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Monmouth College to host discussion on farming in western Illinois

As an innovative Monmouth College Triad explores an issue of global significance through the lenses of biology, economics and anthropology, some of the key answers may be very close to home.

That is the idea behind a panel discussion organized by the three faculty members in the College’s Global Food Security Triad.

Titled “Shaping the Future of Farming in Western Illinois,” the discussion will be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 in Dahl Chapel and Auditorium.

Panelists will include Monsanto’s Troy Coziahr; Western Illinois University professor Joel Gruver; extension educator Andrew Larson; and dairy farmer/soil scientist Francis Thicke. The discussion will be moderated by local farmer Ron Moore.

“This is a discussion among four panelists, representing industry, farmers, academia and government about what the future of agriculture will look like right here in our backyard over the decades to come, and how we all can participate in directing this change to create the Western Illinois we hope to live in,” said biology professor Eric Engstrom, who teaches courses in the Triad, along with Ramses Armendariz (economics) and Megan Hinrichsen (anthropology).

With his wife, Susan, Thicke owns and operates a 90-cow, grass-based, organic dairy near Fairfield, Iowa. They process their milk on the farm and market their dairy products through grocery stores and restaurants in Fairfield. Thicke has a Ph.D. in soil fertility and has served as national program leader for Soil Science for the USDA-Extension Service in Washington, D.C.

Gruver received his Ph.D. in social science. In addition to teaching that subject and sustainable agriculture at Western, he is the director of the WIU Organic Research Program. A recipient of the National No-Till Educator of the Year Award, Gruver’s research interests include conservation cropping systems with a focus on cover crops and organic grain production, soil organic matter, and innovative teaching methods.

Prior to returning to University of Illinois to be an extension educator in local food systems and small farms, Larson worked for six years as the small farms specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. He has a master’s degree in natural resources and environmental sciences from the University of Illinois, and an MBA from Iowa State University. The pursuit of sustainability in agriculture has been the focus throughout his training.

Coziahr is manager of the Monsanto Learning Center, located just south of Monmouth.

Moore serves as president of the American Soybean Association, representing the Illinois Soybean Association. The Roseville, Ill., farmer has a soybean, corn, alfalfa and feeder cattle operation. As an ISA Board member, he has been involved with the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices, Illinois Livestock Development Group, Soybean Research & Development Council, and Illinois Agricultural Legislative Roundtable, as well as numerous other related groups and committees.