowers, greenery, and potted plants, as well as common tools within the horticulture and floriculture industry. Teams also had to put their designer hats on to create centerpieces for a dinner party theme. Individual placings: Avery Mayberry 3rd, Anna Tvrdy 4th, Chisum Wilson 6th, Hilary Kabourek 11th, Aspen Eckley 17th.

3rd place team – Livestock Evaluation (back row, from left: Trenton Barry, Andrew Vech, Miles Hannan, Alaina Furasek. Front row: Jazlyn Nelson, Marissa Meduna, Haley Meduna): students evaluate different classes of livestock based on the animals' ability to meet a need in the agriculture industry, whether that be for breeding or market purposes. Students then justify their placing of a class through oral reasons. Participants are also tested over general livestock knowledge through a written exam and oral questions. Individual placings: Alaina Furasek 16th, Haley Meduna 17th, Miles Hannan 24th, Marissa Meduna 25th, Trenton Barry 28th, Andrew Vech 34th, Jazlyn Nelson 53rd.

6th place team – Food Science (from left: (Kearsten Peterson, Aspen Eckley, Hilary Kabourek [not pictured: Avery Mayberry]): students are tested on their general knowledge of food safety, handling, and production methods. The teams also put their creativity to the test to develop a new product for a specific scenario. This year was frozen pizza for retail. Teams had to create and design product packaging, put together ingredients, and formulate nutrition facts for their new product.

Numerous members earn honors in annual Leadership Development Events
December 21, 2020

For the past couple weeks, Bishop Neumann/Wahoo FFA members have been competing in virtual Leadership Development Events (LDE's). LDE's are designed to help students build upon their leadership skills. Competitions vary from public speaking, to mock job interviews, to team events demonstrating parliamentary law or a new skill/innovation in agriculture. These contests took place on Dec. 7 and 14. Congratulations to the following FFA members for their achievements:


Paige Williams – Blue Ribbon


Haley Meduna – Blue Ribbon (Social Media and Agriculture)
Marissa Meduna – 3rd Place Purple & Alternate to State (Farmer Suicide Crisis)


Cassidy Most – 3rd Place Purple & Alternate to State (Depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer)


Kearsten Peterson – 2nd Place Purple & State Qualifier


BLUE Team – 3rd Place Purple & Alternate to State (Kearsten Peterson, Aaron Ohnoutka, Nolan Van Slyke, Andrew Vech, Chisum Wilson, Aaron Spicka)

GOLD Team – 1st Place Purple, District Champion, & State Qualifier (Sam Vrana, Hilary Kabourek, Avery Mayberry, Miles Hannan, Trenton Barry, Remington Musgrove)

FFA Motto: Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve

FFA Mission: The National FFA Organization is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.

What is FFA? FFA is an organization that promotes growth in leadership skills, as well as agricultural education. Wahoo and Bishop Neumann have been co-oping since 2017. Students from Wahoo travel to Bishop Neumann either 1st or 8th period to take various ag classes from Ms. Katie Arp, our FFA advisor and agriculture educator.

President: Kearsten Peterson (WHS)
Vice President: Trenton Barry & Avery Mayberry (BNHS)
Secretary: Hilary Kabourek (BNHS)
Treasurer: Samuel Vrana (BNHS)
Sentinel: Remington Musgrove (BNHS)
Reporter: Klarice Waage (WHS)
Parliamentarian/Historian: Marissa Meduna (WHS)


The Bishop Neumann/Wahoo FFA Chapter is selling t-shirts to raise money for scholarships so students can participate in the organization and its regional, state, and national competitions. Thank you for your support! Link:

Aaron Ohnoutka, Kearsten Peterson, and Trenton Barry competed in a recent land judging competition. FFA students spend time studying the basic differences in soils, and why soils respond differently to management practices, as well as how soil properties affect crop growth.

Bishop Neumann/Wahoo FFA members helped plant eight trees around Weston, which obtained the trees via a grant. Members assisted in digging holes, planting and watering the trees, and putting in posts for tree support.

2018-2019 FFA
Numerous Bishop Neumann/WHS Chapter Members qualify for 2019 State Convention!

FFA Motto: Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve FFA Mission: The National FFA Organization is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for . . .

90th National FFA Convention

If you have been anywhere near Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or RFD TV you would know that the 90 th Annual National FFA Convention took place this past week. A record attendance of 67,006 included FFA members, advisors, supporters and guests. Indianapolis, Indiana was blistering with blue jackets and big potential. Being an FFA Alumna, I can tell you there is nothing quite like the National FFA Convention. Whether you were in a blue corduroy jacket, sporting your advisor credentials, or rocking your company logo, I think we can all agree that conventions makes you proud to be a part of the agriculture industry. There is something inspirational about being among great minds, rock solid leadership, and core shaking moments. My experiences from this past week have impacted myself as a future educator and agriculturist.

