Discovering Illinois Family Farms: Chicago Social Media Creators Learn about Animal Welfare, Sustainability, and Innovation
This summer, a group of Chicago-based social media creators embarked on an eye-opening journey to three Illinois family farms in Kane County, gaining insights into the practices that make them careful stewards of the land. The tour, hosted by Illinois Farm Families (IFF), aimed to showcase the importance of animal welfare, sustainability, and innovative farming techniques.
The group, consisting of six influential individuals including Maggie Michalczyk, Samar Kullab, Michelle Stephen, Christine Zwolinski, Ashley Albritton, and Erika Campos, and IFF farmer volunteers, immersed themselves in the agricultural world and experienced firsthand the commitment of Illinois farmers to responsible farming practices.
Michelle Stephen, Chicagoland foodie and lifestyle creator, expressed her enthusiasm about the tours, stating, "As a mom and as a creator, I want to be able to provide my family and my followers with the best food and recommendations that I can. It was my first time visiting these farms and I was amazed to learn about the sustainability practices and technology being used by farmers every day."
At Lenkaitis Holsteins in St. Charles, IL, the creators were introduced to a state-of-the-art dairy barn equipped with cutting-edge technology. They witnessed robotic milkers, cow brushes, an automated manure system, and herd management software ensuring the well-being of the cows. Farm owners Sarah and Andy Lenkaitis shared insights on sustainability and animal welfare practices implemented on their farm.
Gould Farms, a third-generation, family-owned grain and livestock operation based in Maple Park, IL, was the next stop on the tour. After enjoying lunch from a local butcher shop, the group explored the farm, learning about sustainable practices in crop farming. Farmer Chris Gould provided valuable knowledge about their commitment to environmental stewardship.
The journey continued with an exploration of pork production where the guests engaged with Carrie Pollard, a dairy and hog farmer from Rockford, IL. The group watched The Amazing Pig, a video shared by the Illinois Pork Producers Association, which allowed the creators to gain in-depth knowledge about raising pigs and the intricacies of pork production in the United States.
The final destination was Larson Farms, a corn, soy, and beef farm in Maple Park, IL. Justin and Jamie Martz, along with their family, showcased the advanced technology used to enhance sustainability on their farm, including solar panels for energy efficiency and ultrasound technology for meat quality assessment.
Through these farm tours, the Chicago influencers were able to deepen their understanding of modern farming practices, trace the origins of their food, and engage directly with farmers to address their farm-related queries.
“I got to see firsthand how much pride and care these farm families have for what they do,” said Maggie Michalczyk, Chicago foodie creator and Registered Dietitian, after the tour. “They go above and beyond to grow our food with care and ensure that the land, animals, and environment are taken care of in the process.”
The farm tours exemplify the commitment of Illinois farmers to transparency, sustainable agriculture, and animal welfare. By sharing their experiences, these social media creators are fostering a greater connection between consumers and the farmers who produce their food.
To learn more about IFF, visit www.watchusgrow.org.