I spy with my Illinois eye.

Downstate Here.

Have visited Downstate by accident?

Were you on your way to get ‘someplace’ and Downstate was in the way?   Or was it to drop a kid off at State U ?

Do you think that we all live on a farm?   Maybe you imagine that farmers look like this…….

Or is this your image?

The original propaganda about rural life

Funny thing about that American Gothic painting.   It was painted by a guy who entered it in an art contest in Chicago.   The Art Institute bought the painting and the rest as they say is history.  The image is enshrined in an endless series of parodies.

The artist who painted this saw a real farm house in Iowa on a trip and used it as a subject.    He then decided to paint the house along with “the kind of people I fancied should live in that house”.     The woman in the painting was really the artist’s sister.  The man was modeled on the artist’s dentist.  This is the original  propaganda about rural life.

When the painting was shown in Iowa, real Iowa farmers and their wives were not amused. To them, the painting looked like a nasty caricature, portraying Midwestern farmers as pinched, grim-faced, puritanical Bible-thumpers.

So we have almost 100 years of really misunderstanding each other.  Same as it ever was.

Google was late to the game

The days of 40 acres and a mule are gone.    Today you aren’t really farming if you don’t farm 3,000 acres.   That’s 3,000 acres @ approximately $10,000/acre or $30,000,000 tied in up land.   Most farmers don’t own all that land.  Many farmers own part of the land they farm; and then they pay rent to land owners to farm their land to get to the 3,000 acres they need to be a ‘real farmer’.

Just about every one of those ‘really farming’ farmers uses GPS to drive their tractors.   The tractors steer themselves.  No big thing.   We’ve had self driving tractors here for at least 15 years.   The tractors have air conditioning, Internet, TV screens and sensors and data collectors and are highly technical machines.  They can plant a seed within 1″ of the target.

The equipment is hugely expensive.     Here’s a 2016 Tractor for sale that is ‘slightly used’  for $439,900.

Not all is bucolic down on the farm-

I’m going to share with you some secrets about living in the country.

I hope you understand that we, like you, can’t be painted with one brush.

Dirty Little Secret #1 –  Most of us aren’t farmers

See above.     We live in the country or small towns but we aren’t farmers.    We know farmers.  We live near and often next to farmers.  But we’re not farmers by and large.

Dirty Little Secret #2 –  Downstate towns and schools are hamstrung by the Big Farm Lobby.

There’s only enough farmland in Illinois to have about 9,200 farmers who ‘really farm’.    There are 73,000 farms but 90% are really just hobby farms and small producers.

The 9,200  or so  who ‘really farm’ are just like oligarchs/plutocrats/aristocrats in the City.   That’s about 90 per county so you could say they’re the 1% in the rural parts of Illinois.  They represent multi-generational wealth that comes from being born in the right family.

They don’t pay their share of taxes.  They live on government subsidies but claim ‘welfare queens’ are the problem.   What hypocrites.  They don’t even see the log in their eye.

They couldn’t make it ONE year without HUGE government subsidies.    They’re fighting Trump right now on NAFTA.   Crony 1% Farmers – always getting the government handout.   And they’re all Republicans.

Their lobby holds up the little guy as who they’re protecting when they’re really just using them as human shields.  The farm lobby doesn’t speak for 90% of the farms which are, by definition, hobby farms.

Farmland isn’t taxed in proportion to it’s ‘value’ like a house or a building.   It’s taxes based on it’s ‘productivity’.   The underpayment of taxes by farmers falls on other rural residents (houses, manufacturers, businesses) to make up additional taxes for roads and schools.

When then Rauner toured Downstate when he was running for office, he said, “Your schools aren’t getting their fair share of funding from the State of Illinois”.

He was right then; but he hasn’t changed anything except to make it MUCH MUCH worse.

Dirty Little Secret #3 –   Property rights don’t count in rural Illinois.

When a ‘great idea’ is brought to the “powers that be” in Springfield (or Chicago), our property rights get trampled.

How about the new power transmission lines that were going to cross Illinois?  You know the ones that were bringing power from someplace ‘west’ to someplace ‘east’ that brought NO benefit to those whose property was crossed.  One of the paths under consideration was through an Amish community!!  Ironic since they don’t use power.

They can just eminent domain and take what they need and then settle all the court cases at some point down the road.   The project had fast track authority.

Ditto for the natural gas lines.