I had the honor of volunteering at the Living to Serve booth while being at convention. Our team was comprised of past state officers, agriculture teachers, and outstanding National FFA Staff. The Living to Serve booth was a place that convention goers could come and gather information about how to better their communities. Visitors learned about how to Investigate, Plan, Serve, and Evaluate. There was an obstacle course, planning stations where visitors gained ideas to serve their communities, and a service activity. Each day members from our team would be at a different station. I was stationed at the service activity on Thursday.

By Friday it was estimated that over 5,000 letters have been written.

The service activity that visitors participated in was to write letters to deployed troops, new recruits, or veterans. Each letter would be included in care packages sent out through the Operation Gratitude organization. Operation Gratitude sends care packages to service men and woman throughout the year. Every visitor young and old would say how much they loved this activity. Some told me stories of their own loved ones and some would tell me of their experiences serving our country. That was a humbling experience, but nothing quite shook me to my core like counting how many letters were written. As we were sitting on the floor of the booth I was consumed with what visitors included in the letters. Messages of hope, encouragement, thanks, and overwhelming gratitude. After the second day a total of 4,000 letters had been written. 4,000; and it was only the second day of convention. My heart was overflowing, and I was in amazement how many lives would be touched by this. Seeing the determination to do good in all the visitors eyes was a huge indicator to me. It indicated that not only do FFA members and all who visited saw a need, but they want to do something about it. This is the exact mentality that our industry needs and its the youth of the America who will rally together to get things done.

National FFA Advisor Dr. Steve Brown

Lastly, being an FFA member comes with high expectations. As soon as you put on that blue corduroy you take the challenge, any challenge that is thrown your way. Every visitor that traveled through our booth saw a need in their communities and accepted that challenge. Within agriculture, we are faced with challenges from every corner. I believe that a new era of agriculture is among. The theme of convention was “I can, We will!” , with this saying in the back of our minds we will succeed in any endeavor we encounter. I believe that within agriculture the time is now to let this need lead us into the next era. Wake up every day with that attitude, embody the message in the saying and allow it to help you face every challenge head on. It will be this generation that will be meeting the needs of this growing world. I believe that at this convention the bar has been set high, and I have no worry that it’ll be the youth of American taking charge. I can, We will!”

Check out the National FFA Website for more information about this organization or to watch sessions from this previous week.

Author Bio:

Hello! My name is Lindsey O’Hara from Claypool Indiana. I am currently a Junior at Western Illinois University majoring in Agriculture Education. I have previously served as an Indiana FFA State Officer. I come from a largely influenced club lamb back ground (Leininger Southdowns and Slack Club Lambs) and have a passion for everything agriculture. I am actively advocating for this great industry and excited to be in the classroom teaching the next great minds of this country.

Farming: Plan, Plant, Harvest, Repeat

Year after year, farmers all around the country, have one main goal: plant a crop and have a successful harvest. While each farm may be a little different in how they achieve this goal, there are main steps that all farmers will complete during each time of year, every year. By growing up and being active on my family’s farm in Western Illinois, I have experienced the steps that are taken to try and achieve that yearly goal.


Farmers have just completed harvest and all fall activities. During the winter, farmers will be planning for the next year’s crop. They will be actively looking at yield maps, or other crop data to see how the hybrids/varieties of crops they planted the last season performed. The most successful crop hybrids/varieties will most likely be implemented back on the farm for the next growing season. Hybrids/varieties that underperformed will be looked at to be removed and for others to take their place. Once the farmer makes their decisions on seed, they will place their seed orders. Herbicide programs will also be put into action. Farmers will be selecting the herbicide programs they want to implement for the next growing season based off the previous season’s weed issues. Farmers will also haul grain from on-farm storage to fill any grain selling contracts they have made that take place during that time.


Row crop planting- Photo credit: John Deere

In the early spring, farmers will begin to get their planting equipment ready. The seeds have all arrived and have been sorted for the fields in which they are going. Farmers will begin to plant by early April. Some farmers will apply anhydrous in the spring, just before planting. Farmers will also be doing spring tillage such as running field cultivators before the planter. This will allow for a good seed bed, which allows for good seed-soil contact. Farmers who practice no-till will have most likely applied a burn down, which kills weeds such as winter annuals, a few weeks before planting. Pre-emergence herbicides are being applied immediately behind a planted field. This will allow for some residual cover in order to keep weeds from germinating for as long as possible. Days have become longer for a farmer as planting the crop is an important task to get completed.


