Saturday, September 5, 2009

Breathing life into an Illinois farm

An Illinois farm family, The Travises, are highlighted in an inspiring New York Times Magazine article, Field Report: Family Heirlooms:
Losing the family farm is a familiar story. Getting it back less so.

Once Marty Travis’s family was finally able to piece together its 179-year-old farm, buying back the homestead and its parcel of land that was sold by his grandmother and slated for developers, the intention was to rebuild the dilapidated buildings. But over the last decade, Marty and his wife, Kris, have restored not only the farmhouse but the farming community in Fairbury, Ill., as well.
The Travis family is harvesting obscure "oddball crops"--Galápagos tomatoes, ramps, radish-seed pods, Kickapoo beans, and Japanese hakurei turnips--which they sell to some of Chicago's best restaurants. Especially in high demand is Iroquois corn, a crop that Marty Travis revived from near extinction at the request of Chicago chef Rick Bayless.

The family also organized Stewards of the Land, "a group of 25 farm families who sell to the local grocery store and to Chicago restaurants." Interestingly, most of the Stewards of the Land are under 18, including Justin and Trent Kilgus, teenage brothers who are "earning about $40,000 through their new goat farm." The Travises' son Will, age 18, was recently made partner in the Travis family farm.

Marty Travis told the New York Times that the experience has been amazing, that "every community across the country could be doing this.”

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