Different Doesn't Mean Bad: Illinois vs. Kansas
Agriculture is a lifestyle for many people, 2,109,303 U.S. farmers to be exact, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I grew up on a corn and soybean farm in central Illinois with my dad, mom, and two older siblings.
Harvest was, and still is, my favorite time of year. The smell of corn being cut is my absolute favorite and riding in any farm equipment is always entertaining. Growing up on a farm gives you irreplaceable memories; like eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on a tailgate at lunch with my dad and grandpa.
While some say Illinois agriculture is boring, I beg to differ. I often hear, "That's corn and bean country up there," or "Illinois is flat and dreary," but there's a certain beauty to a sunset over a cornfield the harvest lines that a combine creates in the field.
Growing up, showing cattle was a passion of my family's and myself and we share a strong love for the Angus breed. Farming and showing Angus cattle were the only things I knew for a long time, until I went to Kansas State University and fell in love with a Kansas cowboy.
Now that I'm out here in the heart of Kansas where the deer and the antelope play, my life is a little bit different than it was growing up on the farm back home.
For starters, my boyfriend's family lives on a ranch with a herd of around 100 commercial Angus cattle. Each year, in the spring, the Just family puts their cattle out in the Flint Hills to graze and returns the heard to the homestead for calving season.
This event usually requires the help of a several cowboys to make the move each way. With trailers full of unpredictable cattle, cowboys are essential to this summer and fall transition.
Second, back home with my show heifers, you could waltz up to them and give them a big ol' neck scratch. Cattle in Kansas are raised for both commercial and show purposes, but the commercial cattle aren't handled as much as the show cattle. Sometimes they can be feisty, although show cattle can be feisty too.
There are several differences between Illinois farm country and the agriculture I've found in the rolling Flint Hills of Kansas. I grew up with tractors, combines, grain trucks and semis; but I've become accustomed to the ranch life with horses, roping, cattle, feedlots (the smell of money), and wheat. Lots and lots of wheat. Approximately 20 percent of all wheat is grown in Kansas according to Kansas Farm Bureau. Hence, why Kansas is known as the wheat state.
Another area of agriculture that's different in Kansas versus Illinois is the ground. The soil in Kansas is known as silt loam. According to the USDA, this silt loam soil depicts all desirable qualities and is ideal for prairie soil, which is mostly in west central Kansas. Also stated by the USDA, Kansas acquires more acres of prairie soil than any other state.
In Illinois, the soil is commonly known as Drummer Soil. Drummer soil is described as silty clay loam and is prime for farmland and crops corn and beans mainly. The USDA states the soil in Illinois is one of the most productive soils and the world.
If you think Kansas is flat, just wait until you come to Illinois. Although it may depend what part of Kansas you're in, if you're in Western Kansas, you may as well be in Illinois. Kansas has been dubbed as the "flat as a pancake" state in comparison to an IHOP pancake. Although Kansas did not make the top five flattest states, Illinois comes in second. While driving in Illinois, mostly all you see is flat corn and soybean fields for miles and miles on end; and while driving in Kansas, you see hills and valleys (especially in the heart of the Flint Hills) and can hardly see the next road over.
While my view of agriculture has greatly changed as I've made the transition from Illinois to Kansas, I have a greater understanding and appreciation for the vast differences in food, fuel and fiber production around the globe. While we can pick a part the differences, one thing I know for sure is that the heart of the farmer is much the same. Providing for our communities, our neighbors and our families is a top priority. I will forever be grateful for growing up on a farm as a kid and the opportunity to learn how to become a 'ranching girl.'