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Modern Era Interviews

Search more than 1,000 interviews in more than a dozen oral history collections. Search by collection name or interviewee name.

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Modern Era Interviews

Ray Ackerman - Modern Era

Ray Ackerman recounts going to school on skates, scooter, bike and horse, coming home to milk cows, gather eggs and perform other chores. During the Depression, beef, hogs and chickens helped sustain the family. When his brother took over, Ray became a Civil Engineer, served in WWII, and became a Highway Engineer.

Yvette Ackerman - Modern Era

Yvette Ackerman’s family moved often while she was growing up. She catered and managed a restaurant. After marrying John, they sought niche businesses to continue farming; they raise ornamental and canning pumpkins, gourds and chrysanthemums. She operates the gift shop on the farm and another in town.

John Ackerman - Modern Era

Survival of small family farms by diversifying and developing niche markets.

Makenna Barker - Modern Era

At age 12-1/2 at interview time, Makenna Barker is a busy girl with her monthly 4-H group. This year she grew vegetables at her grandparents’ garden. She explained the necessary reports, but says weeding is the hardest part. Next year she plans a floral project.

Frederick Baumberger - Modern Era

Frederick H. Baumberger, born on the family farm, saw action in WWII then returned to farming. He was involved in farm and community organizations, radio reporting, raising Standard bred horses and served on the local Board of Education during a school consolidation.

Leonard Beetstra - Modern Era

Leonard Beetstra grew up on a dairy farm in rural Harvard, IL. He served in WWII, then returned to agriculture, first in buying and selling cattle, then operated a dairy and grain operation with his children. He discussed farming changes and school consolidations over his 60 years.

Norbert Bentele - Modern Era

Norbern Bentele grew up on the family farm in Macon County, Missouri. He talks extensively about farm life during the depths of the Depression, about getting an education in a one-room schoolhouse, and the large family's social life. Upon graduation from high school in 1950 he worked for a time for the railroad stringing telephone line next to the tracks. He joined the Army in 1952, and was soon headed to Korea.

Leroy Biehl - Modern Era

Dr. LeRoy Biehl was raised on a farm in the Salem, Illinois area. He received a degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Illinois, then practiced large animal veterinary medicine for many years. He then moved to the University of Illinois where he worked as the swine extension veterinarian, retiring in 1999.

Stephen Black - Modern Era

Stephen Black grew up on the family farm near Carrolton, graduated from college, served in Vietnam with the Army, then spent the next thirty years working for the Department of Agriculture. After retirement, he returned to the same farm that has been in the family for 180 years.

Gene Blade - Modern Era

Gene Blade was raised on a small west central Illinois farm during the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s. He spoke in detail about life on the farm, about the impact of World War II on farming, and about his life after graduation, splitting his time between farming and a factory job in Galesburg. He enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard in 1954, and then joined the Regular Army in 1956. See the rest of Gene's interview in the Veterans Remember project.

John Block - Modern Era

John Block began life as a grain and hog farmer from west central Illinois, who became who served as a leader in the Illinois Farm Bureau, then became director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture under Governor Jim Thompson before being selected by Ronald Reagan to serve as his Secretary of Agriculture.

Philip Bradshaw - Modern Era

Philip Bradshaw is a farmer with wide ranging leadership experiences in a wide range of agriculture organizations, community and historical initiatives, including the historic New Philadelphia Project. He discusses the future he sees for agriculture, here and abroad.

Parris Brewer - Modern Era

Parris Brewer grew up in Chicago, yet living the life of a farm boy. After being in trouble, he was directed to Growing Homes where he excelled in their seven month program. He became their marketing coordinator, selling fruits and vegetables in the farmers’ market and to local restaurants.

Roger Brown - Modern Era

Roger I. Brown has always lived on the family grain and livestock farm. Armed with a degree from Illinois State University, he returned to farming after three years of teaching agriculture. He engaged in important agriculture roles, and served on the local school board during the model school consolidation.

Jim Burrus - Modern Era

A third generation farmer, Jim Burrus has shifted from traditional methods to raising organically certified beef strictly on pasture, believing that grains aren’t meant for a bovine’s stomach. He also raises chickens on grass in unique movable pens. He markets on the web and to meat lockers.

