It's a passion for farmers to raise these animals with as much care as they would any animal.

Illinois Farm Families Blog

May 25 2016

What's Cooking Wednesday: Mint Brownie Trifle


For brownies:
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 1 package (19.5 ounces) milk chocolate brownie mix (we used Pillsbury for testing)
  • ⅓ cup vanilla non-fat Greek-style yogurt
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 14 crème de menthe chocolate layered mints (we used Andes mints for testing), cut into small pieces

For pudding:
  • 1 package (3.3 ounces) white chocolate instant pudding mix
  • 2 cups fat-free milk

For topping:
  • 3 ounces Neufchâtel cream cheese
  • ⅓ cup vanilla non-fat Greek-style yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
  • For mint curl decoration:
  • 6 creme de menthe chocolate layered mints (for ex., Andes Mint Candies)


  1. For brownies, preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine brownie mix, eggs, yogurt, and vegetable oil. Stir with a spoon until well blended. Stir in mint pieces. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 22 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of brownies has moist crumbs attached. Allow brownies to cool completely. Cut into small pieces.
  2. For pudding, combine pudding mix and milk in a medium bowl. Mix according to package directions.
  3. For topping, combine cream cheese, yogurt and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Beat with electric mixer until well blended.
  4. For mint curl decoration, use a vegetable peeler to make small curls by shaving down the long edge of the mint.
  5. Layer the pudding and brownies in a 3-quart trifle bowl in two layers. Spoon the topping over the top layer. Decorate with mint curls. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

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What's Cooking Wednesday: Red Velvet Ice Cream Cake

Recipe courtesy of:

May 24 2016

Local Farmer Answers Chicago Mom's Question About Animal Care

"I had the privilege of touring your farm last week, and I am wondering if you could tell me more about the barn you built for your cattle. Did you have the cattle in mind when you were designing the barn?"

Chicago, IL

Hi Nicole,

Our new barn has incorporated everything currently available to enhance cattle comfort. I'll describe it briefly and include a couple of pictures.  It's called a monoslope barn since it looks like only 1/2 of the roof is there.  That design has some important advantages for the cattle.  In the winter the tall south facing pens are designed to allow maximum sun penetration.  On those very cold days in winter there is often plenty of sunshine and if you visited you would see the cattle basking in the sun.  The north wall has a curtain protecting them from any cold north breezes.  During warm weather, when the sun is directly overhead, they are continuously shaded underneath an insulated roof to protect them from as much radiant heat as possible.  The north curtain rolls up so there is no restriction on air movement in the barn.  The monoslope's other helpful design feature is the increase in air movement on hot afternoons.  The roof design actually speeds up small breezes to enhance the cooling effect of even small breezes.  

Lastly is the rubber comfort mats covering the floor.  Besides the obvious comfort of lying on the the rubber, it also gives the cattle good footing even in the very coldest weather. In this picture, you'll see the cattle doing their favorite activity which is relaxing and chewing their cud(ruminating) after a good meal!  

I can't tell you how much we enjoyed getting a chance to visit with all of you during the farm tour.  I wasn't kidding when I invited you to bring your families out to the farm.  We enjoy having visitors any time of the year and kids especially seem to enjoy the baby calves in spring. 

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Sandwich, IL

Alan and JoAnn Adams farm with their son Ross near Sandwich, Illinois, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago. Ross and his wife, Jessie, have one daughter named Adalynn, who is the seventh generation to live on the farm. For the Adams family, growing up in agriculture and the beef industry is not only their livelihood or income, but also a way of life.

May 18 2016

What's Cooking Wendesday: Buffalo Pork Ribs




  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. 
  2. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine the hot sauce and butter. Bring to a boil while whisking until it’s smooth, then set the buffalo sauce aside. 
  3. Arrange 2 layers of aluminum foil, large enough to wrap around each rack of ribs, on your work surface. Place a rack in the center of each foil setup and season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Coat the meat side of the ribs, which should be facing up, with 1/2 cup of the buffalo sauce. Wrap the ribs tightly with the foil, place on a baking sheet, and bake until tender, about 1 hour. 
  4. Remove ribs from oven, place the oven rack in the middle of the oven; turn the oven to broil. Remove the ribs from the foil and lay them, meat side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Coat each rib with 1/4 cup of the buffalo sauce and broil until the sauce starts to brown, 4 minutes. Continue to broil and baste the ribs until you have used another 1/4 cup of buffalo sauce per rack. 
  5. Let the ribs rest for 10 minutes, then cut into individual ribs. In a large bowl, toss the ribs with the half of the remaining buffalo sauce. Arrange the ribs on a serving platter and serve with blue cheese dressing and celery and carrot sticks. 

