Articles

    How we must get farming right to avert future crises

    John Piotti
    President
    American Farmland Trust

    Agriculture is like a double edged sword: on the one side it has been a lifeline for millions because of the ability of farmers to produce an abundance of food for the world; on the other side, the unsustainable practices that are often employed to grow our food harm the environment. But, The Chicago Farmers learned during the May 11, 2020, virtual meeting through a presentation by John Piotti, president and CEO of American Farmland Trust (AFT), that all is not lost, that enough farmland farmed with the right practices can lead to true sustainability and a healthy planet. AFT is a Gold Level Sponsor of The Chicago Farmers

    “There are things that we need to change in farming. The world needs farms: ‘no farms, no food,’” said Piotti to Chicago Farmers members attending the May Zoom meeting. “AFT has worked for 40 years to bring agriculture and the environment together and it has been involved in some of the most critical issues affecting the planet, including climate change.”

    Piotti gave a brief history of U.S. farming since 1837, when John Deere invented the modern moldboard plow. “It changed everything,” said Piotti. “The prairie land was too tough and too thick to properly farm, but that changed with the Deere plow. But once we had this amazing technology, we plowed and plowed--and that over-plowing contributed to the 1930s dust bowl.”

    He went on to say that during the 1930s, Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace advanced soil conservation as government policy; but then during the war years, the country’s focus was elsewhere. During the 1950s and 1960s, American farmers applied industrial models to agriculture and the “Global Green Revolution” was underway.

    “That Green Revolution kept millions from starving, but that accomplishment came with severe environmental consequences,” said Piotti. He then added that environmentalists became more active during the 1960s and 1970s in an effort to turn things around but they were often at odds with farmers.

    According to Piotti, AFT was founded in 1980 to bridge the divide between farmers and environmentalists. Piotti then pointed out how different things were in 1980 than today--how less than 10,000 acres of farmland has been protected, there was no recognition of agricultural easements in federal law, no federal funds for farmland protection, and minimal support for better farming practices.

    But AFT changed all that, Piotti pointed out, when it launched the “Conservation Agriculture Movement” by advancing the Farmland Protection Policy in 1981 and incorporating the Conservation Title into the 1985 Farm Bill. In years since, over 6.5 million acres of farmland have been permanently protected and better farming practices have been adopted on millions of additional acres.

    Yet sadly, agriculture is a major cause of the climate crisis now confronting the world, Piotti said, adding that 10 percent of our nation’s overall carbon emissions are from agriculture. But agriculture has the chance to reduce atmospheric carbon and put it back into the soil, Piotti noted.

    AFT is the only national agriculture group that takes a truly holistic approach, focusing on the land itself, the farming practices employed on the land, and the farmers and ranchers who steward that land. Piotti said that AFT encourages regenerative agriculture, which uses better farming practices that restore soil health. These practices:

    • reduce harmful run-off into streams
    • hold water during droughts
    • don’t require farmers to use as many inputs
    • capture atmospheric carbon in the soil (countering greenhouse gas emissions)


    And the best practices for increasing carbon in the soil?

    • cover crops
    • crop rotation
    • no till or low till
    • intensive rotational grazing
    • silvo-pasture (which allow livestock to graze in wooded settings)


    Piotti commented that farming is essential to both growing our food and providing essential environment services, including carbon capture. He shared that AFT’s research has shown that just by applying cover crops and reducing tillage, U.S. agriculture could sequester carbon equivalent to over 80 percent of its emissions--and that Ag could go further with more aggressive steps. “We could become a carbon sink, that is what agriculture needs to do to counter industry that will always emit carbon,” said Piotti.

    A major concern is that we are losing 2,000 acres of farmland every day--and we lose opportunity to combat climate change with every acre we lose. He said that one key question is whether we have enough farmland. “It is necessary to determine how much land we need not only to feed ourselves, but to provide essential environmental services including sequestering carbon,” Piotti said. “We don’t yet have that answer, but when the research is complete, I am convinced that it will show that long before we run out of the land that we need to feed us, we will run out of the land that we need to help heal the planet.”

    The aging farmer population is another concern, said Piotti; however, AFT is actively involved in helping people who want to farm. The organization helps would-be farmers find farmland and advises them on how to farm successfully.

    Piotti said that AFT recently created a Farmer Relief Fund to aid farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. AFT has now raised $1 million, which allowed it to allocate $1,000 checks to 1,000 farmers. “We had 5,200 applicants and with current funds can only support one out of five applicants. So we hope you will consider a gift to the Farmer Relief Fund,” said Piotti.

    Piotti said that in order to combat change, widespread adoption of regenerative practices is necessary as well as sufficient farmland and enough of the right farmers and ranchers. That’s a tall order.

    But there is reason for hope, he said. “We have the tools needed to protect the land and manage that land well, and we know how to support the next generation,” Piotti said. “We simply need to do this work at greater scale.”

    He also pointed out:

    • we are poised for changes in both policy and markets to compensate farmers for both growing food and providing environmental services
    • we are positioned to take on new research that will help assess exactly how much farmland we need—and in so doing, avoid a tipping point


    Piotti went on to say, “Perhaps the biggest reason for hope is that more and more people appreciate farming, farmers and the food they grow. This increased awareness of farming and environmental challenges is making a difference. Driven by public demand, federal policy is poised for major change with regenerative practices as the focus.”

    Piotti urged people to connect with AFT, visit its website (www.americanfarmlandtrust.org) and become a member. Piotti said, “We need more people engaged.”

    He added, “AFT is in the crises prevention business. As horrible as this pandemic is, it is a small problem compared to what will happen if we have a serious shortage of food or a planet that is environmentally unsound. Yet we can remove these threats if we act now to rebuild agriculture.  And we can do that with your help.”

    Written by Denise Faris, Chicago Farmers Editor

    CME’s chief economist discusses the current economic environment at TCF meeting

    Dr. Blu Putnam, chief economist and managing director of the CME Group, the world’s largest operator of futures and options exchanges, was the guest speaker at The Chicago Farmers’ March 9, 2020, meeting. He provided his perspectives on the “Current Economic Environment with Insights from the CME Market Sentiment Meter.”

    The presentation opened with a discussion around the timing of when different markets reacted to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  Dr. Putnam noted that oil markets were quick to react with price declines, since the virus was first discovered in China, because China is a huge importer of oil.  By contrast, downward pressure on U.S. and European equity indices were several weeks behind.  This appeared to reflect that global equities waited until the narrative changed from a China-only story to a global narrative with news about tracking the spread of the virus around the world.

    The reaction of equities to policy responses also was intriguing.  Dr. Putnam noted that when the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) announced an emergency cut in rates on March 3, 2020, equities reacted with further declines.  While the Fed was acting in an accommodative manner, which under other circumstances might have been reflected in an equity rally, market participants chose to focus on the forward-guidance, namely that the Fed was extremely worried about how the economy would handle the spread of COVID-19.

    Dr. Putnam shared some new research from CME Group on ways to quantitatively track changes in market sentiment.  In an example from the past year, Dr. Putnam shared that the Market Sentiment Meter showed that back in May 2019, equities were in a highly conflicted sentiment state.  At the time, market participants were weighing the pros and cons of the U.S. tariff tensions with China, with some market participants seeing optimism while others were very worried about a global slowdown in trade and growth.  By December 2019, equity markets had become comfortable that a reasonable resolution of the tariff tensions was at hand with a Phase One U.S.-China trade deal, and the sentiment risk distribution returned to a typical balanced-risk shape.

    In closing, Dr. Putnam focused on agriculture and talked about how market sentiment had evolved during the planting season in 2019.  Early in the season, sentiment and risks seemed relatively balanced.  By May 2019, however, sentiment and risks had shifted into a much more anxious state, due to a cold spring and the considerable flooding that was delaying plantings.  Dr. Putnam noted that as of March 2020, the corn market had returned to an anxious sentiment state.  Corn market participants had a lot about which to be concerned with oil prices dropping and impacting ethanol, with the virus lockdowns closing restaurants and impacting beef (steak) sales, and with jobs being lost in many sectors of the economy shrinking incomes and demand.

    Delaware Statutory Trusts and 1031 Exchanges; an introduction for owners of farmland

    Daniel Wagner
    SVP Government Relations
    The Inland Real Estate Group, LLC
    Nate Kuhn
    President
    Chicagoland 1031 Exchange


    Dan Wagner, senior vice president, government relations, of the Inland Real Estate Group, LLC, was among the speakers at The Chicago Farmers inaugural webinar that was held on April 20th in lieu of a regular meeting due to the restrictions on large gatherings. He was joined by Nate Kuhn, financial adviser with Chicagoland 1031 Exchange. Inland is a Platinum Sponsor of The Chicago Farmers.

    Dan gave an overview of Inland, which was founded 52 years ago by four Chicago public school teachers who became involved in real estate ventures and formed Inland. Over the years, Inland has purchased $47 billion in commercial real estate. With its experience in real estate, Inland developed the Delaware Statutory Trust (DST) structure that is used in Section 1031 exchanges. Inland Private Capital Corporation’s counsel worked with the Internal Revenue Service to educate them on the DST structure and Revenue Ruling 2004-86 was issued as a result of the collaboration. Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code can provide a strategy for deferring capital gains tax that may arise from the sale of a business or investment real property.

    Nate said that Inland is one of the sponsors of DSTs that his firm works with. Chicagoland 1031 Exchange is independent from Inland. He said that DSTs could be a consideration at retirement or at other points in people’s lives when they may be thinking about changing their investments into something that is passive.

    A Section 1031 exchange allows people to sell property and defer the ensuing taxes by purchasing another property with the proceeds of the sale, said Nate. Additionally, the DST structure allows the investor to continue to exchange real properties until the investor’s death. Upon the death of the investor, the heirs may receive a step-up in basis to avoid completely the deferred capital gains tax.