Charles Carey - Modern Era

Charlie Carey comes from a long line of Chicago Board of Trade veterans, and grew up in the business. Following his father's unexpected death, Charlie took over his seat on the exchange in 1978. In 2003 he became Chairman of the CBOT. Charlie explains the mechanics of the commodities exchange, and discusses how the business has evolved from purely agricultural commodities to today's market of options, futures, and the emergence of financials and derivatives. The interview includes a view of the trading floor with Charlie explaining the action.

Margaret Carter - Modern Era

Margaret Carter discusses her life growing up on the farm during the 1930s. She attended Monmouth College, lost her first husband in WWII, became a kindergarten teacher, and remarried.

Rick Collins - Modern Era

As a youth, Rick Collins worked on farms. After attending the University of Illinois he specialized in restoring old houses and building new ones. Barns of all kinds are his passion; he tells of the kinds of barns and roofs from Europe and their differences, and the hardware and building methods in America.

Eileen Cunningham - Modern Era

As a farmer’s daughter, Eileen Cunningham did typical farm chores. After college she became a nurse during WWII. After marrying her sister’s widower, she raised seven children and many peafowl. Her historical accounts of the Illinois River Valley, especially stone homes, were published.

Lawrence Curtin - Modern Era

Larry Curtin grew up on a farm in central Illinois during the Great Depression and WW II, and attended a one-room school. He discussed his life on the family farm in considerable detail, including haying, shucking corn, hog butchering day, and the coming of electricity.

Neil Dahlstrom - Modern Era

Neil Dahlstrom earned a Masters Degree in history, then eventually moved to his home town of Moline, Illinois. Once home, he found work as an archivist for John Deere Co. where he found rich materials for a book about John and son, Charles, and the founding of Deere.

Manda Davis - Modern Era

Manda Davis became interested in sheep when her brother raised Columbia Sheep for 4-H. Soon, she took over the project, and eventually became a 4-H Advisor for the breed, attending 4-H meetings and helping youth plan and enter livestock contests.

Chris Eckert - Modern Era

Chris Eckert was born into a family of apple and peach farmers. Following graduation from from the University of Illinois in agriculture, Eckert returned to the family business and helped transform the business into a thriving orchard and family entertainment center. He discusses all aspects of the businesses, plus role of government programs, crop insurance, and related immigration policies.

Art Ehrat - Modern Era

Art Ehrat is a central Illinois farmer who has many ideas for making things better or easier. He discusses several inventions and the twists and turns of the process of seeking patents. He also tells about showing his patented break-away basketball hoop at the Smithsonian Institution.

 FFA Officers - Modern Era

5 FFA Officers including Treasurer Ann Larsen (DeKalb), Vice President Austin Ashby (Carroll), President Clayton Zwilling (Mercer), Secretary Andrew Heavner (Monroe), and Reporter Benjamin Arteman (McLean).

Ben File - Modern Era

Ben File grew up on a central Illinois grain and hog farm in the days prior to electricity. He spent his life on the farm, and also became involved in the Bond County School Board, where he was involved in a school consolidation, always a painful process.

Robert Fitzer - Modern Era

Robert Fitzer was born on the family's farm in Frankfort, Illinois, but the family lost the farm in 1933. In 1944 Robert married his wife Jean, and they farmed the farm where she was born and raised. The Fitzers raised three daughters on that farm, while also expanding their own farm operation. Robert has personally witnessed the transition from draft horses to tractors and from hand selecting seed corn to the development of hybrid seeds. He has actively pursued education about crop and soil improvements and has been a community leader in implementing new technology in agriculture over the years.

Paul Gebhart - Modern Era

Born on the family farm, Paul Gebhart received a degree in Animal Science at the University of Illinois, then returned to the family farm. He later became a pioneer in the organic farming movement, specializing in livestock farming, as well as grain. He is on several organic farming committees.

Deanna Glosser - Modern Era

Deanna Glosser earned a PhD in Environmental Planning and became interested in food planning for cities. Her interest in the human diet led her to the Slow Food Movement vs "fast food'. Its 183,000 members educate people at farmers' markets and events about local foods grown responsibly.

