I was first introduced to the Midwest Food Bank about two years ago during a tour with the GROWMARK Volunteer Network. Immediately, I was inspired by the mission of the food bank and the hundreds of volunteers who make achieving that mission possible. The Midwest Food Bank was founded 10 years ago by a McLean county farmer and has grown to serve over 200 food pantries in the area, providing more than 400,000 cases of food last year to those in need.
The Midwest Food Bank is entirely non-profit, employing only three full-time people; an administrator, an operations manager, and an office manager. All other activities, everything from warehouse management to truck driving to food sorting and distribution, is handled by hundreds of volunteers. Donations power the food bank and I’m proud to say that GROWMARK is a sponsoring organization – providing in-kind donations for all of the Midwest Food Bank’s graphic design, printing, and social media needs. GROWMARK employees also volunteer at the food bank three times a year (there is such a long waiting list for a volunteer time slot that we can’t get in more often than that).
So it was with great pride that I recently read that Charity Navigator, a New-York-based non-profit agency which assesses over 6,000 U.S. charities on their financial accountability and transparency, ranked the Midwest Food Bank as the top charity in Illinois and the BEST food bank in the country, an outstanding (and well-deserved) honor. Its report shows Midwest Food Bank spends 98.5 cents of every dollar donated on feeding families and the rest on administrative costs.
Although I never questioned GROWMARK’s support of such an admirable organization before, I understood the connection even better after learning of the Charity Navigator report. It only makes sense that the GROWMARK System, a System owned by farmers, would support an organization founded by a farmer, whose mission is to alleviate hunger, and who takes such great care with the funds they receive that 98.5 cents of every dollar goes towards fulfilling that mission.
Congratulations to the Midwest Food Bank, we are proud to be your partner!
With the drought last summer and the strange weather this spring, we've spent a lot of time talking with our farmer customers about the weather. How's it impacting their business? What's the result on the System? These are the questions that we talk about with our farmer-customers and board members a lot. We don't often think to ask the farmer's wife those same questions.
The wives of our farmer-customers are a huge part of the family farm operation. They may be the farm's major decision-maker, the bookkeeper, tractor-driver, or off-farm second income earner. Regardless of their role in the farm, one thing is certain - the farm wife is a major source of moral support on the farm! One farm wife, Bridget Chinowth (also an AgriVisor farm market advisor) shared this glimpse of life as a farm wife on the AgriVisor blog, AgriZone. Thanks Bridget, for all that you do for your farm family and the GROWMARK System!
We all wear different hats in our lives and I am no exception. In a typical day I juggle between my professional hat as a farm market adviser, the mother of two small boys and farmer’s wife. The hat of a farmer’s wife, I likely wear with the most comfort, as I have been a farmer’s daughter for 35 years. There is a quote in a movie, “It’s not too difficult to go from a farmer’s daughter to a farmer’s wife”. My husband has been a part of our family farm operation for approximately 11 years, so this transition came extremely easy for me, but that does not mean that being a farmer’s wife does not come without its own challenges.
When you are married to a farmer, it is simply not his career, but it is the essence that defines your entire family. The drought of 2012 and the current conditions unfolding this spring, tend to bring another element to the marriage. On the first day there is a “hint” of spring in the air, his mood picks up, as he anxiously prepares for the coming planting season. This year was no different; he disappeared to the machine shed for hours, as he went through the planter one last time. Unexpectedly the weather started to shift, rains began to fall, and once again he was pleased. As soil moisture reserves were extremely depleted, he welcomed the rains, as the drought was all too fresh in his mind. As the month of April progressed and forecasts continued to call for above average precipitation, his mood started to decline. One rainy evening I walked into the kitchen to find him staring aimlessly out the window watching the rainfall. The only thing he said was, “Will I ever get to do my job?” So, in that moment I had to give my best “pep” talk that everything will be fine. The entire time I am trying to silence my inner voice that is just as worried as he is about getting the crop put into the ground, however; you never let him know you are concerned too.
