With low commodity prices and continued economic uncertainties, why do farmers do what they do? The answer is always the same, writes the award-winning author (and farmer) Wendell Berry. “Love. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable.”
“You truly have to be excited… to go to work, or the small aggravations and failures would do you in,” notes third-generation farmer Mike Schachtrup, who knew he wanted to be a farmer from the time he was seven years old. “There's something about producing… I don't know how to describe,” agrees Gregg Sauder, Tremont farmer and president of 360 Yield Center. “I would rather farm than do anything else.”
I grew up around farming. My grandfather had a small farm in southern Illinois, and my dad was a diesel mechanic for Oliver and John Deere tractors. But I never really appreciated all the hard work, dedication, intelligence, drive and patience that a farmer must possess. Today’s farmer must keep up with the latest technologies driving the industry, not to mention all the complex financial tools—options, accumulators, futures, etc.—which have become almost as integral to operations as the tractor itself.
Farmers feed the world and are integral to our daily lives, yet we rarely think about where our food actually comes from—or how important agriculture is to our economy. Illinois ranks first in the nation in soybean and pumpkin production, second in corn production, and fourth in pork production.
Corn and soybeans are often top of mind, but the ag world is quite diverse, as you can see in this issue. From growing hops for craft beer to “planting” a community solar array, from transformative research at the Peoria Ag Lab to the design of barge spouts for grain barges, we’ve tried to illustrate some of the many different aspects of agriculture—and that’s just skimming the surface.
It’s April, and planting season is almost upon us. Our farmers will soon be out in the fields, planting the seeds that will grow to become the food on our plates. Next time you sit down for a meal, take a moment to reflect on the hard work that has gone into every bite. A moment of thanks is a small price to pay for this labor of love. iBi