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

Illinois Farm Families Blog

Jul 25 2016

Illinois Farmer Q&A: What does "environmental stewardship" mean to you?

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

What does "environmental stewardship" mean to you?

"Stewards have responsibilities, owners have rights.  I don’t own my land, per se - I am a steward of it for my family and community for future generations.  I have responsibility to make sure it is cared for with the absolute best within me."

Andrew Bowman

On our farm, environmental stewardship is about caring for soil, water and in turn for the land that surrounds our fields and farms.  We are so lucky to see fox, cranes, deer and other wildlife living in the same areas we farm."

Katie Pratt

"Environmental stewardship means caring for the earth the way it needs to be in response it supplying us with soil for our crops."

Casey Watkins

"We look at environmental stewardship as our commitment to future generations. We have always believed we don't own this land- we just have lifetime use of it.  With that in mind, each farming decision is made with the knowledge that our children or grandchildren will benefit from improvements we make. That's a huge incentive for us to get it right."

Alan Adams

Learn more about the ways your local farmers take care of the environment here.

Related posts:

Jul 21 2016

5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Your County's Fair

Forgive me.  I have fair brain.  It is a condition that occurs every year during the month of July when 4-H projects take over our house and my position as secretary for our county fair association moves into overdrive.  We are sleeping, eating, breathing fair in this house.  I usually swear off blogging during the month, but then I got inspired and have to share why everyone should visit their county’s fair.

1. Diet's don't count!

No joke.  You enter the gates of a fairgrounds and food loses its calorie content.  <wink, wink>  After all, you walk everywhere, laugh a lot and are in good spirits.  That has to count towards a funnel cake, fried Oreo or jumbo pork tenderloin, not to mention the pies from the Extension Homemakers; pancake breakfasts from churches; pork chop sandwiches from the county Pork Producers . . . is your mouth watering?

2. Fairs were local before local was cool. 

From the volunteers to the exhibitors to the food (see #1) fairs are all about community.  And that’s just what you see.  Behind the scenes, fairs are more likely to patronize local businesses and support local organizations or causes.  Why?  Because fair directors understand the importance of investing local.

3. The animals are so cute! 

Caveat, as a former inhabitant of the beef barn, nothing grated on my nerves more than someone cooing over my 1,100 lb steer.  He wasn’t cute.  He was all muscle and if startled could throw me down like a doll.  But, I’ll grant you this.  Fairs do have animals and some are so cute!  (Did I just squeal?)  My personal fair favorite is walking the barns and watching families, mostly the kids, care for their animals. How can anyone visit and doubt the love these animals receive?  Keep in mind, though, livestock barns are not petting zoos.  Don’t touch!  Although many of the animals are docile, they practice ‘stranger danger’ too.  A sudden move, noise or touch could send a large animal over a gate.  Fair directors would prefer to keep the rodeo in the grandstand.

4. Support the volunteers. 

In the case of many small county fairs, no one is paid to make this happen.  Fairs are complex events involving hundreds of volunteers. Many are living a family legacy by serving as director on the fair board or as superintendent of a project department.  No fair volunteer is fishing for a compliment congratulating them on a job well done.  They’d just like to see you at the fair.  Your presence will speak volumes.

5. You’ll be the best boyfriend, girlfriend, mom, dad, <insert descriptor here>. 

Picture this: Strolling the mid-way with your sweetheart, hand in hand, underneath the pink sky of a summer sunset.  Sipping from the same oversized lemonade shake-up and nodding hellos to friends.  I promise a fair date is a win. Are you a usual dinner and movie couple?  Try something different. Visit the fair.

Parents: county fairs are the staycation destination. Many offer free parking, some have a minimal gate fee, and at our fair kids 12 and under enter free.  Once inside, you can’t go wrong wandering through the livestock barns or stopping by the goat show and letting the kids enter the novice class. The carnival lights and sounds are powerful, but steer your family to the FREE entertainment like magic shows, puppet shows, racing pigs, or free craft areas.  Splurge on an elephant ear to share.  Make memories.

County fairs are the oldest form of community celebrations.  They are Americana at its finest.  For all those who think nothing happens in small-town USA, you need to visit your county’s fair.  Something is happening.

(The Lee Co. 4-H Fair & Jr. Show is July 28-31 at the Lee Co. 4-H Center & Fairgrounds near Amboy, IL.  Stop in and say ‘hi’.  Full fair schedule is available at or follow us on facebook.)

*Photo credit to the beyond talented and generous Kimberly Wately.

