Endless Possibilities

My parents are the proud new owners of approximately 22 acres in Iroquois County, Illinois.  There’s an 8 or 9 acre cornfield at one corner of the property, and the rest of it is woodland, natural clearings, and riverfront.  They’re having the abandoned house taken down, and are placing a modular home there.  The new place should be ready for us by Christmas.

Now, other than the cornfield, that doesn’t sound too agricultural, right?

Well, it is.  22 acres of woodland, clearings, and riverfront in rural Illinois just screams agriculture.  And 22 acres is a lot of room for some empty-nesters who used to have a houseful of rowdy kids.  They’ve discussed ideas about what to do with the land.  Obviously, they have plenty of space!  So here are some of the things they’ve tossed around:

  • Taking out the corn and starting on alfalfa.  The soil here is sandy, which isn’t always best for corn, but tends to be a nice soil type for alfafa.
  • Leaving in the corn.
  • Getting together a herd of goats, most likely boers and/or other meat breeds.  Goats do great in woodland settings and can clear undergrowth well, so it’d be a method for forest control as well as a hobby and possible side-income.
  • Clearing a little extra land and finishing bottle-raised dairy steers.  This is especially enticing to them, because bottle calves are more likely to be friendly and easy to handle, and this would mean that their grandchildren (my nieces and nephews) could participate in this activity.  My siblings and I were lucky enough to stay in touch with where our food came from (it’s easy to do when it comes from your own pasture/finishing lot), and I think it’d be great for them to once again offer this opportunity to the next generation.  (Why dairy steers?  It’s hard to find bottle-raised beef cattle for cheap, and dairy farms always need an outlet for their male calves.  It’s a win-win, for us and for the farmers who work in dairy full-time.)
  • Chickens and/or ducks.  My stepdad thinks they’d be fun.  My mother and I are both pretty anti-poultry, though.
  • Renting out pasture land.
  • Previously, they’d considered working out the corn field and getting a contract with the state to return it to forested land.  However, they’d possibly lose their agricultural zoning if they did that, and that’s valuable for future plans!
For me, this is exciting.  The possibilities are endless.  Agriculture, and farming as a whole, is a limitless industry.  For two empty-nesters looking for a hobby that could serve as side income or source of food, farming is a great option.  They have the land, and a little money for the start-up.  They love the land, and my stepfather would much rather surround himself with animals and nature than people on most days.
This runs a little deeper than just “what my parents want to do with the property” for us kids.  Up until I was 12, my family farmed.  Even if I wasn’t directly involved other than cleaning up steer poop, playing in the pastures, and occasionally bottle-feeding a calf, it’s there.  I remember it.  I miss it.  This would be like that coming full-circle.  You never stop being a “farmer’s daughter,” and I’d have that chance again.
I can’t put into words how beautiful, how natural, and how therapeutic the woods and the river at the new property are.  But I can tell you, if I were a farm animal, I’d dang-well love to live there.  And because the options are so numerous, who knows what animals will be lucky enough to call this place home?  I’m looking forward to seeing what my parents end up doing.

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