Field Initiative 6. Northern Illinois

Knowledge Production and Practice in Industrial Row Crop Farming, Northern Illinois.

Project Coordinator: Charlie Corwin, UIC, PhD Student in Urban Planning & Policy

Supervisor: Ralph Cintron, Associate Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies and English

Artist Participant: Stella Brown, UIC, MFA Student in Studio Art

Large-scale agricultural practices dominated by commodity crops that are used as livestock feed, bio-fuel, or as plastic substitutes, have been the cornerstone of industrial agriculture in the US over the last sixty years, and led to environmental degradation locally and contributed to climate change globally. Cash crops are grown using conventional methods and synthetic chemical inputs. Farmers affect the local ecology through decision making processes. Decisions to adopt alternative practices, such as cover cropping, rely on knowledge systems better suited to specific micro-environments, and these practices promote sustainable crop production while mitigating environmental damage. Popular in the midwest, cover cropping adds another crop to the rotation. Studies purport multiple benefits of this practice, including the system’s ability to add nutrients to the soil, protect against erosion, increase yields, and enhance water quality. This initiative explores existing knowledge systems and networks that shape local practices as integral to broader state, national, and global politics and markets. It will characterize differing knowledge types in the row crop farming system in the Southern Wisconsin and Northern Drift Plain soil region in Northern Illinois. Fieldwork seeks to clarify the relationship between knowledge production and practice in row crop farming in an effort to promote sustainable agricultural practices.