The same sort of thing happens when a corporate interest brings a ‘deal’ to a county board.  They basically ‘buy off’ the board with voluntary tax payments.   You wouldn’t believe it if you really looked at what’s going on.

Like with the wind turbine ‘farms’.

And the giant corporate hog farms.

Springfield preempts our right to decide locally many issues that affect our quality of life.     We don’t have a say about our local development.

Only Springfield gets to decide; and that’s where the lobbyists work their magic on the politicians.

Crony capitalism at it’s best.

This isn’t a real Republican value.

Dirty Little Secret #4 – We don’t all wear Carhartts and when we do we get them dirty.

I remember going to a Bears game when they played Downstate while their stadium was getting a $1 billion dollar tax payer funded renovation.    Remember how cool that was for us Downstate?

Usually you can’t get a Bears ticket because there are so many season tickets sold that you just can’t get into the game.    But since the renovation was going to last through a fall football season; and the Bears had to play somewhere – they looked around and cut a deal with Downstate.  Suddenly the beer flowed at Memorial Stadium.   The rules changed pronto.

Those regular season ticket holders were let out of their obligation to buy that year’s tickets (because who in the heck would want to drive 3 hours EACH WAY to see the Bears lose?)  So- it was a bonanza for Downstaters to be be able to watch the Bears play live.

One game really had me laughing.    It was the first really cold game of the football season and people were bundled up.  There were two distinct ‘outfits’ in the stands that day.   One group was the Chicago area fans and they were all dressed for the slopes in their gore-tex and ski gear.   The other group was basically dressed to go hunting in blaze orange.   It was hilarious to see the juxtaposition of the two groups uncomfortably rubbing elbows in the stands.

We do wear Carhartts. For a specific purpose like when we’re working or hunting and want to keep warm.    Our Carhartts are often worn in places.  They may have a hole or two from catching on a piece of equipment.   They are most certainly dirty with some sort of oily stain from wearing them while WORKING HARD.   They’re a tool – not a fashion statement.

When someone from the North Shore wears a pristine Carhartt branded ‘barn jacket‘ (you know for checking on the ponies – as in polo ponies), it just looks like a costume.

Dirty Little Secret #5-  We have more than one accent in Downstate – and it’s not all about dropping G’s.

We have a number of accents in Illinois.   Everyone knows about the difference in the accents between the North and South side of Chicago.    If you’re a Sox fan or a Cubs fan, you’re likely to be able to tell the difference from one fan to another by their accent.

Now once you get Downstate, we have more than several accents.   Maybe this is why we can’t really get along in this State and work things out for the good of all residents.  We just have too many differences and we can’t hear the other person’s point through that noticeable accent.

You can drive as little as 30 miles in one direction and hear a very different regional accent.  The important thing to know is that it’s not about just dropping the “G’s” to try to blend in Downstate.

Illinois has a rich diversity of accents

Note to the Governor – You’re dropping too many “G’s” Governor- even for us.  You’re dropping the wrong ones too.  It’s jarring when we hear it.  It’s too much and it just looks and sounds fake.  It would be better if you stopped insulting us by trying to imitate us.    You’re not from Downstate and we’re not buying it.

Dirty Little Secret #6 –  We can tell someone is from Chicago (or Chicago Area) from a mile away.

We don’t like politicians from Chicago.  This isn’t a news flash.

Governor Rauner you may have always wanted to be a country boy but face it – you’re from Deerfield, Illinois.  

Deerfield is the polar opposite of Downstate.    You may wax on about your Grandfather who you loved greatly who lived in a double wide and was a dairy farmer and taught you to hunt and fish and the love of all things outdoors but you grew up in Deerfield.  Your father was the senior lawyer for Motorola.  Back when Motorola was a BIG company.

Just for reference-  Here’s what houses look like in Deerfield:

Here’s what they look like in Downstate Illinois:

And now you own 9 homes. Now you live in Winnetka –  Don’t get me started about those houses!

I guess you now have 11 homes “under your control”.   This includes the Governor’s mansion and the crash pad you have at the State Fair Grounds while the guys in ‘real Carhartts’ renovate the mansion in Springfield.

The point is that we can tell you’re from Chicago which is why your popularity is about as low as Speaker Madigan’s is now.

We think you’re both trying to rip us off and based on how WE live versus how the North Shore folks do it’s hard to refute.




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