    “With the DST, an investor has the ability to be a fractional owner of property that he would not be able to afford on his own, for instance a $100 million apartment complex,” said Nate. “The DST allows the investor to get the advantage of a potential cash flow-generally around 4.5 percent to 6.5 percent without the responsibilities that come with the ownership of property,” said Nate. Because this is a real estate investment, the investor could also realize appreciation when the DST is sold. At the same time, the DST owner also participates in the downside if a property sells for less than its original purchase price; additionally, cash flows can fluctuate and are not guaranteed.

    The fractional ownership also allows for diversification across different asset styles and geographically, added Nate. A person could go into three or four DSTs that are involved in asset classes other than multi-family dwellings, such as self-storage facilities or medical care. Dan added that the DST owner also is not responsible for loans on the properties.

    Nate also pointed out that the like-kind involved in the exchanges does not mean that an investor has to buy the same kind of property he or she sold; it just has to be an investment property.

    The men noted the minimum investment in a DST is $100,000, but if an investor has less than that to invest, there is some leniency. But the exchanges do tend to be large, in excess of $1 million, Nate said.

    Nate pointed out that with a DST, the investor gives up control to the sponsor of the DST. Additionally, DSTs are not liquid investments, but the investor should receive cash flow and potentially appreciation throughout its duration. The DST could sell within three to five years, but it is usually seven years. To invest in a DST a person must qualify as an accredited investor. An accredited investor must have a net worth over $1 million, alone or together with spouse (excluding the value of primary residences, or $200,000 of income individually ($300,000 with a spouse) in each of the prior two years with reasonable expectation to continue for the current year.  .

    Nate said that DSTs can be purchased in living trusts or irrevocable trusts. He has also worked with LLCs and corporations (irrevocable trusts and other entities have different accreditation standards that he is happy to discuss). Nate suggested that DSTs are good measuring sticks for people who are considering buying property directly. “Compare the property to a DST and determine if it is better than a DST,” he said. Nate went on to say that he has worked with quite a few farmers who decided to exchange into a DST.

    Dan commented, “Inland is the number one sponsor of DSTs. It’s a dynamic concept. People should consider working with a knowledgeable financial adviser such as Nate to learn if it works for them.”

    You can read more information about 1031 exchanges and DSTs at Chicagoland1031exchange.com. Nathan Kuhn can be reached at 847-607-4976, ext. 1, [email protected]

    (The information herein has been prepared for educational purposes only and does not constitute an offer to purchase or sell securitized real estate investments. Such offers are only made through the sponsors Private Placement Memorandum (PPM) which is solely available to accredited investors and accredited entities. DST 1031 properties are only available to accredited investors (typically have a $1 million net worth excluding primary residence or $200,000 income individually/$300,000 jointly of the last two years, and reasonably expects the same for the current year) and accredited entities only. If you are unsure if you are an accredited investor and/or an accredited entity please verify with your CPA and Attorney. There are risks associated with investing in real estate and Delaware Statutory Trust (DST) properties including, but not limited to, loss of entire investment principal, declining market values, tenant vacancies and illiquidity. Potential cash flows/returns/appreciation are not guaranteed and could be lower than anticipated. Because investor’s situations and objectives vary this information is not intended to indicate suitability for any particular investor. This material is not to be interpreted as tax or legal advice. Please speak with your own tax and legal advisors for advice/guidance regarding your particular situation.

    This site is published for residents of the United States only. Representatives may only conduct business with residents of the states and jurisdictions in which they are properly registered. Therefore, a response to a request for information may be delayed until appropriate registration is obtained or exemption from registration is determined. Not all services referenced on this site are available in every state and through every advisor listed. For additional information, please contact Nathan Kuhn at 224-427-3421.

    Chicagoland 1031 Exchange does not offer legal or tax advice. Please consult the appropriate professional regarding your individual circumstances.

    Securities offered through DAI Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC. Advisory services offered through Kuhn Wealth Management, Inc. (KWM), a state registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through DAI Securities, LLC. KWM dba Chicagoland 1031 Exchange is independent of DAI Securities, LLC.)

    Hemp in today’s marketplace

    There currently is a keen interest in the growing of hemp, even though growing the plant just became legal one year ago. Dr. Winthrop B. Phippen, professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics, School of Agriculture, Western Illinois University, discussed this new crop during the Chicago Farmers February 10 luncheon meeting.

    “The current hemp industry is new and there is a lot of uncertainty that surrounds hemp production,” said Dr. Phippen “Because it was just legalized a year ago, there is little research and information on it. It is apparent from the 2019 growing season that producers are determined to grow hemp, but they need to create networks.” 

    Dr. Phippen pointed out that hemp was grown in Illinois during World War II for its fiber, the plant’s most valuable product. Hemp is useful for its fiber, grain, and CBD (cannabidiol) oil. Hemp’s oil and seeds are the major interests today. In 2019, there were 970 applications in Illinois; 294 processor applications and 644 grower licenses, according to Dr. Phippen.

    Hemp, like marijuana, is a cannabid plant, but the flower from the marijuana plant is significantly higher in THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana's psychological effects, than it is in the hemp flower, Dr. Phippen noted. Hemp is used for the extraction of its CBD (cannabidiol) oils.

    “We do not have data from hemp’s 2019 growing season,” said Dr. Phippen. “There were no research trials and growers are trying to develop a supply chain. What is being grown now is not the same as the hemp that was grown more than 70 years ago for its fiber.”

    He said that growing hemp is more labor intensive than producers originally had expected. Industrial hemp that is grown for its CBD is harvested by hand. The plants are hung to dry in drying sheds or warehouses. The grain of industrial hemp is harvested with a combine. Following the harvest, the hemp must be stored immediately in aeration bins. Industrial hemp fiber is harvested by mower and baler and the bales are stored at 15 percent moisture. Proper storage both seeds and oil are critical to prevent spoilage.

    The professor noted that growers do face challenges:

    • markets or end users are not identified prior to planting
    • protocols are needed for the final products
    • limited availability of seasonal labor
    • experienced workers are not available at planting or harvesting
    • no registered chemicals
    • there is no infrastructure in the state for processing.

     

    Dr. Phippen said there are a lot of uncertainties in the production and processing of the plant, and it is an expensive endeavor. “People have to do their due diligence regarding their budgets,” he said. “We have to wait and see what happens when regulations are in place.”

    What is happening in the land market?

    ”In the midst of the coronavirus, no one knows where the overall world economics are going, let alone where agriculture’s economics are headed during this uncertain time, but we do know there will be a lot of change,” Randy Dickhut, Farmers National Company senior vice president of real estate and guest speaker, said during an April 20 webinar that took the place of Chicago Farmers usual meeting setting due to the coronavirus and the large group restrictions that are in place. Farmers National, a gold Sponsor of the Chicago Farmers, manages $9.2 million worth of land and is one of the country’s largest independent oil and gas leasing firms.

    Randy explored what owning land was like before the coronavirus, what it is like in early 2020, and what will be the new normal.

    Land is important to agriculture and it is growing in importance, said Randy. It comprises 83 percent of the total assets in agriculture, making it almost 100 percent of the equity in agriculture. He noted that the stability of agriculture rests in its land values.

    Referring to land values in Nebraska, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, Randy said that land values have had “quite a ride” since the early 2000s. He said that land values are increasing due, in part, to the fact that the Corn Belt is expanding north and that has added value. The peak of the land values hit in 2013, but the values have not fallen much for average land.

    Giving examples of land values, Randy related that values in Illinois had increased to more than $7,000 per acre for average land in 2019. In Kansas, the valuation was $2,000 an acre, but the numbers were inching up. Land values in Arkansas were at $3,500 an acre and they had not plateaued. “Values in Arkansas were moving upward because the Arkansas delta region has a number of crop options that include corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton,” he said. “The area also attracts a lot of institutional investors because of the size of the tracts and land prices are low.”

    Randy went on to say that farmland is a good long-term investment and compares favorably with other real estate investments: it offers consistency, the land is always rented; there is no vacancy.

    He noted that farmland correlates to 10 year Treasuries. It is also a hedge against inflation. While farmland ownership compares somewhat to the movement of gold, it is more or less counter cyclical to the stock market, so it is a good investment for spreading out assets.

    Land values were in positive territory in the early 2000s, but they are not as good today, observed Randy. At the opening of 2020, farmers had a little bit of optimism: grain prices were getting slightly better as well as livestock and dairy prices. Additionally, the United States was in Phase I of the China trade deal and the third payment of MFP had been made.

    Randy added, “But, the best laid plans go astray.” He did note, however, that land values are holding due to low interest rates. Randy said there also is not much debt in agriculture now. The issue is the lack of availability of working capital. If grain values would increase, the future would look brighter.

    In the long-term, there are a number of converging trends that will have effects on agriculture and land values, Randy said. He noted the internet and artificial intelligence, ongoing generational land transfers, food preferences and changing eating habits, and changes in food production. “Things change quickly and land values change quickly too,” said Randy.

    He said the “new normal” will be affected by three trends:

    • Sustainability in resources and food and secure sources
    • Traceability, where our food is coming from
    • Changes in land ownership through technology and purchases by institutions

    Randy observed that climate change and land usage also will impact land values; however, the Midwest continues to be a prime spot for investment. Experts are studying how much useable land the country has. He said that one-half of the land goes to agriculture for pasture and feed grain. “Will that remain to be the case as we move forward?” Randy asked.

    Among the challenges that agriculture will face:

    • population loss in rural areas
    • migration from urban areas to rural areas, which could cause changes in ownership of land
    • technology is increasing yield and less land is being used with better crop production
    • the effect of growth in electric cars on fuel and corn
    • lab grown food
    • population growth or leveling off of population
    • Covid 19’s drastic effects on grain and livestock prices

    In response to a question about lenders from a webinar listener, Randy said that March and April brought crashes in ethanol and livestock prices, which will pose real challenges to lenders for equipment purchases and other purchases. “I am sure lenders are making plans now on how they will mitigate those losses,” responded Randy.