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May 17 2016

City Mom Dives Into the Details of Animal Care on Farms

As I tour Illinois farms through the City Moms program I continue to see how farmers are caring for their livestock.  There are the traditional ways, such as veterinarians who are available for consultation and check ups, and the use of antibiotics to keep the animals healthy, however, on this tour, I witnessed other ways that farmers are caring for their animals.

At the Adams family farm in Sandwich, we were shown the new barn.  Every detail that went into the barn was for the animals’ comfort.  The roof has a monoslope design, which allows for great sun exposure in the winter, and in the summer, allows for greater air movement, providing nice breezes.  In addition, the barn has a curtain, which in winter protects the cattle from any cold wind, yet in the summer, the curtain rolls up, so there is no restriction of air in the barn.  The barn also features rubber mats on the floor.  This gives the cows good footing, as well as comfort when they lay on it.

Also on the tour, we learned about the training that the farmers go through in order to give the cattle their vaccinations.  It’s important to note, that the veterinarians are available for consult at any time, and the veterinarian prescribes all antibiotics given.  The training that the farmers take allows them to be Beef Quality Assurance qualified and certified for 3 years.

Finally, one farmer, Joni Bucher, was not able to join us on the tour.  Her farm had been hit by a tornado, which can be absolutely devastating.  Fortunately her family was OK, and no animals were lost.  However, one mare was injured, needing to be lifted up and down on a regular basis, so she could nurse her young.  This farmer did that (along with a team of others), standing watch over her around the clock because as she stated, “our priority is the living, breathing things.”

Please know that farmers are providing the utmost in care for their livestock.  If you ever have any concerns or doubts, visit a farm and talk to the farmers.  See for yourself how well they treat and care for their animals.

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What I Witnessed on an Illinois Farm

Chicago, IL

Nicole is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2015 City Moms. Throughout the year she visits Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each visit, the City Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago Moms Meet Farmers.

May 16 2016

Two Different Farms, One Common Goal.

On Saturday, March 19, I had the opportunity to visit another Illinois cattle farm. Illinois cattle farms are not as large as the ranches out west, and they are mostly family farms. This farm tour was the perfect complement to the two cattle tours I have already attended, first to a cattle finishing farm and then to a dairy farm. This third tour is where it all begins in beef production: a cow/calf farm. 

Sara Prescott was on our bus for the ride from Arlington Heights to Sandwich, Illinois, talking about her experience running a cow/calf operation of about 100 beef cows. The cow/calf farm is where it all begins in beef production. The Prescott farm breeds cows to have calves, which they sell to cattle finishing farms, and from these farms the grown calves are sold for beef. 

Prescott Angus & Simmental

Sara isn’t able to walk out of her farmhouse to take care of her cattle. She lives with her husband and three children in town, and their cattle live on farmland rented from various landowners. One farm is a twenty minute drive from her house, the other is 45 minutes away. For a farmer, Sara spends a lot of time commuting!

Since her husband also works full time at a cattle feed company, Sara takes on a lot of responsibility for the cattle. During a typical day, she drops her two daughters off at school and takes her little boy with her to check on the cattle farms. They are lucky to be able to hire someone to help feed and check on their cattle at their farm near Lincoln, Illinois. Their cattle live outdoors year round. They own about 5 bulls to breed with their cows, which is done naturally (without artificial insemination). The cows are bred to have calves that are small in size, and so the cow usually has no difficulty giving birth to her calf. First time mothers sometimes need help bonding with their calf. Sara pays close attention to these cows who are about to give birth for the first time. She wants to see the cow get up and lick the calf right after it is born, to know that the calf is her baby. The calf should stand up about 15 minutes after it is born to nurse. 

The calves drink their mothers’ milk for about 6 months. When they are 3 months old, they are introduced to solid food, so that the weaning process is easier for them. After the calves are weaned, they are sold to a finishing farm, where they grow and gain weight before they are sold for beef production.

