BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — As the corn production king of Illinois,
it’s only fitting that McLean County also is the home of several leading
statewide agricultural organizations.
The county hosts the offices of the Illinois Farm Bureau,
Growmark, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn Growers Association and
Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association.
It also is the home of Illinois State University and
Illinois Wesleyan University.
How big is corn in the county?
McLean County’s corn production record was set in 2007 with
a yield average of 189 bushels per acre and a total of more than 64.07 million
bushels produced on 339,000 harvested acres.
The 10-year average is 169 bushels per acre on 309,170
harvested acres for a total production of 52.338 million bushels.
Soybeans also are big in the county with the largest area in
McLean County’s top year for soybean production of nearly
14.6 million bushels from 286,200 harvested acres was in 2004, and the
top-yielding year was 2007 at 54 bushels per acre.
The 10-year average for soybeans is 48.6 bushels per acre,
267,060 harvested acres and total production of more than 12.953 million
Corn acreage hasn’t changed much in McLean County over the
past eight decades. Harvested corn acres were 325,000 in 1930. The county had
8,500 soybean acres in 1930, while oats were ranked second behind corn in
acreage with 172,000.
There were 4,060 farms in McLean County in 1930 with an
average size of 177 acres. Today there are about 1,442 farms with an average of
There are 992 full-time farmers and 451 part-time farmers in
In 1930, McLean County had 3,649 milk cows, 383 beef cows,
2,655 hogs, 601 sheep, and 3,834 poultry. The most recent census indicated the
county had 58,614 hogs, 21,685 cattle, 1,594 poultry and 1,374 sheep.
However, beyond the numbers, the county also features other
gems large and small.
“Corn and soybean are our king and queen around here in the
county, but we do have some niche markets,” said Don Meyer, Illinois State
University lecturer and longtime county Extension director.
“We’re seeing a growing farmers’ market interest. We’re not
nearly at the level of some other areas, but we’re growing interest in some of
the niche farmers. Some of the smaller farms are gearing up to supply that niche
market for farmers’ markets.
“We have a couple of organic farmers out here who have been
committed for a long time and are also carving out their niche in the
In addition, there are some farmers in the county who are
focusing on the non-genetically modified organism crops.
“We have a few farmers that have on-farm storage that are
able to cater to the niche markets of the non-GMOs,” Meyer said.
He said hosting the home office for Growmark and Illinois
Farm Bureau has played a vital part in agribusiness.
“We very much enjoy the fact that we have those folks right
here in our midst and help to strengthen the quality the agricultural
understanding of McLean County,” he said.
“We don’t have a lot of horseradish or pumpkins or some of
the things we see in other counties, but being the corporate home of Farm Bureau
and Growmark is big for us and the whole agribusiness sector.”
Transportation accessibility has played a key role in the
agricultural growth of the county in Illinois’ midsection.
“We’re fortunate to have great rail connections. A lot of
our grain is transported either to Decatur or to markets in the Southwest or
Southeast, and a lot of our grain elevators have geared up for that,” Meyer
“It’s also a reasonable amount of drive-time to the river at
Peoria and Pekin, so that has sort of led us toward that whole massive commodity
Three interstates intersect at Bloomington-Normal, providing
easy access for trucking.
The county also is the home of a large number of farm
“We are kind of the hub for a lot of farms that are managed
professionally in the state and the Midwest, and a number of banks initially as
well as private farm management firms are located in McLean County,” Meyer said.
“They’re managing more land than just what is located in the
county. They’re geographically centered here and travel to other states to
manage farmland for absentee owners.”
Advance Trading, a commodity brokerage firm, also is based
“A lot of elevators statewide are networked with Advance
Trading,” Meyer said.
McLean County is not only known for its crop production, but
also its electricity production.
Twin Groves Wind Farm was the largest utility-scale wind
farm east of the Mississippi River when it was completed in 2008.
The wind farm near the villages of Arrowsmith, Saybrook and
Ellsworth consists of 240 operating wind turbines that stand 270 feet tall and
have three 85-foot long blades.
The towers are spread over 22,000 acres and have the
capacity to produce enough power for 120,000 homes or about 1.3 billion kilowatt
A challenge that Meyer has seen in McLean County,
particularly around the Twin Cities, is agriculture’s struggle with balancing
“Bloomington-Normal has done very well. It’s been one of the
leading growth regions,” Meyer said.
“The growth of the area has been exciting. People like to
live here. They come here to college, and sometimes they don’t leave and like to
stay in the area.
“That’s been a challenge because we’re sprawling out on some
of the best farmland in the world where we’re building houses, parks and roads.
“That’s slowed down a little bit, but keeping that balance
of how much sprawl growth we’re going to allow in McLean County has been sort of
a zoning challenge for us, as well.”