    Responding to another question, Randy said that the best times to sell farmland are late summer and early fall. “We usually see a lot of activity post-harvest,” he said. The next best time is mid-January to February; however, “farmland will sell at auction year-round.”

    Two Chicago Farmers members cited by their professional organizations

    Chicago Farmers members Ray Brownfield’s and Jason J. Lestina’s expertise in land management recently garnered them well deserved recognition from their professional field. Both men are with Land Pro LLC in Oswego, Illinois.

    Ray Brownfield, ALC
    Receives the Realtors® Land Institute's
    Most Esteemed 2019 RLI Leadership Award

    Ray, an accredited farm manager and accredited land consultant (ALC) with Land Pro, received the 2019 Robert C. Meeks, ALC, Distinguished Service Award as part of Realtors Land Institute’s (RLI) Leadership Awards Program, according to a Land Pro news release. Named for dedicated, long-time ALC Robert C. Meeks, the award is presented to an ALC in recognition of their long-term commitment and service to fellow members, the land profession and the community.

    Ray received the award during RLI’s Virtual National Land Conference (NLC20) on March 30 with land professionals from throughout the United States watching online. The presentation was made by 2020 National President Kyle Hansen, ALC, and RLI CEO Aubrie Kobernus, MBA, RCE. Four additional RLI members also received awards through the esteemed Realtors Institute Leadership Awards Program, the press release noted. All award recipients are nominated and selected by their peers.

    “To receive this award from my peers is a humbling honor. It came as a complete surprise from RLI, whose professional members all distinguish themselves every day by providing the highest level of service to their clients,” said Ray upon receiving the award.

    Aubrie Kobemus added, “The RLI Leadership Awards recognize the land professionals most dedicated to serving our organization and our industry. They are truly the best of the best in the business as proven by their service and contributions, and we could not be more proud to have them as a part of RLI.”

    Jason J. Lestina 
    Receives the Realtors® Land Institute's
    Prestigious Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation

    The press release also related that the RLI announced that Jason, a licensed real estate broker and Accredited Farm Manager with Land Pro, received the Accredited Land Consultant designation on March 30. According to the release, “Jason is now among the most dedicated land professionals from around the globe, joining an elite group of over 500 land specialists who hold the designation across the globe, and one of 18 individuals in the United States that hold both the Accredited Land Consultant and the Accredited Farm Manager designations.”

    Jason said, “I am honored to have received the ALC designation from the institute. I look forward to utilizing the knowledge and expertise I obtained to better assist my clients with their land real estate needs.”

    The release noted that in addition to subscribing to the Realtors Code of Ethics, ALCs support the high standards of conduct and experience that directly relate to their specialty. As an ALC, Jason has access to the best industry knowledge, an unprecedented network of fellow land professionals, and a variety of resources to help best serve his clients.

    Through RLI’s Land University (LANDU), Jason will gain expertise through an unparalleled land real estate education program that offers top-notch educational courses and webinars for land professionals, according to the release. The release noted that land is a unique real estate specialty that requires the kind of specialized professional education that can be found at RLI’s LANDU.

    TCF awards scholarship to Iowa State student

    Iowa State University senior Caroline Treadwell is a recipient of a scholarship from The Chicago Farmers. Caroline is majoring in biology and animal science.

    A resident of St. Charles, Illinois, Caroline said that she chose to study biology after becoming fascinated with her high school advanced placement biology course. “I was inspired by my enthusiastic teacher,” she said. Caroline noted that the decision to study animal science came from her lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian. “Because I pursued a dual degree program with two majors, I will graduate summa cum laude in May with a bachelor's degree in each of my majors,” said Caroline.

    As a student at Iowa State, Caroline  was involved in the Dairy Science Club and  the Biological Sciences Club, where she served in several leadership positions including treasurer and vice president. She has been accepted into multiple veterinary medicine colleges across the Midwest, but has not yet made a final selection.

    Caroline said that her primary goal for the future is to make advances in the field of veterinary medicine. “I am awed by the progress within human medicine, and I would love to be a part of the efforts to push forward the veterinary counterpart,” said Caroline. “My aspiration to become a veterinary ophthalmologist is rooted in my desire to bring a higher degree of care to the animal kingdom.”

    In expressing her gratitude to Chicago Farmers for the scholarship, Caroline said she is extremely thankful for the award because the career path of a veterinary ophthalmologist requires a year-long internship and three years of residency after completing four years of veterinary school. Caroline said, “This scholarship is what fuels the long journey toward my veterinary career. It is because of your generosity that people like me are able to pursue higher education and work toward change.”

    The Chicago Farmers award scholarships to three Joliet Junior College students

    Three students from Joliet Junior College (JJC) recently received scholarships from The Chicago Farmers. The students include Brooklyn Tice, Abigail Wagner, and Jillian Camp.

    Brooklyn Tice is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Agriculture Production. Following completion of the degree, Brooklyn plans to transfer to an out-of-state, four-year university where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree with a major in Animal Science and a minor in Crop and Soil Science. She plans to continue her studies with pursuit of a master’s degree. Brooklyn also plans to take advantage of internship opportunities and job openings over the summer. When Brooklyn completes her schooling, she will embark on a career in the world of agriculture production.

    With a 3.5 GPA, Brooklyn is a very active student within JJC’s Ag Department where she mainly participates as a member of the livestock judging team. The team travels around the country to various judging contests while practicing at least four times a week in preparation for these contests. When she is not competing at contests, she is involved with the Student Ag Association, attending each event the group sponsors. Furthermore, Brooklyn is active with the Illinois Farm Bureau and attends each of the conferences that the bureau offers collegiate members.

    She noted that she has a passion not only for agriculture, but also for Joliet Junior College. “I truly love to be there and to be learning something new each and every day, so I try to stay as active with the school as one's schedule will allow,” Brooklyn wrote to TCF. “It does not end there, though. I also stay busy at home by giving back to my community through the local church, 4H clubs, and FFA chapters. Whenever extra hands are needed to work the 4H food stand or to judge the visual arts contest at general projects day, I always do my best to be there to help. The same goes for the FFA chapters. For example, recently they needed help setting up their banquet so I assisted them. As I said, I have a deep passion for anything related to agriculture so I will always be the first to attend and the first to help.”

    Abigail Wagner has a 3.78 GPA and is studying for an associate degree in Ag Production. Next year she plans to continue working toward the degree while taking extra general education classes to enable her to transfer to Illinois State University. At ISU she plans to major in either Ag Finance or Ag Communication. With a degree in Ag Finance she would be prepared for a career in Ag insurance sales, Ag lending or in a similar field. If Abigail majors in Ag Communication, she would like to educate children about agriculture by working with 4-H youth through the extension office, Farm Bureau or livestock associations. 

    At JJC, Abigail is an active member of the Livestock Judging Team. “On the judging team we have regular practices and contests in addition to hosting our own judging contest and two jackpot shows,” Abigail wrote to TCF. “I also regularly attend the Student Ag Association meetings. Outside of school I am a member of 4-H, where I have served as an officer and junior leader for six years.”

    Abigail said that  through 4-H she has been involved in many community service projects that include hosting bingo at a nursing home, planting flowers in the community, spearheading an Easter egg hunt, and donating to Toys 4 Tots, local food pantries, and Coats for Kids. She currently is finishing her last year as an FFA member and will receive her American FFA degree in the fall. While busy with 4-H, Abigail also has been involved in community service activities in her community such as park clean-up days and raising money for local charities. 

    Jillian Camp completed high school at Naperville Central High School. In a cost saving move, Jillian is completing her general education classes at JJC and earning an associate degree in Animal Science. She plans on transferring to a four-year college to become a veterinarian or have a career involved with either animal behavior or production and management.

     A 3.8 GPA student, Jillian is a member of the Student Agriculture Association at JJC. She has volunteered at her local equestrian center, Trillion, where she helps teach beginner riders and children how to care for and correctly handle horses. “I teach them to read horse behavior and how to keep themselves safe. I keep the facility clean and report any injuries or issues in the barn. When I became 18, the equestrian center hired me and I started working there three times a week. I have been riding horses for 11 years and take lessons at Trillion Equestrian. I occasionally show in equitation and hunter/jumper competitions,” Jillian wrote to TCF.

    Jillian added, “I have my own business pet sitting for neighbors and in local towns. I pet sit whenever needed."

    Tillable Shares the 3-Part Formula for Farmland Management: Technology, Process, Relationships

    Good farmland management is based on three related components: data-forward processes, strong relationships, and the right technology.

    Excellent farmland management isn’t the result of guesswork and luck—staying on top of farmland maintenance requires strong organizational skills. You can develop these competencies over time, but as a general rule, you should pay attention to your farmland property with the same respect and commitment that you’d apply to any other asset. After all, for many landowners, their farmland is the most valuable asset they own.

    To do this, you’ll need to adopt data-driven processes, leverage technology and develop strong relationships to ensure that you and your farmer meet your goals next season and in the long-term. Here’s how to address these three pillars in your own operation:

    1. Establish data-driven processes for your farmland operation

    When you’re looking to clean up your farmland management practices, the first step is to carefully examine the processes you already have in place.

    Ask yourself how you expect to receive your rental payments and how you’ll decide whether or not to renew your current tenant’s lease. It’s important to think about how your farmer is doing and to keep tabs on your soil’s health.

    Once you’ve opened up the hood on your operations machine:

    1. Decide what data is necessary. Look at the data you have on hand. Does it answer your questions? If not, you’ll need to identify and seek out other sources of information, whether through soil analysis or adopting new data collection practices in the season ahead.
    2. Set benchmarks. Using the data you have, analyze the current state of your farmland’s health and productivity. This is the basis on which you’ll set your goals.
    3. Establish goals. Decide where you’d like to see changes or improvements. Be sure to include a timeline, as change won’t necessarily happen overnight or even in one growing season.

