Craft beer and climate change

Sep 6
Sean Fox, Head, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics

To describe in a few sentences the research done by agricultural economists is challenging given the range of topics they work on and the approaches they apply to those topics. 

From craft beer to climate change, family finances to farm management, financial markets in Chicago to farming systems in Malawi, agricultural economists are involved in describing, analyzing, and oftentimes predicting what is happening. The methods they bring to bear range from focus groups and case studies to the most advanced statistical techniques and machine learning.

This work matters to individuals, firms, and policy makers. Over the past decade or so, agricultural economists have become increasingly involved in the field of behavioral economics – designing surveys and experiments and even using MRI brain scans to gain insights into how individuals make decisions and how various factors influence those decisions. For many, the end goal is to help design benign interventions that can nudge people toward making better decisions about food, finances and other life issues that will, in effect, help people lead better, happier lives.

The more traditional realm of agricultural economics includes areas such agricultural production and farm and agribusiness management, and the work typically leads to insights for firms about how best to market their products, design their supply chains, and manage risk. The resulting gains in efficiency make for, potentially, a better world for everybody through lower prices for consumers and more effective use of resources in production. 

Finally, for government policy makers the works of agricultural economists helps shape and adjust the policies that protect environmental resources, guide public investments, and ensure that markets operate fairly and efficiently. For example, one issue on which there is broad agreement in the profession is that returns to public investments in agricultural research have been very favorable – some studies report returns of up to $30 per dollar invested. Findings such as these suggest that reductions in public R&D investments in food and agriculture at a time when the planet is facing higher food demand and increasing threats to the sustainability of our soil, water and other natural resources would be unwise.


Dear College student: Prepare for the journey of growth

Sep 5
Debra Korte, Teaching Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education

Celebrate! You’ve survived the first week of the 2017-18 academic year. You settled into a new place to live, you found all your classes, and you are beginning to understand the ebb and flow of campus.

In addition to attending class, fulfilling obligations with RSOs, and enjoying time with your new friends, be aware that part of the college experience also includes a journey of growth.

You are not alone in your journey. Pay attention to the people and experiences around you. Some people will help you battle through the growth experience, while others may limit your growth potential. Step away from the experiences and people who limit your potential; hold tight to those who inspire your growth.

When you face dilemmas, acknowledge the challenge as a space for growth. In that growth space, you will find strength. Sometimes that strength is accessed from deep within your soul – a place you have neglected or forgotten. At other times, the strength may come from friends or family who are willing to provide support when you need it most. And sometimes, you might find strength from people and experiences you never expected to cross your path. Whatever the source, you will find the strength to work through any challenge you encounter in the journey of growth.

Growth can be uncomfortable because it involves struggling and stretching, releasing and removing. Rest assured, growth will happen – probably when you least expect it. Pay attention to the experiences and people who help you grow. Give yourself permission to grow. Embrace that uncomfortable growth space between the person you are now and the person you have the potential to become
Signing day
Kaity Spangler, freshman year and senior year.

The beloved voice of agriculture

Sep 1
Kendra Courson, Director for Special Events

During my almost seven years in the College of ACES, I have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know many wonderful people. However, as I was sitting in the audience in the college's tent at the Farm Progress Show this week, I realized the person who has been the kindest, most genuine and also most generous of that group is Orion Samuelson.

Orion is known as the beloved voice of agriculture. Many generations of families have tuned in to listen to his WGN broadcasts over the past five decades. He is well known and well loved by so many and for good reason. Orion does not just broadcast the market reports or keep everyone in the know in regards to agrinews, but he is someone everyone relates to and feels they know even if they have never met him. Orion is somehow as popular now as he was back when his career took off. That, in and of itself, is pretty amazing.

I have had the privilege of getting to know Orion over the years and fairly well the past two years as I had the pleasure of being his "event chauffeur" after a couple of major surgeries. As the college event planner, I know how much Orion graciously gives of his time and energy at so many ACES special occasions. Not once has Orion asked for more than a bottle of water let alone a dime for a night emceeing our annual Salute to Ag Day or hosting his daily stage show at every Farm Progress Show. He loves the College of ACES and is very proud of the honorary degree he received from the University of Illinois several years ago.  

This past week, I sat in an audience with many others watching Orion tape This Week In Agribusiness with Max Armstrong and Greg Soulje. As I watched Orion provide his "Samuelson Sez" update, I suddenly became overwhelmed with gratitude: both gratitude for getting to know a man with a career so many admire and even more importantly, knowing a person with such an incredible self-sacrificing heart. I will always be thankful for being able to get to know someone who truly is an icon in his own right, but also to get to know a man who knows what selflessness truly means. To be able to call this man my friend....well, it makes me feel even more blessed.

