Will, Kane County farmers host industry reps

Nearly 40 officials visit family farms to foster relationships, learn more about Illinois agriculture.

Will County farmer Dave Kestel, center, talks about harvest with members of The Chicago Food & Beverage Network. (Photos by Ryan Tracy)

By Ryan Tracy

For more than a decade, Illinois Farm Bureau has placed a priority on engaging companies throughout the food chain with events like the annual Value Chain Tour as well as the Agribusiness Roundtable.

One of the most successful areas of engagement has been asking IFB members to host companies for farm tours. On Oct. 18 and Oct. 22, farmers from Will and Kane counties hosted groups to further forge bonds within the industry.

Will County farmer Dave Kestel hosted 17 members of The Chicago Food & Beverage Network Oct. 18. The Chicago Food & Beverage Network is a new organization looking to leverage the power of industry in Chicago to help further grow their industry’s economy. Their membership represents nearly every facet of the value chain, from food processing to marketing, food service and more.

Kestel and his daughter, Frankie, provided combine rides, shared stories about the farm and different practices they use and gave them a better understanding of what farmers around Illinois are doing. Lyndsey Ramsey, IFB’s associate director of natural and environmental resources, shared information about how IFB is engaged in water quality, nutrient management, pollinators and other conservation issues.

On Oct. 22, Kane County Farm Bureau President Joe White, his wife, Bonnie, and their family hosted 20 representatives from Ingredion. The global ingredient company focuses on sweeteners, starches, nutrition ingredients and biomaterials used in foods, beverages, paper and pharmaceuticals.

The visitors learned about White’s family farm, took combine and tractor rides, and heard about IFB’s conservation and nutrient management issues from Lauren Lurkins, IFB director of natural and environmental resources.

Companies throughout the value chain benefit from farm tours like these, getting a firsthand look at and a better understanding of what Illinois farmers do. Perhaps more importantly, in a relaxed setting, companies get to see where the food they are creating comes from, who grows it and receive answers to many of their questions that would otherwise remain unknown.

In the end, bringing all sides of the industry together benefits everyone. A special thanks goes to Will County Farm Bureau Manager Mark Schneidewind and Kane County Farm Bureau Manager Steve Arnold for all their help with the tours.

Ryan Tracy serves as IFB’s director of external relations.