Originally posted on Illinois Farm Girl.

Related posts:

Dixon, IL

Katie and her husband, Andy, are seventh generation farmers. Together they raise two adorable farm kids and grow corn, soybeans and seed corn in Illinois. Katie's family still raises pigs, cattle, goats and horses only a few minutes away. Katie was named one of the 2013 Faces of Farming and Ranching by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA). Read more from Katie on her blog, Rural Route 2.

Jul 20 2016

What's Cooking Wednesday: Smoky Hot Chops with Cool Cucumber-Tomato Salad

Make this recipe your own by using ranch dressing instead of blue cheese or cilantro instead of parsley. On the side, serve grill-roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes—or good, old-fashioned barbecued potato chips. 

A special thanks to local Illinois pig farmers like Chris Gould and Jen Sturtevant for bringing us the safe and nutritious pork featured in this recipe! From our families to yours, enjoy the food on your table.


Cucumber-Tomato Salad


  1. In a small bowl, combine smoked paprika, hot sauce, cayenne, salt, garlic powder and onion powder, stirring to make a paste. Divide paste into two small bowls, with about 2/3 of paste in one bowl, and 1/3 in another. Arrange pork on a plate or platter and use a butter knife to thinly spread about 2/3 of the spice paste from one bowl over both sides of the meat. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes. 
  2. Prepare a grill to medium-hot heat and lightly oil the grate. Grill pork until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. (medium rare) to 160 degrees F. (medium), 4 to 5 minutes per side. (It’s okay if some of the spice paste sticks to the grill.) Transfer chops to a platter and spread remaining spice paste from second bowl on top, and set aside to rest 3 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, make the Cool Cucumber-Tomato Salad: In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumber, onion, parsley and salad dressing, tossing gently. Add more dressing and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve chops with cucumber-tomato salad alongside. Pass additional hot sauce at the table. 

Related posts:

Recipe courtesy of:

Jul 18 2016

GMOs and Information Snake Oil

GMOs and biotechnology are among the most asked about topics on Recently, a group of IFF City Moms, who have toured Illinois farms and wanted to ask additional questions about Monsanto, were given the opportunity to visit their Biotechnology Research Center. The tour was provided by Illinois Farm Families.

I visited my local grocery store last weekend, and was greeted by two ruddy-faced college-age young men, handing out samples of a new brand of tomato. The one on the right proudly announced the tomatoes were organic and non-GMO. I replied, "That's right, they are non-GMO because there is no tomato that exists that IS GMO!" He replied, "I know some of the tomatoes down at the (other local grocery store) are definitely GMO." I replied, "No, sorry, there are only 9 (and only recently 9!) crops that have commercially available GMO seeds, and tomato isn't one of them. You can look it up! It's true!" The one on the left then said, "Huh, interesting." I took a sample of the tasty tomato and bid them a good day to finish my grocery trip. 

This interaction is indicative of a lot of the information on the Internet about our food - GMO, organic, gluten free, hormone free, antibiotic free - you name it - there are people selling "information snake oil" all over the place. And if it isn't snake oil, it's directed, targeted, smartly and colorfully packaged marketing. In my time as a City Mom, this has been my biggest takeaway. There are people like me who wish to be informed consumers who are misled, misguided, and misinformed. And, we are TRYING to be informed! It's so confusing to be a consumer today! Or, in the case of my young gentlemen friends with the tomatoes, they haven't even bothered to inform themselves. It's cool and hip to be non-GMO these days, isn't it? But why? I, for one, don't get the backlash, especially after gaining even more knowledge from the source at Monsanto a few weeks ago. It helped me really hone in on what is actually happening instead of being fogged up by the marketing and sensationalism of today's marketplace. 

A GMO is a plant developed through a process in which a copy of a desired gene or section of genetic material from one plant or organism, such as the ability to use water more efficiently, is placed in another plant. Food scientists see one plant that can grow more efficiently with less water, and they isolate the gene with this quality and give it to other seeds without that quality. It allows crops, then, to be grown with less water. This allows for more crops to flourish with fewer resources. There are many other applications of GMO technology similar to this in the nine seeds that are commercially available (corn, soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, canola, papaya, squash and potato). Examples of things that are NOT a result of a genetic insertion are things like seedless watermelon, grape tomatoes, wheat, broccolini, baby carrots, or the pluot. Those are created by cross breeding two plants for a desired outcome or selecting certain plants for a trait and then propagating that plant over others. This latter type of selection has been done for thousands and thousands of years. Often this type of crop selection is confused with GMO's and even given an GMO label by consumers - but in fact, it is not. And, as an aside, this second type of breeding is the current main focus of Monsanto. 