Adams Farm

We got off the bus at the Adams farm near Sandwich, Illinois. The Adams family has been raising beef cattle for almost 60 years, along with raising crops. Their herd has 59 beef cows. Alan Adams used to think that he didn’t need to communicate with consumers. He was content to raise beef cattle as his family had been doing for years without taking the time to connect with moms like us. He changed his mind, however, and has taken a very active role in the City Moms program as he realized the importance of connecting with consumers. He took the time to talk with us about breeding, antibiotics, hormones and manure management on that Saturday morning. 

Unlike Sara, Alan does live on his farm in close proximity to his cattle. The Adams family has several barns, and the cattle live in the barns during the winter. Around May 1, they are let out to pasture. The cows spend the summer grazing in the pastures with their calves beside them. While the Adams do lease some land, they also own much of their farmland. To breed their cows, they use artificial insemination. Just as Sara does, they make sure to breed the cows to have smaller calves so that calving goes smoothly. 

While farming may look a little different when comparing Sara’s farms to Alan’s, they both have one thing in common: They are both caring farmers who have a love for livestock and take care of their animals’ needs to provide quality beef to consumers like you and me. 

Sara has written a wonderful article about the humane care of animals, along with other information about Prescott Farms. Read all about it here.

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From Farm to Table: Milk's Journey

Mount Prospect, IL

Christa was one of the Illinois Farm Families 2013 Field Moms. Throughout the year she visited several Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each tour, the Field Moms shared their thoughts by blogging about what they experienced on these farms, including five things they found most interesting. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago moms meet farmers. (City Moms formerly known as Field Moms.)

May 13 2016

Steak, Cheese, Bacon. We're excited, too.

We’re Illinois farmers who grow food for your family and ours, and we want to talk about what’s on your table. Mike and Lynn Martz raise cattle with their son, Justin, in Maple Park, Ill. to bring you high quality beef. Brian and Jen Sturtevant raise pigs in Lanark, lll. while preserving the land they farm. Mary Faber and her family run a dairy farm in Pontiac, Ill. that produces milk for dairy products, like cheese and yogurt. 

From our families to yours, enjoy the food on your table!

Bacon Wrapped Steak with Blue Cheese


  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 beef filets (8-10 oz. each, 2 in. thick)
  • 2 thin slices of bacon
  • 1.5 tablespoon butter or olive oil
Blue Cheese Topping
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 4 teaspoons crumbled blue cheese
  • 4 teaspoons plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons minced onion
  • Dash ground white pepper


1. Preheat oven to 450 F. 
2. Coat each filet with salt and pepper and wrap with bacon. Secure bacon with a toothpick.
3. In an oven-proof skillet, heat butter or olive oil and sear both sides of each filet on medium-high heat (about one minute per side). 
4. Remove skillet from stove and finish cooking in the preheated oven. Cook to desired doneness.
145 F = Medium Rare
160 F = Medium
170 F = Well Done

5. While the steaks are cooking, combine all of the topping ingredients in a bowl and set aside. 
6. Remove filets from oven when desired doneness is achieved and top with blue cheese topping. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

May 11 2016

What's Cooking Wednesday: Fiesta Burgers con Queso

Recipe time: 35 minutes
Serves 4


  • 1 pound Ground Beef
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup shredded Chihuahua cheese, divided
  • 4 small tortillas, warmed or hamburger buns, split, toasted


  • Thinly sliced lettuce 
  • Chopped tomato
  • Avocado slices
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole


  1. Combine Ground Beef, onion, jalapeño, cilantro and 1/4 cup cheese in medium bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into four 1/2-inch thick patties.
  2. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Place patties in skillet; cook 10 to 12 minutes turning occasionally, until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160°F, turning occasionally. About 3 minutes before burgers are done, top evenly with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.
  3. Place burgers in tortillas or buns; season with salt and black pepper, as desired. Top with desired toppings.

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Recipe courtesy of:

May 09 2016

What Exactly Is That Byproduct?

I don’t know about you, but I have to admit that when I heard that farmers feed their cattle byproducts I really didn’t understand what that meant. All I knew was that it didn’t sound good to me, especially if that byproduct came from an ethanol plant! When I hear the word ethanol, I think of gasoline so I was really confused on what the byproduct was.  However, while on a tour at the Adams Farm in Sandwich, IL, I was pleasantly surprised to learn what these byproducts actually are and how they were used to feed cattle. 

The byproduct from ethanol distilleries is known as distillers grains (often referred to as DDGS). When the corn is used to make ethanol they only use the starch portion of the grain, so the byproduct is the corn germ, oil, and the outer seed shell. The fermentation of the grain in the ethanol production process makes the byproduct a high-protein, high-fat and high-fiber product that cattle like. The farmer uses this much like we put sugar on cereal.

