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CCFB News» March 2024

At the Farm GateFamilies dominate ownership of Illinois farms

03/04/2024 @ 8:00 am | By Joanie Stiers

I work every day with the people who raised me. Four desks in the farm office provide space for mom, dad, brother, and sister. It’s the same crew I sat with at the dinner table in the 1980s. The ones I made memories with on family vacations at theme parks with the fastest roller coasters. The quartet that spent weekend afternoons cleaning field edges and dining on pizza at sundown on Sunday nights. 


Relatively speaking, we’re among the mainstream. An overwhelming 96% of Illinois farms are owned and operated by families like ours, a statistic worth recognizing in this season that honors National Ag Day on March 19, 2024. Contrary to popular belief, parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, children, cousins, aunts, uncles and even in-laws make most decisions about how food, feed and fuel are grown. Not faceless corporations.


That’s a pleasant surprise to most citizens of the state, according to surveys that show consumers trust family-owned farms but largely believe corporations own them. Motivated to debunk the ownership myth, the Illinois Farm Bureau partnered with the state’s commodity groups. Together, they launched the “We Are The 96” campaign a year ago with a big-time commercial during Super Bowl 2023.


Afterward, advertisements hit regional TV stations. Social media messaging exceeded 6 million views on Facebook and Instagram. Pizza boxes from more than 500 Illinois Casey’s stores promoted the family farm message during National Pizza Month. The family ownership of farms even made appearances in Chicago movie theaters and transit stations, helping initiate the more than 30 million impressions logged with Illinois consumer audiences.


The campaign with beautiful images and videos of farm families lured looks from farmers who related to the message and non-farmers who desired to know the decisionmakers behind their food choices. On 96% of Illinois farms, family owners select the seed, plant the crops, feed the cows, protect the land, serve their communities, teach the next generation, and hire local talent to help them get it done.


As the most-watched TV event of the year, nothing comes close to the Super Bowl. That’s a striking similarity to families owning 96% of Illinois farms. Super Bowl 2024 delivered another campaign commercial touting the family ownership of farms. Keeping with tradition, three generations of our farm family gathered around the TV to watch.



About the author: Joanie Stiers farms with her family in West-Central Illinois, where they grow corn, soybeans, hay and cover crops and raise beef cattle, backyard chickens and farmkids.

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