    This self-assessment is the first step in revamping your farmland operations, and it’s okay if you discover that you need more information. After all, there are more sources for farmland data available than ever before, which brings us to the second pillar.

    2. Pay attention to your evolving technology and data needs

    Technology is the number one tool for farmland management. Precision agriculture tools are widely available, and the data they generate can be an invaluable resource. Farmers today rely on this software to analyze the results of their operations, and this information is equally valuable to landowners.

    If you’re working with farmers who use precision agriculture equipment but you’re not asking them to share the data these tools generate, you’re missing a major opportunity. It’s simple to print out a report, and if you know you plan to incorporate this data into your annual analysis, be sure to include data delivery practices in your next farmland rental agreement.

    It’s also important to make sure you’re maintaining digital records of your farmland rental agreements and storing your records in an organized way. This can be as simple as establishing a naming convention for your digital files and entering data points into an Excel spreadsheet.

    There are new digital farmland management options on the market, and if you’re looking for a user-friendly platform, try using Tillable’s to set up your next Hassle-Free Lease and track your farm’s data.

    3. Build a strong relationship with your farmer

    Although this is the third element in the formula for farmland management, it goes hand-in-hand with the first. You can make all the plans you want for your property, but unless you have a strong relationship with your farmer, you’re unlikely to meet your goals.

    When you start to consider what your farmland management practices are and how you can improve them, don’t stop at asking yourself what your goals for the farm are. Reach out to your farmer and find out what they’re hoping to achieve in the next growing season and beyond.

    As part of this conversation, you may identify that you need to start using new or different technology to get the right data to measure your farm’s progress. If they don’t want to share data with you, it may be time to start thinking about changing farmland tenants.

    Your farmer will appreciate your investment in their stewardship of your land, and you’ll set yourself up for a committed relationship that supports executing a long-term plan for farmland success. It’s key that you develop a relationship built on loyalty and trust.

    Strong communication around the outcomes you hope to achieve will help you both meet your goals for sustainability and profitability.

    Use data to meet your goals for your farmland operation

    There’s a vast amount of information available on the internet today aimed at helping farmland owners figure out how to improve their operations. By leveraging new technologies and agtech improvements, you can independently improve your farmland management skills and grow your knowledge base.

    But this new information can be difficult to get a handle on and farmland management can be a lot of work. We understand that for some landowners it can feel overwhelming.

    Tillable can help you find the right tenants and establish organized data practices to take care of your farm into the future without taking you out of the loop. If you’d like to learn more about how you can leverage data to meet your goals for the next growing season, reach out today to get the tools you need.

    For more information, please visit https://tillable.com/the-3-part-formula-for-farmland-management-technology-process-relationships/

    Landlord Boot Camp

    How well a non-operating landowner communicates with the renting farmer will go a long way in ensuring a well-informed landowner and a successful farming operation. This was the underlying theme of the “landowner boot camp” conducted by Jennifer Filipiak and Jami Cox at the January 13th Chicago Farmers meeting.

    Ms. Filipiak, executive director of Driftless Area Land Conservancy, and Jami Cox, of AgAware, are members of TCF’s board of directors. Ms. Filipiak and Ms. Cox explained that they drew information from the USDA Agricultural Census and a survey of non-operating (non-farming) landowners conducted by American Farmland Trust (AFT). (The link to the AFT survey is www.farmland.org/noissurvey. The link to the USDA ag census is https://www.nass.usda.gov/AgCensus/)

    The USDA Agricultural Census indicates that 39 percent of U.S. farmland is rented, and in the Midwest, rental rates are higher. In Illinois, 60 percent of farmland is rented. Nationally, 61 percent of land is owned by the person who is farming it; 31 percent of American farmland is owned by non-operators who rent the land to farmers, and eight percent of farmland is owned by farmers who rent the land to other farmers. Ms. Filipiak noted that an operator refers to either a farmer or rancher, while a non-operator owns the farmland, but doesn’t farm it. Through a survey of non-operating landowners in 11 states, AFT found that most of these landowners live near their land. They may own the land for a number of different reasons, including investment, recreational, or family (inheritance) purposes. The AFT survey also showed that most landowners trust the farmers who rent their land to make good decisions about its management and are committed to their renters continuation as a renter of their land.

    Ms. Filipiak pointed out that farmers who rent land to farm often rent from multiple landowners. “The surveys also indicate that 57 percent of the rented acres are rented annually,” said Ms. Filipiak.

    A survey of Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana for agricultural landowners, found that 63 percent of these landowners have experience in farming, but they might not have the confidence in making decisions because farming has changed in recent years.

    Ms. Cox pointed out that verbal leases are common in many parts of the country. Ms. Filipiak noted, “In many areas we found that a written lease sends the message ‘you don’t trust me.’”

    Regarding leases, while they usually renew annually, many are long-term, and can be three to five years in length, with some as long as 15 years, said Ms. Filipiak.

    Ms. Filipiak and Ms. Cox stressed that the landowner’s trust in the farmer is an important factor in the non-operator landowner-renter relationship. In a survey, landowners indicated that other factors that rate high in determining a renter are:

    • The renter is trustworthy
    • The renter cares about the landowner’s land
    • The renter is financially responsible

    Non-operating landowners indicated that they wanted more information on their land’s soil and water quality. They want to be well-informed. The AFT survey indicated that 92 percent of Illinois landowners also said they trusted their operator to initiate good conservation practices. Noted Ms. Cox, “The landowner will likely support the renter in conservation practices they wish to implement.”

    “The survey found that the non-operating landowner loves the land and wants the renter to love it as well,” said Ms. Cox. “The landowner is willing to structure a lease to accommodate a renter’s input. It is important that the landowner and the renter have a conversation that will inform the lease.”

    Ms. Cox and Ms. Filipiak pointed out that landowners can self-educate and learn about their land and farming operations by doing such things as riding in the combine with the farmer to personally see the land and, at the same time, talk with the farmer.

    The women said that landowners should create goals for their land, ask the renter what their goals are, and determine how the two parties can work together to achieve all of the goals.

    Issues that the renter and landowner must agree on include:

    • The length of the lease
    • Is the landowner crop sharing or will it be cash rent
    • What is permitted and what is prohibited on the land, e.g., could hemp be grown on the farm; can the renter tile the land; etc.

    Communication is very important in the relationship. “The landowner and renter have to start the conversation and determine what each one needs,” said Ms. Filipiak. Ms. Cox noted, “The Midwest has productive land and the farmer does not want to ruin the land. Each of the parties has something the other needs – landowners need a farmer, and farmers need land to farm.”

    Ms. Filipiak pointed out, “A lot of the non-operators are not getting the information that the famer is getting. We need to get that information out in more general ways and not just place it in resources that only a farmer would access. We need to market to a broader audience.”

    Written by Denise Faris, Chicago Farmers Editor

    2019-2020 Sponsor Spotlight: American Farmland Trust

    American Farmland Trust is a gold level sponsor of The Chicago Farmers and Michael Happ, gave attendees at the January 13, 2020, meeting a brief overview of the group. Happ is director of development, Midwest, for American Farmland Trust (AFT), which advocates for farming.

    AFT is an early advocate of agricultural conservation and strives to ensure that the country’s farmland is not lost to poor community planning and harmful farming practices, said Happ.

    “In the last 20 years, the United States has lost an amount of farmland that is equivalent to the state of Iowa,” said Happ. “If continued, this pattern will jeopardize our country’s ability to feed its growing population.”

    Happ said that AFT is helping communities grow strategically so that farmland is not decimated. At the same time, AFT directly works with farmers to guide them in initiating healthy farming practices. “We are available to give them the resources they need to succeed in maintaining healthy soil” he related.

    Happ also noted that the farming population is aging with the average age of the American farmer being over 58-years-old and 40 percent of this group 65-years-old or more.

    “We are involved with young farmers and provide them with resources that help the young farmer early in their careers and erase barriers. Our goal is to give young farmers a smooth transition into farming,” Happ shared.

    Happ related that AFT has begun a five-year fundraising campaign for farmland protection and gifts and pledges of all sizes are both necessary and appreciated.

    “We are a non-profit group so monetary donations are a great help,” said Happ. “Look into our programming offerings and take advantage of them. Also, if you have young farmers in your family or community who could benefit from more resources, please put them in touch with us.”

    Happ may be contacted at [email protected]

    Wisconsin student receives TCF scholarship

    University of Wisconsin Madison senior Ben Mrotek has received a Chicago Farmers’ scholarship. He is in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) and majoring in Agricultural and Applied Economics, Environmental Studies.

    Ben wrote to TCF, “Thank you very much for your generosity in funding the Chicago Farmers scholarship. This scholarship means a lot to me as this is the first time I have received any sort of financial aid. I am very honored that you chose me among an extremely strong field of candidates. This donation will reduce my financial burden and allow me to spend more time in the coming year focusing on my career interests by taking additional leadership roles on campus.”

    Ben, who is from Cedarburg, Wisconsin, said he chose to be an Agricultural and Applied Economics (AAE) major because of his interest in the bridge between business and the environment. He said that he likes the fact that the major allows him to take a large range of courses along with the core economics classes. Ben said that this has provided the opportunity to see how economics applies to real-world issues and take courses most in line with his interests. He said that AAE also paired well with his environmental studies major, which allowed him to get additional credit for electives he enjoys and still have the time to get a certificate in Business Management from CALS. Said Ben, “Overall, I believe my academic path has prepared me for a career that will be very fulfilling.”

