(Posted Tue. May 22nd, 2012)
May 22: In this article, the National Corn Growers Association continues the second season of Field Notes, a series that takes readers behind the farm gate to follow the year in the life of American farm families. While these growers come from diverse geographic areas and run unique operations, they share a common love for U.S. agriculture and the basic values that underpin life in farming communities.
Today, Field Notes meets with Donna Jeschke, a grain farmer whose corn and soybean farm is typical of those in her area of Northern Illinois. Yet, while Jeschke’s farm may be quite like those around it, her intense involvement in the state and national issues affecting agriculture makes her, personally, quite an extraordinary farmer.
Like many farms across the country, farming is a family affair for Jeschke.
“I farm together with my husband, and my brother and sister-in-law,” Jeschke explained. “Their son, my nephew, is starting to get more involved in the farm. Our son is as well. While both boys do have full-time off farm jobs too, I really think that our nephew will be the one who takes it over some day.”
He will take over a farm that, as Jeschke explains, is well suited for growing grains and well situated for meeting a growing demand for them that comes from markets overseas.
“We are lucky in that we do not have to irrigate either our corn or our soybeans and in that we have great markets close to our farm,” she said. “We are only 15 miles away from the Illinois river so we have outlets for our crops on barges going out the Illinois River. From there, they travel down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico through the ports at New Orleans. We are also close to the Chicago intermodal facility at Ellwood, Ill. where they load containers of corn and soybeans and place them on trains headed for the port at Long Beach, Calif. where they will then be placed on ships headed for Asian markets. A few grain elevators within miles of us even load containers on site. Once they shut the container door here, it might not reopen until it arrives in Japan, Taiwan or China.”
Incredibly aware of the importance of both cultivating understanding of agriculture at home and markets for our crops abroad, Jeschke serves at the state and national levels through the Illinois Corn Growers Association and on NCGA’s Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team. Through this work, Jeschke has made contacts who now utilize her willingness to share her love of farming to teach American children, farmers from other nations and international customers about what she grows and how she does it.
During the discussion, Jeschke gives details of a recent dairy farm tour in which she participated through Ag in the Classroom and of her experience at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where she met with a group of French farmers interested in biotechnology.
To listen to the audio interview, click here.
Stay tuned over the coming weeks as Field Notes follows the growers who have opened their farms, families and communities up this year and meet the true faces of modern American agriculture.