Greg, Max, and Orion at Farm Progress Show 2017

Kendra and Orion

What College Has Actually Taught Me

Aug 31
Nicole Chance, Sophomore in Agricultural Communications

It’s the day of the final presentation for my summer internship with Land O’ Lakes Inc. The one day of the summer I get to show off everything I’ve learned and contributed to the company. To be honest, I was so nervous that day I was just patiently waiting to get it done and over with. As I stepped to the podium, I took a deep breath and began to tell everyone about some of the awesome things I was able to accomplish this summer!

It wasn’t always easy though. An agricultural communications major tackling a traditional marketing internship was a little intimidating at first. But, as the summer continued to progress, I slowly but surely learned and accomplished so many things I didn’t think I could at the start. Now I know how to do a VLOOKUP in Excel (aka best thing ever), how data tells a story and how to relate to and work with others in a corporate environment.

Yet, those weren’t the most important things I learned. My biggest takeaway from this experience was how important it is to do something outside of your comfort zone, and I’m grateful that college has taught me that in multiple ways: by being a member of the livestock judging team, various courses I’ve taken and simply expanding my horizons and meeting new people!

Jobs and careers may come and go but what never disappears in our lives are challenges and adversity. How will we ever be able to solve those and know what we are really capable of if we don’t step out of our comfort zone and try? College has taught me If you aren’t very skilled or good at something, it never hurts to try. Overcoming adversity is striving to learn, which directly correlates with doing something that you may not necessarily be the most comfortable with at first.

So as I finished my final presentation and opened it up for questions in the audience, one of the evaluator’s piped up and asked me, “Do you think the curriculum taught at the University of Illinois has prepared you for this internship?”

My response was this:

“The curriculum may not have taught me everything I needed to know for this internship, but what’s more valuable is that it’s taught me how to step out of my comfort zone and overcome adversity, and that itself is irreplaceable.” 

ACES classmate, Kailey Garren and I during our summer internship with Land O' Lakes!

Knowing Três Muchachas Ranch

Aug 29
Lucas Neira, Intern at Dixon Springs Agricultural Center

Over the last two weeks, I had the chance to travel a little bit around the Brazilian state called Mato Grosso do Sul. On this trip, I got to visit a ranch that is doing some very different work and breaking some taboos around there.

I always try to take the greatest things I learned while in the US and apply them to the opportunities and potential for improvement in different countries.

In Brazil, I was surprised by the amazing way that Três Muchachas Ranch has been producing high-quality beef. Gabriel Junqueira, the ranch's manager, applies his experiences working in Australia to Três Muchachas. He often travels to the U.S. to learn more about what's working there to take home to his ranch.

Junqueira says that a right genetics paired with a particular management is the key to his model. Some of those strategies include choosing special semen, feeding high levels of grains, and selling to specific markets.

Três Muchachas Ranch has pushed their production to more than double in just two years, without having to open new lands. This success is something that deserves to be shared.

As we search for sustainable ways to feed more people using less resources, I feel encouraged by stories like those of Três Muchachas Ranch.


Make today great

Aug 21
Courtney Walker, ACES Communications Graduate Intern

Last week, I began a shiny new adventure: I took my first step into a high school agriculture classroom to begin my student teaching experience.

Like the high schoolers anxious to return for the start of a new school year, I spent the night before scratching my head over what to wear, planning my supplies, and trying to think of the perfect first-day-of-school Facebook post. And I get to do it all over again as I prepare for the first day of classes at the U of I next week!

No matter how old I get, the back to school buzz is all so exciting!

Perhaps the most exciting part of a new school year is the potential and the opportunity that comes along with it. This year, I get the chance to dip my toes into my future teaching career. I'll spend the next two semesters alongside an excellent, well-respected teacher. I am going to experience firsthand what it's like to be an FFA Advisor.

But, as a great ‘90s crooner once said, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

As I begin my student teaching experience, I also enter into my final semester of classes at the U of I. It’ll be a heavy course load this fall, but I am so looking forward to it. I’m feeling a little envious of the undergraduate students; I’m realizing that my three semesters of classes here for grad school were simply not enough. It’s a beautiful place to be, and my classes have been challenging, inspiring, and even growth-drivingly frustrating.

Whether August 28th is the first day of your freshman year or your last first day on the long road towards that diploma, take this new school year as a chance to grow. Whether you've got the hang of this campus thing by now, or you're nervously uneasy about the daily routine, one thing I know for certain:

This year will only be as a GREAT as you choose to make it!


Garden love

Aug 1
Lauren Quinn, ACES Media Specialist

I am in love with my garden right now.

