Illinois Farm Families Blog

Jul 03 2015

I spy with my little eye...

Farmers are pretty used to seeing animals on a regular basis. Sometimes, though, we find some unexpected and unwelcome visitors by the feed bags!

Farm animals

So, I'm feeding the goats and horse more hay, and as I reach for the cat food, I find a visitor (lower right). 

Heather Hampton-Knodle
Fillmore, IL

Heather and her husband, Brian, both come from multiple generations of farming and continue that family tradition today on their farm in Montgomery County with their four children. They raise corn, soybeans, wheat cattle and goats. Heather and Brian take their role as stewards of the land very seriously and work every day to leave the soil on their farm in better condition than the day before so that it can be fruitful for future generations to come.

Jun 30 2015

Best Seat in the House

Farm views

This was a picture I took while waiting to fill the planter. I was in our pickup facing the tractor with the sunset behind me. I couldn’t help but snap a quick photo!

These days go by pretty quick. Every few hours I get a call that someone needs filled and I bring the seed bags (weighing 30-65 pounds each) to the planter that is running low. The tractor will stop, I pull up in the truck, we take off the planter lids and load ’em up! It takes about 20 minuets total and then the tractor is back in business. We literally do this all day, weather willing.

Originally posted on Dare to Dream with Rachel.

Rachel Asher
Ursa, IL

Rachel grew up on her family's farm where they raised dairy cows, pigs and crops. Today, she and her husband raise cattle, corn and soybeans on their own family farm in Ursa, IL. You can learn more about Rachel's farm on her blog: Dare to Dram with Rachel.

Jun 26 2015

Modern Day Farmers

"I kind of had this mental picture of a farmer in overalls sitting at his kitchen table pouring over the Farmers’ Almanac to figure out how he’s going to plan his planting and just kind of haphazardly, and with no conscience, throwing around weed and insect killing chemicals on the plants.  When, in reality, that is not the case.  It’s really making me pause to think about the “truths” that I hold to when it comes to growing food and what I choose to buy at the grocery store." 


Learn more about today's farmers and the technology they use here.

Frankfort, IL

Stephanie 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.

Jun 08 2015

McGrew Farm: A day in the life.

Beautiful view this spring (2015) from our pasture!  iPhone photo at that :)
Our cows & their calves were happy to be at the pasture - as was I!

Originally posted on Outside the Ag Room.

Good Hope, IL

Alison was born and raised on a grain and livestock farm in Central Illinois and now resides on a farm where she, her husband and their two children raise beef cattle. Alison and her husband both have full-time jobs off the farm that are directly related to agriculture. Alison is a former high school agriculture teacher, as well. You can learn more about their farm on Alison's blog Outside the Ag Room.

Jun 04 2015

Cultivating Work Ethic

Our corn and soybean tour was on a cloudy, humid, warm day in early May. We visited the Meyer and Saathoff Farm and were greeted by several members of the extended farm family, including Nick and Missy Saathoff, the owners, both of their sets of parents, Missy’s brother, his wife and their children. In their introductions I was surprised to hear that everyone had jobs outside of their farm work. Nate is also a representative for a seed company, Missy is a teacher, her brother is a banker, and his wife works in a laboratory. Everyone in the family was taking on so many ‘additional’ farm responsibilities on top of their ‘day’ jobs. This work ethic and motivation was also clearly seen in the children of this farming family. 

While the farm is primarily corn, soybean, and wheat they maintain a small number of cattle, both beef and dairy as a ‘hobby’ to help with grazing of pasture and development of fertilizer for the fields. The beef cattle and heifers are show animals which are cared for primarily by the children. They take on a great deal of responsibility in maintaining these animals. As one of the girls, who was 16 years old, was telling me about her heifer, it was obvious that she takes a huge amount of pride in her work. They show these animals and auction them for a fair amount of money. Even the younger children have some sheep that they help take care of so that they can learn before they move on to the larger animals as they get older. 

I was impressed at the level of independence and responsibility that the children I met on the farm tour demonstrated. Farming is more than food production; it is developing a strong work ethic in the next generations.  

Jyotsna Jagai
Grove, IL

Jyotsna 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.

Jun 02 2015

Cold Day for Hay on the Asher Farm

Usually when we mow and rake hay, it's sunny & hot. I call hay silage days my "tanning days". Yesterday was a little different... Long sleeves and gloves for this girl!

Rachel Asher
Ursa, IL

Rachel farms with her husband and his family in West Central Illinois where they raise cattle, pigs, corn and soybeans. You can learn more about Rachel and her farm on her blog: Dare to Dream with Rachel.

May 31 2015

Illinois Farm Families

May 21 2015

Mama Mania

While I would LOVE to breath a sigh of relief, that is not going to happen. Calving is almost done, we have about 10 more cows to go, and we have started planting! Actually I have disappeared for awhile due to crazy hours in the fields. We are almost done with our corn planting and then we will be onto soybeans. For the time being I have a moment to sit down and tell you about the scariest part of my job… the mama cows!

While I dearly love the time with our calves, I wouldn’t exactly call this time of year cute and cuddly. Actually I pray more during calving than any other time of the year. I mainly pray for safety. Sometimes you just never know what you are getting into. The job should be simple right? Catch the calf, move the mom and baby over to the pasture, give the calf some bling (ear tag) and check gender. This could take 5 minuets or an hour depending on the mom cow. While we have many friendly mothers who know the routine, there are others that just kinda freak out. I have never held the glare of a 1500 pound animal as she angrily stares into my soul until this year. The only thing between us was the ATV and I’m pretty sure she was considering jumping it. This is the part where I say a quick prayer… multiple times… plus a few more… and consider that things can get bad very VERY quickly. We trust that our Lord and Savior will keep us safe, maybe send some guardian angles or something, but let me tell you, not every day is a piece of cake.