    Ben said he has been a great admirer of the University of Wisconsin campus from the first moment he saw it. He noted it is a world-renowned institution in a beautiful setting. Being accepted to the university is among his proudest moments. “After becoming dedicated to becoming to getting into Madison, I was able to attain a 4.0 GPA my sophomore through senior high school years,” he said.

    With an interest in a career in renewable energy or sustainability, Ben hopes to play a large role in creating solutions to environmental challenges. He would like to hold an executive position in an organization with a mission driven by sustainability.

    Said Ben, “Currently, I am pursuing internships in the sustainable energy industry where I can quantify energy system performance and emissions reduction potential. I would like to end up at a company like Tesla because I have a fair amount of experience working with cars, and this would connect that experience with my interest in the environment.”

    TCF awards a scholarship to Purdue student

    Noah Poynter recently received a scholarship from the Chicago Farmers. He is a farm management major at Purdue University and just completed his junior year.

    Noah hails from Greencastle, Indiana, and grew up on his family’s farm. “I am the third generation farmer in my family and have always had a strong passion for agriculture,” he said.

    The Poynter farm produces corn and soybeans and Noah has a small herd of beef cattle. Upon graduation from Purdue, Noah plans to return to the family farm “to proudly follow in my dad’s and grandpa’s footsteps.”

    Noah added that along with the family farm, his plans include continuing the small business he started while attending Purdue last year, Noah Poynter Media, which produces videos and photos for clients specializing in aerial services, especially within the ag industry.

    University of Illinois student receives TCF scholarship

    University of Illinois sophomore John Searl is a 2019 Chicago Farmers’ scholarship recipient. John is majoring in Crop Sciences: Plant Biotechnology and Molecular Biology. Following graduation he plans to pursue graduate studies and earn a Ph.D. in plant breeding and become a corn breeder.

    A resident of Port Byron, Illinois, John said that choosing Crop Sciences as his major was an easy decision due to the fact that he grew up on his family’s farm and wanted to do something in agriculture “even before I chose to go down the path I am on to become a corn breeder.” He added that it was an easy decision to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because the faculty and staff made him feel more at home than he did at other institutions he visited.

    John is a member of the Field and Furrow Club at U of I. He loves professional baseball, especially the minor leagues because it affords him the opportunity to follow players through the minors as they make their way to the major leagues. As a baseball enthusiast, John also collects baseball cards, particularly of the top baseball prospects and Carlos Correa.

    In thanking TCF for the scholarship, John noted, “Receiving a scholarship such as this means a lot to me in that it shows me that other people have taken notice of not only the effort I have put in, but also what I have already accomplished. Giving back to help younger students always has meant a lot to me and this scholarship reinforces my commitment to helping mentor students in organizations at my high school (Riverdale Senior High School) that helped me get to where I am now.”

    Illinois Department of Natural Resources is more than deer, duck, and fish

    Colleen Callahan has a mission. As director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), she is striving to make Illinois residents more aware of what the IDNR does for them and making IDNR more aware of what the state’s residents want from it.

    Ms. Callahan, a past president of The Chicago Farmers, was the guest speaker at TCF’s holiday meeting on December 9th at the Union League Club. During her presentation she outlined IDNR’s responsibilities and sought input from the audience members regarding how they would like to see the IDNR involved in their lives.

    “Many people think the IDNR deals with deer, duck, and fish, but the department is so much more than that,” said Ms. Callahan. “For example, here we are in Chicago with Lake Michigan at its doorstep. Were you aware that the IDNR is responsible for the coastline along the shores of Lake Michigan? It comes under the auspices of the department’s Coastline Management office, which also is responsible for the release of Lake Michigan’s water to 7 million people. As a department, we do ourselves a disservice by not being more engaged in the Chicago area.”

    Ms. Callahan noted that the management of the state’s recreational sites are IDNR responsibilities. This includes the 329 state owned parks, which attract 39 million visitors a year, community parks, and the 1,600-acre world class shooting complex in Sparta, Illinois.  “International visitors participate in shooting competitions at the complex and they are thrilled to be there,” said Ms. Callahan.

    She said that the IDNR has more than $1 million in grants to share with communities to improve their park sites. She introduced Ted Penesis, director of community outreach, who is working to further community relations and advise the communities how the grants would be best used. Recognizing that students from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Studies were in attendance, Ms. Callahan said that speaking at TCF’s meeting was an ideal occasion to share with them IDNR job possibilities such as water engineer or wildlife biologist. “When it is time to consider a career path, I hope you consider IDNR,” she added.

    Ms. Callahan observed that cultural resources could also be a part of IDNR’s title because it is responsible for the state’s historic sites and museums. In response to a question from the audience, Ms. Callahan related that the new state museum director is a champion for presenting our state historic sites, some of which were closed during the state’s lengthy budget impasse.

    “There are areas in some of our parks that have been closed and sections of the Illinois and Michigan Canal that are in need of repair,” she said in a response to an audience member’s concerns. “These are state treasures, with $1 billion of deferred maintenance statewide. However, now we have a budget, a capital bill, and we are hiring people so that we can address this list. There are things that you will notice that are being done, but it will take a while. For some of the projects we have to work with the Capital Development Board, and that in itself is a lengthy process.”

    IDNR also lists farming among its activities, said Ms. Callahan. The department has 35,000 acres of tillable land that is leased to more than 200 tenants. Working to be a good steward of the land and an agricultural model, the department has submitted an action plan to the governor that focuses on conservation of the environment.  The IDNR’s leases have become more environmentally friendly and are focusing on regenerative agriculture and soil health. “We now recommend that our tenants plant cover crops because they benefit the soil and wildlife,” she said.

    The IDNR’s office of Public Lands is charged with enhancing the state population’s access to land for recreational pursuits. With 97 percent of the land in Illinois privately held and 80 percent of the land owned by farmers, there is little land left for the public. “We have to establish relationships with private owners who might be willing to allow the IDNR to lease their land for hiking or hunting. In some instances, people approach us about taking over their land when they die because they don’t want it commercially developed,” Ms. Callahan said. She added that when the IDNR leases the private land for such things as hunting, it covers the liability insurance. The funding is provided through the federal Farm Bill and IDNR’s Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP). There also are tax benefits in the leasing arrangements.

    Farmers who own timber land could find the forestry office to be beneficial, she pointed out. The office’s foresters will evaluate the stand of timber for sale purposes and help in eradicating invasive plant species with controlled burns; wildlife biologists also are available to help with the preservation and conservation of the landowner’s natural resources. The state also has its own nursery in Mason City that provides seed stock for native trees and native grasses.

    “We continue to review IDNR’s role in the state,” said Ms. Callahan. “We plan to work with universities regarding how we are managing our land that historically has been in row crops. We are looking at the use of solar energy. We are committed to being an example and a leader in conservation.”

    Written by Denise Faris, Chicago Farmers Newsletter Editor

    November meeting offers a primer on the state of the Illinois International Port District

    Clayton Harris III is an enthusiastic cheerleader for the Illinois International Port District (IIPD). As its executive director for the past three years he has made it a priority to make potential customers aware of what the District’s Iroquois Landing and Lake Calumet port facilities, both of which are on Chicago’s Southeast Side and near the Indiana border, have to offer. There are 19 public port districts in the state. Harris was Chicago Farmers’ November 18, 2019, meeting guest speaker.

    “We are the greatest multi-modal facility in North America,” said Harris. “These ports are the logistics hearts and brains of transportation.”

    Harris related that the Iroquois Landing Facility has 190 acres and approximately1,600 acres comprise the Lake Calumet facility. In addition to these sites, the District also includes the Harborside International Golf Center, which was constructed over the old city of Chicago’s dump and filled with refuse.

    “We have connections to road, rail, and water,” said Harris as he displayed a picture of the ports with nearby interstates and rail yards crisscrossing the properties. “The Chicago facilities are within 10 miles of five United States highways, have access to six of the seven North American Class I railroads, and the sites are the only Great Lakes and inland rivers port. We rank number two behind the Duluth/Superior port. The port processes an average of 17.5 million tons of cargo annually.”

    The state’s port system includes 350 private terminals along the Illinois, Kaskaskia, Calumet, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers, as well as Lake Michigan. Three Illinois ports are among the leading ports in the country.

    Harris noted that international ships come through the Chicago sites via the St. Lawrence Seaway; barge traffic comes via the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.

    While the Chicago sites see $37 million in agricultural products at their docks, Harris would like to increase that figure for the facilities and be an economic stimulus for the Chicago area. In 2017, the facilities had total revenue of $1,186,968 and his goal is to increase that by six percent while reducing debt, which he has done during his three years of stewardship.

    Harris said that making the facilities more attractive is a key factor in drawing more traffic. He said the state’s capital budget allocated $150 million for the state’s 19 ports and the Illinois International Port District hopes to receive $50 million from that.

    The Calumet site has the largest grain elevators east of the Mississippi River, but none of them store any grain. “A decision has to be made to either raze the structures at a cost of $14 million or revamp them for $25 million, although we do have two grain bins to store soy,” said Harris. Additionally, a “ghost ship” that has been moored alongside the grain elevators for 20 years will soon be moved showing ongoing progress and change.

    Harris said the IIPD is now involved in a $1 million master planning process that will give it action plans to make the sites more attractive and more cost effective. He added that the District just received $17.5 million that will fund its first capital improvement project since 1981 and include the repaving of Butler Drive, the main roadway through the port district at Lake Calumet, and the raising of rail lines.

    “Our master plan will outline what we should, could, and will be doing,” said Harris. “For example, we plan to add a refrigerated shed to the Lake Calumet site so that we can store fresh food products. I want to engage people in agriculture and learn what we can do for you. I want you to incorporate the state’s 19 ports in your thought process.”

    Inland Sponsor Spotlight

    Dan Wagner, of the Inland Real Estate Group, LLC, a Platinum Sponsor of TCF, from left, Aubrey Kobernus, of Realtor Land Institute, Clayton Harris III, executive director of the Illinois International Port District, and Barbara Clark, past TCF president.