Another byproduct used in feed is from a local Del Monte vegetable plant and a seed corn plant. After the sweet corn is harvested and the kennels are removed, both the cob and the husk are left over. This sweet corn byproduct is mixed with the leftover husks from a seed corn plant and then it ferments in a bunker silo. This fermented mixture is used as part of the cattle’s feed ration.

A third type of byproduct used in cattle feeding comes from a sugar refinery in the form of molasses, which is mixed with a vitamin/mineral supplement that the cattle receive.

All of these byproducts would normally just go to waste, but the cow’s unique digestive system allows a farmer to utilize it for feed in addition to the grass that the cattle graze on in the pasture. With the human population increasing and the amount of land available for grazing decreasing, I think this is a clever way of utilizing the resources that are available.

Related posts:
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Meeting the Animals and the Farmers
What I Witnessed on an Illinois Farm

Anita Mann
Naperville, IL

Anita is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2015 City Moms. Throughout the year she will visit Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each visit, the City Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago Moms Meet Farmers.

May 05 2016

Illinois Farmer Q&A: Have you ever gone above and beyond to ensure the health or safety of your animals?

You have questions about how animals are cared for on farms, and Illinois farmers have those answers. We asked local farmers your questions about animal welfare so you can get your answers straight from the source. Let's talk about what's on your table.

Have you ever gone above and beyond to ensure the health or safety of your animals?

"The cattle almost always come first. The kids have to feed their calves before we eat supper at night. During the winter, if there's times where it's going to be really cold, we'll give them a little extra feed, and we've also put their hay in the shed during snowstorms. Frozen drinkers can also be an issue in cold weather. I've carried hot water out to thaw drinkers in well below zero temps. It's not much fun working with water in those temps, but the cattle can't go without it!"

Lori Engel

"We have walked through whiteout blizzard conditions to check on cows who are 3 miles away 3 times a night before they are expected to calve, and then worked with the cow from midnight to 1 a.m. to convince it to get into the chute so we could help pull the calf that is not able to make it out on its own. Then, from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m we had to get the pulling equipment secured around the calf’s legs without hurting it, yet with the ability to pull it gradually without hurting the cow either. Finally, we pulled a slippery, gangly calf that weighed more than 100 pounds up over a fence to help fluids drain from its nose and mouth. All of this was followed by several days of milking sessions with the cow and calf to help them both figure out how it’s supposed to work. To a cow-calf producer, that might be considered going the distance.  To someone else, it might be considered above and beyond."

Heather Hampton Knodle

"When the power has gone off on our farm, we will stay with our animals until the power comes back on.  We will check on the animals to make sure they are not too hot or cold and have plenty of food and water."

Brent Scholl

"During calving time (January - March), we are constantly paying close attention to the weather forecast.  It is important to make sure that baby calves have a place to get in out of the weather when temperatures are really cold.  There are many times that we have gone back outside during the late hours of the night to put cows and calves into a pen in the barn to make sure that they stayed out of the weather.  Contrary to some people's beliefs, cattle are very well suited for the climate in Illinois.  Generally speaking, the cold & hot temperatures (within reason) do not affect them like some would think.  Most cattle are intelligent enough to go to shelter when it's cold, shade when it's hot or a pond or creek when it's hot. It is important to provide those necessities to our cows so they can stay as comfortable as possible."

Alison McGrew

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May 04 2016

What's Cooking Wednesday: Picadillo-Style Beef Stir-Fry


  • 1 pound beef Top Sirloin Steak Boneless or Top Round Steak, cut 1 inch thick
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 large all-purpose potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup raisins


  1. Cut beef steak lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick strips. Combine beef strips, cumin and oregano in medium bowl; toss to coat.
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1/2 of beef; stir-fry 1 to 3 minutes or until outside surface of beef is no longer pink. Remove from skillet. Repeat with remaining beef and additional 1 teaspoon oil. Season with salt, as desired; keep warm.
  3. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in same skillet over medium heat until hot. Add potato, onion and pepper. Cook and stir 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce and raisins; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 15 to 18 minutes or until potato is tender; stirring occasionally. Add beef; cook until heated through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt, as desired.
  4. Serve beef mixture in tortillas or over hot cooked rice topped with almonds, cilantro and sour cream, as desired.
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