Wisconsin student receives TCF scholarship

    Melissa Losby, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a recipient of a Chicago Farmers’ scholarship. She is studying Animal Sciences and Environmental Studies at the university.

    Melissa grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, with a great love for anything animal-related. She wrote in a thank you note to TCF, “I grew up with my mother, father, and cat. Although I was raised in the city, I have always had a passion for animals and an interest in agriculture. My mother grew up on a small dairy family farm in northeastern Wisconsin and spending time at the farm was a highlight of my childhood. I am so excited to be continuing my studies at UW-Madison and I cannot thank you enough for your support.”

    She said she grew up riding horses on her grandparents’ farm.  When she became 14-years-old, Melissa began working at a summer camp where she taught children how to work with and ride horses. She soon realized that she loved sharing her knowledge and teaching both children and adults.

    Melissa said that she was overjoyed when she was accepted into UW-Madison and quickly declared her major to be Animal Sciences. She noted the decision was simple because Animal Sciences allowed her to incorporate her passion for animals with a desire to learn more about agriculture. In the middle of her first year, she declared Environmental Studies as a second major. “This decision stemmed from my interest in sustainability in agriculture,” she wrote.

    “Overall, I chose to major in Animal Sciences and Environmental Studies for the chance to learn as much about agriculture as I can. With these degrees, I hope to share my knowledge with the community and use what I have learned to help educate others,” Melissa wrote.

    She said she has gained much knowledge about agriculture and is learning more every day. Melissa plans to graduate in May 2020 and is looking forward to her final semesters on campus. After graduation, Melissa hopes to find a career that incorporates agriculture and animals with outreach and teaching within the community.

    Melissa said she has been very fortunate at the University of Wisconsin to experience everything from hands-on involvement with livestock to off-campus trips. One of her favorite classes was the Meat Animal Evaluation Team. Being a part of the team exposed her to many aspects of the agriculture industry that she had not previously experienced. Melissa wrote, “We toured feedlots, a harvest facility, and various cattle operations. For me, this class really showed me what opportunities are out there in the agriculture industry. The chances to learn and grow have been numerous since I began studying Animal Sciences and your generosity is paramount to continue my studies.”

    Melissa shared that another important part of her experience at UW-Madison has been through her internship with the school’s Equine 4H Extension Specialist and through its Saddle and Sirloin Club. Through these activities she said she has further broadened the extent of her understanding of the industries involved in agriculture.

    Melissa noted, “Since I hope to share the knowledge I have learned with others in the future, working with UW Extension and the Saddle and Sirloin club has been so beneficial. I have helped put together 4H activities, helped put on livestock shows, and learned more about the university’s involvement in the community. I would like to articulate how much your support impacts me and my studies. This scholarship opportunity allows me to place a larger focus on my classes, clubs, and internship without such a financial burden. Receiving the Chicago Farmers scholarship has emboldened me to delve into my studies and gain as much knowledge as possible in my final years at UW-Madison. Again, your generosity and support mean so much to me and I would like to thank you immensely for this amazing opportunity.”

    Founder of Tillable talks about technology that helps the landowner

    Technology is becoming an important part of farming and is moving forward at a rapid pace; however, its functions are not taking into account the needs of the landowner, according to Corbett Kull, the guest speaker at the January 14th meeting of The Chicago Farmers and the founder and CEO of Tillable, an ag tech company that is designed to help landowners become wiser about their holdings.

    “Tillable’s goal is to help the landowner become better at what he is doing,” said Kull, who also is a founder and a principle of 640 Labs, a Chicago-based technology company (acquired by The Climate Corporation in 2014) that collects, stores, and visualizes agricultural data to help growers improve their operations. “Tillable is able to guide the landowner through several considerations that will strengthen a landowner’s position.”

    Kull said a landowner must:

    • Pick the best grower for your farm
    • Establish a fair rent
    • Sign a lease, do not conduct business with a verbal agreement
    • Ensure you are paid on time
    • Acquire data about the farm, such as yield maps and the fertilizing schedule (Tillable works to get this data in an easy manner and provides it to the landowner)
    • Reduce “headaches” associated with managing farmland investments

    Kull said that agriculture is changing, but the tools that can help landowners have not kept pace with the times as they have for growers. He noted that there have been tremendous productivity gains in farming--outputs are up by 107 percent during the last several years and yields on corn and soybeans are up. Kull also shared that the amount of land being farmed today is down from previous generations. Much of the best land is taken out of production due to subdivisions, he said.

