By Linda Newman
Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of different countries and have some pretty amazing experiences. Yesterday, I spent the day at Rodney Shilling’s farm in southern Illinois. It was without a doubt one of the most exciting, informative, eye-opening days I’ve ever had.
Monsanto arranged the tour so Fraser (my fellow Scottish Intern) and I could see the workings of an American farm, especially seeing as we both come from big Scottish cities and neither of us know anything about farming in general, and, in particular, farming in America.
When we arrived the first thing we noticed was this incredibly gigantic tractor. Or that’s what I thought it was at first. It turns out it was a combine, which is used to harvest the crops. As I spent the day discovering, farming is a lot more complicated than I ever could have imagined.
We spent the morning with Rodney explaining the workings of his farm. His family owns 1,300 acres of land, and he and his father farm the whole lot on their own. The sheer volume of how much they farm astounded me, as well as the fact that they do it all on their own. Rodney also explained how corn is bought and sold. There is so much that goes into it. Rodney has an app on his phone that tells him the price of corn every two hours — it felt to me like the stock market but one for corn!
Throughout the day what amazed me the most was all the different skills you have to have to be a successful farmer. You not only have to be physically strong and have an amazing worth ethic, but also to really succeed you also have to have a strong business head about you. You need to know the right time to buy and sell your products and when it makes good business sense to invest in a new and expensive piece of machinery for the farm.
We then drove to Addieville, the small town near Rodney’s farm, to have lunch at the Eagles Nest, which has to be the coolest and most stereotypically American place I’ve been to so far. We walked in and every person in the place knew Rodney and greeted him. There is such a sense of community in this town (and I am sure all farming communities across America are the same). Familes know each other and have been here for many generations. For me, coming from a life where I haven’t lived in one town, let alone one country for more the seven consecutive years of my life, this is a pretty incredible concept.
We then went to corn elevator called Top Ag; it’s the place where the farmers store and sell their corn. The elevator is right next to a railway line, by which the corn gets transported all around the country. Then the final stop of the day was a John Deere dealership where we got to see the giant tractors and combines being fixed by mechanics (who are defiantly more computer scientists than mechanics with all the technology now installed in the machines) and we also got to buy toy versions to take home.
On the way back Rodney showed us some of his many corn acres. He told us about the drought that they are facing this summer and how he’s hoping for rain; otherwise, they won’t get the crop yields they’re hoping for. So now, I am sitting at my cube in the Monsanto offices and although personally I would like nothing more than for it to stay dry (I have had enough rain in Scotland to last me a lifetime), I was so incredibly inspired by Rodney’s life that I am sitting here hoping and praying for rain for him. And the clouds out my window are starting to look dark and ominous.
Linda is interning with Monsanto this summer through a program hosted by the Saltire Foundation.
Top: Rodney Schilling, Linda Newman, Mark Sutherland and Fraser Porteous at the Eagle’s Nest Restaurant. Middle: Fraser and Linda experience a corn field. Bottom: The Top Ag elevator in Addieville.