#GrowYourFood, and then #ThankaFarmer

Do you #growyourfood? It seems to be one of the hashtags of the summer on Instagram, in my feed at least. And I think this is a very good thing for a number of reasons. For one thing, I have never bought a grocery store tomato that tastes as good as my uncle’s homegrown tomatoes. His kohlrabi tastes even better than the kohlrabi I recently bought at a farmer’s market. And the satisfaction of growing your own food is also worth mentioning!

How about my own gardening? Well, let’s just say growing my own food makes me appreciate farmers. Last year, my tomato crop was decimated by tomato-loving squirrels. This year, it looks like I have a bumper crop of tomatoes, and they are still ripening on the vine. Hopefully those pesky squirrels won’t bother them this time.

Gardening can be time consuming, too. I just went outside to capture a photo of my ripening tomatoes, and all of a sudden an hour had passed with weeding, pruning, and watering. Can you imagine tending acres and acres of garden? Even with modern agricultural technology, it’s still a full-time job! Farmers need to be constantly vigilant, on the watch for insects, weeds, and disease. Not only that, but the weather is unpredictable. Many farms in Illinois had a very soggy summer from all the rain we had in June.

harvest screenshot
In this photo, we are looking at the health of a corn stalk.

Tending your own garden can help you realize what hard work producing food really is! While I love growing my own tomatoes and peppers, I know I would never be able to produce enough food for my family to eat. I don’t have much land available or the expertise. Did you know that most farmers major in agriculture in college? All of the information I’ve learned in the past two years as a Field Mom is just the tip of the iceberg! As a teacher, I need to go to classes and workshops for professional development; did you know that farmers are required to receive training on pesticide application? They must renew their certification every three years! Home gardeners like myself don’t need any training to go buy pesticides at Home Depot! (I choose not to use pesticides, however, since my vegetable garden is very close to my pollinator garden. I don’t want to accidentally kill any beneficial insects!)

green pepper
My one and only bell pepper

This year, I accidentally planted my tomatoes on the west side of my raised garden bed. While my tomatoes are growing quite well, the huge plants have been shading my poor pepper plants. I only have one bell pepper, and so far have only grown three jalapeno peppers, when normally I have too many to eat! I need to make a better plan for next summer’s garden. Farmers also spend the winter planning and preparing for the next growing season, and as you can imagine, their planning is much more intense than mine. On our farm tours, some of the farm wives told us how much their farmer husbands love poring over seed catalogs!

Fortunately, my basil plant has been flourishing. Don’t give me credit; basil is very easy to grow!

basil plant

With my tomatoes and basil, I can make this very easy and delicious Caprese Salad. Simply layer tomato slices with fresh mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette dressing. It tastes as good as it looks!

Caprese Salad

Even though I love eating what I grow, I know I would get sick of tomatoes before long. I’m so thankful for all the farmers that provide fresh produce for us to eat!

Do you grow your own food? What plants have you had the most success (or least success) in growing? Visit watchusgrow.org for more information on farming!

Field Mom Ambassadorsignature



How Being a Field Mom Made Me a Better Preschool Teacher

When I applied for the Illinois Farm Families Field Mom program back in 2013, I hoped that my experience would enhance my teaching as a preschool teacher. I learned even more than I thought I would! Did my experience help me as a preschool teacher?

Click here to read on and find out!

Riding a combine
Learning about the GPS system in a combine

For more information about farming and some great recipes, visit Illinois Farm Families on Pinterest!
Field Mom Ambassadorsignature



A Day at the Farm

It was a clear, beautiful May day at the Jeschke farm in Mazon, Illinois. While I could have spent hours rambling along the country roads and fields, I was there for a reason; to learn about farming. I was among a group of urban and suburban moms, farmers and agricultural experts who got together to discuss farming and farming methods.

The learning process started as soon as we boarded the bus early in the morning. A group of women from the farm answered questions as we drove from city to suburb to country. (For more details about what I learned, keep your eyes open for my blog post at Watch Us Grow.) As soon as we got off the bus, we were able to see a planter ready to go into the field. I was able to climb up into the tractor and talk with the Jeschke’s nephew about the GPS system that guides the planter, and the technology he uses to map the field. High yield areas are planted with more seed, and low yield areas are planted with fewer seeds to give the corn plants and root systems plenty of room to grow and be productive. All the technology he uses is amazing!

If you look through the window, you can see how high up we are!

As soon as I climbed down, he was off to go planting. The fields were planted later than usual this year because of flooding conditions in April. You may remember me writing about how those floods affected me. By the end of April in 2012, all the corn and soybeans had already been planted. This year, it was the middle of May and there were still some fields that needed to be planted. Here’s a quick video of the corn planter folding up and going up the road, headed for the fields. (This video is 4 times the actual speed.)

Watch on YouTube.

After the planter left, we walked down the road to see the Field Moms’ corn and soybean acres. We’re going to watch the crops grow online throughout the summer and into harvest.

Throughout the day we talked about how farmers grow crops, feed livestock, and provide food for a growing population. This Memorial Day weekend, as you grill delicious meats and enjoy potato salad and corn on the cob, remember that your meal is so delicious because a farmer helped put it on your plate!

Field Mom Corn Acre
Field Moms’ Corn Acre


Field Moms

Tell me; what are you eating this weekend?


New Girl on the Farm

Even after living over half of my life in the Chicago suburbs, I consider myself a small town girl. Until I was 12, I lived in Central Illinois in a town which no one has ever heard of before. Sometimes when I describe what the town looks like from I-57, that you can see a tall church steeple as you drive by, people will say, “Oh, I think I’ve seen the exit sign!” Unless you live in Buckley, there’s no reason to get off the highway.

As a child, I ate a lot of fresh food in the summertime. I picked green beans and ate them right off of the bean stalk. We always had a lot of tomatoes and cucumbers that Mom would slice and serve for lunch. We would also have freshly picked sweet corn, and I would get sick of eating corn on the cob for supper. In the winter, we would eat the frozen and canned food Mom had prepared during the summer months. At the time, I didn’t appreciate all the fresh food we were able to eat.

As a suburban mom who tries to prepare healthy meals for my family, I now realize how lucky I was to have all that local produce as a child. I used to live in the middle of corn fields, now I’m surrounded by subdivisions and strip malls. My farm experience is limited to hayrides at pumpkin farms. When my friend from MOPS asked me if I wanted to be a Field Mom, I jumped at the chance to be able to visit a real farm. I applied to be a Field Mom through Illinois Farm Families, and am thrilled to have been accepted into the program!

 As a Field Mom, I’ll be able to visit family farms to see how they grow the food that we eat. I’m a late-comer to the program, so I missed the first visit to a hog farm. Fortunately, the other Field Moms have written about their visit. I haven’t even gone to the farm yet and I’ve already learned so much from these moms!

My daughters and I on a hayride last Fall

Throughout the year, we are going to watch an acre of  soybeans and an acre of corn grow. Planting season is coming soon! Not only that, but as field moms we will also watch baby pigs grow up. We had a conference call online this week to meet our little pigs, and the Mayor of Crazyville wrote a nice summary about the Field Moms’ pig pen.

Just a note: I’m participating as a Field Mom under my real name, not as Ginny Marie. 😉 Watch for more updates soon! If you are also an Illinois Field Mom, please leave a comment with your blog link so that I can make a return visit. I’m looking forward to our May farm visit!


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