    The Inland Real Estate Group, LLC is the newest Chicago Farmers’ Platinum Sponsor. During the November 18, 2019, TCF meeting, Dan Wagner, Senior Vice President, Government Relations, provided a brief overview of the firm, which has offices in Oak Brook, Chicago, and Atlanta, Georgia.

    Dan explained that the group was founded 52 years ago by four Chicago public school teachers. Over the years it has purchased $47 billion in commercial real estate. In his discussion he focused on the Delaware statutory trust (DST) structure that is used in Section 1031 exchanges. Inland Private Capital Corporation’s counsel worked with the Internal Revenue Service to educate them on the DST structure and Revenue Ruling 2004-86 was issued as a result of the collaboration. Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code can provide a strategy for deferring capital gains tax that may arise from the sale of a business or investment real property.

    With a DST, a person could own farmland, an apartment building or another kind of rental property, sell it and then enter into a Section 1031 like-kind real estate exchange through a fractional ownership of a large condominium complex, for example.

    The DST structure allows the investor to continue to exchange real properties until the investor’s death. Upon the death of the investor, the heirs may receive a “step-up” in basis to avoid initial capital gains tax.

    “I have just skimmed the surface of the 1031 Delaware Statutory Trust, but I would be happy to discuss it at length with anyone,” said Dan.

    For more information go to these websites:

    Sustainable farm shares space with a golf course

    The ping of a golf club head striking against a golf ball and the yell “fore” are not sounds usually associated with a farm, but if you are involved in Fairway Farms in Lemont, Illinois, they are common noises that Angelica Carmen, the farm’s manager and Sustainability Specialist, says come with her work location. Angelica was the guest speaker at Chicago Farmers’ October 21, 2019 meeting.

    Angelica manages and developed the farm that is located on the site of a former gravel parking lot at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont and backs up to one of the four golf courses that have made Cog Hill famous among avid and pro golfers. The two-year-old sustainable farm boasts 4,500 square feet of planting space, 25 raised beds growing 100 different varieties of heirloom plants and edible flowers that are used in Cog Hill’s banquet facilities, 12 beehives (apiary) whose honey is sold to the community, a pumpkin patch, and a closed-loop composting program that uses kitchen waste mixed with garden refuse to create fertile compost that is used on the farm and, at the same time, mitigates methane-producing landfill waste.  “In the 2.5 years it has been in operation, the farm has diverted over 7,500 pounds of kitchen waste from landfills,” said a proud Angelica.

    A graduate of Loyola University Chicago, Angelica holds a degree in communication and environmental advocacy and leadership. She has had agriculture internships with Uncommon Ground, which has the first certified organic rooftop farm in the United States, and Loyola’s Urban Agriculture program. Aspiring to be a chef one day, Angelica said her internship with Uncommon Ground taught her how to grow sustainably and to grow for restaurant chefs. Loyola taught her how to manage a sustainable operation.

    Fairway Farms does not have electricity or mechanized equipment, does not use herbicides, irrigates from trenches dug under the fairways and a nearby pond, uses mulch that is composed of downed trees from the golf course, and creates its growing materials by recycling things no longer used by the golf course and adapting the items for growing use; for example, old golf cart beds have become planters and wooden turf pallets are turned on their sides to display hanging planters.

    “Golf courses can be positive stewards of the environment,” said Angelica. “The golf course has cut its use of fungicide and insecticide by 60 percent as a result of its connection with the farm and our sustainable processes. Additionally, the farm has saved the kitchen roughly $9,000 in produce costs annually.”

    Today, a wildflower berm that backs up to the golf course supports the apiary, which produced 140 pounds of honey this season. While most of the honey is sold to the community, some honey goes to Cog Hill’s kitchens when needed for recipes.  The farm has a partnership with Pollyanna Brewing Company and grew basil varieties to brew Dubs Delight Blonde Basil Ale. The farm also has planted a lavender bed dedicated to the brewery for Cog Hill’s 2019 ‘Par for the Course American Pale Ale,’ which is available in the golf course’s dining areas.

    Pollinator gardens, “Monarchs in the Rough,” dot the golf courses and bluebird houses and bat boxes, constructed by area students, are erected throughout Cog Hill.

    Prior to developing the farm, Angelica worked with Cog Hill’s Director of Grounds Operations, Chris Flick, who wanted to delve into sustainability and spearhead a sustainability program for on and off the golf course. Angelica’s job was to grow the culinary farm on a golf course and that she has done.

    “We have partnerships with a number of area restaurants and Pollyanna Brewery and we are reaching out to schools,” said Angelica. “Our mission is to educate. Sustainability is giving back more than you take. We are enhancing the ecosystem and reusing as much as we possibly can to to reduce harmful emissions. Fairway Farms grows without any chemicals or synthetics and I see biodiversity strengthening from year to year.”

    To increase people’s awareness of Fairway Farms and its sustainability, Cog Hill and its farm were the hosts of two Farm to Table dinners that were held on grounds overlooking one of the golf courses.  The produce used on the menu came from the farm and was served.

    “Our first dinner served 50 people in August 2018 and the second dinner this September had 70 people,” said Angelica. “Ninety percent of the menu was sourced from the farm. We plan to increase the number of dinners to three or four each year because they are great showcases of our programs and inspiring to people.”

    There will be several Farm Dinner events open to the public held throughout the 2020 season, with official dates coming soon. Event information is available on Cog Hill’s website, www.coghillgolf.com/growing-green.

    Written by Denise Faris, The Chicago Farmers Newsletter Editor

    It’s been an unusual year

    Dr. Gary Schnitkey, agricultural and consumer’s economics professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, opened the Chicago Farmers’ 2019 season to a large audience at the September 9th meeting with a discussion on 2019 farm income and cash rents and what the future holds.

    “It’s been one of the most unusual years that the Illinois Corn Belt has experienced,” said Dr. Schnitkey, referring to 2019. “The ‘prevent plant’ program and the trade situation dominated the year’s discussion. Northern Illinois, South Dakota and Ohio were the hardest hit by prevent plant.”

    He went on to say, “It is surprising how much corn actually did get planted and, in most cases, the corn looks good. However, it is late in development. In a normal season, we would be harvesting corn now, but it is more likely that the harvest will be in October and November. With the late development of the corn crop and the possibility of frost prior to harvest, we could be on a collision course.”

    Dr. Schnitkey pointed out that the trade situation with China worsened in May, but President Trump tweeted that MFP (Market Facilitation Program), which was offered in 2018, would continue in 2019. In Illinois, the MFP rates per acre for planted corn ranged from $53 to $87. He said that half of that payment has been received or will be soon by farmers. The remainder is not guaranteed. If the remaining funds do come, they could appear as late as January. “I think the payments will happen,” he said.

    Dr. Schnitkey noted the average MFP payment this year is $20 to $30 higher than last year. People involved in the prevent plant program, received $15 an acre. “The ad hoc Disaster Assistance Program has allocated $3 billion for MFP and targets prevent plant acres,” he added.

    The MFP was critical this year for farmers’ revenue, as were the ARC (Agricultural Risk Coverage) payments. Dr. Schnitkey advised farmers and landowners to postpone signing up for these programs now and consider doing so in November or December when it is clear which program will have the highest payout.

    Crop yields will be lower in 2019 for Illinois, he said. The USDA projected 180 bushels of corn per acre and 55 bushels of soybeans per acre.

    “We have had phenomenal yields since 2013,” said Dr. Schnitkey. “No one is predicting the same yields as last year.”

    He noted that the trade dispute with China hit the U.S. soybean market hard in May. Since then soybeans have been below $9 per bushel and could go as low as $7. The futures prices are at $8.80. Corn is continuing below $4 per bushel.

    “Corn prices could go higher through lower yields,” he said. “I don’t see how soybean prices could go above $9, even if the trade issue is resolved.”

     He related that the swine flu in Asia and Africa is reducing herds by 20 to 40 percent, which affects the need for soybean meal to feed the stock, and there is a large carry-over of soybeans. Dr. Schnitkey said that 2019 probably is not going to be a good year and 2020 looks like another scraping by year.

    Cash rents

    Dr. Schnitkey said that cash rents in Central Illinois ticked up slightly in 2019, but that is not projected for 2020.

    Land Productivity         2019 cash rent              2020 cash rent (expected)

    Excellent                      $302                            $298

    Good                           $261                            $254

    Average                       $212                            $205

    Fair                              $170                            $167

    He noted that the USDA would release the cash rent numbers for the state’s counties during the third week of September and the information would be posted on Farm Doc.

    In response to a question, Dr. Schnitkey said there is a growing percentage of variable cash rent arrangements. These are primarily used by professional farm managers. He said that variable cash rents are involved in about seven percent of land in Illinois. He said the trend is to move from share rent to cash rent. “The trend is a move to cash rent because farmers and landowners want simpler leasing arrangements,” he said.

    Dr. Schnitkey noted that most farms are still in strong financial positions.  He said, “I believe farmers are thinking there will be better prices in the future and they are going to hang on to their land. They believe that once they let go of their land, they will not get it back.”

    He said that it is projected that farmers’ debt to asset ratio will increase; working capital will decline. Additionally, the fall fertilizer prices are holding steading and not decreasing. This also is true for seed and pesticide costs.

    “Farmers will have to cut costs in the machinery area or in cash rents. However, if new machinery is not brought on, it could mean more money toward repairs,” Dr. Schnitkey remarked.

    In response to a question from the audience, Dr. Schnitkey said he did not see yields slowing too much because technology was in place to increase yields. “We know how to farm more acres,” he said.

    Regarding digital technology, he noted that it is being used by farmers in one form or another, but it’s what they do with it that makes the difference.  Dr. Schnitkey said, “I think there is a lot of data that are collected and people wonder how to use it.”

