Harold and Ross Wilken are continuing their family’s tradition of growing good food for their community. Harold’s great-grandfather began farming in Illinois in 1882, and had an organic and biodiverse farm before anyone called it that.
But by the time Harold began to farm, everyone was using synthetic chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and he farmed conventionally for many years, with the idea of transitioning to organic always hovering in his mind.
In 2003 he jumped into organic farming, and has never looked back. Among the many benefits, Harold says, is that “My son Ross will never have to handle a single pound of insecticide or herbicide, and that’s very important to me.”
For all the farm’s successes, Harold says it wouldn’t be possible without his daughter Janie as his “advocate on the other
Ross Wilken grew up helping on his family farm, started farming for himself when he was 15, and studied agricultural systems management at the University of Illinois. After graduating in 2013, Ross began working full time on Janie’s Farm. He especially enjoys working in the fields, doing everything from planting to cultivating to harvesting.
Growing up on his family’s farm means that Ross had experience operating all types of agricultural machinery from an early age. He likes to tell the story of practicing hooking up wagons and backing them up with his pedal tractor and wagon set when he was about 5 years old. His specialty on the farm is still backing up wagons!
Tim grew up on a cattle farm in Kentucky and used to tell his Uncle Harold how much he’d like to come work for him. Harold always says “Be careful what you wish for!” but it turned out perfectly in this case. In 2013, Tim joined the team at Janie’s Farm. While his focus has been on maintenance of equipment, he also plays a vital role in the day-to-day operation of the farm.
In addition, Tim raises grass-fed cattle and sells his beef to restaurants, butcher shops, and anyone who wants delicious, high-quality meat from healthy animals. Contact Tim about his Grazin Haven Grass-Fed Beef at 859-991-2154 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ryan owned a grass-fed dairy farm, but wanted to get out of the milking business. He liked what he saw the Wilkens doing—restoring the health of the soil, and growing a variety of high-nutrition, high-value crops on their own land, as well as that of other local farmland-owners. So he began working at Janie’s Farm in 2011.
After leaving the dairy business, Ryan asked Ross and Harold about transitioning his conventional acreage to organic production, and they welcomed the opportunity. Today Ryan’s 160-acre farm produces certified organic grains, and Ryan is the multi-talented, do-everything guy at Janie’s Farm.
Colton grew up in the local farming community and helped on his grandfather’s farm. He went to school in northwest Iowa, but returned to central Illinois and now does whatever needs to be done on Janie’s Farm.
For most of 2018, Leslie was an intern on Janie’s Farm, learning and participating in all aspects of our diverse, organic grain farm — fixing and maintaining machinery; planting, cultivating, and harvesting crops; helping out in The Mill at Janie’s Farm, and in outreach and promotional activities on the farm and in Chicago. She discovered our farm online while studying sustainable agriculture in Germany, and we couldn’t have asked for a better intern!