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CCFB News» November 2022

Family Farm and Food Bytes

11/14/2022 @ 2:00 pm

COUNTRY MUSIC STAR TEAMED UP WITH NPB TO SUPPORT PIG FARMERS. The National Pork Board (NPB) teamed up with country music star and five-time Entertainer of the Year Luke Bryan as part of an ongoing effort to dispel common misconceptions about modern pig farming.


Bryan kicked off his Farm Tour in September in which he hosted concerts on farms around the central U.S. Drawing on his childhood upbringing on a Georgia farm, Bryan understands and appreciates the daily hard work of more than 60,000 pig farmers across the U.S.


Luke Bryan launched his 13th Farm Tour this month. A truckload of pork will be donated to local food banks at each stop. He’s also part of a National Pork Board (NPB) campaign to help dispel myths about modern pig farming. (Photo courtesy of NPB)


As part of the tour, NPB partnered with Farmland, a brand of Smithfield Foods, to donate a truckload of pork to local foodbanks in each of the states hosting the six tour stops. The donations provide high-quality protein, which is one of the most valuable resources food banks distribute, to help fight food insecurity across the Midwest.


Learn more about pig farming, NPB and watch the focus group video online at


OAK PARK ILLINOISAN SEMI-FINALIST IN AFBF AG INNOVATION CHALLENGE. An Illinois firm was named one of 10 semi-finalists in the 2023 Ag Innovation Challenge by the American Farm Bureau Federation and Farm Credit. Based in Oak Park, TrackerSled began as a response to a challenge posed by an international energy company struggling to gain public acceptance of its utility-scale solar farms in the Midwest. Lawrence Kearns, the team lead, began to develop a turnkey solution for farmers so they could own the energy-producing assets and increase their profitability. Visit


As a semi-finalist, TrackerSled will be awarded $10,000.


The competition provides an opportunity for individuals to showcase ideas and business innovations in agriculture.

10 semi-finalists from across the country will compete at the AFBF Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jan. 6, to advance to the final round where four finalists will receive an additional $5,000. The final competition will be live Jan. 8 before Farm Bureau members, investors and industry. They will compete to win three top prizes and titles:


• $50,000 as Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge Winner,

• $20,000 as Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge Runner-up, and

• $5,000 as People’s Choice Team selected by public vote of the 10 semi-finalists.

For more about the Ag Innovation Challenge, visit


FARMERS NEED TO REMEMBER DRONE LICENSE REQUIREMENTS. As agricultural technology continues to advance, drones have become ubiquitous with new uses for farmers and others in the industry. FarmWeek reached out to Garrett Thalgott, Illinois Farm Bureau assistant general counsel, for answers to questions about drone license requirements for farmers with drones.


FW: Who has to get a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) license to operate a drone?


Thalgott: Anyone who operates a drone should be licensed unless flown exclusively under the “Exception for Recreational Flyers.” Recreational flying is defined narrowly. It must truly be recreational, in other words, for fun or personal enjoyment. Flying to scout crops would not be recreational nor would flying to apply chemicals.


FW: What about farmers who are using the drones to spray pesticides only for their personal use?

Garrett Thalgott


Thalgott: Spraying crops would not be a hobby or something done for fun or personal enjoyment. Therefore, the operator would need to obtain a license. Furthermore, applying chemicals with a drone requires exceptions from various FAA regulations that apply to aerial pesticide application. Each operator must submit his/her own application to the FAA. Some aerial application drone manufacturers offer assistance with the exception application process.


FW: Any other points farmer drone operators should know?


Thalgott: Remember that not only do drone operators need a license — unless strictly for hobby use — but the individual drones themselves must be registered with the FAA unless:

• Drone weight is less than 0.55 pounds and

• Drone is flown under the exception for recreational flyers.


TEACHING ‘A DIFFERENT WAY OF LOOKING AT THE WORLD’ Surrounded by specimens of a nature scavenger hunt, Wilson, director of USDA’s future scientists program, encouraged Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom (IAITC) coordinators to do the same. “Science is a different way of looking at the world and asking questions,” Wilson said, during a coordinator meeting Sept. 20 in Bloomington.


Based at Texas A & M, College Station, Texas, Wilson works with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to connect teachers and students with 85 ARS labs nationwide. “I’m trying to give them (educators) simple, cheap, but interactive ideas that they can have their kids up and doing stuff, learning about science, not just reading about it,” he said.


Wilson’s ethanol lesson involved tossing a lighted match into a sealed, sun- warmed, empty water bottle that held a teaspoon of evaporated ethanol. “It exploded. That’s how it (ethanol) drives your car,” Wilson said. “It’s corn seen in a different light.”


Craig Wilson, director of USDA’s future scientists program, lights evaporated ethanol in an empty water bottle as county ag literacy coordinators watch. Wilson demonstrated hands-on lessons to help students learn about science during a workshop Sept. 20.Ear-popping explosions. Munching dried crickets. Examining a candle flame. Craig Wilson teaches science that captures students’ attention and prompts them to ask questions.


Holding two stalks of corn, Wilson delved into pollination, which led to teams of coordinators first estimating, then counting the husks, kernels and silks on an ear of sweet corn.


Stalks of field corn transform into teaching tools in the hands of Craig Wilson, director of USDA’s future scientists program. During a workshop, Wilson offered Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom county coordinators lessons they could replicate using corn and other natural materials.


Food production and climate are other priority subjects in Wilson’s view.


 IAITC NOW EASIER TO FIND AT YOUR FINGERTIPS. Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom (IAITC) presents a new, streamlined resource online at IAITC designed and developed the revamped website that launched last week.


A searchable lesson icon is the central focus on the website homepage. Clicking on the icon immediately opens a page with categories of lessons, such as apples, beef, corn, dairy and general farming. Within each lesson category, subject lessons are grouped by grade level.


In addition to lessons, educators will find related Ag-Ventures, which are activity sheets, and Ag Mags, agricultural education magazines, about that subject matter.


Links are provided to digital Ag Mags or information is provided about contacting county literacy coordinators for free, printed Ag Mags.


Videos are another website feature listed under the Teacher Resources icon. During the pandemic, IAITC made and compiled many educational ag videos, including virtual field trips, author interviews and egg incubation lessons.


The website also will connect teachers to the new Illinois Ag History website and provide access to the National Agriculture in the Classroom matrix that contains more than 500 lessons.


About Family Farm and Food Bytes: This is a collection of articles gathered from Illinois Farm Bureau FarmWeek, FarmWeekNow and other media sources and is designed to keep you informed as a member and leader within the Cook County Farm Bureau® organization. We thank the FarmWeek staff for their reporting skills and talents. The articles summarized above are not intended to represent Cook County Farm Bureau policy or positions, but rather to provide members an idea of what is being reported regionally, nationally, and globally.


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