    He added that consumers have changing views on food. They are not only concerned about lower prices, but they want more amenities in their food. They care how food is produced. For example, they are focused on the production of more non-GMOs.

    “This will change Ag production, we will see more non-GMOs. But the consumers’ demands are fickle. Today it is non-GMOs, but what will it be in 10 years? It is a moving target,” said Dr. Schnitkey.

    Denise Faris, Chicago Farmers Editor

    A little bit of planning will help in a long way in succession strategies

    Vasili Russis, of Kelleher and Buckley, LLC, was the guest speaker at The Chicago Farmers’ May 13th annual meeting at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. A lawyer and a CPA, Russis related that he has found himself dealing with many litigation cases in recent years when “estate plans go south.” His goal was to help the May audience members avoid these kinds of situations when they are involved in estate planning.

    “In many of the instances, parents gave farmland property outright to their children,” said Russis. “When several surviving children are involved, it only takes one to have a problem.” He noted that the only one who benefits from these disagreements that end up in litigation is the attorney.

    Russis said, “A little bit of planning will help in a long way in passing on property.”

    He noted that there was no established centralization in these inheritance situations. “We look at setting up an LLC (Limited Liability Company) so that there is centralization,” Russis said. “Normally, one person manages the LLC. It could be a family member who best understands farming or someone outside the family who is trustworthy. The family comprises the membership of the LLC. These family members are the investors.”

    Russis said that an agreement as to who should be the manager is needed and it is best to cover this when the parents are alive.

    The benefits of an LLC, which is more effective than a corporation, include:

    • Eliminates partition threat (a sale of the property can’t be forced)
    • Provides litigation protection
    • Allows a key person from the next generation to serve as manager. The patriarch or matriarch could serve in this position until he or she is unable and then a person from the next generation could step in
    • Provides a shield for individuals against creditors; contracts are with the LLC, not with the members of the LLC


    Russis pointed out that the fiduciary duties of the LLC fall upon the manager. It is the manager’s responsibility to ensure that the property is being properly administered, that fair rents are collected, and that the owners are aware that there is a potential buyer for their property. The manager also would ensure that the LLC would file the 1065 tax form in a timely manner.

    “The manager has to be someone you can count on, who is trustworthy and transparent,” said Russis.

    Russis said that setting up an LLC in Illinois has been more attractive in recent years since the state has changed its laws that pertain to this structure. Filing in Illinois is a cost savings rather than having to file in either Nevada or Delaware.

    Regarding asset protection strategies, he noted that a multi-member structure gives protection against outside creditors. “An outside creditor who deals with the farm operation does not have any rights regarding the members of the LLC,” Russis said. “There also are ‘poison pill’ provisions that can be part of the LLC that make the property unattractive to outside creditors.

    He said that trusts can be a good asset protection vehicle. A self-settled trust (which is created by the parents) will not protect parents, but protects future beneficiaries because it becomes an irrevocable trust upon the death of the parents. The trust owns the property.

    A spousal limited access trust also can be established as an asset protection vehicle. The trust involves each parent and it allows them to deed property to an irrevocable trust. The parents are protected from creditors in this trust.

    Russis said another vehicle is the power of appointment support trust (POAST). It is useful when aging family members and younger generations own real estate and there is a low basis property with a high fair trade, which results in capital gains. The property is transferred to an irrevocable trust and the older generation is a beneficiary and given a power of appointment. The transfer of the property to the trust allows for a future step up basis so that the unrealized gain is eliminated on the death of the older generation family member holding the power of appointment and in turn reduces gain in the future due to the step up in basis.

    Russis said that caution has to be taken with the POAST because the current landowner can’t be a beneficiary if it is a newly established trust; however, an added power of appointment in the trust may allow the property to be given back to the landowner.

    Regarding tax deferrals, Russis noted the like kind exchanges, known as 1031s. The 1031 can only be used for real estate, farm equipment is no longer eligible. He said that the property one wishes to buy in this exchange must be identified within 45 days and it must be purchased within 180 days. The basis of the new property carries over to the basis of the relinquished property.

    “It is important to find the replacement property ASAP,” said Russis. “It is possible to do a partial exchange, but there will be a slight tax liability on the gain. Additionally, when the LLC is selling the property, it has to reinvest in the new property. If not all members of the LLC want to reinvest, the LLC must be liquidated and a new one would be formed with the members wishing to buy the property.” For a liquidation, Russis mentioned the liquidation should be planned well in advance of a sale.

    Russis noted that if an LLC does not have the funds to buy out a member, financing could be arranged or the party could be given a promissory note from the LLC.

    TCF’s annual election names 2019-2020 officers and directors

    Among the officers and directors for the 2019-2020 year are, standing, from left, Barbara Clark, past president; Jennifer Filipiak, director; David Oppedahl, director; Jamie Cox, director; and Sarah Heck, director. Seated are Andy Holstine, vice president, left, and Alan Gunn, treasurer, right.

    Election of officers and directors was held during The Chicago Farmers’ annual meeting on May 13, 2019 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Officers for the 2019-2020 year are Mark Thorndyke, president; Andrew Holstine, vice-president; Barbara Clark, past president; Kay Whitlock, secretary; and Alan Gunn, treasurer.

    The directors are:

    Serving the first year of first two-year term:

    • Jami Cox
    • Jennifer Filipiak
    • David Oppedahl


    Serving the second year of first two-year term:

    • Sarah Heck
    • Ryan Tracy


    Serving the second year of second two year term:

    • Landon Frye

    Here is what you need to know about today’s farmland values

    Both Todd Slock, regional manager appraisal at Compeer Financial, and Eric Wilkinson, accredited farm manager, real estate broker, and auctioneer at Hertz Farm Management, Inc., agree that farmland values have changed little during 2018 and they see a similar situation going forward. The two men were the guest speakers at The Chicago Farmers’ April 8th meeting. Compeer is a Platinum Sponsor of TCF and Hertz is a Gold Sponsor.

    “There has been little change in farmland values in 2018,” said Wilkinson, whose territory covers the northeast quadrant of Illinois. “Excellent quality land is up about one percent, and good quality is down about one percent. The data show average quality land up eight percent, but that is because larger, better quality land with more irrigation sold in 2018 than in 2017. We’ve seen that the primary buyers of good farmland during 2018 were current farmers. Recreational land is up seven percent, with land values highest for plots near metropolitan areas. Transitional land values are spotty and there is a wide variety of values.” The majority of Wilkinson’s information was provided by the 2019 Illinois Land Values and Lease Trends Report by the Illinois Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.

    Regarding sale prices per acre, Wilkinson said that excellent farmland had an average sale price of $10,722; good farmland, $8,200; average farmland, $7,400; fair farmland, $5,000; recreational land, $3,500; and transitional land, $11,000 across the state of Illinois.

    A long-term view on land sales indicates an increase in the value of average and fair quality land, said Wilkinson. He added that overall, more sales of higher quality property sold in 2018 versus 2017. “We sold a number of bigger farms,” he noted. “A lot of the value comes from the larger, more efficient farms.”

    Wilkinson observed that some investors are seeking second tier and third tier quality land because excellent quality land does not always post the best returns. “These investors believe that the lower quality land can generate a better return on their money in the long-term,” he said.

    Among the buyers involved in the sale transactions, survey results indicate that 59 percent are local farmers, 12 percent are non-local farmers, 15 percent are local investors, and seven percent are institutions.

    Regarding the sellers, 55 percent are estate sales, 13 percent are retired farmers, 14 percent are individual investors, 11 percent are active farmers, and seven percent are institutions.

    “The reasons for selling vary,” said Wilkinson. “Many are settling estates. Some use the money for things other than farming, while others pay down debt with the proceeds. It remains to be seen if active farmers in 2019 will be involved in sales to pay down debt.”

    He said a lot of people are interested in buying farmland, but not as many are interested in selling, unless they are forced into a situation, such as an estate sale.

    “Farmland is a great diversification tool in a portfolio. It is a great long-term, conservative asset class that is difficult to mimic. There is uncertainty in paper assets, but land is tangible and it produces yearly,” said Wilkinson.

    He went on to say that factors that contribute to the current stability of farmland values are farmers and investors willing to compete to control land that is near them or touching their land and they are willing to pay a premium; buyers’ confidence on yields; and the Market Facilitation Program, the federal government’s aid to farmers to help cover losses caused by the trade wars. “A lot of money went to farmers this year through this program,” Wilkinson added. “Farm income increased slightly in 2018, which propped up the land market.”

    Wilkinson shared that survey results show a slightly higher lease turnover rate due to retirements. Overall, operators are willing to take some losses in the short-term to grow their operations in the hopes that something will turn the corner, he said.

    “For land owners and tenants, we suggest avoiding long-term leases so that you are able to capture the current market,” related Wilkinson. “If you are not getting the rent up front, secure a second payment with some kind of irrevocable letter of credit or UCC-1.”

    Slock, whose area includes northern Illinois and parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota, noted that Compeer tracks the benchmark farms that it appraises each July 1st. He said that farmland values have aligned with corn prices. He noted that from 2010 to 2014, the peak in land values was driven by low interest rates and strong commodity prices. From 2016-2018, the benchmark farms range from an increase of 17 percent in land values to a decrease of seven percent. There are 19 benchmark farms in Slock’s Illinois territory, one of which is recreational land.

    In discussing cash rents per acre, Slock noted that on Class A farms, they range is $240-$350; Class B, $220-$328; and with Class C, $215-$300. “We anticipate these ranges to be fairly consistent from last year to this year,” said Slock.

    While land values did not surge ahead during 2018, Slock said prices were fairly steady from 2017 into 2019. “A lot, of course, depends on location,” he said. “Additionally, commodity prices will keep downward pressure on land values in 2019. There was an increase in interest rates in 2018, but this had a minimal affect. Generally, things were not as bad as we had anticipated.”

