MEET

Andy and Katie Pratt

corn • soybeans

Andy and Katie Pratt

Dixon, IL

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It's a family affair

For us, farming truly is a family affair. No other “career” would allow my children complete access to their family legacy. Every day comes a new lesson from grandparents or uncles and aunts about our families' histories, our knowledge of the land and our responsibility to mankind. Sounds dramatic, but when your job is to feed, fuel and clothe the world, it all makes perfect sense.

Farming from all sides

Our whole family is involved in the farm. Literally. On Andy's side, we farm with his dad, mom, brother and sister-in-law. Everyone has their own responsibilities and we often meet to address how the farm is managed. Our children, Ethan and Nattie, are the eighth generation on the Pratt farm. We're truly blessed to live a few miles from both our home farms and both sets of grandparents and siblings.

Opening our doors for 40+ years 

We raise corn, soybeans and seed corn on our farm in Dixon. The family farm has been open to visitors, including non-farm neighbors, urban Chicago moms and teachers, and farmers from around the globe for nearly half a century.

About my family

Located in northern Illinois, we grow corn, soybeans and seed corn in Dixon. Farming is truly a family affair as we farm alongside Andy's dad, mom, brother and sister-in-law, and live just a few minutes from both of their home farms. We have two children, Ethan and Nattie.

My Blog Posts

Farm Lesson: Sometimes the crop will fail.
GMO 101: The View From Our Farm
Hibernating Fields
Illinois Farmer Q&A: How do you feel when you see misleading food labels at the grocery store?
Illinois Farmer Q&A: How has biotechnology changed your farm?
Illinois Farmer Q&A: How is your farm different from your grandparent's? How is it the same?
Illinois Farmer Q&A: What food labels do you think are the most misleading?
Illinois Farmer Q&A: What food labels do you think hold the most significance?
Is News Media Making Your Food Choices For You?
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    GMOs

    "I’m an Illinois farmer answering questions about GMOs."
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GMO 101: The View from Our Farm

Questions are being asked about GMOs and their safety, so I’m answering some of the questions I get as an Illinois farmer.

What are GMOs, and why do we plant them on our farm?

Some would argue gene modification has been happening for centuries, resulting in seedless watermelons, seedless grapes and chocolate cherry tomatoes. Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are plants that contain a single gene from another organism so that the plant can do something it couldn’t before.

List of GMO Crops Today

  1. Corn
  2. Soybeans
  3. Cotton
  4. Canola
  5. Alfalfa (for animal feed)
  6. Sugar beets
  7. Rainbow papaya
  8. Ranger Russet and Atlantic potatoes
  9. Arctic Apples
  10. Select varieties of squash

If you’ve got a garden in your backyard, you probably know how easy it is for pests to damage your fruits or vegetables. It’s the same with our farm. Prior to using a genetically modified seed, one insect, the European corn borer, caused serious losses for corn farmers. Plant scientists found a naturally occurring soil bacterium (Bt -bacillus thuringiensis) that is toxic to the corn borer, selected the gene and inserted it into corn DNA. Now, instead of spraying the crop with a chemical multiple times, the plants fight the bug themselves. Organic corn farmers who don’t use GMO seeds can also have problems with the corn borer. They can use an approved Bt insecticide on their farms. The same result is achieved, but using different farming methods.

Another crop we grow is soybeans. You may have heard of Round-up Ready soybeans. They are soybean plants that can tolerate being sprayed with Round-up, a chemical meant to kill weeds. But why would plant scientists make such a thing? To use fewer chemicals. On our farm, we’ve reduced our application of herbicides (chemicals that control weeds) by half. Fewer chemicals being applied means less traffic in the fields, less fuel, less soil erosion . . . all beneficial for our farm.

We also plant non-genetically modified corn and soybean seeds. Planting a variety of hybrids and using a variety of farming methods like tilling the soil in different ways, crop rotation, weather analysis and weed control by simply mowing grass on the outer edge of a field can help control the number of pests. Pests, including insects, weeds and disease, have been evolving for years. With or without genetically modified seeds and pesticides, they will continue to evolve. So farmers must ready their tool belt, and genetically modified seeds are one of many tools we’re using today.

Are we told what to plant by “BIG AG”? Are GMOs safe? To find out how Katie answers these questions read her full blog here.