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WIU alumnus Mark Dempsey took the top honor in the National Corn Growers Assn. yield contest (AA, non-irrigated category) in 2008.
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WIU Ag Alum Takes Top Honor in National Corn Yield Contest

February 17, 2009

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MACOMB, IL -- Mark Dempsey acknowledges his lifetime work in agriculture has not always been easy. But taking the top honor in the 2008 National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) corn yield contest is one way he is reaping the reward for his years of effort. Dempsey, who earned his bachelor's degree in agriculture science from Western Illinois University in 1987, grew up farming near Fowler, a small town close to Quincy in west central Illinois.

"I came straight back to the family farm upon graduating," Dempsey said. "It can be a difficult way to earn a living, but it is a choice I don't regret. It's a great way to raise a family."

While attending Western in the late 1980s, Dempsey was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) agriculture fraternity, and he currently serves as the AGR alumni board president. As a student, he was also active in agriculture department activities and clubs, such as the livestock judging team and the Horn and Hoof club -- both of which still exist today at Western.

Dempsey credits WIU's ag department for providing him with meaningful ag-related experiences and an array of skills that helped him build a solid foundation for his successful career in today's competitive and evolving agriculture industry. "There is no doubt in my mind that my education at WIU was a great benefit to my farming career," Dempsey noted. "The marketing classes were some of the most interesting and most helpful."

Yielding a Winner
In addition to winning the NCGA corn yield contest (with his 348 bushels per acre) in the AA, non-irrigated category, Dempsey also won first place in the Illinois Corn Growers Association competition. Dempsey's 2008 honors are the culmination of years of work to develop his crop.

In an article about his yield in "Corn E-Digest," an electronic newsletter distributed by "Corn & Soybean Digest," Dempsey noted that he has been entering the NCGA contest for years.

"The key to [the 2008] win was plentiful rainfall," Dempsey told "Corn E-Digest." "I placed second nationally in 2004 with a 320 bushel [per acre] yield. Then in 2005, 2006 and 2007, we had three drought years in a row. Basically, last year I had double the rainfall I'd had in 2005, 2006 and 2007, combined."

Though in the "Corn E-Digest" article Dempsey attributed rain as key to his 2008 success, he noted that individual innovation has been an important part of his production process as well.

"The challenge of trying to produce a winning corn yield has helped me examine different ways corn can be grown. It's forced me to look at ideas that many farmers don't want to try. Some things work, some things don't. Nevertheless, to me, it's worth trying something new or different to see how it works. Ultimately, more bushels per acre add to my bottom line."

To read about Dempsey's winning corn yield in "Corn E-Digest," see "Corn Yield Winner Shares Top Tips For Success." Learn more about the NCGA 2008 corn yield contest winners at

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Communications & Marketing