Illinois Farm Families Blog

Aug 08 2014

My State Fair Family

It's Illinois State Fair time. A time when kids and their families from across the state come together to display their 4-H projects that they have worked hard on all year. As a child, I always looked forward to going to State Fair. For people who aren't exhibitors, when they think of State Fair, they may think of carnival rides, corn dogs, and funnel cakes. To me, State Fair was none of those things…it was so much more!

To me, the word “family” completely describes our State Fair experience. And by family, I don’t just mean my parents and sisters. What I’m talking about is our “Fair Family.” In addition to showing at our county fair and the Illinois State Fair, we traveled around to several county fairs and showed pigs and cattle, every summer. There were several families, in addition to mine, that also made the circuit with us. And then there were some that we only saw at one or two shows. But all of these people, they were our “Fair Family.” We had our stalls next to each other, we ate meals together, we hung out together, we helped each other, cheered each other on and we made memories together.

Our summer long circuit of showing culminated with a week at State Fair every year. When I think back on the many memories that I have made at the fair, there are WAY too many memories to even begin writing in a single blog post. Some of my favorite memories took place at the actual fair (cheering in the stands as some our friends were named Grand Champion, playing cards in our stalls, eating lunch on the hillside by the chicken barn... and more) but many memories also took place off of the fairgrounds (swimming at the old Holiday Inn, locking ourselves out of our hotel rooms together, eating at Steak 'n Shake by the hotel... and many more inside joke memories that unfortunately are hilarious to us, but readers would just not understand!).

I loved showing, don't get me wrong. I learned a lot about responsibility, and I loved the feeling and anticipation of entering the show ring, waiting to see what place I would be given. I loved the smell of the barns (yes, you read that correctly,) the roars of the fans, the sounds of the animals, and of course, showing. But in the end, my favorite part of my showing and State Fair experience are the memories that I made along the way with my "family."

Danelle Burrs
Hickory Ridge Farm
Dixon, Illinois

Aug 07 2014

Why I Farm: Behind the Movement

4-H Fair is a family tradition.

For nearly 80 years, my grandfather has been involved with our county 4-H program. Yes, you read that correctly. He has seen almost 80 4-H fairs. After being a 10 year 4-H member, he became a volunteer and club leader when he returned home from serving in World War II. The 4-H program isn't just ingrained in our family, it's part of who we are.

With our county 4-H fair starting tomorrow, I've been reminiscing about my 10 years as a 4-H member. Remembering all the sweat, tears and hard work I poured into projects. Thinking about the challenges, mishaps and miscommunication with family members. Because we all know, there are always a few arguments. Laughing about spending the night before crops check-in in the middle of a field, digging up corn and soybean plants. It was always hot, always humid, and the soil always too dry.

Last night as I was digging through photos, I not only ran across pictures of me in 4-H, but also my dad. And one thing was strikingly similar - the Hamilton County 4-H fairgrounds.

As in many counties, the Hamilton County 4-H Fairgrounds is a special place for many families; filled with great memories, family traditions, and lifelong friendships.

And for me it’s not just about great memories, but thinking about the generations to come. I look forward to the moment when my children step into the show arena at the Hamilton County 4-H Fair. But for now, I’ll just enjoy my favorite chocolate and vanilla swirl milkshake.

Originally posted July 16, 2014, on Beck's.

Ashley Fischer

Jul 18 2014

Boomerang

Today was Anna's 4H Livestock Show.

When I say I really have nothing to do with Anna's 4H experience, it is no understatement. While she and Joe had headed to the general projects show on Saturday, I stayed at home with the kids (and maybe took a nap). Yesterday, they loaded up to take the cattle to the weigh-in, while I loaded up my kids to the country club pool.

Today, however, I went to the show, loading up my crew and snacks and toys once again, putting on shoes I didn't care about, and herded my friends to the fairgrounds.

The fairgrounds I went to as a child.

The fairgrounds in my home county.

The fairgrounds where my uncle, my dad, and now my girl had/have their hands in the livestock show.

As I pulled into the fairgrounds lot, careful to park in an area that wouldn't have to back up around trailers (have I mentioned I'm terrible at backing up? Even with sensors and a camera? Sheesh.), it hit me.

These are my people.

The people in the stands, the names on the animals were all familiar, if not darned friendly. Name after name after name were of people I knew from towns I grew up around, played sports against, and thought I would never, ever see again.

Ever.

However, I boomeranged.

I'm back in my home county, and now that we have kids involved in county events, it's more apparent that I am truly home. As she took the ring, she did so with a young man from a family who have known me since the toddler years, had my dad as a teacher, went to church with my aunt and uncle.

