A Publication of WTVP

When was the last time you set foot on a farm? Or maybe you’ve never had the opportunity. As each passing generation becomes further removed from production agriculture and where our food originates, it seems to be more nostalgic to have a farmer acquaintance or someone that’s directly involved in growing our food. In the early 1900s, most Americans either lived on a farm or had direct ties to one; today, between one and two percent of the U.S. population are farmers. From my perspective, it’s a great learning experience missed by most of today’s children.

There are some people in Peoria County who keep the “fire burning” in helping to educate about farming, animals, and connecting with the land and our natural resources.

Miriam Rosenbohm of rural Peoria has a dairy farm with her husband, Fred, and their children. They milk Brown Swiss and Holstein Dairy cows, and raise sheep, chicken and horses. She has been hosting 2,000 to 3,000 students annually at their farm for as long as she’s been married (32 years). In most cases, Miriam is giving these eager learners their first thrill of touching a farm animal, seeing the large farm machinery, and the process of growing crops. They also host a two-day farm camp for kids. The dedication of a dairy farmer hits home to students on the second morning as they participate in the 5:30am milking chores. A two-hour camp for “little farmers” gives these youngsters an opportunity to gather the fresh chicken eggs.

Every April and May, you will find Miriam sharing her years of experience of living on a farm, as well as the rewards and challenges associated with putting food on our tables. After all, the average farmer in the U.S. grows enough food for nearly 150 people. If you want more details about the Rosenbohm’s dairy farm, go to their website at

Heading to the northwest part of Peoria County, brothers Ted and Ron Gilles and their families have been hosting tours on their farm for several years. The Gilles’ farms have over 700 acres in the Spoon River watershed, and along with some acreage planted to corn and soybeans, they have set aside many acres for wildlife. Of the 700 acres, 340 are enrolled in a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). An additional 110 acres are in creeks, ponds, timber and conservation crop borders, which in total, provide 450 acres specifically for wildlife habitat.

They have wildlife food plots; filter strips along the Spoon River; a shallow water area for ducks, geese, etc.; terraces; water and sediment control basins; waterways; and a variety of shrubs and trees. Their corn and soybeans are no-tilled to keep residue on the soil surface, which keeps the soil from washing away. On their farm, you will find pheasant, turkey, quail, deer, squirrel, rabbit, songbirds and butterflies. They have spent many hours seeding, burning and caring for prairie grasses, flowers and forbs that are amazingly picturesque in the summer and fall.

The Gilles family hosts tours for the general public on their retrofitted hayrack wagons equipped with comfortable cushioned bus seats and railings. This summer’s tours are scheduled on Tuesday, July 19th, at 9am and 6pm, and on Wednesday, July 20th, at 9am and 6pm. Call the Peoria County Soil and Water District at (309) 671-7040, ext. 3. Speaking from personal experience, the Gilles family really puts forth a lot of effort in sharing what’s growing on their farm.

Since 2005, more than 100 K-12 teachers in Marshall, Putnam, Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties have graduated from a Summer Agriculture Institute (SAI) co-sponsored by county farm bureaus and Illinois Central College. During this week-long session, teachers experience firsthand life on a farm and within the agriculture industry. Tours have been to dairy, sheep, pig and horse farms; wineries; a wind farm; the USDA Ag Lab; grain elevators; barge terminal; seed production plant; greenhouse; farm equipment dealership; fertilizer facility; soybean candle-making business; and the list goes on. During the 2011 Summer Agriculture Institute scheduled for June 13th through 17th, teachers will visit an apple orchard; honeybee farm; organic vegetable farm; horse, dairy, turkey and hog farms; wind farm; winery; grain elevator and hopefully enjoy a tractor-driving experience at a local farm equipment dealership.

The idea for the SAI is to give teachers a closer look at production agriculture so they in turn can share agriculture with their students. The application deadline for the SAI is near, so if you or someone you know is interested, call the Peoria County Farm Bureau at (309) 686-7070.

I hope you and your children or grandchildren have an opportunity to appreciate the contributions that farmers and their families make to our community each and every day. iBi