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A Supplement To Ogle County Newspapers Forreston Journal • Mt. Morris Times Oregon Republican Reporter • Tri-County Press

Friday, June 29, 2018

Ogle County Newspapers • Thursday, June 29, 2018



Farm builds connection to past and future By Vinde Wells Owning a farm that has been in her family for more than a century gives a Polo woman a sense of connection to past, present, and future generations. In 1976, Julie McGuire purchased the 288-acre farm once owned by her grandfather in Pine Creek and Grand Detour Townships. Although McGuire, 77, never knew her grandfather John Upton Powell, keeping the legacy is important. “It’s a connection with everyone who’s cared for that land ahead of us,” she said. “It’s also a connection with the family that is left. “I have memories of family gettogethers at the farm. We had picnics in the front yard on Sundays after church,” she said. “It’s a Centennial Farm, but it’s the people that make the story.” The farm has been designated a Centennial Farm because it has remained in the same family for at least 100 years. John Upton Powell bought the farm along the scenic Pine Creek in 1911, seven years after he and Adella Hurdle were married. Craig and Julie McGuire sit on the carriage stone brought to their home on Lowell Park Road from her family’s At first, the young couple lived in a Centennial Farm a few miles to the southeast. The large red barn behind them dates back into the 1800s. Photo

Turn to page 3 by Vinde Wells

From page 2

Turn to Page 5

John Upton and Adella Powell are pictured with their family in about 1921. Back row left to right are: Esther (Travis), Olin, Ruth (Good), Pearl (McIlnay) and John Upton. Front row: Bessie (Gilbert), Adella, Russel, and John.

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• Thursday, June 29, 2018

small house on the same farm where his parents Samuel and Sara Powell occupied the large farmhouse just west of the White Pines State Park. In fact, McGuire said, at one time her grandfather owned a part of what is now the Pines. John and Della moved to the farm McGuire now owns and began their family of seven children, one of whom was McGuire’s mother Bessie, who later married Bob Gilbert. John was a dairy farmer, and acquired other farms over the years. “That was probably the smallest of the farms he had,” McGuire said. The couple’s seven children ranged in age from 3 to 16 when John died of pernicious anemia, a condition that’s now easily curable, in 1921 at the age of 49. Della and the children were forced to move to Polo where family members helped them out. Most of John’s farms were subsequently sold, but Della kept this one. After McGuire’s aunt Esther married Harley Travis, they moved to the farm and continued the dairy operation there until they retired in the 1970s. The farm stretches from Penn Corner Road to Edgewood Road a mile away. McGuire said the property has great natural beauty

3 CENTURY OF FARMING | Ogle County Newspapers

Grandmother kept farm after husband’s death

Ogle County Newspapers • Thursday, June 29, 2018



Above, John Upton Powell and Adella Hurdle go for a ride in their Sunday best. The couple was married in 1904. At left, the farmhouse and barn at the Powells’ farm, now owned by their granddaugther Julie McGuire, faced Penn Corner Road as shown in these photos taken in 1975.

On the Cover At the top, Daniel Zellers built the house and barn on the farm south of Leaf River now owned by John and Karna Croft. The barn was built in 1867 and the house five years later. John Croft’s great-grandfather Grayson Welty bought the farm from Zellers’ estate in 1907. At the bottom is a view of Circle G Farms & Feedlots northeast of Oregon and the home of Bob and Leona Groenhagen. The inset photo shows a crew threshing oats on the Groenhagen farm in the early 1950s.


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To qualify for Sesquicentennial Farm status, an agricultural property must have been owned by the same family of lineal or collateral descendants for at least 150 years. Applicants who complete a form and meet all requirements of the Sesquicentennial Farms program receive an official Sesquicentennial Farm sign

and certificate. A $50 application fee is charged. More than 600 Illinois farms have been named Sesquicentennial Farms since the program was created, and 22 of those are in Ogle County. For more information or forms go to centfarms/.

