Chicago Social Media Creators Discover Illinois Family Farms

Touring Creators Learn about Animal Welfare, Sustainability, and Innovation

Illinois farm families want people to know more about the food they eat and the people who grow and raise it. That’s why this summer three Illinois farms welcomed six Chicago-based creators to see firsthand how Illinois farm families grow food with care. Throughout the tour, information was shared about the innovative technology and practices our farmers use today in support of animal welfare, sustainability, and maintaining the soil health and water quality of our great state.

Before beginning the one-day, three-farm tour, the group met at Kane County Farm Bureau in St. Charles where they could explore an Illinois-shaped pollinator and rain garden complete with channels for runoff water and rainfall that represent the state’s rivers. The garden demonstrates Illinois farmers’ commitment to caring for the environment and addressing concerns about water quality and pollinators.

Farm Tour participants

Diving into High-Tech Dairy

Lenkaitis Holsteins in St. Charles was the first stop on the tour. Guests got to see a state-of-the-art dairy barn equipped with robotic milkers and features focused on ensuring comfort for the cows, such as cow brushes, an automated manure management system, and herd management software to monitor cow health. Sarah and Andy Lenkaitis also shared how Illinois dairy farmers prioritize sustainability and animal welfare on their farms.

holstein cow

“I loved learning about the animal welfare practices on dairy farms,” said Michelle Stephen, @MonstruitoMom. “I’ve heard a lot of misinformation about antibiotics in milk, but today I learned why farmers use antibiotics for their cattle and the strict processes they follow to ensure no antibiotic residue is in the milk we buy for our families.”

Learning About Sustainability with Corn and Soy

Next, the tour headed to Gould Farms, a third-generation family-owned and -operated farm based in Maple Park, about 50 miles west of Chicago. After enjoying lunch from Country Store & Catering, a local, family-owned and –operated butcher shop and restaurant, the group learned more about the corn, soybeans, and wheat sustainably grown at Gould’s, the equipment used in the process, and how the grain is dried, stored, and used today.

Farm Tour event

“I was completely blown away by the technology being used to make food production more sustainable,” said Christine Zwolinski, @TheChicagoGoodLife. “From satellite to GPS to solar panels, I had no idea how advanced the technology was. I even learned there is a NASA program involved in crop farming!”

The Power of Pork

While at Gould Farms, guests watched The Amazing Pig, a video shared by the Illinois Pork Producers Association. The video shared insights about the importance of biosecurity on pig farms to maintain a safe and secure food production system, what it takes to make sure pigs are well cared for, and how the pig farming industry benefits consumers and our economy today.

Illinois dairy and hog farmer Carrie Pollard, from Rockford, Ill., rode along on the day’s tour and answered guests’ questions about raising pigs. On the bus, Illinois Pork Producers shared with the creators how no part of the pig goes to waste.

“We have a saying in the pork industry— ‘everything but the oink,’” shared Lydia Oker, Illinois Pork Ambassador. “Every byproduct from pork is used in everyday objects such as Jell-O, rubber, crayons, chalk, and more!”

Wrapping Up the Day with Beef

The day wrapped up with Justin and Jamie Martz at Larson Farms, a corn, soy, and beef farm in Maple Park. Here, guests were able to learn about the barn features built for cattle comfort, the food cattle receive, and the technology used throughout the farm, including solar panels for energy efficiency and ultrasound used to identify optimal meat quality.

wrapping up the Farm Tour

“I really enjoyed learning about the solar panels and other sustainability efforts being used on beef farms in Illinois,” said Stephen. “It’s incredible how farmers have found so many efficiencies to make raising animals even more sustainable.”

Through these tours, our friends from Chicago were able to learn more about what happens on today’s farms, gain a better understanding of where their food comes from, and get their farm and food questions answered straight from the source.

“I got to see firsthand how much pride and care these farm families have for what they do,” said Maggie Michalczyk, @OnceUponAPumpkin, after the tour. “They go above and beyond to grow our food with care and ensure that the land, animals, and environment are taken care of in the process.”

Thank you to those who joined the tour. To meet them yourself, visit their profiles on Instagram and look for their posts about their farm tour experience!