Fun at the Fair

Aug 14
Kathryn Martensen, Assistant Dean and Director of Advising

Yesterday, I attended Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair. It was the first time in 20-plus years I’ve been to the State Fair, and It. Was. Awesome!!! Highlights of my day included: milking a cow, petting a bunny in the FFA barn, meeting Senator Mike Frerichs, having my picture taken with the reigning Miss Illinois County Fair Queen (and ACES Alum) Amelia Martens, tasting wine with the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association, viewing the famous Butter Cow, meeting several of our incoming students looking quite impressive in their various leadership regalia, viewing newborn piglets, meeting lots of ACES alums, checking out the horses and gear involved in a top-award winning harness racing team, and eating a delicious elephant ear and some fried cheese curds. The State Fair is incredible!

Kathy Martensen, Amelia Martens and Holly Herrerra
Assistant Dean Kathy Martensen (left), Amelia Martens (center) and Holly Herrera (right) catch up during Agriculture Day at the 2013 Illinois State Fair.

Milk-a-Cow at the State Fair

Aug 14
Walt Hurley, Professor of Animal Sciences

It's Illinois State Fair time. The Illini Dairy Club has put on the Milk-A-Cow booth for more than 25 years. Thursday, August 8, was set-up day for the booth. Erik Sheppelman, a sophomore in Animal Sciences, is taking the lead on the booth this year. Two of his friends came out to help set-up. Members of our farm crew delivered the truck of supplies. And, Gene McCoy and myself were there to assist. Cleaning up the area, unloading the truck with feed, straw and other supplies, laying down the mats, putting up the decorations and display boards, preparing for the later arrival of the cows, were all accomplished in efficient order. The booth opened the next day. Many other club members will be working at the booth during the fair. Typically there are around 7,000 children and adults who milk-a-cow during the fair week, many for the first time and some that come back year after year. Each milker gets the “I Milk A Cow” button and a milk coupon, and goes away with a smile on their face.

I Milked A Cow Button

Paris of the South

Aug 14
Meredith Blumthal, Director of ACES Education Abroad Program

They say that Buenos Aires is often considered the Paris of the South. I can't say that I disagree after my recent visit.

BA (as those in the know refer to Argentina's capital city) is full of interesting neighborhoods filled with cafes serving alfajores and espressos or cafe con leche. Standard breakfast fare is a croissant known as a medialuna often smothered with dulce de leche and for dinner, it's beef de chorizo, a truly mouthwatering experience. Besides eating my way through Argentina, I recently had the pleasure of visiting three universities – two of which will be new partners for ACES.

Next summer students can study at the University of Buenos Aires in a program which combines beginning Spanish and courses in agribusiness, crop sciences, and natural resources in English. Another exciting new program will launch for the 2014 spring semester in Mendoza, Argentina, where students will study wine production, water resource management, population ecology, agribusiness and more (in English) while taking Spanish language courses. Mendoza is home to the famous Malbec wine production region and opportunities for non-paid internships on wineries is an optional program extra.

 Wine production in Mendoza
Wine production in Mendoza.

To cross from Mendoza, Argentina, into Chile, you fly over the Andes Mountains which are the longest continental mountain range in the world. The Andes form the spine of Latin America, connecting and separating countries (running through a total of seven) and in particular, the two I was visiting. Coming from the flatlands of Illinois, this was an amazing experience to see via plane (and because it was winter in the Southern Hemisphere I nearly missed my plane from Mendoza to Concepcion, Chile due to snow!). For me, there is something intoxicating about the Andes. My first encounter with these mountains was during field research in Ecuador during graduate school. As we flew over the mountains, I could not help but keep my eyes glued to the window.

The next stop was Universidad del Bio Bio in Concepcion, Chile. This was my first time in Chile and I was not disappointed. ACES students will have opportunities to study the Spanish language and take a course on LEAN manufacturing systems this summer at Universidad del Bio Bio.