I always remember growing up my mom saying winter was her favorite time of year because she did not have to worry about the weather. After going through the drought last year and this wet spring, I think winter just might be my new favorite season!!! As a farmer’s wife, you have ownership in what your husband is doing; you have a strong vested interest in everything that goes on in the farming operation. You take on the role of a cook, accountant, weatherman, part delivery person, counselor, farm marketer, and much more. However, at the end of the day, you would not change a single thing, as I cannot think of a better environment for my two young sons to grow up. They have a strong moral backbone, incredible work ethic and a true passion for farming. That does not mean they too do not worry, as on several occasions of being tucked into bed, the boys will comment on the weather and pray for the rain to start or stop so daddy and papa can get the crop in the ground. Our entire family is on the rollercoaster ride of farming where the highs are exhilarating, the lows are tough, but it is something none of us would ever change. While this spring is yet another hiccup in the process, I continue to repeat the motto of generations of farm wives that came before me, “Everything has a way of working out”……
Severe weather last week brought excessive rainfall to much of the FS System. The imminent danger, flash flooding, shut down county roads and building offices and turned 80-acre fields into lakes. Then an even more worrisome danger began; the flooding of the area’s major river systems. Both the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers have experienced severe flooding, lock closures, and breaches.
Our System has not gone without impact. The Mapleton, Ill. fertilizer facility has been closed due to high waters around the facility. The fertilizer bays themselves are dry but the terminal access road is under two feet of water, the truck scale is under three feet of water, and the roads within the facility are under four feet of water. Mapleton hopes to reopen the truck scale on Tuesday of next week and will evaluate the reopen date for the rest of the facility on Monday.
Lock closures along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers have caused barge delivery delays but sales likely won’t be impacted because System facilities have enough product in stock to meet demand. The Illinois River crested at Peoria overnight but remains closed until water levels fall at least another 3.3 feet. Locks at Marseilles and Starved Rock remain closed due to water conditions and damaged locks. The Mississippi remains closed from Muscatine to Burlington, Iowa and from Quincy, Ill. to Hannibal, Mo.
Some members have also been impacted either through location flooding or personal property loss on behalf of employees. Please keep these affected System members in your thoughts as we await more news of flood damage and impact.
Flooding has obviously kept farmers out of the fields as well. This delay has reduced seasonal demand for product from the warehouses but we anticipate that the end impact to the System and to farmers will be minimal and we will all be able to jumpstart the spring season soon.
How has the recent severe weather impacted you? How can your fellow System members help?
Who do you get your commodity market news from? Do you have a hard time sorting through all the speculation to find the news and opinions that really matter to you? Does it seem like all market news is just a little dry and lacking a personal connection?
Cory Winstead and Nick Klump from AgriVisor have heard all of these complaints and more from members and AgriVisor customers. They wondered what could be done to make commodity market news more relevant and interesting to people like you and me. A long-time subscriber to podcasts, Cory said he had been kicking around the idea of an ag markets-based podcast for a while. A podcast is an audio recording made available online and through mobile download. Typically podcasts are created on a recurring basis, almost like a radio show. The connection to radio is interesting, especially considering that Cory’s idea really got fueled during a conversation in a radio booth. “I was downstairs on a Monday morning doing a radio interview with Alan Jarand at RFD radio,” says Cory, “Off the air we started talking about it. He said he thought it was a great idea and to come down that week to record the first episode. It has grown from there!”
Cory and Nick thought that a podcast would give them a chance to talk conversationally about agriculture and the markets that are such a big part of that industry. They wanted to be approachable, have a little fun, and provide a high level of value to their listeners. By combining the sound market expertise of AgriVisor with their own personalities, they created “The AgFanatics.”
The AgFanatics host shows on Tuesdays and Thursdays (or try to anyway). They often bring expert guests on their show to discuss important topics and give a little background on an issue or market trend. Some topics they have covered recently include RINs, crop insurance, and the USDA Quarterly Stocks and Planting Intentions report. They do an excellent job of breaking down complex topics into understandable, relatable tidbits that even someone like me can understand (and I’m definitely not schooled in futures, puts, and calls).
Cory, Nick, and the rest of the AgriVisor team are thrilled with the success of the show. AgFanatics has about 2700 regular listeners, over 12,000 episode hits, and has generated a lot of positive media buzz. If you haven’t tuned in to an AgFanatics podcast, give them a listen – hopefully you will find the show as valuable and enjoyable as I do!
AgFanatics podcasts are available at http://agfanatics.podbean.com
Subscribe to AgFanatics podcasts on your apple device by downloading the “Podcasts” app and then searching for AgFanatics.
Follow AgFanatics on Twitter @AgFanatics to be alerted whenever a new episode is posted.
The spring season is upon us and that means the same thing to each of us - it's gonna get busy! Maybe in your area things already ARE busy. We just want to take a moment before the heat of the spring rush overcomes us to say THANK YOU.