Planting has come to an end and the growing season is in full swing. Farmers will be applying side-dress nitrogen to their corn and pesticides such as herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides to all their crops. Farmers will be actively mowing ditches and keeping up the maintenance of their individual farms. They will also be fixing any equipment such as spring tillage tools before storing them away for the season. Any grain that is still being stored in on-farm grain bins will be hauled off to make room for the new crops. As summer nears an end, farmers are actively preparing for harvest. They are getting equipment ready and calibrated. They want to make sure everything is prepared and is ready to run efficiently for harvest.

Soybean harvest – Photo credit: Albion News

Fall is one of the busiest times of the year for the farmer. During the fall, harvest begins. Again, harvest is a very important time of year for farmers and long days are, once again implemented. Famers spend most of their time working in the fields bringing in the new crop. After harvest ends, farmers will begin doing any fall tillage that they may implement. Anhydrous is applied once the soil temperatures have lowered. Soil tests are taken to show what condition the soils are in and help figure out what rates of fertilizer are needed for certain farms. Fertilizer is then spread and lime is applied (if lime is needed). Once all of the fall field activities are completed, equipment is washed and stored for the winter. Preparations for the next year begins.

Final thoughts:

Farmers will ultimately follow these steps to achieve the over-rising goal of farming: plant a crop and have a successful harvest. Farmers can also take other steps such as planting cover crops to help with soil health or strictly use technology to create their own prescription maps for fertilizer/seed rates. No matter what farmers do, farming is a busy occupation that consumes a lot of extra time. Overall, farming is a great occupation, just like many other occupations of your liking, and as long as you make wise, conscious decisions you can achieve any set goal.

My name is Kody Bowman and I am a senior at Western Illinois University. I am from Blandinsville, IL, where I was born and raised on a crop and livestock farm. I am majoring in Agriculture Business with a minor in Agronomy. Down the road, I look to come back to the family farm as a 4th generation farmer.

Safety First and Safety Always

With it being the fall season, tractors, combines, and other equipment are out in the field harvesting this year’s crop, but there is more to farming than just harvesting crops. There is always more to consider. E very year people are harmed and even fatally injured on the farm or in farm settings. Working in a farm related setting can expose a person to several different potential risks. “Equipment failure causes some farm accidents; however, most farm accidents are caused by tired, stressed, rushed, distracted, or incompetent operators” as stated by Texas State.

Most of these accidents can be linked back to people feeling too comfortable and getting careless around dangerous equipment as I can relate to this personally. Farming for my family as always been a family affair, no matter the age or experience level, everyone was welcome to help out. However, one day we were moving equipment from one field to another, and two of my cousins were hooking a tractor up to one of the wagons. To make a long story short, what was concurred after the incident, one of my cousins got his hand smashed and had to have a couple different surgeries, all due to being careless. Safety may not always be the most fun idea to practice, but as we have learned safety is important and if everyone uses good safety practices many of these accidents can be resolved. Now I want to share with you some tips on how you and everyone else can ensure safety on the farm.

Photo Credit: safety Slogan

  1. Always know your surroundings. No matter where you are it is important to know what is going on around you. If you are in a tractor, know where people on the ground are, know where the other equipment is, and always know where you are. If you are on the ground, you need to know where other people are, equipment, and anything that is moving or has moving parts. Big idea here is pay attention to everything around you, so you can stay safe but also be able to react to something if needed.
  2. Warning labels. We all know that machines and other equipment are covered in these bright colored labels that read caution or warning, and believe it or not, these labels are here for a reason. They warn people on the possible hazards that come with running machinery. For example, moving parts, possible pinch points, chains, items that get hot, and many more. Always make sure to read this labels, they usually aren’t long and take only a couple moments. This will make you more cautious and aware, and could ultimately avoid injury.
  3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). PPE is designed to be worn to keep people safe while being able to still work effectively and efficiently. Some of these items include not wearing baggy clothes, wearing glasses, gloves, ear protection (in loud areas), close toed shoes (boots preferably), and possibly even bright colored clothing, to make sure everyone can be seen. Now I understand that these may not be designed by Nike, coach, or even worn by a Kardashian, but these are designed to keep you safe, and you only have to wear them when necessary.
  4. Equipment. Tractors, combines, and augers are some of the few equipment found on farms. Each of these are equipped with safety features

Photo Credit: John Deere

Farming has always been something that has been every enjoyable for my family, and we would like to keep it that way. If the point comes where I can no longer farm and do it safely, then I no longer want to farm. It may not be necessarily fun or very desirable to do all of this safety stuff, but knowing that you know that people or even family are using good safety practices does give one a piece at mind and keeps them from worrying as much about injury, even though the thought will always be in your mind. These tips are only a small taste of what safety should be on a farming operation. There is always something that can be done to keep people safe on the farm. No one is too cool for safety.