With more than 400 programs in more than 60 countries, it's hard to know where the right place to study abroad might be. But, one thing is for certain, everyone in ACES has the opportunity to study abroad. The right place may just not be what you were expecting.

View of the Andes Mountain Crossing
View of the Andes Mountains Crossing



Enjoying agriculture at the state fair

Aug 13
Jason Emmert, Assistant Dean, Academic Programs

Agriculture Day at the 2013 Illinois State Fair has been even more fun than ever. I just ran into Amelia Martens, the 2013 Illinois State Fair Queen and a May 2013 graduate of ACES. Amelia is an outstanding representative for agriculture, not to mention U of I and ACES. She is a terrific role model for young people, and is using her opportunity to promote agriculture to a wide variety of audiences. We could not more proud!

Amelia Martens

Time flies when you're having fun

Aug 13
Mark McKown, Senior in Agricultural Sciences Education with a minor in horticulture
Well, I'm in my final week with Cargill. I only have a few more days of my summer in the city. I still can’t believe all that I was able to experience with accepting an internship offer with Cargill. I learned so much. Whether it was driving down the back, country road to a farm shed to meet with a customer or attending a sales meeting in downtown Minneapolis at a hotel that was far fancier than I usually stay, I had an amazing time. The people I worked with, however, are the reason I had such an awesome experience. Although I didn’t do everything right, I was definitely able to learn from mistakes and execute on what was most effective and efficient for the business. Just last week I presented all of my findings from the data I gathered to the leadership team to provide positive and constructive feedback on what was working well and what to improve upon. To say ‘time flies when you’re having fun,’ is an understatement. I will greatly miss my new friends and coworkers. This summer has been one for the records and will certainly not be forgotten.   

Celebrating lifelong friendships

Aug 12
Meg Cline, Associate Dean of Advancement

Here in the College of ACES, we pride ourselves on the lifelong friendships and relationships that endure for generation after generation of alumni. It is what makes the ACES Family so special and unique.  Recently, I was reminded of the strength of that ACES Family when I had the privilege to tag along with Dr. Tom Frey (ACE Emeritus faculty member) and Dean Warren Wessels (ACES Emeritus Assistant Dean for Academic Programs) to visit a former student  of theirs – Steve Gerdes (ACES ’77). While Steve makes his home in Houston, Texas, as an attorney specializing in the tax aspects of state and local government obligations, each summer he returns to the family farm in Walnut, Illinois, to enjoy a few weeks away from the big city.

I was quite honored to tag along with Dr. Frey and Dean Wessels as they journeyed to Bureau County to reconnect with their former student whom they still to this day recall with great fondness and admiration. Our lunch quickly turned to hours of stories and updates on each other’s life journeys. While much has changed since Dr. Frey and Dean Wessels first became acquainted with Steve, the bonds cemented some 30+ years ago were reignited once again as if not a day had passed.

This story is just one of many I often hear in my travels visiting with alumni and friends. Each has a special story that connected them to the College of ACES and made the “big” U of I” a home-away-from-home, transforming their lives in ways they as students never really imagined possible. I'll let you in on a little secret – I think those students have transformed those faculty members' and administrators' lives in ways they will never forget, too!

So, today, as you reflect on those faculty and administrators who were part of your ACES experience, I hope you might take a moment to reach out and reconnect with them if you are able. You certainly will not regret it.  


Gerdes Frey and Wessels

Is it really work when you love what you do?

Jul 31
Mark McKown, Senior in Agricultural Sciences Education with a minor in horticulture

Did you know that North Dakota is the leading producer for over five types of grain? I definitely did not until I toured and listened to presentations from Cargill’s corn milling, malt, and grain and oilseed supply chain businesses. There is so much more to the agricultural industry than what I saw from my living room window back home in Illinois. My internship has helped me not only broaden my knowledge of agriculture, but also put that knowledge into practice. I am constantly in front of farmers talking to them about crop conditions, where grain is trading, weather issues and the list goes on. I am able to learn firsthand about agriculture in Minnesota and surrounding areas and it has definitely opened my eyes.