    During a panel discussion moderated by David Oppedahl, a TCF director, Slock and Wilkinson responded to questions posed to them by audience members. Their responses included:

    • If there is an increase in the real estate tax rate, which has been discussed, it could put land values under a lot of pressure.
    • Both Slock and Wilkinson said that the occurrences of farmland auctions are down. They noted a lot of emotion is involved in the auctions and a straight real estate sale dealing with one buyer is preferred. They saw a downward trend for auctions in 2019.
    • The value of turbines on farm property varies on how the leases are structured. The income is derived from the turbines and can range from $6,000 to $12,000 per year. If the wind turbine does not adversely affect production on the land, then there is minimal impact on the land value. The size of the access lane could be an issue.
    • Regarding trade with China, anything that disrupts the United States’ relationship with China will have an impact on commodities. China will seek cheaper soybeans, which South America can provide. More influx of cash for American farmers from the Market Facilitation Program is not expected. On the other hand, there are other markets for U.S. soybeans and the demand is still there, which is why prices are not significantly lower.
    • Regarding the aging of the American farmer, Slock said there was an even trend in estate sales of farmland; he did not see a significant shift. However, the age of the average farmer is increasing and it is harder for younger people to get into beginning farmer programs. Wilkinson commented that the floodgates of available land could open eventually through estate sales and the concern is that there will be a greater supply of land that can be handled.
    • In discussing the recent legal battles involving Round-Up, it was noted that Round-Up does not have the impact on farming that it once had due to the appearance of many resistant weeds. If unable to use Round Up, progressive farmers would work around it, although it could be a concern for some farmers because of their wide use of the product.
    • A question regarding drainage was addressed. It was noted that tile contractors are busier than ever. “It is not hard to see how one can improve a farm and pick up gains by properly draining the property,” said Wilkinson. Added Slock, “Tiling and irrigation systems are very cost effective because you are spending money on something that will add bushels to your production.”

    Purdue student receives Chicago Farmers’ scholarship

    Purdue University student Hunter C. Christner is a recipient of a Chicago Farmers’ scholarship. Hunter transferred to Purdue in the fall of 2017 after completing double associate’s degrees at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming. He is completing his bachelor’s degree in agronomy at Purdue.

    Hunter is originally from Shipshewana, Indiana, where he enjoyed singing, playing baseball, hunting, fishing, and living on a lake. Following high school graduation with academic honors, Hunter worked for a construction company. After a year, he traveled to Pinedale, Wyoming, where he explored the Rocky Mountains as a backcountry ranger for the Forest Service in Pinedale and attended school in Powell.

    He wrote in a thank you note to TCF, “During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years I discovered my passion for agriculture. I worked on a cattle ranch in Cody, Wyoming, watching 350 head of Black Angus cows in the outskirts of the Yellowstone Mountains. I got to see a lot of wildlife, including some close encounters with grizzly bears. I was able to adventure in the mountains for another year through school.”

    Hunter said he is very interested in working for the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) or another division of the USDA where he can assist people in making natural resource management decisions on farming and ranching operations. He wrote, “I have a wide range of passions and could also succeed in a wildlife management or biologist position. I desire to help people steward the gift we call nature. I am very excited to see what the Lord has for me in the years to come and this scholarship is one aspect of making this adventure possible.”

    Hunter was married last May and when he completes his education at Purdue, he and his wife will move to either Wyoming or Montana. He wrote in his letter to TCF, “I am very grateful for the Chicago Farmers’ scholarship of $1,500. Thank you so much for your support and investment in my college career at Purdue. This generous gift will be used to pay for my tuition fees, books, and other living expenses, as I am going to be living off campus.”

    McDonald’s rolls out the red carpet for TCF

    McDonald’s sleek new headquarters on Randolph Street in the Fulton Market district was the setting for The Chicago Farmers’ March 11th meeting. TCF visited McDonald’s to learn about the important role that sustainability is playing in the company’s operations. The visit was in order because TCF had presented its Distinguished Service to Agriculture award to Ray Kroc, McDonald’s founder, in 1979.

    In 2018, McDonald’s kicked off its “Scale for Good” program, which addresses sustainability, said Townsend Bailey, of McDonald’s North America Sustainability. He served as TCF’s co-host along with Tess Mattingly, of McDonald’s U.S. Public Affairs. “The value that McDonald’s offers is high quality food at affordable pricing that is accessible to the public,” said Townsend. “We are able to do this due to the efficiency of our system and how we work with our franchisees and suppliers.”

    Townsend pointed out that this is not a fad, but has been part of McDonald’s focus since its inception. Making this point, Townsend played an audio portion of a presentation given by Kroc in 1957. At that time, Kroc said that McDonald’s had to be “ethical, truthful and dependable.”

    Townsend added that Kroc’s focus was restaurants that served safe food and were litter-free and clean. Over the years McDonald’s has maintained this focus and eliminated such things as styrofoam containers and replaced them with paper. The Alaskan Pollock fish used in the fish sandwich is caught wild and meets the standards for sustainability. The double cheeseburger? The only ingredient is beef, with salt and pepper added as it cooks.

    Townsend said, “There are a lot of efficiencies that come with being big. McDonald’s has 37,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries and these restaurants serve 69 million people per day. We are using our scale for good.”

    The Scale for Good program was built on answers from consumers to McDonald’s question: What issues are important to society? The answers:

    • Beef sustainability
    • Commitment to families
    • Packaging and recycling
    • Climate action
    • Youth opportunity

    McDonald’s has adopted the concept that sustainability means to continue into the future indefinitely in ethics, the environment and the economy, said Townsend. The roof of the downtown headquarter building features a vegetable garden and composting. Crops from the garden are donated to charities.

    The Scale for Good program includes commitments such as:

    • By 2025, 100 percent of McDonald’s packaging will come from renewable, recycled or certified sources
    • By 2025, all McDonald’s restaurants will recycle guest packaging (Townsend noted that this is challenging because every municipality has different regulations and infrastructure, but McDonald’s plans to be a part of the solution and help influence powerful change.)
    • Continue on its food journey

    *McDonald’s USA is committed to only using eggs from cage-free chickens

    *by 2022, 50 percent of Happy Meals will be 600 calories or less, 10 percent of the calories will be saturated fat, will contain 650 milligrams of sodium, and only 10 percent of the calories will be from sugar

    • In further commitment to families and in support of education, McDonald’s has distributed 370 million books in its Happy Meals
    • To further beef sustainability, McDonalds will engage with the beef industry, NGOs (non-government organizations) and the U.S. Roundtable (The vast majority of McDonald’s USA’s beef comes from North America, said Townsend.)

    Townsend went on to say that many of McDonald’s suppliers have been with the company since 1955. He noted, “If a supplier doesn’t meet our expectations on foundational aspects, it is out; however, our position has always been to partner with our supply chain on our shared goals.”

    Following the presentation, the attendees were divided into groups and led on a guided tour of the McDonald’s facility. The nine-story glass and steel building, located at 1045 W. Randolph St., was designed by Gensler Architects and developed by Sterling Bay. It was designed to blend in with its surrounding buildings, which were largely meatpackers at one time. McDonald’s leases its space from Sterling Bay. While a McDonald’s restaurant is on the ground floor, there are no large golden arches, just signs bearing small golden arches.

    About 2,000 people are employed at the site, although the number varies daily because each employee is given the opportunity to work from home one day a week. When at the Randolph Street location, employees work in open spaces. They are not assigned a specific space and may move around to a different location each day. This is called “hoteling.”

    As our guide, Megen DiSanto, of McDonald’s Public Affairs, led us through the building she pointed out the wall of toys from Happy Meals of bygone days, displays of McDonald’s memorabilia such as the original malted milk equipment that captivated Kroc and the packages of food items that are no longer on the restaurants’ menus,  the Quiet Rooms that are located on each floor for employees to work in silence, sans cell phones, and the culinary lab where McDonald’s employees are able to use old and new equipment and create and taste test new recipes. Hamburger University is onsite for the training of owners/operators.

    The building also houses a Work Café on the sixth floor for global presentations and includes a dining area in conjunction with a McCafe. A feature of the Work Cafe is a stadium-like seating area that is designed to inspire more collaboration among employees, Megen explained. It faces a wall of windows with a stunning view of Chicago. Another gathering spot for employees is on the ninth floor and provides socializing and after-hours cocktails on select evenings that can be purchased by the employees. A terrace adjacent to the space has seating in nice weather and is available for short vitamin D breaks. McDonald’s also offers a gymnasium for fitness classes. In summer months, yoga classes are conducted on the terrace.

    Denise Faris, Chicago Farmers Editor

    Martin family builds on its stewardship of the land

    Chicago Farmers Member and past president Jeff Martin has long been an advocate of planting techniques that contribute to soil health. His sons, Derek and Doug, are following suit. This excerpt from a recent article posted on the AgWeb, which was written by Chris Bennett, Farm Journal Technology and Issues editor, gives one an idea of Derek Martin’s and his family’s commitment to sustainability, decreased erosion, healthy soil, and increased yields.

    Derek Martin steps off a tractor and walks across rich, black soil teeming with life. He moves out of the field and passes between machine shed doors, pulls up a stool beside a vat filled with a biological brew, and peers into the lens tube of a microscope. With the conviction of a soil health evangelist, Martin, alongside his brother, Doug, and father, Jeff, has transformed a 6,000-acre operation from an input-guzzling leviathan to a profit-per-acre force: “Over the last 100 years our soils have been fed a strict, constant diet of NPK. That’s like a human eating a Big Mac over and over and expecting to be healthy.”

    To learn more, go to https://www.agweb.com/article/illinois-farmer-paves-road-to-profit-with-soil-health/

    Denise Faris, Chicago Farmers Editor