Hello! My name is Nathan Carroll. I am a senior at Western Illinois University, where I am majoring in agricultural business and minoring in agronomy. Agriculture has been apart of my family for many years, with farming and raising livestock, which has in turn grown my interest for agriculture. Over the years I have been able to work for a couple different farming operations and a co-op allowing me to grow my knowledge, and a can’t wait to experience more. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

How Agriculture is Building Better Leaders

What makes someone a leader?

Is it the reserve parking spot and corner office? Do we view someone as an effective leader simply because they have the largest following, or have never experienced failure? Are we a society that views leadership as a corporate skill, instead of a value that should be grown in every individual? Has the wholesale lack of empathy created a new “Age of Apathy”?

There is a significant amount of data that supports the idea that the average modern American tends to view leadership, elected office, and public service with a negative lens. Either from lack of positive examples or a negative personal experience in a service role, people do not favor the idea of being in leadership. In the book “Running from Office”, researchers and authors Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox reported data from a survey of 830 registered voters, entitled “What do you have a higher opinion of: Congress or…” What did voters rank more favorably than the US Congress? Lice, colonoscopies, root canals, cockroaches, and traffic jams. In another set of data, only 11 percent of the people noted that they had thought about the possibility of running for any public office. Public office is not just our congress members and senators, it’s our mayors, sheriffs, school board members, and judges.

Now, one last question: Where can we look for positive examples of leadership?

You have most likely seen the “Thank a Farmer” t-shirts and bumper stickers. Scrolling social media, you’ve seen stories about friends banding together to help out a fellow farmer that is going through a personal struggle. One of the best examples that we have of individuals devoting their lives to providing for others, is our farmers and members of the agriculture industry. On the whole, agriculture is an outstanding example of servant leadership – I have never met people more passionate about putting others before themselves and requesting nothing in return. The original title of this post was “How Agriculture Has Made Me a Better Leader”, but it didn’t feel right. I realized that agriculture continues to make my peers and I better leaders, students, and citizens every day.

The fantastic team that I got to work with this summer in Stonington, Illinois, through my internship with Monsanto

As an industry, we place emphasis on education, hands on experience, and professional development, because we know how valuable each of them are. We pass along the importance of service and community, knowing firsthand that it takes a village. Failure to us is not a means of disqualification, but a badge of resilience and tenacity – it isn’t how many times you fall down, but how many times you get up. Agriculture continues to teach me the value of personal connections and relationships – our people are the most important part of the picture. The core values of our industry include: helping others, being selfless, and having humility. Every day, ag is showing me the importance of “we” over “me”.

I am so grateful to be not only a Western Illinois University Leatherneck, but a WIU School of Agriculture “Aggie” student. I never cease to be amazed by my peers and all of their achievements, hard work, and dedication to what they do. When I came to Western, I was looking for “my people”.

Marching Leatherneck, fellow Ag Vocator, coffee buddy and best friend Claudia – WIU Homecoming 2017

In Knoblauch Hall – I found them. We laugh together, study together, and cry together. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed. Seeing the countless hours of hard work that we each put in, in class, at the farm, and in our organizations is astounding. Never for praise or reward, but because we have a sense of duty, service, and selflessness. To put it simply, agriculture is the family that cares about families.

John Quincy Adams once said, ” If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Agriculture inspires, amazes, and pushes me to do more every day. I could not be more thankful for that.

About the Author

My name is Grant Reed, and I’m a junior, double majoring in Agriculture Science and Political Science. I’m a Macomb native, a second-generation WIU Aggie, and a proud third-generation WIU Leatherneck. Beyond my love of agriculture, I have a passion for leadership and service activities. On campus, I have the honor of serving as the Student Body President, an Ag Vocator student recruiter for the School of Agriculture, and Co-Director of the Homecoming Committee.

Cover photo credit to the very talented and hard working Jana Knupp

Being a Woman in Agriculture.

Being a woman in agriculture is hard.

I have been involved in the agriculture industry my whole life and over the years I’ve noticed an increase in women being involved but it still doesn’t mean that we get treated the same as men or looked upon the same. While in my working career I have detasseled for eight years and have had two internships for different agriculture companies. While spending those many summers working alongside the opposite sex it became blatantly obvious that women do not get the same respect as men.