Peter Goldsmith - Modern Era

Coming from a background in diary production and Peace Corps work before earning a PhD in Agricultural Economics, Goldsmith became the Executive Director of the National Soybean Research Center on the campus of the University of Illinois. He discusses the dynamics of world markets, especially China, India and emerging Asian markets, pricing, and the debates surrounding ethanol and biodiesel fuels

Pam Gray - Modern Era

While volunteering at the Illinois State Fair, Pam Gray became the spark that encouraged more volunteers as she uncovered details of the fair's history. Pam now serves as the Director of the Illinois State Fair Museum, with an emphasis on agriculture.

Ruth Hambleton - Modern Era

As a lifetime farm woman, Ruth Hambleton started Annie's Project, a program designed to teach various agricultural related subject to farm women. She has worked with 400 women in Illinois plus many from 20 Midwest states. The program continues to grow, and Ruth sees it growing to cover the U. S., the Middle East and the world.

Roy Harrington - Modern Era

Roy Harrington grew up on the farm, then following service in the Army during WWII, worked for many years for John Deere. He spoke about many of the equipment advances on John Deere tractors.

Myles Harston - Modern Era

Myles Harston, owner and manager of AquaRanch, an aquaponics operation that raises tilapia fish and pumps the waste water under growing beds of basil, lettuce and other produce.

Charles Hartke - Modern Era

Charles Hartke grew up on the family farm in rural Effingham County. Following military service, he entered the political arena, serving on the County Board before being elected as a Representative to the Illinois House, where he focused on agricultural issues. Hartke served as Director of the Department of Agriculture during the Rod Blagojevich administration. He discusses historic changes in ag, and expresses optimism for its future.

Dianna Hatfield - Modern Era

Dianna Hatfield has spent much of her life as a 4-H and FFA member, including showing animals at the State Fair. Hatfield has also taught ag classes at the elementary level. Her career goals include Agricultural Business; she plans to attain a degree focusing on agricultural futures markets.

Jody Heavner - Modern Era

Jody Heavner's farmer parents urged her to consider her options before deciding to farm. After earning a BS and MS degree, and following her marriage, the Heavners returned to a different kind of farm, Pea Ridge Elk Ranch, raising elk along with beef. Both meats are sold throughout the country.

Lorene Herschberger - Modern Era

Lorene Herschberger is a mother of 13 who together with her husband Oba lives on a farm in rural Moultrie County, Illinois. The couple breed Belgian horses and raise Holsteins. Lorene also produces fine quilts, some of which are included in the Illinois State Museum's extensive quilt collection.

Dr. Matthew Holden - Modern Era

Matthew Holden grew up during the Great Depression on his parent's farm. His father was a cash-renter in Mississippi's cotton growing region, and also had a thriving molasses business on the side. In 1944 Holden's father moved the family to Chicago, where Matthew excelled in school, which led to him attending the University of Chicago. He later transferred to Roosevelt College, and attended graduate school at Northwestern University until he was drafted into the Army in 1956.

Brian Holst - Modern Era

Brian Holst attended mechanics' trade school, worked on cars, then became an agriculture implements mechanic. While working in dealerships he learned to fix older models whenever possible, eventually working on vintage tractors in Moline at the John Deere Collectors' Center.

Karen Hudson - Modern Era

In the mid-1990s Karen Hudson became committed to stopping the spread of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) when a corporation sought to establish a large hog farm near where she lived. Karen founded Families Against Rural Messes (FARM), a grassroots group in Illinois that opposes CAFOs and their impacts. She is also co-founder of Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water (ICCAW), a state-wide coalition of family farmers and community groups advocating for sound policies and practices that protect the environment, human health, and rural quality of life from the impacts of large-scale industrialized livestock production facilities in Illinois.

Matt Hughes - Modern Era

After graduating from the University of Illinois, Matt worked in marketing research, then for GrowMark, before going into farming. He discusses the options of cash- and share-rent on the 2,200 acres he now farms. Hughes discusses his equipment requirements and takes us on a ride in his combine while harvesting soybeans.

Richard Hull - Modern Era

Dick Hull earned a Veterinary Medicine degree in 1959 and then began a 32 year career as a veterinarian in Griggsville, Illinois. In 1992 he was appointed as the State Veterinarian for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, dealing with the important issues of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), Johne’s Disease, Chronic Wasting Disease, West Nile Disease, and agricultural homeland security issues after 9-11.

