Ceara W lives on an Organic Valley dairy farm in Jo Daviess County in the northwest corner of Illinois, with her parents and two brothers, Austin (20) and Braden (16). Her sister Kaleena, 22, lives in Wisconsin. Ceara, 18, is a high school junior with plans to pursue a career in nature photography. We asked her some questions to get to know her and her farm!
What does your family raise on the farm?
We have 81 dairy cows, 2 dogs, 15 cats and kittens, 2 horses. We raise calves, grow corn, hay, oats, beans, wheat and have a garden with tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, melons, radishes, lettuce, carrots, squash, pumpkins. We also have grape vines and strawberries.
What’s your favorite farm activity?
Feeding baby calves, they are fun to pet and take care of.
What’s your favorite season?
Spring, because everything is getting green, the flowers are blooming, the birds are coming back, and it’s warmer after the long cold winter.
What’s the first thing you would want to show a visitor?
I would show them kittens, newborn calves, and our horses first.
What’s your role on the farm?
Help my dad milk cows in the mornings, feed the baby calves every night, help mom in the house during the day, unload wagons of baled hay in the summer, help my brothers if they need me throughout the day.
What do you do for fun on the farm?
Growing up, my siblings and I developed a game to play with neighbors and friends. We call it “Jail Tag” and we play it in the winter, when our haymow (the loft in the barn where we store hay) is full. We make tunnels and trap pits in the hay to hide in and whoever is “it” has to find us and put us in the jail which is down below the haymow. We have 15 or more people, so the games go on for hours.
In the summer, we play flashlight tag all over the farm and fields, usually after chores at night and early into the morning!
Several times a summer, my brothers, mom, and friends go canoeing down the Apple River, which is just below our family farm. We need 7 canoes to fit everyone (two per canoe), so we use our two and borrow more from a friend. We spend half the time in the canoes, and half the time getting back in them after we flip them over and fill with water! It takes us 5 hours to canoe to where we get out. It’s a lot of fun!
I also like riding horses, planting flowers around the farm, nature photography, ballet, canoeing, and jogging.
What’s unique about your farm?
Our farm has been in our family 150 years as of January 1, 2011. It has been passed down from my father’s great, great, great grandfather since 1861. My dad is the 5th generation and my brothers Austin and Braden will be the 6th generation. We own the exact same acres originally purchased in 1861. We live in a house that was built in 1901 by my great-great grandfather, Charles. Part of our existing barn was built in 1900, and we added on in 1980 to make room for 81 milking cows.
We live in the only county in Illinois that has rolling hills. The rest is pretty much flat! Our farm was the second certified organic farm in the whole state of Illinois, and the second farm from Illinois to join Organic Valley.
Farm Fact: Records indicate alfalfa is the oldest plant used as livestock feed dating back to as early as 1,000 B.C. Alfalfa is one of the most nutritious crops to feed to animals.