I would consider myself a strong and a very hard worker (I wouldn’t say the same for my school work though) and I pride myself because of it. Most of the time I am the person that works the hardest out of everyone else and I am usually the first person to work and the last one to leave. I have even been complimented for working so hard. Even though when I work that hard to prove that a woman can work in the same industry as a man I still don’t get treated like “one of the guys”. I remember one time during one of my internships we were loading seed into a planter and the seed that we were using was special and very expensive because that seed was going to eventually produce the seed that farmers use, and I was walking over to pick up a bag from the truck and my supervisor stopped me and told me to let the guys do it because the seed was too expensive and he didn’t want me to drop it. Of course, I did what I was told but in my head, all I could think of was that I have been filling planter bins since I was 10. I knew how heavy the bags were and I knew how to do it and the only reason why he told me to stop was because I was a female and he thought that because of that I was unable to do the same work or have the same quality of work that they were doing. By the end of the summer, I got to prove to my supervisor how hard of a worker I was by showing him that I was responsible and could do the same kind of work that the other people were doing, and he eventually started treating me like “one of the guys.” There have been other instances like that that has happened to me throughout the years but I will never forget that one.

Photo from: Evelyn Powers’ Instagram

There are many strong and powerful women within the agriculture industry (24,265 in Illinois, according to the USDA) right now that are making a difference, but I hope that one day we won’t be looked down upon like we have been for so many years. When females and males are treated equally and given equal opportunity in the agriculture industry but currently that is not the case. I know many girls who I go to WIU with that are more talented and smarter than most of the guys and it hurts my heart to think that they will have to work twice as hard to get just as far as them, I know that that is how it has been for me. So the thought that I want to leave with you is why in the world that we live in today do women within agriculture still get less respect or offered fewer opportunities than men?

I am Evelyn Powers. I am a senior at Western Illinois University. In May I will be graduating with an Agriculture Science Degree with a minor in Ag Economics and Plant Breeding. I have worked 10 summers doing jobs related to seed production and after I graduate that is what I like to continue doing.

Thank you for reading!

Photo taken by Sawyer Steidler .

My Experience in the Poultry Industry

Being a part of the livestock industry is something that I have always been apart of. Two summers ago I took the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and explore another industry other than livestock. That industry ended up being the poultry industry. I was the Live Production Intern for Plainville Farms, an industry leader in organic and antibiotic free poultry production. During my time there I have had numerous opportunity’s to expand my knowledge and skill set as it related to livestock as well as an business setting.

“Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man” -George Washington

My first summer there much of my time was focused on a project to see how cleaning out litter in the house’s effected round worms in turkeys. Round worms were a constant problem in organic turkeys because there was no organic approved dewormer. In the ABF there was an approved dewormer so worms were much less of a problem. I would travel to farms to collect manure and fresh tissue samples on turkeys and send them off to Penn State University to get tested for the egg count coming from round worms. I would take samples from both hens and toms at ages 6 weeks, 9 weeks, 12 weeks and 15 weeks. There was a variety of houses selected. All of them were finishers since worms are generally not a problem in the brooder. Some of the houses were freshly cleaned out, others had there 2nd or 3rd flock on the original litter and some of them had shavings top dressed on the litter in between flocks. The veterinarian expectation was that houses on there 2nd and 3rd flock on the litter would show less signs of round worms because there would be more litter build up and they would be farther away from the ground level (since they do not use concrete floors in turkey houses). That was found to be incorrect in my research and the conclusion was made that tilling (Turkey farms till to break up the caked surface to improve the litter quality for the birds which also helps to keep the pads on there feet in better condition) would bring the eggs back up to the surface. As a result they now require each finisher to clean out every flock. The other alternative for the growers is to compost the litter which kills the eggs and clean out the barn every other flock. In addition to this project I also worked closely with some of the organic growers and service techs to help get the organic growers “enrichment toys” for the turkeys. Enrichment toys was just a fancy word for organic rope. I spent several hours in the ware house turning a 100 ft organic rope into 100 one foot pieces of organic rope so the growers could hang them through the house for the turkeys to play with (one of the many new organic requirements to come out).

Photo Credit:

In my second summer I interned with the company I spent more time plugging in and helping out where needed. This allowed me to expand my knowledge in multiple different areas. Some of the jobs I did would involve growing out and assisting the service techs or just learning some of what they do and how they do it. During this time I learned a lot about ventilation, bird health and disease’s. I would also spend time on the road delivering product to the grower. Probably most of my time this past summer was spent in the live production office where I would work on a variety of things from filing papers, taking calls from growers, filling out spread sheets and working on a National Poultry Improvement Plan for each individual farm. The National Poultry Improvement Plan was basically a bio security plan that designated lines of separation, boundary lines, limited access and high traffic areas. During this past summer I learned a lot of skills in organization, communication and using Microsoft Excel.