Jacqueline Jackson - Modern Era

Jacqueline Jackson recounts the history of her family's farm, from dairy to hybrid seed corn production, childhood fun, and events and changes during the Great Depression. She reads from her book, 'Stories from the Round Barn,' and talks about becoming a professor of creative writing.

Nate Jannsen - Modern Era

Following his father at Golden Oaks Farm in ex-urban Chicago, Nate Jannsen became the manager of this double-twelve, three times a day, milking operation He tells of changes in marketing, as well as details of improving the herd through genetic management.

Russ and Mary Jeckel - Modern Era

Russ, a grain and swine producer since graduating from the University of Illinois, returned to the family farm and used revolutionary hog diets and developed hog confinement with the hog slat floor. Mary Jeckel also reflects on their life on the farm.

Scott and Russ Jeckel - Modern Era

Scott Jeckel, son of hog farmer Russ Jeckel who introduced new hog production techniques, leads us on a tour of a modern grower-finisher building. Russ then shows a dairy barn converted to a farrowing house.

Jay Johnson - Modern Era

Jay Johnson relates the family farm's evolution from a trucking business shipping grain to river terminals, to the construction of a large grain elevator facility and a grain terminal with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe RR, located on the family property. Jay traces his life from earning a BA degree in finance, to working for a major Chicago bank, to the operation of the grain terminal.

Lloyd Johnson - Modern Era

Lloyd Johnson was born in 1938 on the farm purchased by his great grandfather in 1850, who crossed over the Mississippi River to Alton as a free man from Missouri. Lloyd was one of ten siblings in an African-American farm family. For much of the farm’s history, the farming was done with teams of horses. Lloyd’s father (Cyrus) always used Percheron draft horses when working on the farm. Lloyd helped modernize farm operations and also became involved in his community. he became involved in the Farm Services Agency, serving in 1990 on the State FSA Committee. Lloyd was also elected as his county's first black highway commissioner.

Mark Johnson - Modern Era

Mark Johnson works as an Agricultural Specialist at Kline Creek Farm, an 1890s era living-history farm in DuPage County, Illinois. In this interview, Mark describes the process of planting, harvesting, and threshing oats on “Country Fair” day at Kline Creek Farm.

Michael Johnson - Modern Era

Johnson, an outdoor lover, became his own forester of hardwoods. His saw-mill produces furniture-grade lumber. He and his wife keep bees. They are members of a State Committee for Tree Farm Systems. Michael is also a specialized commercial photographer.

Patricia Johnson - Modern Era

Patricia and Michael Johnson work on a sustainable tree farm and sawmill. Patricia talks of growing up in Evanston, and of her route to a life on a tree farm that emphasizes sustainable forestry.

Jim Kinsella - Modern Era

Raised on a farm, Jim Kinsella studied soil science then began testing no-till practices in the face of skepticism. Gaining an international reputation for no-till farming, he estimates he has demonstrated this modern practice to some 91,000 people at his farm. He also flew fighter jets for the Illinois Air National Guard.

Harold John Kraut - Modern Era

Harold "Boge" Kraut, who was 102 at the time of this interview, hails from Calhoun County. Early in his life Boge worked at an ice storage facility. He also worked shocking wheat, pruning apple trees, hauling apples to landings on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers for shipment to St. Louis, breaking ground with a team of horses, working in a rock quarry, owning a gas station in East St. Louis, and driving trucks. Following his service in the Navy during WW II, he returned to the farm, and also worked for the Soil Conservation Service, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture, all while raising seven children. His enthusiasm for life has resulted in a very full life.

Linda Kull - Modern Era

Dr. Linda Kull earned a PhD in Plant Pathology, and works as a soybean production researcher at the National Soybean Research Center, located in Champaign, Illinois. She discusses soybean history, activities at the NSRC, plant pathologies, germ plasm, functional genomics and genetic modification leading to hybrids resistant to drought and pathogens.

Michael Latting - Modern Era

Mike is a rancher, breeding rodeo horses, and bulls and roping calves and supplying equipment for the U. S. rodeo market. He operates the Pembroke Rodeo in Robbins, IL. He discusses his history, land layout, care and uses for the livestock and history of the Pembroke Rodeo.