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McGuire farm From page 3 with the winding creek and stand of timber. “It is beautiful — that might be why they kept it,” she said. The farmstead was once situated on Penn Corner Road, but the house and buildings are now gone, and McGuire and her husband Craig live on another farm they own on Lowell Park Road. Today the land is planted to mostly corn with some soybeans, and a beef cow-calf beef herd is pastured there. Lyle Hopkins farms the land. The farm continues to be a family affair. The McGuires’ two sons, Mark, who lives in Idaho, and Mike, who lives in Evanston, both help out on a regular basis. “They’re actively involved in decision making,” McGuire said.

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The Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Centennial Farms and Sesquicentennial Farms programs honor generations of farmers who have worked to maintain family farms in the state. To qualify for Centennial Farm status, an agricultural property must have been owned by the same family of lineal or collateral descendants for at least 100 years.  A lineal descendant is a person in the direct line of descent, such as a child or a grandchild.  A collateral descendant is not a direct descendant, but is otherwise closely related, such as a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or cousin. Applicants who complete a form and meet all requirements of the Centennial Farms program receive an official Centennial Farm sign suitable for outdoor display and a certificate bearing signatures of the Governor of Illinois and the Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.  A $50 application fee is charged to offset the cost of the sign. More than 9,200 Illinois farms have been named Centennial Farms since the program was created in 1972.  Every county in the state has at least one Centennial Farm. Ogle County has more than 150 on its list.  The Sesquicentennial Farms Program recognizes farms that have been held by descendants of the same family for 150 years or more. 

CENTURY OF FARMING | Ogle County Newspapers

What is a Centennial Farm?

Ogle County Newspapers • Thursday, June 29, 2018



Working together is key at Circle G By Vinde Wells Building on a long-standing farming legacy and working together are the values that matter to an Oregon area family. Three generations of the Groenhagen family raise corn and cattle at Circle G Farms & Feedlots on Limerick Road northeast of Oregon, a farm that has been in the family since 1898. Bob Groenhagen, 90, and his wife, Leona, live on the property they bought from her grandfather John Roos in 1950. That farm has been designated as a Centennial Farm by the Illinois Department of Agriculture because it has remained in the same family for at least 100 years. Both of their families had farmed in the area since the 1860s. Bob said he enjoys farming and seeing his family take part in the operation. “I get so much satisfaction from seeing crops grow and the cattle mature,” he said. “I like seeing the other generations take over.” Circle G includes Bob; his brother, George, 80; Bob’s sons, Larry, 64, and Gary, 55; and Larry’s son, Chad, 32, who all live within two miles of the each other. George’s grandson Jonathan, who is in high school, also helps out. With the help of five full-time employees, they farm 6,000 acres, mostly planted to corn, and finish 6,000 to 7,000 Angus cattle for market each year in their feedlots, which can house 4,000 steers at a time. Larry said he takes pride in working on the family farm. “You see what your father and grandfather have built and you want to keep it for the next generation. You want the ball to keep rolling,” said Larry. “I can’t think of a better life than living on the farm and working with family.” George agreed. “I’m proud to see where we started and that we’ve kept it up and expanded,” he said. “I enjoy working with the family.” Gary appreciates what his father and previous generations built to hand down.  “I like the pride and the challenge,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure to succeed when you’ve started with what we started with.”

