30 Days of Farms & Families: The Wachtels

My Generation

Day 14: Todd and Lynelle Wachtel farm and live with their family. Read on to learn what life is like when you share a driveway.

Published on: November 14, 2011
Remember the Mieses? Todd and Lynelle Wachtel were gathered around that same table with us a few years back, learning the ropes as new members of the Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leaders.

As we got to know Todd and Lynelle a little better, John and I became both impressed and perplexed.

Impressed, because they run a stellar grain operation with their family at rural
Altamont, in Effingham County. Perplexed, because they really farm with family. Like, they farm together and they practically live together. Four houses, all in a row, sharing a driveway. Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt and Uncle, Mom and Dad, Todd and Lynelle.

That's a lot of togetherness. But they make it look easy. Together, they farm 6,000 acres. They meet every morning around Grandma's table to make plans for the day. They incorporated back in 1984. They are, in a single operation, able to bust nearly every generalization about family farms and factory farms and small farms and large farms. I love that about them.
Illinois farms cannot be stereotyped.

Illinois farm family

Todd and Lynelle are parents to Connor, now 13. Lynelle teaches school nearby, and Todd reports that Connor did a small amount of tillage work last spring. He adds, however, "I know I didn't learn how to drive a tractor with a 45-foot implement and autosteer." If Connor decides to farm, he'll be the sixth generation to live and work on the farm. That's huge.

Todd's concerns about the agriculture Connor may be a part of someday echo those of his peers: will the government limit his ability to produce? He's also concerned about rising local expectations for farmland, a concern in nearly every farming neighborhood in the state.

"One farm in our area brought near $10,000 at auction last month. Now all of a sudden, people think all of the land around here is worth $10,000 an acre," Todd says. "Same applies to rents: if one crazy farmer is willing to pay $400 – when the average is closer to $200 – then everyone should pay the higher rent."

Sounds familiar. I recently heard from a local landowner whose accountant told her some ground she owns should rent for $300 an acre. This is Class C ground. Clearly, he wasn't basing that estimate on production. Or actual agricultural knowledge. Or reality.

For Todd's part, he'd like the folks who visit his farming operation to come away understanding that farm=multi-million-dollar business. And the guy who's farming it is doing so not because he can't make it anywhere else; he's doing it because he has the desire and knowledge to be CEO, CFO, salesman, laborer and more, all in the same day.

I don't think that may be any more true than on the Wachtel farm.

30 Days of Farm & Families
Day 1: The Webels
Day 2: The Mies Family
Day 3: The Thomases
Day 4: The Stewarts
Day 5: The Weavers
Day 6: The Hawkinsons
Day 7: The Kortes
Day 8: The Walters
Day 9: The Schillings
Day 10: The Martins
Day 11: The Pratts
Day 12: The Bowmans
Day 13: The Pollards