Dave Luechtefeld - Modern Era

Senator Dave Luechtefeld grew up on a dairy farm outside Okawville, Illinois, along with his two younger brothers. He discusses that experience at length, emphasizing the important role his parents played in instilling values and providing an example of hard work and integrity that has served him well for his entire life. He attended a country school while in grade school, and speaks of life without indoor plumbing and other modern amenities. Due to his 6 ft 7 in frame, he excelled in basketball and baseball in high school, and thus was able to attend college at St. Louis University of a full scholarship.

Caroline Manock - Modern Era

Caroline Manock spent her childhood on the family farm, then following two years of college, she became the bookkeeper for her father, who managed a farm. She was married to John Manock, a Peoria County farmer in 1944, and together they managed the farm for the rest of their working lives.

Thomas Martin - Modern Era

Tom Martin hails from Logan County, and grew up in a family that has farmed the land for six generations. After earing a degree in biology and a few years away from farming, Tom returned to the family farm and adopted no-till practices, and also planted earlier in the season, both of which were not customary at the time. In recognition to his contributions to farming, he was named as one of three Illinois Master Farmers in 2017 by the 'Illinois Times.' Tom is also a member of the Mt. Pulaski Economic Development Board, the Mt. Pulaski Courthouse Foundation, the Agriculture Leadership Program and is involved with the Lincoln Heritage Area.

Jose Martinez - Modern Era

Jose was born in Mexico, with six years of school. With few opportunities for work, he came to North Carolina where he soon found work picking tobacco and cucumber, returning regularly from living in Mexico with his family off season. Since 1994 he's worked for Eckert's Orchards in Belleville, IL.

Martin Mauricio - Modern Era

Martin Mauricio was born in Mexico, but sought opportunity and employment in America. After harvesting Christmas trees in Texas, he began trimming trees for Eckert's Orchards, becoming a U. S. citizen in 2004. He recruit and manages Eckert's migrant laborers. After gaining citizenship, he opened a grocery store and Mexican restaurant in Belleville.

Keith McClow - Modern Era

Keith McClow discusses the history of the farm, its livestock, its crops, and the demonstrations of older farm activities that occur on the farm today. The Kline family arrived in DuPage County in 1835.

Tom McCoy - Modern Era

Harold Thomas McCoy discusses life on a typical family farm in Will County, Illinois. His paternal grandfather was born in Ireland and started the family farm in Romeo where McCoy was raised during the Great Depression on the family farm in Romeo, Illinois, raising dairy cattle, hogs, grain, and forage. McCoy married and started his own family shortly after moving to Shorewood, Illinois. He switched from dairy cattle to beef cattle, and also did a lot of custom farm work, primarily hay baling, harvesting, and hauling livestock to the hicago Stock Yards.

Irene McGuire - Modern Era

Irene McGuire tells the story of she and her husband loosing the family's peach orchard, land that had been in the family since the 1820s. For many years Irene and her mother-in-law handled the business end while her husband managed the orchard, but when the peaches stopped producing, they had to sell the farm.

Donald McKinley - Modern Era

Donald McKinley grew up on the family farm, and attended Monmouth College and then Northern Illinois University, eventually receiving a Masters Degree in Education. He served as a school principal in Quincy, Illinois for thirty years , while also farming near Quincy. After his retirement, Don developed an Agriculture Museum in Quincy, which focuses on farming of the 1930s.

Sam Meteer - Modern Era

Sam grew up on his father's hog farm, helping him make specialized farm fencing and parts. He became involved in Future Farmers of America in high school, showing pigs. Until recently, he was Illinois State FFA Vice President, traveling the state and representing Illinois in national meetings in Washington, DC.

Marilyn Nash - Modern Era

With a BS in Animal Sciences, Marilyn specialized in sheep at the USDA Animal Research Center, specializing in sheep. Now a National Soybean Research Center coordinator for new human uses of soybeans, she discusses the variety, versatility and challenges.

Philip Nelson - Modern Era

A fourth generation IL dairy and grain farmer, Phil had roles with Prairie Farms Foods, Country Financial and GrowMark. As IL Farm Bureau President he addressed many of agriculture's issues while the family farm enlarged to 1,500 acres, growing corn and soybeans and finishing hogs.

Doug Parrett - Modern Era

Doug began life on the family farm, but after earning a PhD in Animal Sciences, he joined the University of Illinois faculty teaching Animal Sciences. He discusses the the importance of the University's agricultural programs, the growth and development of new scientific areas of research in all areas of farming and animal husbandry. He also illustrates animal judging techniques.

