TUSCOLA, Ill. — The methodic sound of horse hoofs drifts
over the fertile land only to be slowed by the hum of a tractor pulling a
Fieldwork in Douglas County takes on a unique perspective
where Amish and “English” farmers have shared this fertile soil for nearly 150
This east-central Illinois county, formed in 1859 out of
Coles County, was named in honor of then-U.S. Sen. Stephen A. Douglas, the
“Little Giant” of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates.
However, there is no debate here as the county’s farmers
utilizing modern and bygone era “horsepower” to provide food, feed and fuel as a
Corn and soybeans dominate the Douglas County landscape,
with 120,300 acres of corn and 102,800 acres of soybeans in 2013. The county
includes about 4,534 acres of forage crops, 1,593 acres of oats and 1,229 acres
of corn for silage.
Poultry production is big in Douglas County as its 37,529
broilers and other meat-type chickens rank first among the state’s counties.
Pullets for laying flock replacement total 16,020 for fourth highest in
Illinois. Douglas has 19,694 layers, ranked 12th, according to the 2012 U.S. Ag
Of the county’s 735 farms, 295 have incomes of more than
$100,000, including 103 with $500,000 or more. There are 308 farms with income
less than $20,000, including 131 with less than $1,000
About 90 percent of the county features a gently sloped
topography interrupted by the Kaskaskia River that flows west toward the
Mississippi River and the Embarras River with its eastern flow toward the Wabash
and Ohio rivers.
“We have heavily drained soils. We rely on our field tiles
in the county. With this silty clay loam, field tiles are very important,” said
Tyler Harvey, Douglas County Farm Bureau manager.
“We’re very blessed here to have top soil with good, deep
organic matter covering primarily the whole county. There are wooded areas along
the rivers, but if you’re in production agriculture you’re on a drummer
There has been an increase in using cover crops in the area,
and no-till also is used.
“(Soil conservation practices) just kind of depend on where
you are in the county for the most part. It kind of depends on what prescription
the farmers use but conservation is heavy here,” Harvey said.
A crop yield tour in early August estimated the county’s
average corn yield at about 206 bushels per acre after a yield of 187.1 bushels
per acre in 2013.
“Compared to the last five years, it looks like this corn
crop is going to be much higher than it has been in a long time. Soybeans are
looking good, as well,” Harvey said.
The Amish population has grown to more than 4,500 members,
primarily concentrated around Arthur.
An average Amish farm consists of approximately 80 acres,
with their main crops being wheat, oats, clover, and corn. The Amish farm with
teams of six to eight horses.
Until a few years ago, farming was the only way of life for
the Amish. With ground for expansion no longer plentiful, some of them are
leaving farming for other ways of life such as woodworking, canning, watch
repair, and several now are employed at various manufacturing jobs in the Arthur
Harvey noted the Amish’s entrepreneurship and the number of
Amish-operated businesses throughout the area.
“You’d be surprised what some of the Amish machine shops can
make if you’re looking for a specialty part or good food at their restaurants,”
They also bolster the economy along with their modern
farming counterparts by purchasing crop inputs locally.
“We do have a lot of unique shops around here. Illinois is
the No. 1 producer of pumpkins, and we do have The Great Pumpkin Patch in
Arthur. That’s a very popular place,” Harvey said. “And also you have many Amish
places that have small businesses and make their own foods for sale.”
This unique contrast in agricultural production practices is
evident in the county and the rapport between the “old” and the “new” are a
“We’ve always made sure to be aware of the carriage lanes.
We’ve always made it work, and it’s worked out well between everybody,” Harvey