    “As we move forward, the greatest gains in agriculture will be due to automation,” said Kull. “There is more professionalism in farming. The young people who are coming out of college have more tools and capabilities at their disposal than their grandparents did.”

    Kull commented on the development of autonomous tractors and showed a brief video of the tractors in action on a farm in Iowa. While not in widespread use now, the tractors will be in the near future and landowners will then have more options available to them. “In the future, there will be less labor and more data; landowners need to be more sophisticated. Landowners have to know what their land is worth and Tillable is making sure that landowners know that worth,” he said.

    Major problems facing landowners are how to connect with effective and efficient growers and how to set the rent. Tillable works to bring the landowner and the grower together and provides the data necessary to set a fair market rent.

    Through accumulation of data, Tillable is able to make a landowner aware of the worth of the farm. At the same time, it works to ensure the landowner gets the most qualified grower for the farm. Kull said Tillable gives the landowner access to information about a potential grower that indicates if the grower will be a good steward of the land based on past performance.

    Kull stressed the importance of obtaining several growers’ offers and setting up electronic payment schedules. He said that landowners who have worked with Tillable have received more offers from growers and have increased rent proceeds by 35 percent. “Think of Tillable as Airbnb plus Zillow plus a farm manager on a digital platform,” related Kull.

    Currently, Tillable’s client base includes 500 landowners and 4500 growers. It operates across 10 states. Kull said that Tillable receives a two percent fee from both the landowner and the grower on a transaction. He said there is no obligation for a landowner to change their grower, but Tillable provides access to a wider network of area farmers.

    Kull said that Tillable collects data from leases and taxing bodies and creates a report that is available to landowners. It also obtains prior yield data, soil test results, and proof of fertilizing that is available to the grower. A grower creates a profile that contains his farming practices, references, and banking references.

    “Typically, the leases are for one year so there is flexibility for the landowner and the grower,” said Kull. “At times, rent rates need to be raised or decreased. The important question to ask yourself is, ‘does my farm meet my expectations?’ Tillable is designed to give you the answer.”

    JJC student receives TCF scholarship

    Scott Cleland, a student at Joliet Junior College, recently received a Chicago Farmers’ scholarship.

    Scott shared in a thank you note to TCF, “Thank you for honoring me with a Chicago Farmers’ scholarship. I am very thankful for these funds as they will help me further my education at Joliet Junior College. I am currently majoring in Agriculture Business and have a strong interest in agricultural equipment sales. I hope to use the money to learn more about this sector of business and secure a full-time career in agricultural equipment sales.”

    Scott continued, “This past summer I served as an intern with a local agricultural sales and service company where I learned an enormous amount about the world of agriculture business.

    “I am looking forward to the school year ahead. Thanks again for your generous support.”

    Illini student receives TCF scholarship

    Ethan Plote, a junior in the College of ACES at the University of Illinois, is a recent recipient of a Chicago Farmers’ scholarship. A native of Leland, Illinois, Ethan is majoring in Technical Systems Management and Agricultural and Consumer Economics – Farm Management.

    In a note to Chicago Farmers, Ethan wrote, “The College of ACES was my school of choice because I wanted to learn more about both agricultural business and technology. However, being a third generation Illini might have helped play a role in choosing ACES, as well. One of my favorite things about the college is the family atmosphere and the ease of accessibility I have with my advisors and professors. On campus, I am involved in Alpha Zeta, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and Cru. In each of these organizations, I hold or have held leadership positions.”

    Ethan continued, “With my double major, I feel I will be amply prepared for being involved on my family's farm after college. For the summer of 2019, I have accepted an internship with CNH Industrial, and I am looking forward to working in its capital division. The Chicago Farmers’ scholarship means a lot to me because this year I was able to participate in the International Business Immersion Program in Brazil. Through this program I was able to learn about and experience many aspects of Brazilian agriculture. The Chicago Farmers’ scholarship has helped to support me and I cannot thank the organization enough for its generosity.”