GMO crops have been tested by national and international bodies such as the US Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization and the European Academies Science Advisory Council. None of these bodies (and countless others) have ever found one ounce of data to support there is any reason to not eat a GMO food (or one that has been selectively bred, for that matter!). But the marketers know if they slap a non-GMO label on something, people will buy it! It adds to consumer confusion, and the marketers don't care - as long as you're buying what they are selling! What are verifiable outcomes of GMO farming are things like resilience for changing climates with things like drought tolerant corn, creating more food on less soil to feed an ever-growing population, and providing nourishing food in developing countries. 

In my time as a City Mom, I've become passionate about not falling for food marketing, encouraging people to do their own research and check their sources, and keep an open mind. I'm so thankful for these experiences, and hope I can share my knowledge with other Moms for the greater good of our farmers and our families.

Related posts:

Lake Bluff, IL

Amy 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.

Jul 14 2016

The Real Pig Farmer Way

When someone asks me about how pig farmers treat our animals, I turn the question right around and ask them, how do you THINK we treat our animals?

As you can imagine, the types of responses I get are not always positive. In fact, more often than not, the perception people have of our industry is on par with how they feel about changing a flat tire in the rain. I understand their views of our industry are largely shaped by things they’ve seen in the news or online. That’s why I always take the opportunity to tell them about real pig farming. Today’s pig farmers are committed to raising healthy pigs to bring safe, delicious pork to consumers.

But people “doing things right” isn’t always an exciting story to tell. Still, that’s what I aim to do here. I’ve been a pig farmer at Borgic Farms in Nokomis, Illinois, for over 50 years and I’ve worked with more kinds of people than you’ll find standing in line at the DOT. They’ve all shared one thing — compassion. It takes a bottomless well of compassion to do what we do every day. Why? Because pig farming is a tough all-day, all-year, never-stop-no-way-no-how affair.

And we absolutely love it.

We genuinely care for our animals. From the time we first see the eyes of a newborn piglet, to the moment they leave our farm, we never stop caring for them.

While a pig is in our care, it’s our obligation to protect and care for them every way we know how. We spend hours upon hours deciding what’s best for our pigs. What type of food should they eat? Do they have enough water? What type of environment works best? Are they healthy? If not, what’s the best medicine to provide? It sounds exhausting (and it sometimes is) but seeing healthy pigs and knowing your team had a hand in raising them, gives you a sense of pride that I doubt many other jobs could ever match.

Of course, we not only do it for the well-being of the pigs. We do it for our families. It’s common for a pig farmer’s children and grandchildren to grow up in the pig barns and help raise the animals. What type of example would we set by knowingly and intentionally harming our pigs in any way? What type of parent and grandparent would we be? We’re pig farmers, sure, but first and foremost, we’re good people whose principles and morals are the same in the pig barn as they are at home.

We also do it for the pig farming community. If the general opinion of our industry right now is a negative one, then it’s our job to collectively change that by setting the highest standards of animal care and living up to those standards every day. We must learn from our mistakes, be committed to continuous improvement and move forward with improved practices that ensure the safety and well-being of our pigs through each stage of life. As a real pig farmer, my promise to my fellow pig farmers and consumers is the same: I will be the best pig farmer I can be. Anything less is not acceptable. Anything less is not real pig farming. 

Related posts:

Originally posted on Real Pig Farming

Phil Borgic
Pig Farmer from Nokomis, IL
Jul 13 2016

What's Cooking Wednesday: Citrus-Marinated Beef & Fruit Kabobs

Cubes of Top Sirloin marinated for flavor in a mixture of fresh-squeezed orange juice, orange peel, cilantro and smoked paprika. Grilled alongside skewers of watermelon, peaches, and mango, you're sure to have a meal to please the whole family!

Pick up some safe, nutritious beef at your local grocery store courtesy of local farmers like Mike Martz and Sara Prescott. From our families to yours, enjoy the food on your table!