The man in the ring, guiding the cattle, assisting as needed? He's the dad of kids I used to always babysit for.

The guy cleaning out the chicken coops as the little kids and I walked through, killing time between classes? He's my old neighbor who teaches Ag at my high school.

On and on and on and on I walked around seeing people I hadn't seen in years, and who didn't expect me to be there. I must have made it abundantly clear I was never coming back.

The best part? Our name was pronounced right. Not just ours, my cousin's (Mottaz, my maiden name…I know, I went from bad to worse in the name department) was pronounced correctly. When my girl won Reserve Grand Champion, we had a cheering section, even though my parents are on opposite sides of the country this week. Neighbors, friends, relatives. People knew us. They recognized us. They were supporting us.

It was surreal.

While speaking to a couple I have known all my life, who have been 4H leaders long since their kids have left the hallowed halls of 4H, I spoke of moving home to the "home farm." Pete, the dad, choked up as he spoke of the honor it was to have his daughter and family in the same situation.

I never thought of moving back to the home county in a way that would choke up my dad.

But it means something.

My boomeranging isn't just nice because I have someone to talk to at cattle shows, someone to cheer on Anna as she won Junior Showmanship (YES… SHE DID THAT, TOO!! Proud, proud mama!!), it's nice because it means something. While I never was a huge 4Her, I was a Knox County girl, and am a Knox County girl, and when people know your history, your beginning, that's a big deal. A comfort. A happy place to be when you're sharing your home with your children.

The lure of what's bigger and better and broader is strong. I felt it. I needed to branch out. I'm happy I did, and there are days I wish I could head back, but the boomerang affect is strong. Roots are stronger. Friendly faces and correct pronunciation of names may seem small, but in a big, big world, it's nice to come home to a familiar place.

Today, I truly came home, and I couldn't be prouder.

Emily Webel
Farmington, Illinois

Emily and her husband, Joe, raise cattle, corn, soybeans and alfalfa for hay for their animals in Illinois. Together they are raising their four children to be good stewards of the land. Read more from Emily on her blog, Confessions of a Farm Wife.

Originally published July 14, 2014 on Confessions of a Farm Wife

Reposted with permission.

Jul 11 2014

Lunch with Grandpa

We love it when our two granddaughters, ages 3 and 18 months, come to the farm! And they love to go to the sheds, climb into the tractors and trucks, beep the horns and "drive". But their most favorite activity is packing lunches to share with Grandpa in the field! Last week we were packing one of those lunches and the 3-year-old wanted to take along some M&Ms for Grandpa and her. Quickly thinking, I suggested that we mix some Cheerios cereal with candy for a special treat. Later, in the field, she began sharing the "special treat" with Grandpa... one M&M for her, one piece of cereal for Grandpa, and so on. Finally, Grandpa asked if he could have a piece of the candy. To which she replied, "Grandma said you like cereal for your special treat. I like chocolate for my special treat."



Donna Jeschke
Mazon, Illinois

Jul 08 2014

One of My Favorite Farm Memories

One of the most fun things Eldon and I have done through the years is have a Memorial Day picnic. Our family always attends our small town (Kaneville) Memorial Service in the morning. Then afterward, some of the neighbors would stand around, wondering what to do next. One year, about 40 years ago, I just said to everyone to go home and see what they might have in their refrigerators which they could share, bring it, and come over for an old-fashioned picnic. I pulled some pork burgers out of the freezer and had about 5-6 families for a fun afternoon. Well, as our family grew up, they started inviting their school friends to add to the party. Then they got married and had families of their own. They invited other families... and you can see where this is going. Our grandchildren now invite their friends. The original neighbors are still attending and this year the head count was hovering around 80. When the weather is warm, there are usually water balloon fights between the boys and the girls, between the kids and their parents and just about everyone gets into the action. There are turns on the tire swing and on the trampoline for everyone. And some always like to pitch a few horseshoes.

We continue to have the pork burgers, but have embellished them through the years. We now put some pulled pork on them, along with a couple strips of bacon and a slice of cheese.

It warms my heart to see all the kids have such a good time. Again, when the weather is warm enough, they will all go through the back field down to the creek and dare each other to go in deeper and deeper. We now know to send some old towels down to the creek with them!

Usually, we have a tour through the barns to see the baby pigs. This year we did not do that because of the risk of the PEDV going around the countryside.

Most families go home somewhere around 6-7:00 pm with very tired, dirty, and happy kids.


