Illinois Farm Families Share a Love for Agriculture
National Agriculture Day, March 21, is an opportunity for producers, agricultural associations, businesses, universities, government agencies and countless others across the United States to celebrate American agriculture. .
Agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use and wear every day, and increasingly contributes fuel and other bioproducts. On the 50th National Day of Agriculture, Illinois Farmer Today features people for whom agriculture plays a central role in their lives.
One is a 4-year-old boy who always has his eyes wide open at the big farm equipment Mom and Dad and
Grammy and dad are driving. Another is a grandfather and Vietnam veteran who laid the foundations of farming for his sons and grandsons. And the third is a city teenager who discovered the importance of agriculture in FFA at her high school.
Through the eyes of a 4 year old
As 4-year-old Jameson Maitland tells it.
Photo by Phyllis Coulter
DANVERS, Ill. “My name is Jameson Maitland. I’m 4 years old. I want to be a farmer one day like my dad, my dad and my grand dad.
Big Papa (John) was also a senator, but I don’t know if I want to do that. He lives with Little Mama (Joanne) on a nearby farm.
Papa says the Maitlands have been farming the land where Papa and Grammy (Johnny and Terri) have lived since 1898.
I love driving tractors with my dad (Justin). He picked me up from school when we bought a new John Deere tractor, so I could come too. I had to wait a week and a half before I could have it. I asked every day if this was the day we got the new tractor.
I don’t drive tractors yet. I’m not big enough yet.
Mom (Melissa) works at State Farm Insurance and Dad is a farmer who grows corn and soybeans, wheat and feed for his cows. He drives snowplows and assembles farm equipment.
Dad also has 17 Angus cows on pasture. He calls them a hobby to keep the freezer full.
My favorite things about farming are planting corn with Dad, fixing tractors with Dad, and riding in the combine or grain cart with Grandma.
Mom and Dad say I’m polite, sociable and a good helper. I have a little brother named Nash who is my best friend. He is 1 year old.
When Dad asks me what I learned today at school, I always answer: “Everything”.
Initially Reluctant Farmer Passes on Love of Ag
MANITO, Ill. – At 16, Darrel Kammeyer had had enough of the hogs and grain on his family’s farm in Bellflower, Ill., to get a job at a Chevy dealership.
At 74, Darrel Kammeyer is a retired farmer who likes to choose the jobs he likes to do when planting and harvesting.
Photo by Phyllis Coulter
This teenager might be surprised to know that he would end up cultivating for decades, laying the foundation for his sons and their children to cultivate as well.
“You never know,” he says.
After serving in Vietnam in 1969-70, he worked at an Oliver tractor dealership, which brought him back to the fields. When his father asked him if he wanted to cultivate with him in 1972, Kammeyer said yes.
Little did he know then that his two sons would be farming 50 years later.
“They are doing a good job. I consider them good farmers,” he says.
Kammeyer farmed near San Jose in central Illinois with his father for eight years, and when it was time to get out on his own, he and his wife Bonnie started their farm here in Manito.
In the early 2000s, Kammeyer was active in national and state corn associations and the Farm Bureau because he says the industry needs advocates.
Today, the Kammeyers grow seed corn, field corn, and seed beans on leased and owned, irrigated and non-irrigated land.
Like Kammeyer, his two sons had education and off-farm experience before embarking on their careers. Scott trained as a machinist and studied agriculture in college before farming full time with his father. Steve worked at the ethanol plant for 15 years until he was ready to farm full time and bought his father’s shares.
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Kammeyer, now 74, officially retired six years ago when Steve took his place.
“I help out in the spring and fall. I am not the engaged man. I do fun stuff,” he says. “Once in a while I make a mistake. Sometimes they are expensive, sometimes not.”
Her grandson, Austin, is a high school student who plans to study agriculture in college and work off-farm for a while before farming full-time.
“His dad just turned 50, so it’s going to take a while,” Kammeyer said.
The intricacies of the precision seeder impress Kammeyer today.
“My dad once said his Pop couldn’t believe (the progress of) the eight-row planter,” Kammeyer says. He wonders what his father would think of the GPS, automatic steering and precision planting elements his family uses today.
“It’s fun being on the same farm all these years,” but some days test your patience, he says.
“You cultivate this land here when it lets you, not when you want to,” he says.
The family finds ways to work with this fact.
“I only got crop insurance for yield loss once,” says Kammeyer, who had some of his best corn yields last year.
Sara Kate Edwards is not from an agricultural background, but she learned the importance of agriculture growing up in a rural community and wants to share her support wherever she one day lives or works.
Photo by Phyllis Coulter
COLFAX, Ill. — The voices speaking out for agriculture today may not be those of people from agriculture, agribusinesses, commodity groups or lobbyists. They can come from teenage girls like Sara Kate Edwards who simply appreciates farmers and the farming community.
“The clothes we wear, the food we eat and even the vehicles we drive are all related to agriculture. It’s important to support the industry and tell people why it’s important,” explains the schoolgirl.
Her perspective comes from growing up in Colfax, a town of about 1,000 people in central Illinois, where many of her classmates at Ridgeview High School are tied to farming.
“Having grown up in a rural community, I understand the importance of this. We have to respect and protect it,” she says.
His grandfather, now retired, was a farmer and owner of a grain elevator business. Still, she says she gained much of her appreciation for farming from lessons at school, her FFA adviser Ariel Bunting and her friends. She wants to spread the word to more people in more places.
She credits her improved communication skills to her participation in the farm sales contest.
“I’m a more confident speaker,” she said.
The FFA is not like sport, where fans cheer from the touchline, Edwards says. But supporters help students compete, win scholarships and organize events.
Giving and caring go both ways. A hallway in his high school features a plaque honoring “golden farmers” for what they do. FFA members also say thank you to farmers by bringing them meals at harvest.
Students prepare for the Ridgeview FFA Alumni Auction at Colfax High School on March 18. It includes a meal of pork chops, a silent auction and a live auction. Funds raised go to Ridgeview FFA students to cover conference and convention registrations and scholarships.
Edwards made an item for auction. She and her classmate, Bailey Vandergraft, built a wooden planter for flowers in their farm mechanics class. She jokes that each of their families will probably bid for it, and the planter can go home with either family.
Edwards has yet to decide what she will study in college or what career path to follow. It probably won’t be in agriculture, but she says she will continue to raise awareness and support the industry wherever she finds herself.
Illinois has 8 peats as the number 1 soybean state
Illinois is the top soybean producing state for the eighth straight year, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The service estimates that Illinois soybean growers harvested 677.25 million bushels from 10.75 million harvested acres with an average yield of 63 bushels per acre.
Illinois had the top 11 counties for soybean yield nationally. Piatt County, with 74.2 bu./acre, leads the country.
McLean County led the nation in soybean production at just over 21 million bushels. Iroquois, Champaign, Livingston and La Salle counties ranked 4th through 7th nationally.
Illinois had the top five counties in the nation for total corn production. McLean County led the way with nearly 71 million bushels of corn produced. Iroquois, Livingston, La Salle and Champaign were No. 2 through No. 5.
Stark County had the highest average corn yield in Illinois at 240.6 bushels/acre
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