  • 1 pound beef Top Sirloin Steak Boneless, cut 1 inch thick
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)
  • 4 cups cubed mango, watermelon, peaches and/or plums
  • Salt


  1. Grate peel and squeeze 2 tablespoons juice from orange; reserve juice. Combine orange peel, cilantro, paprika, and ground red pepper, if desired, in small bowl. Cut beef Steak into 1-1/4-inch pieces. Place beef and 2-1/2 tablespoons cilantro mixture in food-safe plastic bag; turn to coat. Place remaining cilantro mixture and fruit in separate food-safe plastic bags; turn to coat. Close bags securely.  Marinate beef and fruit in refrigerator 15 minutes to 2 hours.
  2. Soak eight 9-inch bamboo skewers in water 10 minutes; drain. Thread beef evenly onto four skewers leaving small space between pieces.  Thread fruit onto remaining four separate skewers.
  3. Place kabobs on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill beef kabobs, covered, 11 to 15 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 13 to 16 minutes) for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally. Grill fruit kabobs 5 to 7 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown, turning once.
  4. Season beef with salt, as desired. Drizzle reserved orange juice over fruit kabobs.  

Related Posts:

Recipe courtesy of:

Jul 12 2016

Deja Vu

Well, well, well...I'm back.

I have been dealing with some growing and learning pains with my blog.

I thought my story had been told enough.

I figured you had heard enough about food and farming and my family.

I figured all of you and the greater population had formed educated opinions, even though they may differ from mine, and that I could almost close up this shop.

And then, improper labeling strikes again.

In a very honest way. In a very loving and caring manner. In a very incorrect label.

Beef that is hormone free.

Can I talk to you about hormones?

No, men, you don't have to bow out. I'm talking about hormones in food. They are naturally occurring. Just as the mood shifts in this house when a hormonal surge happens (remember there are FIVE girls and ONE mama here? That's six potential walking balls of estrogen. Pray for Joe in about 5-15 years, or 50...either way.), food and animals and humans have these magical chemicals, yes CHEMICALS (natural chemicals, but that's the word used, so again, all you natural friends, deep breaths and keep reading) in them.

Naturally occurring.

No additions.

There have been additional hormones in things, foods, plants, etc., I'm sure. But today, I'm just talking about God-given hormones.

These are things we need not fear. God made them. God gave them to us.

Here's a handy graphic for your viewing pleasure:

Soy flour, beans, peanuts, cabbage: those foods cannot help that they have TONS of naturally occurring hormones.
Cattle, same deal.

Beef will have hormones in it because in order to reproduce, a living thing (aka, a mama cow) must have a balance of hormones.

Science, friends!

While I don't think you should shoot up a bunch of hormones, I do believe that you should not freak out about naturally occurring hormones in your food.

This is something I thought I had made a mark on as far as discussing. This is something that as an advocate, writer, what-have-you, I thought we had made some headway on many folks.


Dang it.

Here's the deal: I believe in science. You do too, even if you're crunching an organic apple or using homemade laundry detergent.

Newsflash: you're reading this on the Internet.

Science again, friends!

But I also believe in our food production, especially if you're checking your sources (meaning, labels and where it's grown, produced, etc.). Be educated, but recognize who your teacher is and what they are looking out for. There are very good people in this world, and then there are ones who are experts in just yelling louder and marketing better than little ol' me who likes to write cute stories about my kids and cows sometimes.

Please believe your growers. Please trust your people who know their animals. Lest I remind you the percentage of family owned farms in our state. It's 97%. As in an A, nearly 100...LOTS OF THEM.

Please question labels, even if they claim to promote health. There are misnomers on both sides, and from the production ag side, I promise you, I will rarely keep quiet. You'll know when something is wrong. I'm the queen of correcting things...righting wrongs...takin' care of business!

So, welcome back to my blog, friends. Does it seem oddly familiar to you as well?

Originally posted on Confessions of a Farm Wife.

Related posts:

Emily Webel
Emily and her husband, Joe, live on a farm with their six children in Farmington, Illinois. Together with Emily's family, they raise crops and cattle and aim to be good stewards of the land. Read more from Emily on her blog, Confessions of a Farm Wife.

Jul 08 2016

Farmers Of Illinois: Katie Pratt

“Our livelihoods, our farms, our businesses are directly linked to the health of our natural resources – on our farm that refers to soil and water. But all the tractor technology in the world won’t save soil or conserve water. So we combine this with no-till and minimum till, cover crops and our new efforts to track soil moisture. All these things come together to give us the best opportunity to improve upon yesterday. No single thing creates success on a farm. Everything is most certainly hitched together.”

Get to know more local farmers in our #FarmersOfIllinois series on Instagram.

Related posts:

Dixon, IL

Katie and her husband, Andy, are seventh generation farmers. Together they raise two adorable farm kids and grow corn, soybeans and seed corn in Illinois. Katie's family still raises pigs, cattle, goats and horses only a few minutes away. Katie was named one of the 2013 Faces of Farming and Ranching by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA). Read more from Katie on her blog, Rural Route 2.

