Winter-Nelson joins ag delegation to Cuba

Nov 4
Leslie Sweet Myrick, Office of International Programs Media Communications Specialist

I always enjoy hearing about and reporting on my boss’s travels, but I was especially curious when he recently returned from Cuba, an island so close yet one that few Americans have visited.

Dr. Alex Winter-Nelson traveled to Cuba during mid-October as part of a high-profile delegation that included Congressman Rodney Davis (R) and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D), who both serve on the IL House Agriculture Committee. The trip was organized by the Illinois-Cuba Working group and focused on expanding agricultural trade opportunities.

I was surprised to learn Illinois already supplies at least 20% of Cuba’s corn and soy, and the recent thawing of relations between our two countries opens possibilities for even greater economic opportunities for Illinois. 

Specifically for ACES, it could mean opportunities for academic exchange that are mutually beneficial for scholars in Illinois and Cuba.

You can read more about Dr. Winter-Nelson’s perspective here.  

Small details

Nov 3
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

Those who know me well know that I am a detail-oriented person. At times, I struggle to see the “big picture,” but I’ll always notice the tiny details.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois, I remember the first time I walked the steps in Mumford Hall. I immediately noticed the slight grooves worn in the marble steps, all of which were located near the inside railing. Although this seems like a small detail to many people, I couldn’t help but think of the thousands of students who walked those same steps through the years. I immediately felt like a small part of the immense history of the University of Illinois.

The buildings that make up the College of ACES are full of details that reflect the character of this university. In our rush to get to class or go to our next meeting, we sometimes miss the details that surround us each day. These miniscule features are often nestled in the beautiful architecture and landscape of this campus.

No matter where you are, take a few minutes this next week to notice the small details. Sometimes it’s the small things in life that mean the most.

University of Illinois

Rising to the challenge

Oct 30
Jesse Thompson, Assistant Dean, Academic Programs

As I have been actively engaged in the recruitment of the next undergraduate class, many things have come to mind as I travel around the state about why students should come to the Urbana-Champaign campus. Students express that they are hesitant to apply because of what they may see as a restrictive environment based on race, gender, geography, and other concerns. I beg to differ. 

U of I strives to build a campus environment which allows students to develop an array of skills that will make them productive citizens and problem-solvers for the future. The diversity of this campus is what energizes the learning process. The quality of experiences that students gain allow them to demonstrate that no matter what the environment that they came from, they can engage with others and free themselves of the stereotypes about themselves and their groups.

When you exist in the highly charged and challenging academic environment of the University of Illinois, the focus is on academic growth and discovery, and students tend to perform based on the highest expectations which are placed on them by faculty, staff, potential employers, and their peers. 

Field & Furrow Club to celebrate 80 years!

Oct 29
Marise Robbins-Forbes, ACES Director of Development, Crop Science and NRES

On this beautiful fall day, I am excited about the upcoming 80th Reunion of Illinois’ award-winning Field and Furrow Club November 6 and 7! The 75th gathering was wonderful and the 80th will be even better. Please join us! Thanks to the generosity of a F&F alum, invitees will not be charged for the luncheon at the 77 Club or for the Saturday banquet.

Save your pennies for the silent auction that night! More than 20 items to choose from with proceeds supporting F&F student conference travel. We are trying to help crop sciences students get to the SASES regional and national meetings to share their posters!

Anyone who has given to the Turner Hall Project is also invited as we are also using this occasion to showcase the completion of the first phase of construction. Registration ends soon so sign up and we will hold your spot. Check out the schedule of events for the weekend.

Change is in the air...

Oct 29
Angie Barnard, Illinois 4-H Foundation Executive Director

When the temperatures change and the leaves transform into beautiful color, it is the sign of new opportunities. The youngest members of my family are quite excited for their newest opportunity - finally becoming Cloverbud 4-H members.  My 5 and 7 year olds see their mom leave our home every day to be a “4-H worker” and, for them, going to their first 4-H meeting this week signals new friends, new experiences, and new fun!  I couldn’t be more proud and full of anticipation of what their 4-H years may mean to them!

The Illinois 4-H program is experiencing a few changes, as well. The start of the new 4-H program year moved from September 1 to October 1 this year. Illinois youth, ages 5-18, all over the state began their new 4-H year with plans of learning new things, trying something that they wouldn’t normally do, spending time with people that maybe their paths wouldn’t cross if it wasn’t for 4-H. It was an exciting change that allowed Illinois 4-H to launch their new year while celebrating National 4-H Week!

As young adults across the state start to select and purchase animals for the 2016 Illinois State Fair, fair officials announced that junior livestock shows will be expanded to include individuals age 8-21.  Previously, junior livestock shows were limited to individuals age 10-18. It is important to note that participation age for junior livestock shows will now be open to all 4-H members for the 2015-2016 program year.