There are a few stories I can recall from this last calving season. We had two crazies, as we call them, this year. I don’t think they even cared about their baby, they just like to try and run us over. Both times my prayers were answered and the cows would go from trying to charge to a moment of confusion where they literally just turned around and ran off in just enough time for us to get the calf and do our thing.  My husband had to park next to a hut and clime on top of it in order to even get off of the ATV as the cow would try to get him the moment he stopped. Usually they leave you alone on the ATV, but this one was different. I have walked into the barn to feed and had two more cows literally charge the fence. Great way to start the day! While it would be so much easier to just leave the cows and calves alone, it is necessary to check the calves.  We make sure they are nursing and healthy. This is the price we pay. After everything is checked and good, we move the two where the calf can have shelter and we can ensure water and feed every day for the cow.

As you can see, there seems to be a pattern with things happening in pairs of two here, but needles to say, while calving is the most precious time of the year, it is also the most dangerous. I don’t know the statistic, but more people die from cows every year than deer. On the contrary, like I said before, most of our cows are very gentle. We even had one cow that waited until we drove up with the ATV and cart, she moved over by the ATV to wait, we got the calf and as soon as we shut the door on the cart she came back around to follow. We got out of the pen and she led us to the pasture. She stood out of the way while we worked the calf and then nuzzled her with love when we were done. (Fun fact, if you read my blog last year, this was Buddy’s mom! Buddy lived in our basement for a week.)

I have said it and I will say it again. This is my favorite time of year! I love to watch the calves as they grow, play and interact with the others. Yes they still kick hard, some can be rambunctious, and the mothers are not always the best, but to be part of a new life coming into the world and doing everything in your power to help it grow and thrive is the best feeling in the world!

Originally posted on Dare to Dream with Rachel.

Rachel Asher
Ursa, IL

Rachel farms with her husband and his family in West Central Illinois where they raise cattle, pigs, corn and soybeans. You can learn more about Rachel and her farm on her blog: Dare to Dream with Rachel.

May 15 2015

Farm Photo Friday: When the weather cooperates but the tractor doesn't.

Not a good day when the weather is nice but the tractor quits running. Had to tow it home and call for service. Doesn't seem to bother Bert though.

Photo courtesy of Willow Lea Stock Farm.

Gary & Michele Aavang
Woodstock, IL

Michele and her husband, Gary are full-time farmers raising corn, soybeans, alfalfa, wheat and oats in northern Illinois. Gary has been farming his entire life, while Michele grew up in the Chicago suburbs and became a "farmer by marriage." Learn more and stay up to date with farm happenings on their Facebook page.

May 12 2015

My understanding of farming changed after I met farmers

I am a food science and human nutrition major with an AAS in culinary arts that had previously served almost 9 years in the US Navy. Even with all of that, I had absolutely no idea about production farming. Everything that I knew about farming was whatever I had read or seen on the internet or TV. This of course includes movies like Food Inc. My perceptions of farmers were that they were only nice farmers if they were organic farmers and bad if they weren’t. I assumed that because of what I had seen, via various forms of media, that enormous multinational corporations owned the majority of farms in the US. I thought farmers were exactly the way they are often depicted on TV, simple characters lacking any kind of sophistication without any regard for the environment or animals. This was not something that I thought was specific to any region, I just thought all farmers were this way. In the case of Illinois farmers, well, I just thought they really liked corn and soybeans. 

I had no idea. I suppose the reason for this is that I had never really been on a farm, nor did I know any farmers, except for the inner-city hipster, “strictly organic” variety. This past semester all of that changed when I decided to enroll in a class on “farm, food and environmental policy.” The whole point of the class was to compare and contrast the differences between farms and farming practices in California to those of Illinois. Our class toured farms and talked to farmers in both states and I can tell you that everything I thought I knew about farmers was what someone else wanted me to think. After going to meet and talk with these fine men and women, I was finally able to make my own decisions and come to my own conclusions.

I found myself to be completely wrong about my assumptions. Farmers are very sophisticated. The technology that farmers use is mind-blowing to me! I found out that they use GPS navigated equipment to get within two inches of accuracy when applying fertilizer and planting seeds. They use drones to survey their fields, which allow them to detect soil issues and identify weed species. To accommodate the needs of their customers, they use different varieties of seeds and are involved in commodity trading. Farming is neither a yokel’s business nor some large industrial machine. Illinois farms are, I have learned, for the most part (97%) family-owned businesses. In talking to these farmers, I have realized that their way of life is something that has been passed down to them by their elders from generation to generation and that they have an intense interest in conservation. For them, taking care of their land and animals means that they will have something to give to their children. This way of life is a source of pride for them. 

The biggest take-away that I’ve gained from this experience is that misinformation about these people and their businesses spreads through conventional media, and especially social media, like wildfire. I believed it and so do many others. I’m not sure what exactly motivates all of this misinformation, but I would highly recommend to anyone that’s interested in learning about their food go to a local farm and ask for a tour. Talk to your local farmers. Ask them questions, get to know them and find out what they do. I’m sure you will be pleasantly surprised.


Originally posted in Farm Week.

Regina Cortez
Chicago, IL

1 2 3 4 5 .. 13 Next