My experiences the past two summers have taught me many skills and given me a lot of knowledge about food production, food safety and given me knew insight about the organic and ABF industry. I would highly recommend this internship to anyone in the south central Pennsylvania area. I had a great time learning so much about poultry production for some truly awesome people.

Photo Credit: Linde’s Livestock Photography

My name is Kyle Livingston, I am a senior at Western Illinois University where I am majoring in Ag Science with a minor in Animal Science. Before coming to Western, I spent two years at Black Hawk College East Campus, where I was on the livestock judging team. I grew up on a small farm in Dover, Pennsylvania where I grew up showing a few pigs and Angus Cattle. Along with the livestock we have few hundred acres of row crops and hay. Thanks for taking time to read my blog.

Applying to Veterinary School 101

So you want to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine?

Before you answer that question, understand that you have to be completely comfortable with blood, feces, and all other bodily fluids. You also need to be prepared to go to school for at least 8 years and yes, you need to be strong enough to deal with death. Still think you want to give it a shot? Fantastic! I am here to assure you that it is possible and inform you of what steps you need to take to make it through your undergrad and hopefully onto veterinary school.

I am an aspiring veterinarian, but unfortunately I have not made it there just yet. I am a senior Agricultural Science major here at Western Illinois University and will be graduating this upcoming December. I have successfully made it through the application process for veterinary school for the fall of 2018, but I will not find out about my admission until next February-March. Thus, I am still on edge on whether I am a strong enough candidate to get in. However, I have learned what schools are looking for during my time of meeting those requirements. Now I want to pass what I know onto others.

Courtesy of Alexis Kole on Pinterest

First and foremost, you need a high GPA. You do not have to be a 4.0 student (though it never hurts to shoot high). Most schools admit students with an average of a 3.6 GPA. School will become a priority in order to get those high grades. Pre-Veterinary programs involve intense science courses such as microbiology, anatomy/physiology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry to name a few. Many people do not seem to understand that pre-vet students go through the same academic courses as pre-med students do. It is not going to be easy and for a good reason. Students who cannot handle the academic rigor of any pre-professional program will not make it through graduate school. That means if you really want it, you have to work for it.

At WIU, pre-veterinary students can choose to either go through the Biology department or the Agriculture department. I chose the Ag department and I am so thrilled with my decision. The Agriculture department at WIU gave me the hands on experience with animals that I always craved. I plan on working with both small and large animals when practicing veterinary medicine, but even for those who are planning on working strictly with small animals should still go through the Ag department. Before you jump into learning medicine, you must first learn the basics of the animal. For example, how they function, their behavior, and their needs. The Ag department provides this for you. You will get to learn all of these aspects and more. The Ag department also provides core courses that help your social and professional skills such as building a resume and how to act during a formal interview (which is required for veterinary school). If you cannot already tell, I am an advocate for WIU Ag because I truly believe it is going to get me to the next chapter of my life.

Veterinary schools also want undergrads that go beyond just a high GPA. Being an honors student and/or performing undergraduate research are two examples of raising academic status. Students should also get involved in other ways on campus. Schools want to see a well-rounded candidate. Get involved with clubs and organizations and additionally try and gain leadership positions. You should also get involved in your community.

Outside of school in general, experience with animals is a must. There are many ways you can gain animal experience. A job at a clinic is always great, but you can also gain experience through volunteer work at either shelters or farms. Internships are also a great experience builder. Additionally, the university provides experiences as well. The WIU farm offers student employment and there are many study abroad programs that would be beneficial. One thing you must do however, is build a relationship with at least 2 veterinarians. Schools require 3 letters of recommendations and 2 must be from different veterinarians. So keep that in mind while you gain your animal experience. I also advise to have one recommendation from a professor so your academic work can be represented as well.

Once it gets closer to application time, one other requirement is the GRE standardized exam. It is definitely something that should be prepared for. University libraries (at least WIU) offer free prep books for the GRE as well as other standardized exams. Take advantage of them! They are free! As a college student, you will become very fond of the word “free” and unfortunately applying for veterinary schools can be expensive.

So, we have now covered that you need to have a high academic status, be involved on campus and in your community, have lots of animal experience, have relationships with veterinarians, get a good score on the GRE, and still be sane. It sounds a little overwhelming, right? Of course, but it is possible! I cannot express the importance of a quality support system. These are the people (academic or at home) that will continue to push you when you feel overwhelmed and overworked. Do not think that you have to do this alone, open up to those that want to help you. That goes for any future goal you may have, not just vet school. I know I would not be where I am today without my support system, that’s a fact.

