In a time where consumers can sometimes feel disconnected from farming and where they get their food, fuel and clothes, the Illinois Farm Bureau decided to open their barn doors and create the Illinois Farm Families program. Chicagoland mothers who are interested in learning more about agriculture are invited to visit farms and processing plants to ask questions and to learn about the food and products their families have been consuming.
Alan Adams, a fifth-generation Illinois farmer and past president of the Illinois Beef Association an Illinois Farm Families partner, said making the program was a long discussion of what farmers were doing wrong regarding consumers.
“We didn’t think we did a very good job connecting with consumers,” said Adams. “I always put myself forward as the poster boy as having the wrong attitude. I figured if I put all my energy into having a great farm, consumers would just know.”
Mothers in the program visit a variety of Illinois farms throughout the year and meet with the families to learn what they do on their farms. They are able to ask farmers questions about their farming practices and topics they see in the news. The program then allows these mothers to take pictures and blog about their experiences on the Illinois Farm Families website.
One mother in particular, Jen Meiring from Batavia, IL, decided to join the program after her youngest son wanted to know more about the meat he was eating.
One of the farms Meiring visited was a hog farm. “I came away feeling like they really cared about those animals,” said Meiring. “I remember going into the farmer’s house to use the bathroom and they had little hogs all over their house, just like how I would have golden retrievers all over my house.”
In lieu of Naper Settlement’s Agricultural Interpretive Center, Adams thinks agricultural programs and centers are important when connecting with consumers of all ages. “I think the ultimate goal is consumer knowledge of agriculture,” said Adams. “That’s really what [farmers] want to accomplish. We want to be as open as we can be, so people several generations removed can look to farming projects for more information.”
Meiring received Adams for a pen pal and since his farm in Sandwich, IL was so close to her home he invited Jennifer and her sons to come out for a visit. “My boys got to drive the little four wheelers and feed the baby cattle and just learn more about the farm.”
“It’s important for children to understand the technology behind farming,” said Meiring. “[Farmers] have all these iPads and screens all hooked up. It’s so high-tech and detailed. I was so surprised.”
Learn more about the Illinois Farm Families program on their website.
If you are interested in supporting the Agricultural Interpretive Center, join Naperville Heritage Society for an evening of cocktails and a beautiful farm-to-table dinner at the Barn Raising Benefit on November 5 at 6pm. This special event will benefit the Ag Center, which aims to preserve our region’s agricultural history. Reserve your seat by October 26, by calling 630.420.6010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit our website.