Illinois Farm Families Blog

Nov 07 2011

A new view of "life on the farm" – Julie Barreda's tour recap

Julie with Jamie MartzIn the week or so since my first official farm tours as a Field Mom, it seems the idea I keep coming back to is what an awesome educational opportunity this program will allow me over the course of the year.  My very antiquated view of “life on the farm”, which in reality is less than 100 miles from my “city” home, was basically blown away in the hours I spent visiting with the Martz and Drendel families in Maple Park and Hampshire, IL.

I’ve driven many highway roads past corn fields, somehow always just assuming there was no difference between the sweet corn grown for us to eat and the corn grown specifically for feed.  I now know the difference between a corn combine and an auger and even had the privilege to ride on both amazing machines.  I used to think that ultrasound machines were mainly seen in hospitals, and certainly not on farms! And raking my tiny city backyard of leaves and sharing my neighbor’s compost bin pales in comparison to the idea of harvesting over 6,000 acres of land as the Martzes do and being responsible for milking over 100 cows two times a day, 365 days a year as the Drendels do.

Our Illinois farmers are truly amazing people.  They are dedicated to their work, their families and most of all to the scores of people they never see who reap the nutritional rewards of the food they ultimately help put in our refrigerators and on our tables.  Our farm families have passed down generations of knowledge, strive to be on the cutting edge of today’s technology in every aspect of their farms and they can’t imagine doing anything else as a profession.  To me, that’s pretty impressive.

Today, farming is a business in every sense of the word when it comes to science, technology and modern day machinery. And that certainly was something I don’t think I ever connected in terms of the depth and scope until I toured the farms first hand.   But farming is also still very hands-on, whether it’s nursing a sick baby calf back to health, filling the troughs with the daily perfectly balanced mix of feed or the farmers and members their extended families offering a lucky group of Chicago area moms their most generous hospitality on a fall day.

The women of the farm are also amazing in their own right. Jamie Martz could drive, maneuver and empty the corn auger with amazing precision and finesse. I wouldn’t doubt her ability to be able to parallel park the auger on a city street!  It was evident that Lynn Martz runs a tight ship from the business negotiation side of the farm while also having developed a vast network of resource partners and suppliers that keep the daily cropping operations running smoothly.  Linda and Julie Drendel were also very impressive, educated, well-versed and multi-tasking women who helped shape my “new view” of what it is like to be a modern day woman on a farm.  And I was surprised to learn that these family farmers don’t actually live on their farms as I had assumed.

I am very excited for the journey I have embarked on as a Field Mom.  As much as this program strives to teach about today’s agriculture and bridge the gap between farmers and consumers, it also very naturally bridges the gap between people with different livelihoods and helps us understand how we are all ultimately very connected.  

Julie Barreda
Chicago, Illinois

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