A couple things, one did you know that a cool way to see the country side and learn what’s what in your area is to check out your local Farm Bureau and see what tours and events they have to offer? I did not until my cousin Carrie Steinweg sent me a message asking how close Taylorville, Illinois was to me. She was to be the luncheon speaker at the “A Day on the Farm” tour put on by the Christian County Farm Bureau. Since Taylorville is just a scant drive from me, we made arrangements for Carrie to stay with me and I contacted the Farm Bureau about covering the event for Farm World. We were all set.
Our first stop was Goldmine Farms, an organic grain and livestock production farm owned by Jack Erisman. The farm is comprised of 2,000 acres with rotating crops that include corn, soybeans, oats and small seed production such as red clover and hairy vetch. A portion of the acreage was converted from row-crop land to pasture for Erisman’s grass-fed beef production. Standing under a tree with his pickup truck as a prop, the crowd gathered near Erisman to hear about his organic farming journey.
It was interesting as a traditional farmer’s wife to hear about some of his views that the earth should never be uncovered so in his eye we should always use cover crops. He is a certified organic farm so he uses only mechanical means to control weeds. While his yields are less, he said that profits make up for the loss of bushels per acre. As for his beef, they are a breed I had never heard of, they were Murray Grey’s, an Angus and short-horn mix that originated in Australia. Another new tidbit he shared was that doctors are recommending for their patients with digestive issues to use grass-fed beef rather than grain fed beef.
Erisman gave each of us a packet of popcorn before we left and headed across the street to my favorite destination of the day, Apreggio Winery. Both Goldmine Farms and Apreggio have Pana, Illinois addresses. Mike and Karen Swiney had been enchanted by the vineyards they had seen in Southern Illinois and decided to grow grapes and sell them. After they grew the grapes the market tanked and they were left with a passel full of grapes and no buyers so they made their own wine, 160 gallons of it and gave it away.
Deciding to jump in, they continued purchased the equipment to make wine, but they still needed a niche, something that would bring visitors to the winery so they converted their 1890’s barn that was there when Mike’s great-grandfather bought the farm in 1908, into a tasting room/venue. The barn is still lovely with its structural roots but the design is an industrial one created by Karen Swiney. I tried a glass of Rhythm wine and enjoyed it. After Mike Swiney told his story, Carrie who is an Illinois Farm Families City Mom offered insight into her farm touring adventures through the eyes of a suburban Chicago dweller.
Carrie has visited our farm a couple time through the years with her kids and they always enjoy what she calls the “open spaces”. As a writer, author, blogger and photographer Carrie strives to share with urban readers the ever important facts of where food comes from and she helps promote family farming in Illinois. All things we farmers greatly appreciate!
Our last stop of the day was Clavin Dairy in Rosamund, Illinois. Here we saw a huge heifer barn, a cow barn, an automated milking parlor where they milk THREE TIMES A DAY!!!! 365 DAYS A YEAR.
The calves were so cute, we all enjoyed the tour and came away realizing how much work goes into a glass of milk!
Loved the farm tour and I recommend doing this whether touring an organic farm, pecan grove, or the places I frequent, antique tractor collectors home base!
Contact your local Farm Bureau and see what they have in store.