Like I already said, school will become a large part of your life. Remember to spend some time on your physical and mental health. Have fun during this time in your life (but not too much fun, schools expect you to keep your public record and social media clean).

Lastly, when it comes time to finally apply for veterinary schools through the VMCAS (Veterinary Medical College Application Service), make sure you have done your research and know the requirements for the schools you want to apply to. Start early and stay calm during the process. When everything is done and submitted, celebrate and be proud of how far you’ve come! My dad consistently says one thing to me during my years in school. He says “always remember to make yourself proud.” This has stuck with me during all the times I was drowning in school work or stressing over applications. It is something that I think everyone should remind themselves when striving for their goals.

Hi, Everyone! My name is Kagney Nudd and I am from Dallas City, IL. I am a senior Agricultural Science major here at WIU. As you already know from reading this blog, I plan on going on to veterinary school to get my DVM. I hope this blog was of value to you! If you have any other questions regarding requirements for veterinary school, feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected] I am happy to help!

Delicious and Nutritious: Ag Students promote Chocolate Milk

At 9:00 am on Saturday, October 14 th , the 6 th Annual Fallen Soldiers 5K started, and runners began running, jogging, or walking on their way to showing support for our men and women of service. At the end of the 5K, just passed the finish line, there was a group of students gathered around a table with some pamphlets, bright smiles, and roughly 12 crates full of chocolate milk cartons, donated by prairie farms. These were Agriculture students, using their Saturday morning to raise awareness of the health benefits of dairy—specifically chocolate milk—as a part of recovery after a race.

This group of cheerful students, wearing their “I love Milk” shirts, are all enrolled in a “Communicating Agricultural Issues” course here at Western Illinois University, and this particular assignment was to help out runners with their post-race recovery, while teaching people about Dairy. You see, chocolate milk has the ideal blend of proteins, electrolytes, and carbohydrates to help your body recover after a strenuous workout or a race. Various Dairy organizations have begun advertising these facts, and the students of this class decided to bring chocolate milk to the runners of this 5K to help them learn about the benefits first hand.

It was impressive to see it all go down. Newer runners often were surprised at the offer of chocolate milk, not knowing about its benefits, while experienced or returning runners came looking for the Ag students and their delicious recovery drink. “I was surprised at how many people knew about the benefits of chocolate milk” said Landon Reed, another one of the students. Families that had come to watch loved ones run also found their way over to the chocolate milk table, and plenty of kids swung past the table looking for a treat. The Ag students were professional yet friendly, as they handed out cartons and talked about the nutritional benefits chocolate milk offered. Some of the runners came up and were skeptical or derisive of the idea that chocolate milk had such health benefits, but the students continued to maintain a calm politeness as they talked with these runners about the topic.

All in all, the dairy promotion went well. Tired runners happily consumed the chocolate milk, knowing that it would help their bodies replenish the nutrients they needed to improve their running. According to Alex Vanwatermeulen, “the handout went smoothly and people seemed grateful for the milk.” The students packed up shortly after the concluding ceremonies, but it looks like this class will be back to do this promotion again next year, at the next Fallen Soldiers 5K on Oct 27 th 2018, to hand out more delicious and nutritious workout knowledge.

Chemicals are bad…Right?

Fear comes from misunderstanding and lack of knowledge, and these are precisely the reasons that I believe people fear using chemicals as a tool on the farm level. Farm chemicals are feared because they are meant to kill pests; Weeds, insects, fungus, etc. “If these chemicals can kill living things than what can they do to us?” This is the common concern over farm used chemicals and I could see how it could be a valid one, but I am writing this blog today to help grow your knowledge on the subject and therefore diminishing your concerns.

Chemicals used on the farm were developed for specific purposes, herbicides effect weeds, insecticides effect insects, miticides effect mites, etc. but they do not effect each other. Why is that? Each group of chemicals is formulated to affect a specific function of the desired species, for example with insects, its their nervous system, or with plants its to get past the waxy layer and into the phloem and xylem to stop the transfer of sugars, but my point is that they only work on specific targets, which are not humans. Now am I saying that I would drink a cup of Round-up and never get sick? No, but would you drink a cup of bleach? Obviously not, and bleach can burn your skin, but almost every household in America is willing to use it because it is safe when used for its desired purpose, as are all farm chemicals approved by the USDA.

Companies that develop these chemicals ensures that this is the case by rigorous testing. Monsanto’s rerelease of Dicamba beans this year was a huge deal in the agricultural industry, but rereleasing Dicamba beans was not a new idea. Monsanto has been working with different formulations for the past three years and had to wait an extra year for more testing to get this product on the market to ensure safety to people, species of animals and insects. Now thats not saying that their formulation was perfect, they still have a lot of work to do, but as long as the farmer takes the basic safety measures as are involved with any chemicals, including your own household chemicals, of wearing protective gear and reading the label, there is no danger.

