Tour showcased rural education and agricultural issues and highlighted livestock, grain farms and conservation projects.
Cass-Morgan Farm Bureau member Dale Hadden, left, talks about spring planting preparations with Rep. Terra Costa Howard, D-Glen Ellyn, during a tour of his Jacksonville farm. Others attending included, from left, Wes White, Roger Hardy and Doug Coop. (Photo by Christina Nourie)
By Christina Nourie
Farmers from Cass-Morgan Farm Bureau recently welcomed their new adopted legislator, Rep. Terra Costa Howard, D-Glen Ellyn, for an educational day. Costa Howard represents a suburban district in DuPage County and joined the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Adopt-A-Legislator program a few months ago.
She first met her adopted farmers at IFB’s state legislative reception in February and graciously offered to visit the county this spring to begin learning more about their farms and the work they do.
The day began with a meet and greet at the county Farm Bureau office where the representative was presented with a welcome basket of locally produced items. The first tour stop took place at North Elementary School in Jacksonville. As a former school board president, Costa Howard has a strong interest in education issues. The school tour provided an opportunity to learn about the concerns of a rural school district, including unfunded mandates and the challenging impact of the state’s new minimum wage law.
Principal Bobbie Mills led the tour and highlighted the building’s newest addition which added a media center, preschool classrooms and more restrooms. Costa Howard also observed an Ag in the Classroom presentation by Lisa Hadden to learn about the program, which teaches students about how their food is grown.
The next stop was John Tomhave’s cow/calf operation. Tomhave’s son, Austin, and daughter-in-law, Lauren, along with their daughters, Gracie and Caroline, gave the representative a tour of their barn to view newborn calves.
The Tomhaves explained how the babies are fed, raised and cared for in all kinds of weather. They also discussed how farmers keep their animals healthy, including responsibly using antibiotics to prevent illness and to treat the animals when they are sick.
Several Cass-Morgan Farm Bureau Board members joined the group for lunch at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. The group had a great conversation covering many issues, including the importance of the sales tax exemption on agricultural inputs, the proposed progressive income tax, economic development and vocational education. The discussion provided a valuable opportunity for Costa Howard to ask direct questions about agriculture and get the farmers' input on key issues facing the state today.
After lunch, the representative visited the Hadden family farm, a fifth-generation grain and cattle farm. The family also runs a Pioneer seed dealership. Brothers Dale and Gary Hadden walked Costa Howard through their farm, explaining how they are preparing for planting season, as well as work involved in running the seed dealership.
Time was spent inspecting a planter to better understand the machinery and technology used to plant a crop. Afterwards, Costa Howard gained some on-the-job experience by taking a tractor ride and even driving the tractor herself.
The tour concluded with a stop at Wes White’s farm to view agricultural conservation projects. Costa Howard learned how cover crops prevent soil erosion and provide nutrients to improve the soil. The group also took a ride out into the field to observe how filter strips prevent nutrient runoff from the field and protect water quality.
“We appreciate Rep. Costa Howard’s enthusiasm for the Adopt-A-Legislator program and her interest in learning more about agriculture,” said Wes White, Cass-Morgan Farm Bureau president. “The farm tour was a valuable opportunity to share our perspective on a number of important state issues. We look forward to visiting the representative’s district this summer to better understand the issues important to her constituents.”
Christina Nourie serves as Illinois Farm Bureau’s northeast legislative coordinator.