CAROL STREAM, Ill. — Farmers in a more urban county such as
DuPage need to take advantage of changing situations.
“We need to think outside of the box,” said Bill Pauling, a
third-generation farmer at Carol Stream. “We grow corn, soybeans, hay, oats and
Pauling, together with his brother, Larry, actually farms in
“We have a 26-acre field in Cook County, about 300 acres in
DuPage County, and we go to DeKalb County for 400 acres,” he said. “About 10
years ago, I was farming a 120-acre piece in Cook County.”
The Pauling brothers make small square bales of hay and
straw and market them mainly to horse owners.
“We don’t like to plant oats too often, but our wheat froze
out this year, so we put in oats to get the straw,” he said. “We lost a little
over 100 acres of wheat.”
Taking advantage of opportunities is important for farmers
in areas where the urban population is growing.
For example, Pauling had some rain-damaged hay that he
didn’t think he was going to be able to sell. The hay was stored in a barn that
was set to be torn down.
“We decided to move it, and then we got a call from a person
who wanted to rent 1,000 bales of hay for a go-cart race,” he recalled. “Then
the place where they tore down the barn needed 700 bales for retention, so we
took it right back to where we hauled it from.”
In addition to serving on the county soil and water board
and the FSA committee, Pauling is in his first year as the president of the
DuPage County Farm Bureau.
“I’m a third-generation president, and my mom was on the
board, too,” he noted. “I have been on the board for about 15 years, and I also
was the vice president for a few years.”
Some of Pauling’s biggest challenges for his farming
operation are the size of his fields, their locations and the logistics of
“We’re not doing 50-acre fields,” he said. “We have a
five-acre field here, a two-acre field there and a 10-acre field over
However, traffic is not as much of a problem now as it was
30 years ago when most roads were two lanes.
“Then you couldn’t get off the road to let the people behind
you get by,” Pauling said. “Now we’ve got four-lane roads so we can get over and
people can get around us.”
Bob Brackmann, who also farms many small fields, plans his
equipment moves so he doesn’t hold up traffic.
“It is difficult to move equipment, but there are a lot of
four- and six-lane roads, so I don’t really hold up traffic,” he agreed. “I hold
up more traffic in Kane County on a two-lane road than I do in DuPage County on
a four- or six-lane road.”
Brackmann lives in St. Charles, farms some land in Kane
County and most of his acres are in DuPage County.
“I’m an urban farmer, everything I farm is in an urban
area,” he said. “I farm 800 acres including custom work, and I grow corn and
The Brackmann family came from Germany in 1856 and settled
in unincorporated Lombard, which now is Glendale Heights.
A lot of development occurred in the western part of DuPage
County from the mid-1980s to 2005, Brackmann said. “Farmland in DuPage County
was disappearing pretty quickly.”
Watching the development of farmland into houses, stores and
businesses can be disappointing, he admitted.
“And other times you understand,” he added.
“I lease the majority of my ground, so I understand the land
was bought by an investor, builder or developer with the intention of developing
that property,” he said. “You feel bad when you lose ground, but you can
Brackmann continues to manage part of a farm that was the
first farm his dad leased in 1960.
“We’ve been farming this piece of ground for well over 50
years,” he said. “It was a 160-acre farm at one time and now there are about 55
Many property owners in DuPage County want their land to be
farmed to maintain their farmland assessment, Brackmann explained.
“That saves people quite a bit of money,” he added.
“I have some small pieces of two, three and 10 acres that I
have to travel a distance to get to,” he said. “I actually get paid to farm
those because of the cost of moving equipment.”
Sonny Acres is just one mile from the intersection of Route
59 and Route 64. These busy highways are a double-edged sword for the farm’s
owners, Tom and Ellyn Feltes.
“Those roads bring business to our farm and growth to our
operation,” Tom Feltes said. “But our farm was once about 220 acres and now we
have 30 acres.”
The Feltes family settled in West Chicago in 1883 after
emigrating from Germany.
“I’m the fourth generation and my mom, Ramona, is 97 years
old,” he said. “My mom is the oldest Farm Bureau member in DuPage County.”
The fifth and sixth generations of the family already are
involved with the operation that markets different farm products during each
“We have two greenhouses where we raise about 6,000 flats of
bedding and vegetable plants,” Feltes said. “We have over 20 varieties of
tomatoes and 15 varieties of peppers — both sweet and hot, as well as hanging
During the summer, a variety fruits and vegetables are sold
at the Country Shoppe.
The agri-entertainment farm kicks into high gear for the
Fall Festival, which starts in September and runs through Oct. 31.
“That’s about half of our business, and we will have about a
quarter of a million visitors,” Feltes said.
Visitors can enjoy the Kiddie Koral, pony rides, petting
zoo, hay rides and all kinds of food, such as roasted corn, apple cider, taffy
apples and elephant ears. In addition, a lot of fall items are available,
including pumpkins, gourds, squash and Indian corn.
“Our biggest attraction is the haunted wagon ride that goes
through our five-acre woods,” Feltes said. “It includes 30 costumed characters,
lights, sound and fog. It is quite a show and the kids love it.”
Sonny Acres sells Christmas trees, wreaths and roping during
“Winter is my favorite,” Feltes said. “We sell seven species
of trees — Frazier fir, balsam fir, Douglas fir, Scotch pine, white pine, Black
Hills spruce and blue spruce.”