Disappearing Farms

By: Cara Restelli
By: Cara Restelli

Wednesday, we told you about the changing landscape of the stateline area.

But as prime farmland makes way for subdivisions and strip malls, what does this mean for the future of the family farmer?

The family farmer, with commercial and residential development at its peak in the stateline, are a dying breed.

Many have given into the pressure to sell, and those who remain could be fighting a losing a battle.

As Norma Gesell looks out her backyard, she still sees what once was. Hundreds of acres of prime farmland that became not only her job, but her family's livelihood.

But last year she was forced to give up her livelihood and give into the pressure to sell her land.

“When we got married this was out in the country and it was our corner. Now, it's gonna be a corner for several other people in a subdivision,” says Gesell.

Norma's six children weren't interested in farming, and she and her husband simply can't physically or financially do it on their own anymore.

“It was a hard decision to make. We're both farmers at heart so we didn't want to, but the price was such that we couldn't afford not to,” explains Gesell.

And it's a story that isn't unique in the stateline. Family farmers struggling to make ends meet and developers moving in like the forbidden fruit.

Not all farmers have given into the pressure. Karl Kindberg doesn't have plans to sell, yet. But he certainly isn't immune to the temptation.

"If we get 150 bushels to the acre, you're looking at $300 an acre. But if a developer comes in and offers 5,000, 6,000, or 7,000 an acre, do the math,” says Kindberg.

So what's this mean for the future of the agricultural industry? Many say in the next 10 years we could see the extinction of the family farm, bringing with it higher prices for consumers.

But no matter how much family farmers like Norma Gasell don't want to accept it, it's a change that they realize is inevitable.

There are programs in place that provide incentive for family farmers not to sell to developers.

Boone County's Farmland Protection Program for one, is looking for the financial backing to give farmers the opportunity to sell their development rights to the program for preservation instead of to developers.

And, state numbers bear out this loss of land as well. Since 1982, Illinois has lost an average of more than 1,600 farms a year.


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