Oliver: Farm Stroll offers everyone chance to experience county’s farm heritage

Family farms invite all to experience fall entertainment with a touch of ag education

Although I’m now considered “city folk,” I spent my formative years surrounded by farms.

Behind our house along Draper Road, a farmer grew field corn year after year. My brother Joe and I often could be found exploring the rows each summer.

Across the street from our house was another gigantic field. The farmer there would rotate crops between corn and soybeans. I always preferred the soybeans because I had a better view across the acres upon acres of fields. One could literally see for miles.

Down the street a ways along Draper Road was Shamrock Farm, where they raised beef cattle. I have fond memories of riding my bike past the farm in the summertime and having all those animals staring at me. I knew better than to try to pet them; after all, I didn’t have permission. But that never stopped me from trying to have a conversation. Sadly, they never answered me.

Down Bull Valley Road was a dairy farm that I would pass as I rode my bike around our 5-mile “block.” This farm was toward the end of ride so by then I wasn’t in the mood to have discussions with the dairy cows.

Our family raised chickens for eggs, goats for milk, and ducks and geese for meat. My mother had a large garden where she grew everything from corn to strawberries.

In other words, I know my way around a farm. Sadly, most of the fields and farms I mentioned no longer exist, replaced by residents and rooftops.

That’s why I love that farming has not entirely disappeared from McHenry County. In fact, a kind of celebration of farming in the area is set to take place this weekend.

This Sunday, 12 family farms will be featured in this year’s Farm Stroll, which is organized by the McHenry County Farm Bureau and the University of Illinois Extension McHenry County Master Gardeners.

The event will feature fruit and vegetable growers, dairy cows, beef cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, horses, honey bees and perennial plants. It’s self-guided, so that means you can go to as many farms as you like and in whatever order you’d like from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Some of the farms will conduct demonstrations, so it’s important to pay attention to the farmers’ instructions, particularly around the animals. Children will need to be supervised, and no pets are allowed.

You’ll want to dress appropriately; these are working farms. Some of the farms will have bathroom facilities, but several do not. Plan accordingly.

The Farm Stroll is a free event, although most of the farms will be selling food, produce or other farm-related products. You’ll want to bring cash to buy items directly from the farmers.

Here’s a list of the participating farms: Alden Hills Organics Farm in Walworth, Wisconsin; Wanda Farm in Harvard; Hephzibah Farms Inc. in Hebron; Patyk’s Farm Market and Greenhouse in Richmond; Soulful Prairies in Woodstock; Terra Vitae Farms in Woodstock; Lazy K Ranch in Woodstock; Cody’s Farm and Orchard in Marengo; Broadview Farm and Gardens in Marengo; HillBunker Farms in Woodstock; The Fleur de Lis Farm in Union; and All Grass Farms in Dundee.

Many of these farms also are incorporating techniques such as biodiversity and solar power. That’s why another aspect of the Farm Stroll is to provide an educational experience.

If you’d like to learn more about the farms that will be participating, visit McHenry County Farm Bureau at mchenrycfb.org or at facebook.com/McHenryCountyFarmBureau or call 815-338-1520.

Also visit University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners at web.extension.illinois.edu/lm or facebook.com/McHenryCoMasterGardener.

To learn about other counties’ Farm Stroll events, visit facebook.com/northernilfarmstroll.

Sounds like a fun way to spend a day, and for some of us, to take a trip down memory lane.

Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

Joan Oliver

Joan Oliver

A 30-year newspaper veteran who has been a copy editor, front-page editor, presentation editor, assistant news editor and publication editor, as well as a columnist and host of an online newspaper newscast.