Thank you for the service that you provide to your members and customers. We know that not all of you get to be out in the field directly interfacing with farmers, but you are a crucial part of our System and it's times like these that we need every hand on deck. Thanks for your dedication and your commitment to service. Have a safe and successful spring!
Gary helps Members keep financing available for their customers, and raises championship horses in his spare time. Watch the story here!
This week is National Ag Week and tomorrow – Tuesday, March 19 – is National Ag Day. National Ag Day is hosted by the Agriculture Council of America and is all about recognizing and celebrating the impact that agriculture has on our daily lives. Farmers and ag industry leaders use Ag Day as a time to join together to recognize the contributions of agriculture. Many people in agriculture will also participate in Ag Day events in Washington, D.C. today and tomorrow, including visits to Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill.
In honor of Ag Day this year, the Agriculture Council of America sponsored a video essay contest for students. This year’s winner was Lebo Molefe of Naperville, IL. Watch her amazing video here:
How will you celebrate National Ag Week?
This list is adapted from Mary Shelman’s presentation at the Global Agribusiness Summit
- Globalization – global companies must address the needs, cultures, demands, and limitations of their diverse customers and employees
- Technology – advances in equipment, genetics, and communications tools will impact efficiency, yields, and information
- Scarcity of land, water, and talent – As the world’s population rockets towards 9 billion people, available arable land decreases and water is in tighter supply. Further, agribusiness must recruit and retain top young talent in order to remain competitive and relevant
- Consolidation – Companies with stronger infrastructure, governance, and talent will continue to grow and will acquire smaller, less efficient companies in their wake
- Consumer engagement and activism – Affluent consumers will leverage their freedoms to demand products that are made in environmentally and ethically sustainable ways. It is up to agribusiness to educate consumers about what that means
- Tight supply chain - A variable supply may lead to inconsistent availability of products
- Food security –Gaps in the supply of available food lead to food insecurity, which is a matter of national security and stability
- Volatility – Globalization, food insecurity, and activism are all indicators that can lead to political and cultural volatility
- Sustainability – With limited supply of available land and water agribusiness must make a concerted effort to engage in practices that conserve resources and are sustainable in the long-term
- Food Safety and Health – Consumers are not only interested in an affordable and available food supply, they are also concerned that the food will be safe and nutritious for their families
I may not know you personally but I can almost guarantee
that you have heard the word “sequestration” more in the past two weeks than
ever before in your life. If you’re a person who loves getting into political
debates with your second cousin at Thanksgiving, you probably know all about
the situation and what it means to you. But, if you’re like most people, too
busy to watch the news and too tired of the arguing to care about politics
anymore, you may not have a clue what sequestration means. Just another Washington crisis removed from
our daily lives, right? Not quite.
Sequestration really does have the potential to impact each
and every one of us. Automatic budget cuts could affect staff in national
parks, educational programs, and air traffic controllers at airports … That
impacts you too, right? So how did this
happen? Why are we here? What decisions can be made?
Essentially, the sequester was initiated as an incentive to
Congress to cut the budget. Remember in 2011 when President Obama formed a
supercommittee to determine budget reforms? Well, Congress agreed that if that supercommittee
was unable to reach an agreement, the concept of sequestration – automatic budget
cuts of $1.2 trillion over the next ten years – would
begin taking place on March 1, 2013 (if Congress had still failed to reduce the
So here we are welcoming in the month of March… and
sequestration. It’s more than a little concerning when you think about it. $1.2
trillion in budget cuts is certain to hit close to home, and even close to the GROWMARK
System. Millions of dollars will be cut from agriculture budgets – including Ag
Research Services, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Food
Safety and Inspection Services, Federal Crop Insurance, the Farm Service Agency
(FSA), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Cuts like these will impact the farmer’s
bottom line, which in turn, impacts all of us.
So what happens now? Well, the cuts will begin to trickle
down and take effect gradually over the next few months. Congress can come up
with a plan to cut the deficit in an amount equal to that of sequestration in
order to stop the process. They can also
give agencies more decision making authority to keep the most critical of
services. This next two weeks of debate
on how to fund the government until the end of the fiscal year, September 30,
2013 will tell if Congress and President Obama are motivated to finally reach a
To listen to an interview on sequestration with Chuck
Spencer, Executive Director of Corporate and Government Relations for GROWMARK,
Get to know Kevin Black. His real title is Insect & Plant Disease Technical Manager, but Kevin brings a great sense of humor to his job. Agriculture is a buggy business and Kevin doesn't mind getting his hands dirty tracking pests and plant diseases around the System and beyond.
View all of the People You Should Know series right here!