Jul 07 2016

Food Safety Starts on the Farm

How safe is the food you eat?

Actually, don’t answer that. Too broad of a question. Instead, rank these food categories in terms of perceived safety:
  • Dairy
  • Fresh Produce
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Fish
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Beef

Kind of tough, isn’t it? Bringing safe food to the plates of Americans — and people across the globe for that matter — requires an “all hands on deck” approach. Farmers, food manufacturers, food transporters, grocers, restaurants, and consumers are all part of the process to deliver safe food to tables across the U.S.

Pig farmers are committed to produce the safest, healthiest food possible. We go above and beyond every day to ensure the pork that leaves our farms is the very best, down to the last chop.

How do we do this?

  1. We use management practices consistent with producing safe food. This starts with me and the standards and protocols I implement for my team. There are 25 proud, hard-working employees here at Borgic Farms, and not one of them can succeed if I don’t give them the proper training and resources needed to perform their job correctly. I require all farm employees complete the Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA Plus®) program. This is a comprehensive food safety and animal well-being program that gives employees the proper resources and knowledge to improve farm practices.
  2. We manage the health of the herd to produce safe food. Diseases can find their way onto any farm in many ways — through contact with people or other animals, airborne germs and so on. Biosecurity measures are a key line of defense on pig farms. This can include limiting the number of visitors who enter the facility (and supplying outer clothing to those who do) and requiring employees to shower before entering the animal areas (which is how we do things on Borgic Farms). Shower in, shower out!
  3. We manage technology to produce safe food. When people ask me why we raise our pigs indoors at Borgic Farms, the answer is simple — for animal health and food safety. Housing pigs indoors keeps out predators, parasites, vermin and also reduces the chance of feed and water becoming contaminated.
Basically, everything we do at Borgic Farms is designed to ensure the health and safety of our animals so we can bring safe, nutritious and delicious pork to your plate. There are many variables in the food business. Some we can control, others we cannot. But you can bet your bottom dollar that real pig farmers are doing their part and doing it right.
Pig Farmer from Nokomis, IL
Jul 06 2016

What's Cooking Wednesday: Double Smoky Ribs with Bacon-Bourbon BBQ Sauce

These ribs have a deeply smoked, old-fashioned flavor that goes perfectly with cookout classics like coleslaw, baked beans and corn bread. We'd like to send a shout-out to local Illinois pig farmers like Chris Gould and Jen Sturtevant for bringing us the safe and nutritious pork featured in this recipe!

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


Bacon-Bourbon BBQ Sauce
  • 1/3 CUP BOURBON, *


BBQ Sauce

  1. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and browned, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels, leaving fat in saucepan. Let bacon cool. 
  2. Add onion to saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in chili sauce, peach preserves, bourbon, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and molasses. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring often, until reduced by about one quarter, 20 to 25 minutes. Finely chop cooled bacon and stir into sauce; add hot pepper sauce. Let cool. Makes about 2 1/2 cups sauce. Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. 
  1. Mix paprika, sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper together in small bowl.Season ribs with paprika mixture.Let ribs stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes. 
  2. Prepare an outdoor grill for indirect cooking with medium heat, about 350 degrees F. 
  3. For a gas grill: Use a smoker box or create one using small, shallow aluminum foil pan. Remove cooking grates. Preheat grill on high. Turn one burner off. Place disposable aluminum foil pan over a burner, adding 1 handful of drained chips. Replace grates. 
  4. For a charcoal grill: Place large disposable aluminum foil pan on one side of charcoal grate and fill with 1 quart water. Build fire on opposite side, and let burn until coals are coated with white ash. Spread coals in grill opposite pan and let burn 15-20 minutes (you should be able to hold your hand about 1 inch above the grate for about 3 seconds). Add 1 handful of drained chips to coals. Position cooking grate in grill. 
  5. Lightly oil grill grate. Grill ribs with indirect heat, with the lid closed, for 30 minutes. Add remaining drained chips to box or coals. Grill, with lid closed, turning occasionally, until tender, about 1 hour more. (On a charcoal grill, add more charcoal as needed to maintain temperature, leaving grill lid open for a few minutes to help charcoal ignite.) During the last 15 minutes, brush ribs with some of the sauce, turning every few minutes to glaze. Transfer to platter, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot with remaining sauce, if desired. 
Related posts:

Recipe courtesy of: