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Volunteer John Emmett, left, and Patty Jason work the information booth on Tuesday during the first day for the Farm Progress Show 2019. Both are volunteers with Holy Cross Lutheran Church. More photos at www.herald-review.com

"They're amazing. A little sticky, but totally worth it for a day like this. It's absolutely scorching out here," said Ann Marie Adamski,Versatile marketing clerk.

Adamski was among the many left with green- and red-stained tongues after enjoying watermelon popsicles at the Farm Progress Show on Tuesday. The cold treats were provided for free by Nutrien Ag Solutions, in honor of NASCAR driver Ross Chastain, nicknamed “The Watermelon Man.”

Chastain was given the nickname because he grew up on a watermelon farm in Alva, Fla., and is now an eighth-generation watermelon farmer. He will be making an appearance Wednesday at the Nutrien Ag Solutions booth.

“People are loving them," said Josh Tanner, a Nutrien Ag Solutions crop consultant in Bloomington. Tanner estimated about 600 popsicles were handed out around noon.

***

Bayer announced a multi-year, multi-million-dollar commitment to 4-H and the National FFA Organization to develop future leaders in food and agriculture for generations to come.

The funds will provide multi-year support for many of the key programs and activities for which the two premier youth organizations are known today. These include hands-on science activities for learning, engaging within their communities, and developing strong leadership skills among young people.

Bayer's more than $6 million commitment is in addition to grants directed to rural school districts, nonprofits and local 4-H clubs and FFA chapters through the America's Farmers programs, a nationwide effort dedicated to strengthening farm communities across the U.S., sponsored by Bayer Fund. Since 2010, through the America's Farmers programs, participating farmers have directed more than $53 million to these and other organizations across the U.S. 

"This is an exciting day and I'm proud to play a part in helping to invest in the future of agriculture and the bright minds who will make a difference in our industry and world," said Lisa Safarian, North American president of the Crop Science Division of Bayer. "Whether you are from rural America, a large city or somewhere in between, the young people who belong to these two organizations have a tremendous opportunity to make a positive impact on our world through agriculture.”

***

Patrick Gentry is no stranger to the Farm Progress Show.

“I've been to every progress show since I was a baby," said Gentry, a corn and soybean farmer from Southern Indiana.

Patrick, 37, and wife Rachel, 30, stopped for a cold treat at Sister's Coffee along Fifth Progress Street at the Farm Progress Show on Tuesday.

“I married into farming when I married him," Rachel said. "For me, not growing up in farming, I think it's a good learning experience, you see all the FFA kids and all that. I haven't seen it all, but he's seen it all through the years and see how things have changed."

Patrick took a few moments to reflect on past Farm Progress Shows.

"Some aspects I miss is the traveling to different parts of the state, to see different things, but it has become very nice to have a semi-permanent site with the roads," Patrick said.

Rachel said while she is still becoming accustomed to the Farm Progress Show, what sticks out to her is the importance placed on future farmers.

“Everybody lives on a different kind of farm. The kids may grow up on farms with older equipment and can see some things to look forward to," she said.

Aside from the technology and new techniques, Patrick said he enjoys the opportunity to socialize with farmers from around the world.

"It's a time we can all get together and just catch up and see what's going on throughout the states, talk about the crops, how bad it is, how good it is, looking forward to harvest and also visiting friends I've met over the years."

***

The eyes of agricultural world are focused on Decatur.

Thanks to the handiwork of Jason Holsinger and the crew from Showtime Mobile Detailing and Washing Services and a host of other exhibitors, those eyes may need some sunglasses to protect them from the glare coming from the acres of tractors, augers, grain carts and more that are being showcased through Thursday at the Farm Progress Show.

The State College, Pennsylvania, resident arrived in Decatur last week to begin the task of power watching and cleaning items for their more than 140 clients after they were placed in their spot on the show grounds.

The job is repeated at the conclusion of each day of the show. The equipment gets sprayed down, tracked in mud is removed from the cabs and the windows are cleared of fingerprints.

Holsinger has been traveling across the country for 25 years doing the same thing at other farm shows.

“I've been to almost very state,” he said, noting special fondness for stops in New Orleans and Las Vegas.

From Decatur, he travels to Grand Island, Nebraska, to do the same thing at the Husker Harvest Days.

***

Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs was among the dignitaries on the Farm Progress Show grounds on Tuesday, bringing attention to a state program that benefits farmers.

Ag Invest is a program through which the treasurer's office partners with approved financial institutions to provide qualified farmers, agri-business and agriculture professionals below-market rate loans to start, expand or add value to their farm operations.

“We know they are going through some hard times right now because of spring weather and because of the the president's trade ware, so we trying to make sure farmers contain costs, stay in business and keep these family farms in the family,” he said.

In place since 1983, Frerichs said the program had grown stagnant after failing to evolve with the times. So after talking with farmers and bankers, the program was revamped and continues to undergo changes.

Frerichs said it is important that he spend at least one day at the Farm Progress Show promoting the program.

“I find no one gets as much attention as the officeholder,” he said. “ It's a great program, but if no one hears about it, no one knows about it and they don't use it, all the changes are for naught.”

Find out more about the Ag Invest program in the U.S. Department of Agriculture tent.

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Contact Scott Perry at (217) 421-7976. Follow him on Twitter: @scottperry66

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