At The Farm GateAg Day celebrates impact of family-dominated industry
Some families gather only for the major holidays. I work every day with the people who raised me.
Dad and I pair as a combine-and-cart duo for 14-hour days during harvest. In the off-season, Mom and I work from facing desks, handling bills and agency reporting requirements as a team. I communicate with my brother daily, together managing the details of running our crop and livestock farm, one of 71,000 such farms in Illinois.
An overwhelming 96% of Illinois farms are family owned and operated, a statistic worth recognizing in this season that honors National Ag Day on March 22 of 2022. That means families, not corporations, make most decisions about how food, feed and fuel are grown. Those farming partners represent any combination of spouses, siblings, cousins, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters and even in-laws and grandparents. My grandpa helped with harvest until he was 85. I soaked in those after-school moments when four generations of our family worked together in the same field.
We plant fields, harvest crops and manage books as a family with critical support from local employees who feel like family. We seek guidance from a variety of industry professionals – including my husband’s precision farming expertise – to improve the farm’s economic and environmental viability. We shop local for fertilizer, seed, pesticides, insurances, tractors, trucks and fuel, adding to the collective efforts to support the local community and provide a financial livelihood for multiple households within it.
By nature, farmers problem-solve on and off the farm with the passionate intent to make a difference. In rural towns across Illinois, farmers serve as Sunday School teachers, 4-H leaders, sports coaches, school volunteers and FFA supporters. Farm shops host community gatherings, and farmers pool their unique resources to meet needs. A few years ago, farm families in our community provided the equipment and skilled labor necessary to erect a park playground, a volunteer effort that even the governor recognized and awarded.
The value and impact of Illinois agriculture extends beyond the state and even nation’s borders. Blessed with a navigable river system, Illinois ranks third nationally in the export of agricultural commodities, providing feed, food and fuel around the globe from farms owned and operated by families – families like ours who work together and gather around the table for Easter dinner, too.
About the author: Joanie Stiers farms with her family in West-Central Illinois, where they grow corn, soybeans, wheat, hay and cover crops and raise beef cattle, backyard chickens and farmkids.