Also to be able to spray these chemicals, farmers have to obtain a hazmat applicators license which is no easy feat and involves getting personal information as well as finger printed. Any illegal activity done with chemicals results in fines as well as points on their license. too many points results in loss of a license. There is a lot of incentive for a farmer to do everything appropriately. not to mention that when a label is followed to a “T” the farmer gets the best performance out of that chemical, so why wouldn’t he follow it?

The fear surrounding these chemicals has come from uneducated people that like to post a lot on social media. They have never worked with commercial chemicals and have no connection to production agriculture. Our world population is growing at an alarming rate, and to be able to sustain the lifestyle that we have come accustom to we need to keep growing our efficiency in producing food. Chemicals are a great tool to provide the best conditions for healthy plants to grow and prosper. We need them to continue to try to feed the world. We should appreciate the technology available to us, not fear it. It is our responsibility to continue to expand it so that future generations will be able to keep up with ever growing demands.

My name is Landon Reed, I’m a senior at Western Illinois University with my major in Agriculture Business and a minor in Agronomy. I come from a small town and live on a corn and soybean operation that my family owns. I also work for a farm chemical company and spend a lot of time around chemicals and have a good understanding of what they are and how they work. I also believe that if handled correctly they are perfectly safe and Trust our USDA’s judgement on what is, and what is not safe. I find it very unsettling how easily peoples opinions of these useful tools can be swayed by biased sources on social media.

Chickens, Man’s Best Friend?

I’m going to be honest here, chickens will never be man’s best friend. That spot is unquestionably reserved for dogs. However, chickens do provide a level of functionality that dogs may never reach. Not only are chickens super cheap and easy to own, but they offer numerous benefits to the owner.

Before we get into the benefits, let’s discuss how affordable chickens can be. Many retail farm stores sell chicks in the spring. In fact, the Farm King store in which I work sells around 2,000 chicks each spring. The chicks run from about $2-$4 depending on breed and quantity bought. Chicks eat chick starter grower, which runs $10-15. Bedding will cost you around $5, and heat lamp and bulb will cost you around $12. So, provided you have a spot at home for them, you could join the chicken world with 10 chicks for around $55. Dogs can cost well into the hundreds of dollars from a shelter, let alone from a breeder.

Now you might be saying, “why would I spend my money on a chicken?”, well, there are many reasons. Firstly, chickens are very easy to take care of. They are a very low maintenance animal. All that you have to do is let chickens out and, provided they have enough space, they will find their own food. Now, what if you have neighbors? A good fence and clipping chicken’s wings can keep them in. While chickens are foraging for food, they will provide two services free-of-charge. Chickens will clean up ground that you need cleared and will help control local insect populations. Chicken owners can utilize a “chicken tractor” to ensure that chickens clear out problem weed areas. A “chicken tractor” is essentially a movable cage. You put the chickens in the cage over a problem weed area and the chickens will clean it for you! Chickens obviously wont be able to clear big woody structures like trees and branches, but they are able to effectively clean out many weeds.

Chickens also eat a wide range of insects including; Japanese beetles, ticks, flies, and ants. By owning chickens, you are helping lower insect population in your yard. I think it is fair to mention that chickens won’t eat all types of bugs, and they wont completely clear your yard of insects. However, they will eat many types of bugs and they do it for free.

Have you ever wanted to make an omelet or cake, only to realize that you are out of eggs? Chickens can help solve this problem. They will lay 3-6 eggs per week, depending on the breed. This means that when your 10 hens are laying, you will get over 30 eggs per week. These can be used at home, shared with relatives, or even sold. Your friends and family will go nuts for the farm-fresh eggs.

Finally you might be saying, dogs and cats are friendly, chickens are not. This is a huge misconception. Chickens are like any other animal, if you give them attention, they will become docile, friendly, and even cuddly. In fact this past spring, I brought one of my chickens, Hilda, into a 5th grade class room. She was very well-behaved and showed the students how nice chickens can be.

If you are interested in beginning a chicken adventure, consult your local retail farm store. They will have all you need to get started. Before you do, make sure that you consult local codes. Some cities allow residents to own up to a certain amount of chickens. If you do decide to raise chickens, you will get the benefits of eggs, weed clearing, and less insects. But you will also realize that chickens are just so darn cute!

Hello! My name is Colton Downs and I call Canton, Illinois home. I am a senior agriculture education major at Western Illinois University. I grew up on a small livestock operation, with a few goats, sheep, and chickens. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!