Sandy Gould
Eldon, Illinois

Jul 04 2014

Food, Farms and the Fourth

Well, a new flag is back up on the grain leg, the yard is mowed and the friends are invited over. It's just about the Fourth of July and although I didn't grow up in a family that did a lot of celebrating – isn't there hay to bale around here? – we try to mark the occasion with friends and fireworks.

Tonight, we'll have ice cream with a few friends before heading into town for fireworks. And tomorrow? Well, tomorrow is a little bigger. There's a Fourth of July tradition in the greater Avon, Illinois, area, and it centers around Bill and Elaine Kramer's back yard. And pasture.

The Kramers are farmers in the Avon area; my husband went to school with their kids and our kids go to school with their grandkids (Hi Mazie! And Nate! And Callie!)


Every year, they invite a couple hundred of their closest friends and family for an evening of food, fun and fireworks on the farm. The conversation is good, with lots of talk of corn and soybeans and weather and family. The kids run around and we don't see them until they're hungry. And the food. My, word, the food. The Kramers provide the meat, and everyone else brings a dish to pile on a tables-long buffet. It's like every recipe out of one of those classic rural cookbooks. Delish.

And then they blow stuff up. Like watermelons (see below). The kids try to catch water balloons, perhaps for a candy prize. Everybody loads up on hay racks for a ride down the road, over the pasture and through the actual woods. Before long, it's dark and the kids collect glow sticks. We all haul our chairs around the barn and past the bins, lining up on the edge of the pasture. (Watch your step. Also, the fence.)

Let me just say, these are not your average fireworks. The local small-town fireworks I mentioned earlier? The Kramer fireworks are every bit as impressive. I hear they may be downgraded a bit this year due to some licensing thing, but I suspect it'll still be a great show.

Regardless, it's a good time. And wherever you might wind up this weekend, wishing you and your family a Happy Independence Day!



Holly Spangler
Marietta, Illinois

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois growing crops and producing cattle as well as raising their three children. Holly is an associate editor for Prairie Farmer magazine, a publication dedicated to sharing information about farm life and farm business. Read more from Holly on the Prairie Farmer blog.

Originally posted June 3, 2014 on The Prairie Farmer

Reposted with permission.


Nov 22 2013

Why I Farm - Bryon Coffman



"As a farmer your day starts as soon as your feet hit the ground. You can’t escape work on the farm. There are no sick days or weather delays. You have a job to do and it’s on you to get that job done. That might mean working from dawn to dusk or not seeing your family for days on end. Sure, it’s hard. But they understand. They know it’s a lifestyle. Most people have a hard time grasping that. But to us, farming, it’s what we know. It’s what we grew up doing. For me, farming was given. I was never pushed to farm. It just came naturally. I always thought if the opportunity was there, that’s all I ever wanted to do."

Bryon Coffman
Moweaqua, IL

To find out more about Beck's Hybrid's "Why I Farm" contest and to view more "Why I Farm" videos, visit www.WhyIFarm.com.

Sep 26 2013

Why I Farm - Steve Sowers



"Growing up on the farm, it just became a part of me. There’s just something special about working on the same land that my dad and grandfather started farming on. My dad taught me how to plow on the same field I taught my son to plow. The land becomes bigger than just a piece of land. It becomes a piece of your family. But I have to give credit where credit is due. This land that our family has been privileged to farm is a gift from God."     

Steve Sowers,
Colchester, IL

To find out more about Beck's Hybrid's "Why I Farm" contest and to view more "Why I Farm" videos, visit www.WhyIFarm.com.

Sep 19 2013

Why I Farm - Tony Beck



“Farming is the initial occupation that God provided man with and it is the foundation of our society. He placed each of here to become caretakers and stewards of the land. I believe that God has given us abilities, talents and desires and farming has been one of the desires that He has allowed me to fulfill.”

Tony Beck
Allerton, IL

To find out more about Beck's Hybrid's "Why I Farm" contest and to view more "Why I Farm" videos, visit www.WhyIFarm.com.

Sep 12 2013

Why I Farm - Steve Vogel



"I didn’t grow up like your typical farm kid. My dad farmed with his two brothers, but he also had a full time job off the farm. The farm didn’t expand fast enough and he had to make sacrifices to provide for his family. That was something he instilled in me at a very young age and I’ve always admired him for teaching me that. Much like my dad, I have always wanted to farm. As a young boy, I’d wake up early before I had to go to school, go outside and watch the tractors in the field. I just always loved the smell of the soil being turned over. It was then, and still is, my favorite thing about spring."

Steve Vogel
Henry, IL

To find out more about Beck's Hybrid's "Why I Farm" contest and to view more "Why I Farm" videos, visit www.WhyIFarm.com.