Bob, Gary, George, Larry, and Chad Groenhagen stand in their newest cattle building at Circle G Farms & Feedlots. Photo by Vinde Wells

Chad also feels that pride and challenge. “I feel it’s an incredible opportunity to take what my father, grandfather, and uncles have done and got from their ancestors and build on that,” he said. When Bob started farming in 1950 with 400 acres, he raised dairy and beef cattle, hogs, sheep, and chickens and rotated crops, planting corn, oats, and hay. When Larry and George joined the operation in 1973, Circle G Farms & Feedlots was formed. Since then Gary and Chad have joined the corporation. “Over the years, the dairy, hogs, and chickens were dropped, and we concentrated on cattle and raising corn,” Bob said. The growing and expanding farm has hosted several farm visit days, and the Rockford tourism bureau has brought many visitors from other countries to see the operation. Each family member has his own area of expertise. Bob works with landlords, keeps up with the mowing and spraying, and does overall quality control. Larry does planting and harvesting and handles the book work. George feeds the cattle, while Gary specializes

in the health of the cattle, as well as overseeing the spraying and grain elevators. Chad is what his grandfather called “the tech man.” Turn to page 7

Chad Groenhagen’s dog Beau is never far from his side. Photo by Vinde Wells

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At left, Bob Groenhagen and a hired man shock corn in the early 1950s. At right, corn is harvested to feed the cattle and to sell at Circle G. Turn to page 10 for more photos.

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• Thursday, June 29, 2018

He takes care of data management and integration. “When I came back from college they told me I needed to focus on this,” Chad said with a smile. Today’s technology helps with planning and mapping, soil sampling, tractor guidance, crop scouting, fertilizer application, data analysis, and determining yields. Chad can pinpoint where rows of corn should be planted, how far apart seeds should spaced, and exactly where to apply fertilizer and herbicides. Each tractor has a computer connected to Chad’s in the farm’s office. “When we pull into field, he’s got the lines set for us,” Larry said. “We’re 100 percent automated and This photo taken by a drone shows the headquarters of Circle G Farms & Feedlots at left and one their feedlots at remotely monitored,” Chad said. “We right. can come within six inches of telephone poles.” “Many changes have taken place over the years, from horsepower to tractors and now all the technology,” Bob said. Larry summed up how he feels about his occupation. “Farming is all I ever wanted to do,” he said. He recalled a mishap that happened when he was about 10 years old. “I wrecked my first barn because I couldn’t reach the clutch on the tractor,” he said with a grin.

CENTURY OF FARMING | Ogle County Newspapers

From page 6

Ogle County Newspapers • Thursday, June 29, 2018



Spring Hill Farm has been in Croft family for a century-plus By Vinde Wells Spring Hill Farm, situated in the rolling country about a mile and half south of Leaf River, has been in John Croft’s family for more than a century. John, 72, spent many of his growing up years there as did his father Robert, and he and his wife Karna hope to maintain the legacy for their own children and grandchildren. “It helps to know your past to know who you are today,” John said. “I love being here,” Karna said. “I’m so glad we have this.” Property records show that the farm was deeded to David D. Cable from the U.S. Government in 1841. Several owners later in 1853, Daniel

Zellers bought the 160 acres the John and Karna now own at the intersection of Leaf River and West Grove Roads. Early settlers on the property were drawn to it by the large spring near the road and built a log cabin just up the hill. John recently found the boundaries of the cabin and has marked them with flags. He also had the spring opened so it is once again flowing. John and Karna Croft stand in front of their barn, built in 1867. At right is one Another attraction to the property of the concrete posts made by John’s grandfather. was the timber there that provided wood for buildings and fires. “Settlers wanted water, timber, and open prairie,” John said. Zellers built the barn in 1867 and the Turn to page 9

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Above, Robert Croft, right, and a friend showoff a string of fish they caught by hand, as they were ponded on Margaret Fuller Island when the Rock River receded in about 1946. Below, Robert Croft and his sons, John, left, and Robert Jr. are ready for church.

