Agriculture client Farm to Table Healthy Eating local Professional


What favorite new thing will you learn about Illinois farmers and food this week?

Updated 11/2020

Where we live is part of how we identify ourselves. I was born, raised, and educated in Illinois. My dad grew up in Chicago, my mom grew up on a dairy (and Percheron horse) farm in Wisconsin. Where we were meant we got to know our families’ rural and urban roots, which I appreciated, in addition to getting to know great attributes of two states. Not every kid gets a family with agricultural ties on both sides and a city perspective, too. I did.

But of course, growing up, it was top of mind to live somewhere else as it is for many high school students thinking of the future. For me, good things just kept happening here and enticed me (easily) to stay.  These days, because of work, and the occasional vacation, I travel across the country and internationally. It’s amazing and such a gift to see other places. How people live, what they eat, what the housing and geography look like, and  other things that make a place home to those who live there.  For me, coming back to Illinois makes me smile every time. Why? Because literally from farm to table, it feels like we have something for everyone. Plus, how can you not smile at the fact that we have popcorn as our state snack? 😊

popcorn snack
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

When you “dig in” specifically to Illinois, it’s amazing to see what our Midwestern location offers to people here in our state, and around the world. This is thanks to hardworking farm families across the state and all the other people and companies that are involved in agriculture.

This is one of the many reasons I am so pleased to partner with Illinois Farm Families to help others get to know our farmers, our land, our food, and our state from a food and an agricultural point of view. Illinois Farm Families are talking about food and farming, and offering perspectives from farmers, parents and experts in the food, health and nutrition fields.

We are known as the Land of Lincoln. Lincoln moved here when he was 21. He himself came from farm family roots.  I bet you didn’t know that Abraham Lincoln established the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1862.

It’s easy to look out the window when driving across Illinois and see farms and think they are all the same. So. Not. True. Once you start “digging in” to learn more about agriculture, you realize how amazing each farm, each food, and each season really is. If you thought agriculture in Illinois was just about dinner, guess again. -Although that dinner is pretty tasty and fun to think about, too.

Where we were once almost all tied to agriculture in some way, times have changed. We don’t inherently have farming or ranching in our families, except for about two percent of the total population. It’s no wonder people are asking broader and additional questions than ever before about food, farmers, and how it all works.

Here are some fun and important things about our great state from an agricultural point of view. Check out the links to learn even more as you wish.

Illinois Agriculture

  • Illinois is long! It’s about four hundred miles from its northern tip to the southernmost part, including 27 million acres of farmland (75% of our total land area) and a temperature variation of 10-12 degrees from one end to the other
    • Cold, drier winters and warm, humid summers with appropriate rainfall provide the right environment for a variety of crops and livestock
    • 89% of our cropland is prime farmland, with the center of the state well suited for crops and hilly northern and southern parts are excellent pasture land for livestock
    • Illinois ranks third in total prime acreage
  • 72,200 farms (as of 2/2017) – and no two farms are exactly alike
    • 97% of farms are family-owned
    • The average farm size here is 358 acres
    • 23% of farms have beef cows
    • 3% have dairy cows
    • Most acreage is devoted to corn and soybeans
  • In addition to our food, our state’s farmers make these things possible: animal feed, ink, paint, adhesives, clothing, soap, wax, cosmetics, medicines, furniture, paper and lumber
  • Home to 2,640 food manufacturing companies
  • Marketing of our state’s agricultural commodities generates more than $19 billion/year
  • Illinois Ag-related industries include farm machinery manufacturing and agricultural real estate

I hope this helps spur even more curiosity about Illinois agriculture. It’s such a diverse conversation. What favorite new thing will you learn about our farmers and food this week?

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.