County Farm Bureaus, adopted lawmakers busy bridging urban-rural gap

By Kay Shipman

County Farm Bureaus around the state and their adopted state legislators discussed issues during on-farm and agribusiness tours, virtual visits and fun activities.

Christina Nourie, Illinois Farm Bureau northeast legislative coordinator, shared a roundup of recent county Farm Bureau and legislator visits.

Peoria County Farm Bureau member Rob Asbell hosted a virtual tour for new agriculture students at Rich Township High School in south suburban Olympia Fields, the district of the county Farm Bureau’s adopted legislator, state Rep. Debbie Meyers-Martin, D-Olympia Fields. After original plans for a virtual combine ride were thwarted, Asbell and the students discussed his work as a grain farmer and he showed the class technology in his combine in a virtual visit. The new ag teacher, Piaget Felix, indicated her students really enjoyed the virtual tour and Meyers-Martin appreciated the county Farm Bureau’s creative visit. County Farm Bureau leaders first connected with Piaget while touring her school during a visit to Meyers-Martin’s district.

Harvest proved opportune for several legislators, their staff and even family to make farm visits.

LaSalle County Farm Bureau hosted state Rep. Lakesia Collins, D-Chicago, her 13- and 9-year-old sons and two district staff members for farm visits. Collins toured the Dau family’s beef farm then joined a group of farmers for lunch and conversation. Farm equipment and sheep were next on the agenda at the Over family’s grain and livestock farm.

Richland County Farm Bureau organized a two-day visit for state Rep. Lindsey LaPointe, D-Chicago, and her chief of staff, Jessica Genova. LaPointe, who joined the Adopt-a-Legislator program in 2020, and Genova rode in a tractor and combine with Richland County Farm Bureau President Joel Gardner on his Olney farm. They also toured Consolidated Grain and Barge and Fox Creek Vineyards. During an evening meal at Darin Weidner’s farm, the visitors met several Young Leaders and other farmers. Green energy was a focus the next day at Diel farms, a solar hog farm. LaPointe learned more about hog farms and saw how some farms are integrating solar energy.

Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau welcomed state Rep. Jonathan Carroll, D-Northbrook, and his assistant, Elly, for a first farm visit, starting with Claretta Dairy Farm and hosts, Brent and Amber Mueller. The next stop was the farm of Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau President Julie Newhouse and her husband, Marshall, to learn about cover crops and their work to protect soil. The visit ended with a tour of Edwards Apple Orchard and lunch. Carroll enjoyed his farm visit, especially the tractor ride, and said he couldn’t wait to tell his downstate colleagues about his experiences.

Henry County Farm Bureau hosted its new adopted legislator, state Rep. Chris Bos, R-Lake Zurich, and his young daughter for farm tours, starting with the Weber family beef farm. After lunch, the visitors toured the Wyffels Hybrids facility before taking rides on a tractor and combine on Dennis Verbeck’s farm. Joining in were local legislators, state Reps. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, and Dan Swanson, R-Alpha.

Edwards County Farm Bureau provided a two-day farm/rural tour for new adopted legislator, state Rep. Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar, D-Chicago, her husband and their 9- and 14-year-old daughters. First, the visitors discussed education issues at the West Salem Grade School and then learned about cleaning, bagging and selling specialty seeds at Baker Seed Co. After lunch, Edwards County Farm Bureau President Jason Balding gave his visitors a driving tour before stopping at Stumpy Hill Hog Farm to discuss livestock issues with farmer Bryan Roosevelt. The evening concluded with local farm families joining their visitors for pizza. Activities the next day included rides in combines, tractor and semis and lessons about cover crops, crop rotation and grain storage on the Lynch family grain farm. After afternoon horseback rides on the Schmittler farm, the representative and her family met other Edwards County families at wiener roast on the Balding farm.

Whiteside County Farm Bureau welcomed back adopted legislator, Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Westchester; his wife, ShawnTe, and their children, Tyler and Marley. Welch has visited the county nearly every year since 2013 when he was elected. The Welch family visited Dale and Sue Sterenberg’s cattle farm to discuss livestock and animal care. Next, they stopped at Don and Karen Temple’s grain farm to ride combines and learn about corn and soybean harvest and sample hot chocolate and donut snacks in the field.

Carroll County Farm Bureau hosted state Rep. Joyce Mason, D-Gurnee, a member of the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee, for her second farm visit. Mason learned about farm chemical applications and anhydrous ammonia safety training at the Carroll Service Co. The Stoner family grain farm provided Mason with her first combine ride. The representative ended her visit at Hunter Haven Dairy where she learned about the farm’s methane digester.

Jefferson County Farm Bureau welcomed state Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, for his first farm visit. Peters was joined by his Springfield legislative assistant, Trish Rebbe, and local state Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro. The tour started with a combine ride on John and Nancy Howard’s farm. After lunch, the visitors toured the Gateway FS grain elevator to learn about the grain industry. The visitors finished their day at Jeff Kiselewski’s cattle farm where they helped feed cattle and discussed livestock issues.

Clinton County and Marion County Farm Bureaus jointly hosted adopted legislator, state Rep. Eva-Dina Delgado, D-Chicago. Her tour started at Meyer VMS Dairy, a robotic dairy operation. Later, she joined several county Farm Bureau members for lunch and conversation on the farm. That was followed by corn harvest and a combine ride with farmer Bryan Henrichs and a visit to Main Street Pastures, a direct-to-consumer farm that provides pork, beef, lamb and eggs to local consumers. Delgado helped the Headley family harvest soybeans with a second combine ride and ended her day chatting with farmers during dinner on the Headley farm.

Douglas County Farm Bureau welcomed newly adopted legislator, state Rep. Denyse Wang Stoneback, D-Skokie, for her first farm tour. On the farm of Douglas County Farm Bureau President Dan Meyer, the representative learned about the planning, work and equipment needed for soybean production, and she climbed to the top of a grain bin to learn about grain storage and farm safety. After a tailgate-style lunch, Rep. Stoneback climbed into a combine to help Meyer harvest soybeans. She also toured the ADM grain elevator in Tuscola and learned about domestic and international markets.

Fayette County Farm Bureau hosted state Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, D-Chicago, her husband and their two children for a weekend farm visit. The family learned about cover crops and crop rotation at B & L Buzzard Farms and were able to take a combine ride. Next, they toured the Cripe Grain Co. and learned how is delivered, stored and marketed. Livestock was next on the agenda with a visit to B. Willenborg Farms, a dairy. That evening, the senator and family joined the Albert family and other County Farm Bureau members for a campfire and wiener roast with beef from the family farm.

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