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• Thursday, June 29, 2018

main part of the two-story home in 1871. He built some of the other buildings that are still standing as well. A deacon in the Church of the Brethren, Zellers was one of seven men charged with building the Silver Creek Church, less than a half-mile west of the farm, in 1867. The church was part of a tiny settlement called Trot Town, which consisted of a handful of houses, a brick factory, a blacksmith shop, a school, and a few other businesses. John believes the same stone masons who built the limestone church likely laid the foundation of Zellers’ large double-drive up bank barn. The stone came from an out-cropping that lies between the church and farm. The farm came into the Croft family in 1907 when John’s great-grandfather Grayson Welty bought the farm from Zellers’ estate. Welty’s daughter Eva married Milford L. Croft, and they purchased the farm from her father in 1921. Their son, Robert and his wife Nancy, in turn, purchased the property in 1959, and John and Karna bought it from their estate in 2004. John remembers helping to shock corn in the 1950s and the threshing crews that came every year to harvest the oats. His mother prepared huge noon meals to feed the hungry men. “Farm work was hard work,” John said. “Everything was laborious.”  Hanging onto the family farm was not always easy. Tough economic times forced his grandfather M.L. to get a second job in

the 1920s. “In the teens agriculture was good,” John explained. “American farmers fed Europe during World War I. Then in the 20s the market was gone.” Farm produce and grain was at a surplus, and prices were low. That was topped off by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. M.L. went to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, helping farmers get government loans based on the livestock and crops they had on hand. He measured the grain in bins, measured crops in the fields, and counted hogs and cattle. Part of the job was delivering the government checks to the farmers, which based on the tough times, could be risky. He got a small revolver which he kept under his pillow when he had checks to deliver. M.L. was also one of the farmers hired in the 1920s to build the “high speed,” banked curve still at the corner of West Grove and Leaf River Roads. The dirt was removed with a team of horses and a skid shovel, for which M.L. received $5 per day. Today the Croft land is farmed by Ben and Luke Diehl. Corn is planted on much of the ground, with hay on the more erodible acres. For recreation for his children and grandchildren, John and his son Eric have built a tower for a zipline that runs downhill to a large tree near the buildings. “You have to do some things so the next generation will want the farm,” John said with a chuckle.

CENTURY OF FARMING | Ogle County Newspapers

From page 8


Above left, this aerial photo of Bob and Leona Groenhagens’ farm was taken in 1967. Above right, Robert and Nancy Croft in the 1940s. Below left, Bob Groenhagen takes his young daughter Linda for a ride on the Case tractor. Below right, a threshing crew at Groenhagens takes a break for lunch in the 1950s.

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AM 1460

Farm succession workshop set for July 16 To assist farm families in completing a successful transition of their farm from one generation to the next, the Carroll, Lee and Ogle County Farm Bureaus will sponsor a Farm Succession Workshop on Monday, July 16 at the Rock River Center, 810 S. 10th St., Oregon. The evening program begins at 5:45 p.m. with dinner followed by the workshop which concludes at 9:30 p.m. Leading authority on Farm Succession Planning, Dr. Ron Hanson will facilitate the program. Hanson recently retired from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and currently serves as the Harlan Agribusiness Professor Emeritus. His 46-year career teaching and advising college students earned him 31 university and national award recognitions.   Hanson was raised on an Illinois family farm and earned his college degrees from the University of Illinois.  He has counseled with Nebraska farm families for more than 40 years to help them resolve family conflicts in a more positive manner and to improve family relations through better communications. The cost of the program is $15 per person. The entire family is encouraged to attend. Pre-registration is required as space is limited for this program. 

To pre-register before Sunday, July 8 call the Ogle County Farm Bureau at 732-2231 or email cfb@ogle.



Payment should be made to: Ogle County Farm Bureau, 421 W. Pines Rd., Oregon, IL 61061.





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At left, John Croft holds the grain probe his grandfather used to measure the grain in bins during the 1930s. Above, Croft’s great-grandfather Grayson Welty built this machine shed in the woods. Just to the left of it is the tower Croft and his son built to anchor their zipline. Photos by Vinde Wells

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CENTURY OF FARMING | Ogle County Newspapers



Strong Protection for Small and Large Farms

Ogle County Newspapers • Thursday, June 29, 2018



After all, it’s a local call!

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OCN Century of Farming 062918  
OCN Century of Farming 062918