Meeting in the Middle

My Generation

A Chicago legislator and her family travel south for a taste of Fulton County agriculture. And let me tell you, the shop has never been cleaner.

Published on: August 2, 2011
On Monday and Tuesday this week, our county Farm Bureau hosted our adopted urban legislator and her family on a little tour of Fulton County agriculture. It was a fun time, despite heat indexes of 116 degrees. No kidding. Our farm was among the stops on Tuesday, and we packed in as much as we could.

Other stops included but were not limited to: Randy Farr's cattle operation, Western Illinois Grain and rail shuttle, Greg and Randall Leigh's hog operation, and Bill Carlberg's dairy.

And let me just say, this family was amazing. Kelly Burke (D-Oak Lawn) is married to Terry, who happens to be a corn options trader at the Board of Trade. What are the odds?! We had some great conversation with him and if I understood correctly, the Fulton County tour was among his first trips to a farm as well. He seemed to really like the stop at Western Illinois Grain, and gave us regular market reports. (We're tight now.) He also admitted that most of the traders have no idea how the crop they trade is grown. Like when somebody polled them once asking how many ears of corn grow on a stalk, answers ranged from 2 to 13. But it is what it is. He's a good guy.

The Burkes also brought their three amazing children, ages 11, 14 and 16. You've hardly met such mature young people who were so polite, respectful and able to talk with adults in a coherent manner. So darn nice. We loved that they have a Caroline and we have a Caroline. And I got to teach Jack to drive the Ranger. That was fun. (note to self: have John teach our children to drive.) And Emily bonded with our 15-year-old niece, Kaity, who happened to be at our house that day. After a long talk with Emily, Kaity told me, in what had to be her best capital-letter voice, "THEY'VE NEVER HEARD OF 4-H AND FFA!" She was aghast, clearly. But she explained it very well. So you could say, the culture acclimation went both ways.

Kelly played kick-the-can with our kids, then all the kids did what kids do and rolled down a hill together. Because why not? We took pictures in the combine and on the tractor, and John took everyone for a spin in the sprayer. We learned they live just a mile from St. Germaine school,
where we've adopted a classroom, and shared our animals. We talked about ethanol and HSUS, we talked about crop inputs and corn yields. We talked about the bottle calves and the rabbits, and told how our kids got up every morning to give their calves bottles. Terry laughed: "We can't even get our kids to pick up their clothes!" I assured him ours don't pick up their clothes either. Again, we're all pretty similar. Perhaps it's more about the joy in the job.

At any rate, we had a good time. We laughed a lot and we learned a lot, and we hope they did, too. And despite the temperatures and the workout our power washer and weed eater got in preparation, we'd do it again in a heartbeat.