Timothy Reed - Modern Era

Tim Reed grew up on a cattle and horse farm, and initially intended to go into international agribusiness. His minor in education led to his decision to become a high school agriculture teacher.

Debra Reid - Modern Era

Debra Reid left her family's farm to pursue a career in academic research on living history farms in the U. S. and Denmark. She relates how different regions of the world have differing farming practices. She explains why Illinois is special for agriculture: transportation, soil and immigrants.

Harry Rhodes - Modern Era

After working on a kibbutz in Israel, Harry Rhodes returned to the United States and became Executive Director of Growing Home, Inc., a non-profit organization helping homeless and formerly incarcerated people with training and placement via organic and sustainable agriculture.

Lester and Rita Robbins - Modern Era

Lester and Rita Robbins were married in 1941, and a few years later took over the farm where Lester was raised. Together, they raised their own family, and concentrated on a grain farm operation, as well as Lester's corn shelling business, which he began in 1949. Lester and Rita, along with their sons, have farmed as many as 3,500 acres in the Manhattan, Illinois area.

Janet Roney - Modern Era

Janet Roney relates the the family's arrival in south-central Illinois, and the family's lineage and lore on the land. She discusses growing up as the daughter of Charles Shuman, who rose to be the President of the American Farm Bureau, the most influential farm organization in the United States.

Charles Ross - Modern Era

Charles Ross shows Montadale sheep at the Illinois State Fair with his granddaughter. He illustrates how to trim the wool for the show ring, and explains the difference between a sheep bred for wool and one bred for meat. He also tells what a competition judge looks for.

Edward Runge - Modern Era

Runge conducted research after earning a PhD, and taught at four major universities, focusing on agronomy and soil sciences. He carried his knowledge to many parts of the world, working closely with Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug. He discusses the stages in evolution in agriculture and shares his views on many of the most important issues in agriculture today.

Edward Russell - Modern Era

After a varied career, Edward Russell studied oenology, then purchased 170 acres and started his own vineyard and winery. From six grape varietals he produces 13 kinds of wine through blending. He explains the life cycle of the grape from initial planting to bottling.

Orion Samuelson - Modern Era

Medically unable to fulfill his birthright as a farmer, Orion became the Agriculture Director and voice of agriculture at WGN Radio in Chicago, where he serves a vast audience for a wide range of agricultural information and opinion. He has traveled extensively, addressing audiences in forty-three countries.

Stephen Scates - Modern Era

Stephen Scates shares 15,000 family acres with his brothers, primarily growing soybeans and corn for market, as well as their well-known Shawnee Sweet Corn for local farm stands. He was Director of the IL Farm Service Agency during the Clinton Administration and Chair of the Soybean Association.

Scott Schertz - Modern Era

The public knows them as crop dusters, but in the aerial applicator industry, that term was rejected long ago. Scott Schertz talks about his long career in the business that began as a summer job working for his father in the early 1980s. He discusses the evolution of Schertz Aerial Service, Incorporated over the years, and about his active role in national-level organizations. At the time of the interview, Scott also served on the Federal Advisory Committee for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The interview includes a tour of one of Scott's aircraft, plus his narration of an aircraft in action.

Michael Scully - Modern Era

Born in England, Michael Scully immigrated to the U. S. when his father moved to his extensive estates in Illinois. Michael relates his story of a varied education, military service, and eventual life in farming, applying the principles of biodynamic and organic farming.

David Seibert - Modern Era

Raised on a livestock farm, David Seibert earned BS and MS degrees, managed swine nutrition research, and since 1974 has been and Livestock Adviser and Educator for the U of I. Extension Service. With his primary focus on beef production, he discusses issues and concerns of today.

Paul Shuman - Modern Era

Paul followed the footsteps of his father, Charles, who was the President of the Illinois Farm Bureau. He discusses mechanization, genetics, the shift of natural to chemical fertilizers, the importance of management and marketing skills, as well as various debates in agriculture and government.

Betty Sirles - Modern Era

Betty Sirles and husband Wayne “Ren” Sirles operate the 750 acre Rendleman Orchards in rural Union County, Illinois, along with son Wayne D. Sirles. Betty discusses the growing and harvesting of the orchard’s 2008 peach crop during a walking tour.