For my family, harvest has concluded and we are grateful for the bounty it has provided. Much like the agricultural growing year, the new 4-H year will bring exciting growth for youth and a harvest of personal experiences! I look forward to seeing what’s in store for my two Cloverbuds, as well as the thousands of other Illinois 4-Hers.

Angie and her kids
Angie Barnard, Executive Director Illinois 4-H Foundation, with her daughter Brecke and son Alex, new Cloverbud 4-H members.

ACES students attend World Food Prize Conference

Oct 28
Amber Adams, Crop Sciences Marketing

Tom Poole, sophomore in the crop sciences, shares about his experience at the World Food Prize Conference

“Food is a moral right.” - Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and World Food Prize Founder 

From October 14 to 17, Angelica Lee (FSHN), Charles Herrera (ABE), and I participated in the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa. This an annual conference in which agricultural leaders from all over the world come together to focus on global food security. The main event is an honorary recognition of a global leader dedicated to fighting world hunger. This year’s World Food Prize Laurate was Sir Fazle Hasan Abed from Bangladesh. Abed is a Bangladeshi social worker and founder of BRAC, one of the most successful development organizations aimed at alleviating poverty.

Angelica, Charles, and I were able to attend the World Food Prize through our internship with the USDA Wallace –Carver fellowship program the previous summer. We also had the opportunity of acting as group leaders for the Global Youth Institute. This is a program within the World Food Prize in which domestic and international high school students learn about global food security and how they can make a difference in the world. We met several well-known public figures, such as Chelsea Clinton and Sheryl WuDunn. Attending the conference was an unforgettable experience that was very inspiring. I am further motivated to pursue a career working in international agronomy to improve global food security!

Charles Herrera (ABE), Angelica Lee (FSHN), and Tom Poole (CPSC) at the World Food Prize Conference in Des Moines, Iowa.

USDA Wallace-Carver Fellowship recipients at the World Food Prize Conference.


The Next 500 Agricultural Communicators

Oct 27
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications

Dr. Jim Evans, Agricultural Communications Professor Emeritus, shares his thoughts about “The Next 500” agricultural communications scholarships. The major fundraising effort was announced Saturday, Oct. 24 during the agricultural communications homecoming huddle.

“We need to plow back into our field of interest,” my long-time mentor Hadley Read used to say.  His metaphor of returning ground cover to enrich soils for the future has resonated with me, as with many others who have discovered the importance of communications in the huge, vital world of food and agriculture. Over the years, I have been inspired by our graduates and others who generously “plow back.” They do so through guest lecturing on campus, hosting student field visits, offering words of encouragement, advising, spearheading the campaign for sustained faculty leadership, providing internships, lending financial support, teaching in communications workshops for FFA reporters, leading and helping professional ag communicator organizations, and many other ways.

In that spirit, I am honored to help announce and encourage scholarship support for “The Next 500” Illini agricultural communications students. Some 50 years ago, we initiated annual agricultural communications scholarships. They have provided funds and encouragement to hundreds of our students. Today, with escalating expense of a college education, scholarships based on merit and career interest are more important than ever to students and their families. I am proud to help launch a new, forward-looking “plow back” effort that will continue the tradition and serve “The Next 500.” 

Learn more about how you can support agricultural communications scholarships.

Dr. Evans pictured with several agricultural communications students who received ACES scholarships. Students completed the phrase “To me a scholarship means…”

A Dollar For Your Thoughts

Oct 27
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

Katie Burns, a student in Agricultural Leadership and Science Education, shares her thoughts about a recent experience she had on the University of Illinois campus.

As a third-generation beef producer from Southern Illinois, my life goal is to educate consumers about the truths of modern agriculture. During my walk across the University of Illinois campus a few days ago, I noticed a brightly colored food truck asking students to “Watch a 4-minute video and earn $1.” Upon further inspection, I realized this truck was operated by an animal rights organization. It’s part of a campaign that travels the country to connect with consumers and in this case, students. They wish to convince consumers that switching to a vegan lifestyle will “save over 100 innocent animals’ lives.”

I wanted to learn more. So I watched the video. I felt sick to my stomach when I watched the four-minute video. I couldn’t believe that a truck would travel the country and display these false videos with inaccurate facts to consumers. Then I really started to listen. I heard false claims about agriculture. I knew I had to do something.

At first, I was nervous to talk to the lady who was handing out the brochures. But then I heard her tell other students standing around that “all animals that are raised in the U.S. are mistreated.” I had to collect myself for a minute. I knew if I got angry with her, she would not listen to anything that I said. If I got frustrated with her, I would just fall into the stereotype of the ill-tempered producer in the video who would harm animals.

