It's a familiar story.
Dad is raising hogs along with corn and soybeans. As he ages, junior graduates from college and comes back to the farm. Changes ensue. Pretty soon, the hogs are gone and dad settles into life as a crop farmer.
Avon's Greg Leigh's story is a lot like that, with one significant twist. Junior, i.e. son Randall, came back to the farm and grew the hog business!
Like all Master Farmers, Greg is a well-rounded individual who has invested a significant amount of time in community and industry leadership activities. On top of serving 18 years on the local FS board, he's committed time to making Fulton County a safer place and has spent several weeks volunteering in Cuba for his church. All of these attributes, plus a commitment to education make Greg worthy of the title of Master Farmer.
Back to the farm
Greg is the son of Oliver Leigh, a farmer who spent 20 years, primarily during the Great Depression, teaching vocational agriculture classes. In 1940, Oliver used his family inheritance to make a down payment on a farm. For six years, he continued to teach, while renting the farm. In 1946, Oliver, his wife Mary, and their three children moved to the farm.
Oliver was the first from his generation to graduate college. His passion for education was passed to his children. Greg, his brother and sister all graduated from the University of Illinois. Greg obtained his bachelor's in ag econ and returned to the farm, while his brother pursued a finance career with John Hancock. Greg's sister is currently a nurse in Ann Arbor, Mich. "We try not to hold 'Michigan' against her," Greg says.
Early in his college career, Greg took a year off to come home and help his father unwind the farm business. At the time, Oliver was in his early 70s. He and Mary rented the 200-acre farm to a neighbor and mothballed the equipment.
In 1962, Greg met his wife, Nancy, at U of I. He remembers their respective houses were paired together for the annual Stunt Show – a sort of variety act with singing and dancing.