Wayne D. Sirles - Modern Era

Wayne D. Sirles, along with his parents Wayne “Ren” and Betty Sirles, operate the 750 acre Rendleman Orchards in rural Union County, Illinois. Wayne D. discusses the packing operation for the orchard’s 2008 peach crop.

Nelvin Sloman - Modern Era

Nelvin Sloman was born in 1930 in Fayette County, Illinois. He grew up on his step-father's farm in southwest Christian County. Nelvin describes life on the farm in a time before electricity and when draft animals were used for tillage, planting, cultivating and harvesting. Nelvin recalls helping farm at age eleven by harrowing with a team of horses and plowing the garden with a one bottom plow pulled by a white horse. Crops grown on their farm at that time included corn, wheat, oats and clover. Nelvin reminisces about a simpler time on the farm, where the farms were smaller, and where neighbors lived close by and helped each other cope with the hard depression years.

Harold Steele - Modern Era

A fourth generation farmer, Harold served in WWII then returned to the farm, with a particular interest in raising hogs in confinement facilities. He served as President of the Illinois Farm Bureau. Harold also shows his extensive collection of primitive agriculture tools and speaks of the importance of history.

Cavan Sullivan - Modern Era

To pay for college, Cavan Sullivan used his knowledge from FFA and 4-H to raise pheasants, and earned third place in a national competition. He applied this experience to his own farm, departing from cows and crops to pheasants, bison meat and deer urine for hunters.

Leland Sweatman - Modern Era

Drafted for WWII, Leland Sweatman left his boyhood farm chores but returned to grain farming after the war . He discusses the 1950's drought and chinch bugs, and the financial need to farm more land. An Allis Chalmers dealer in the '70's and 80', he became a collector of miniatures.

Geneva Sweet - Modern Era

In her late 90's, Geneva Sweet recalls her schoolmarm mom, her blacksmith and judge father, and marriage to a farmer. She spent her life on the farm, and saw many changes, including electrification. Geneva was more than a housewife, doing her share of the farm chores as well.

Ed Teefey - Modern Era

Ed Teefey grew up in Sterling, Illinois with a passion for standardbred horses and harness racing. He chose law, however, as a profession, and after passing the Illinois Bar in 1978 began working at the Farmers State Bank and Trust Company in Mt. Sterling. In the first interview session, Ed talks about the challenges of banking to a farm community that has seen many ups and downs over the years. The bulk of the interview focuses on Ed's love of harness racing, and includes a trip to a standardbred farm, to the Illinois State Fair horse stables, and finally, to the Brown County Fair.

John  Thurman - Modern Era

The Thurmans are African-American farmers of a small acreage, using sustainable practices to raise foodstuffs for themselves, their family and extended family of Black farmers in a small community, renting or bartering for additional land. They are involved with the youth in their area.

Ellis Vanderpool - Modern Era

After military service, Ellis Vanderpool became a Fiat-Allis dealer before returning to the farm with the purchase of a 38.7 acre orchard, with peaches, apples and berries for a "Pick Your Own" operation. This led to honey production, which Ellis illustrates for the camera.

Edward VanDrunen - Modern Era

Edward VanDrunen is a third generation farmer. His father switched from a livestock and grain farm to growing onions and chives. Edward added the production of twenty other herbs, which are now processed on the property and marketed world-wide.

Karl Weingartner - Modern Era

With a degree in food technology, Karl Weingartner advised local farmers in Fiji while in the Peace Corps, then received an advanced degree and did soybean research in Nigeria, returning to be Director of the International Soybean Program. He discusses the wide array of ways soybeans are processed for both consumption and industrial uses.

Kaitlin Weitekamp - Modern Era

Not a typical farm girl, Kaitlin Weitekamp, just to be different, joined FFA and later took over a turf business. After many FFA years she became President, attending meetings all over Illinois, traveling to Washington, DC, and taking a trip to Spain, to prove that a women "can do" in agriculture.

Bob Wieneke - Modern Era

Bobby Wieneke is a fifth generation orchardist, discussing the evolution of species and practices. From apples only, the farm now produces several varieties of peaches and grapes. Currently he is renovating the family home, intending to produce and market wines, including peach wines.

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