When I mustered up the courage to walk over to her, we had a conversation and she told me "only 5% of the farms involved in large-scale animal production are family-operated farms." Then I showed her a statistic that I looked up on (while I was watching the video). It said 97.6% of farms are family owned and operated. She didn't have much to defend about her weakly supported claim. The woman quickly realized she was talking to someone who knew what they were talking about. She knew I had knowledge about something that was very important to me and she was trying to attack what I had to say.

She quickly shoved the flyer and dollar at me so I would stop talking to her. The students around me started to ask me questions about REAL agriculture. I told them my story. I stressed the extreme safety of agriculture practices and discussed the precautionary regulations enforced by our government. I told them, “Every decision a farmer makes is for the best interest of the farm and animals. Farming is our way of life -- our livelihood -- and it is absolutely a business. It is how we earn our money and put food on our family’s dinner table.”

After I finished talking to these students, I overheard part of their comments as they walked away. “I can’t believe that information the truck is giving out it is false.” “Someone should stop them.” I wish I could have stayed there all day to share my story with other students.

After reflecting on the experience, I realized their clever marketing tactics. The truck was parked a good distance from the Agriculture Quad. They chose a location where they were less likely to run into students majoring in agriculture. Wisely, they likely chose this location to hopefully avoid conflict. Walking away from that truck I had a feeling of validation. I got the chance to talk to people about what really goes on in agriculture and share my side of the story.

Now, I realize agvocating and sharing our personal ag story can be, at times, extremely frustrating. Don’t give up! As agriculturalists, we have to stand up for our livelihood. We need to assure the consumer that their food is safe and explain how our livestock are raised humanely. It's situations like this that reassure my decision to be an agriculture education teacher. I want to inform people about the REAL ways agriculture is practiced. I encourage you to do the same.

Katie Burns


Oct 26
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator
At the start of the semester, I read an article on Huffington Post about “things first generation college students should know” and it made me think about what are some unique aspects and nuances to our campus that might be helpful for first generation students here. So, like any good millennial who wants to crowdsource information, I decided to create a hashtag (#ILLINOISfirstgen) and reach out to my friends. I wanted to cast the net wide and see what advice our first generation alumni had for students here on campus.

The results were amazing and went above and beyond what I expected. I obviously knew the friends who I invited to participate, but faculty members joined, other campus units and staff participated, and it still continues to be a semi-active thread. People shared advice, their experiences, tips for success, and more importantly – they shared themselves! I think a lot of first generation college students fear that they are out of place and that no one will understand their situation, when that’s not true at all. In fact, the Class of 2019, our incoming freshman, are nearly 20% first generation students – 1 in 5 are the first in their family to come to college – you are definitely not alone!

I’m the youngest of three children who all graduated from college, so I often forget that I’m technically a first generation college students, since my parents don’t have degrees. And I think I credit that a lot to the wealth of resources, information, and mentorship I received from my peers, my siblings, and people who were just generally invested in my academic success. So, if you haven’t already – definitely go to Twitter, check out the thread, and please do contribute!

Celebrating 90 years of progress

Oct 26
Theresa Miller, Academic Advisor, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics

Today I was teaching in 313 Mumford. Left on the instructional media cabinet is a program from the 1974 50th anniversary banquet of the Farm Business Farm Management Association (FBFM). I waxed nostalgic. . .

FBFM is now celebrating its 90th year in existence, an impressive feat. This organization of staff and farmer members provide business analysis services for farmers across the state of Illinois, allowing farmers in Illinois to make better business decisions about their farm. The program is alive and well and farmer members assist in program development and recruitment of field staff. And its home, where the analysis of data take place, is right here in Mumford Hall, in the ACE Department.

Farm records were first gathered in 1910 by Ag Econ professor Handschin, who gathered livestock production records from Illinois farmers to help him organize a first-of-its-kind class in farm management. When he saw the various ways farmers kept books, he came up the idea of creating a standardized farm record book to meet the needs of farmers in Illinois. The Illinois Farm Record Book was used for many years pre-personal computer.  But this still wasn’t enough. Farmers using the books wanted help with analysis, and the Agricultural Economists in Illinois began holding schools for farmers to interpret their books. 

Woodford County farmers organized further to create associations to supervise the analysis of these records and encourage farmers to pay for this service, and the first FBFM association was born. Dean Mumford named the program, born in El Paso, Illinois, the Farm Business Farm Management association. 

When I see a document lying around a classroom in this building, I can’t help but stop to appreciate the rich history of agriculture that was commissioned inside of the walls of the building I work in every day. The leadership by the Agricultural Economists of yesterday mean a robust means of managing the most productive farms in the nation today, and the professors that worked RIGHT HERE in Mumford saw the vision that is now a reality.

The October 4, 1974 50th Anniversary Banquet Program for FBFM.