Seriously. I stand on my porch and just gaze at it for minutes at a time, feeling downright giddy. When it’s too hot to go outside, or my young kids need supervision indoors, I stare at it though the picture window in my living room. I haven’t felt this way about a garden, or, well, anything in a while. Yes, my heart swells when I peek in on my sleeping 13-month-old or when I watch my husband and 5-year-old daughter reading together, but that’s a more complex, layered love. With my garden, it’s simple. I made something* and it’s beautiful. That’s it.

Fortunately, I got a dose of gardens at work this week. When I started working in the Communications and Marketing unit for ACES, I inherited the job of editing the “garden packet,” a collection of stories for gardeners written by Extension horticulture educators four times a year. Even though it’s only the beginning of August, I just sent out the fall packet this week to give newspapers time to work the stories into their production schedules for next month.

Every time I read through the stories, I learn something new. I still remember one from my first garden packet, which recommended designing your garden to draw the eye toward the front door of your home. Clever. I think the massive tangle of black-eyed Susans next to my front door does that pretty well. In the latest packet, I learned that those little flies disguised as bees that are all over my flowers are “hover flies,” and they’re gobbling up bad guys on my plants.

I love that gardens are part of what I write about at work every day, but it can’t beat the feeling I get when I pull into my driveway at the end of the day and I get to stare at my garden again.

It is 5 o’clock yet?

* I’ll admit the plants probably did a little of the work themselves…


colorful garden

Reflections from Dixon Springs Agricultural Center

Jul 24
Lucas Neira, Intern at Dixon Springs Agricultural Center

After four months at Dixon Springs Agricultural Center (DSAC), it is time to say "See you later." Now that I’m at the end of this experience, I can truly understand the important skills it brought to me.

I had the greatest experiences keeping up with several fields, helping conduct reproduction research, selecting heifers for replacement, making nutritional evaluations, and developing my management skills.

I am always trying to figure out what makes the United States such a leader in agricultural production. A year and a half of living here in the United States has brought me to the conclusion that it’s the hard work and the passion to produce the best steak that pushes the United States to the top.

At DSAC, I had the opportunity to work and learn with great partners. They cared enough to spend the extra time to teach me – sometimes a single explanation that seems so simple for most can be quite a challenge in a foreign exchange.

Also, I would like to say thanks so much to Dr. Dan Shike and Frank Ireland. I am thankful for the opportunity to spend this great time with you guys. The University of Illinois has provided me with some awesome moments, and I will never forget this experience.

I hope someday to be able to repay all these great lessons and provide someone else the same opportunities.

man in front of cows

ACES welcomes new friends from Lebanon and China

Jul 21
Leslie Sweet Myrick, Office of International Programs Media Communications Specialist

Summer may be a “downtime” for many offices and units on campus, but not for the
ACES Office of International Programs (OIP). We are currently hosting two groups of scholars and students!

For the third year, OIP is hosting Fulbright scholars from Lebanon as part of the Junior Faculty Development Program: Economic and Rural Development. These seven scholars are here for 10 weeks during which they will learn new teaching and research methods (in conjunction with the UI campus’s Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning). They are also paired with host professors to design a research project.

Last year I wrote about the genuine connections I witnessed from the Fulbright Program. Already at this year’s orientation lunch, I made a new friend in this group, and I look forward to being a small part of her experience here.

At the same time, OIP is hosting a group of Chinese upperclassmen from Zhejiang University as part of the International Summer Immersion Program (ISIP). This summer program, which pairs each of the 20 students with an ACES faculty member to complete a research project, is in its seventh year.

For both groups, OIP coordinates a series of field trips and cultural events for a better understanding of American culture. As in past years, we hope to create new “ambassadors for Illinois,” and contribute to “mutual understanding” but as usual I expect we will gain just as much not only by building professional links with these scholars and their institutions but by making new friends.

Students from China on campus

ACES all around us

Jul 19
Brianna Gregg, ACES Coordinator of Transfer Recruitment

Foellinger Auditorium is getting a summer cleaning, which really highlights the beautiful architectural details. Foellinger is something that is used by many of our colleges and students for the larger classes, but what many don't realize is that ACES is very present in the auditorium - the part that sets this building apart from its neighbors, the roof!

If you look, on the very top you'll notice a large, prominent pineapple to represent all being welcome and a give a feeling of hospitality. ACES literally teaches hospitality in our Food Science and Human Nutrition major (a major that is practical and enjoyable for many!) so really, ACES is everywhere - it's amazing.

So next time you are walking down the quad, look up and take in your surroundings, ACES is all around you. 

ACES is on a few of the other buildings too, but I'll let you discover those for yourself!

Foellinger Auditorium