When I’m not out and about with farmers, I am in the office pictured below trying to learn more about forward marketing and the contracts that the farmers use to sell their grain. Cargill offers a great number of contracts that fit the needs of their farmers. Whether it is a straight hedge to arrive or a contract based on averages or a contract allowing market pros from Cargill to actively trade their grain, there is a contract for everyone.



On-the-job opportunities

Jul 30
Ellen Reeder, Senior in ACES

Last week, I spent several days out of the office traveling for my internship.

My first out-of-office visit was to a John Deere dealership in Dixon, Illinois. I grew up going to the John Deere dealership in my hometown, but I was always the errand girl. Being the errand girl means one thing: something needs fixed and you’d better not waste any time. That consequently meant that I was never able to actually ask any questions of our dealer.

Last week, I got to sit down for a roundtable discussion with two other interns, a dealer, and a territory manager. I asked questions until I was blue in the face.
I learned about Apex, FarmSight, JDLink, training, sales and promotions, community relations… the list could go on! It was so great to be able to take my knowledge from growing up on a farm and put that into a conversation surrounding modern technology and the challenges dealers and farmers face every day. I loved seeing the “front line” of the business where the rubber meets the road.

Later in the week, I had the opportunity to travel to Horicon, Wisconsin, for a 50th anniversary event for the John Deere lawn mower. My part at the event was to collect video footage for John Deere Online.

I met the original engineers of the 110 lawn mower from 1963 and they were nothing short of inspiring. They shared their stories of triumphs and trials while designing the lawn mower and putting it on the market. They showed maps of where they traveled, blueprints of the design, and photos of the first production line. At the time, several of them were just college students doing summer internships and it was so incredible to hear about what they had experienced during their long careers with John Deere. 

Each week, I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the opportunities that come my way and by the people that I meet. There are only three weeks left of my internship, but I’m sure they will be jam-packed full of great experiences!


John Deere engineers

Baling hay and career success

Jul 29
Jean Drasgow, Director of Career Services

Growing up on a small farm, each summer we would bale hay and straw into square bales. To accomplish the task, we’d hire extra help for the day. Securing help could be challenging because everyone’s fields were ready at the same time. My mother often used her reputation of good cooking to effectively secure help. What I didn’t realize until later is how amazing it was that my mom baled hay all day AND made a meal that farm help appreciated.

Before any of the help would arrive, my mom would be busy making pies or cobbler, forming hamburger patties, fixing a casserole, making a salad, slicing tomatoes, and peeling potatoes — readying everything for the noon meal. Then she would drive the tractor until all the hay was baled. During the time it took to unload the final wagon, she’d race back to the house to boil the potatoes, fry the hamburgers, heat up the casserole — ultimately placing a huge homemade meal for a dozen people on the table.

In work, at school, and life in general, if you plan ahead, you can maximize what you accomplish. To get the most out of your career/life, you need to plan how you can accomplish your dreams. If you simply show up for your job rather than dreaming of what you want to achieve and making a plan to execute the dream you won’t have as much capacity. Set your goals, plan how to achieve them and become successful!


Go, go, go!

Jul 29
Mark McKown, Senior in Agricultural Sciences Education with a minor in horticulture

It has been a whirlwind of fun, fast-paced experiences these past few days of my internship with Cargill. I have traveled more than 1,000 miles in Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota to learn about the different business units in Cargill, contracts used for farmers to market their grain with Cargill, and a sales meeting with the farm marketers, personal marketing managers, a crop insurance agent, sales agronomists and the merchandising leader for our Farm Service Group. Not to mention, I went back to watch the Minnesota Twins beat the Cleveland Indians, got a horrible sunburn from going to the pool, and my parents and girlfriend are coming to visit this weekend! Always keeping busy!