I grew up on a fifth generation grain and livestock farm in central Illinois with my dad, mom and two brothers. Our farm has a beautiful white farmhouse surrounded by vibrant red barns, a white wood fence, grain bins, trees, pasture and the acreage. The highest point on the farm is the silo. The silo is a concrete, vertical structure made to hold silage, chopped corn, with iron ladders on the sides. Our silo stands 61 feet tall, and I have climbed the silo only once with the help of my brothers. The view from there was amazing. You can see every inch of the farm right around you to the miles that extend to Christian and Shelby Counties. When giving direction to our friends on how to get to the farm, it was always stated with “Look for the silo!” because it stood out and was the only farm with a silo around us, so it was a landmark for many.
My parents were working parents as my brothers and I grew up. My mom was a full time farm mom. She made sure that meals were on the table and my brothers and I had our homework and farm chores done. She was also a small business owner of Prairie Lady Productions, a business that made her flourish as a well-known agriculture historian allowing her to travel around Illinois singing and telling stories about living in the 1800’s on the historic prairie as the Prairie Lady. I can remember traveling with my mom as she performed at different festivals or churches all over the state. (I also remember dressing up in prairie time period costumes and helping her in a few shows when I became older.) When I was in the first grade she took on another job in Assumption, IL , at an insurance office. At the end of her workday she would head north towards the silo to start our evenings on the farm.
My dad was a full time farmer, part-time livestock trucker and sale barn employee. I remember going on short cattle hauls with my dad and taking the livestock to the sale barn to be sold. The sale barn is where hay or straw can be taken to be sold and where livestock is sold to another farm or slaughtered for our food. Every Tuesday during my summer breaks I would go to work with him at the sale barn. He would work in the back with the livestock and I would work in the café, either as a waitress or dishwasher (depending on what needed to be done). When I was in high school my dad took a job as the assistant road commissioner where he would help maintain the roads and bridges in the township. He also was in charge of plowing snow in the winter and picking up debris after severe thunderstorms. The entire township that he helped to maintain could be seen from the silo.
It wasn’t until I was older with a job of my own and farm responsibilities that I truly understood how much time my parents dedicated to work. My parents worked both outside of the farm and on the farm to help provide for the family. To most that would be two jobs, to our family it was a job and a way of life. They would leave work to head home to the farm to work more. In the evenings after school, my brothers and I would help Dad around the farm working on equipment, with livestock, or just doing regular daily maintenance on the farm, while Mom would be inside making a meal. My mom always valued eating one meal during the day as a family. On typical nights like these when we were around the farm, it was easy for my mom to simply ring the dinner bell for us all to come in for family dinner. However, during the Spring planting or the Fall harvest, a family meal meant Mom and I taking the meal to the field so we could all be together. Even though the dinner table was now a tailgate, what truly mattered was that we were all together with the silo still in view.