A group of about 15 Chicago-area moms recently took
advantage of the opportunity to visit a beef and grain farm as part of the
Illinois Farm Families field moms program.
These moms applied to participate in this program, and over
the past several months they have visited a grain farm in the spring during
planting season, a pork farm and a dairy operation.
Larson Farms graciously provided the daylong tour of their
operation near Maple Park in northern Illinois. This family farm is operated by
three generations of the family, including parents Ray and Carol Larson.
The majority of the tour was hosted by their son, Norm
Larson, their daughter, Lynn Martz, and her husband, Mike.
As the group walked around the feedlot operation, Mike Martz
talked about all aspects of the operation. In the processing facility, he
described several features that are designed to prevent injuries to both cattle
This facility is used to complete the ultrasound work for
every steer or heifer that is fed at the operation.
“We’re looking at the amount of backfat and marbling of the
animal,” Martz explained. “Some people call the marbling flecks of flavor
because the more that’s there, the better tasting and more enjoyable that steak
The majority of the cattle from Larson Farms are sold to
Aurora Pack, which sells beef to high-end restaurants.
“We do the ultrasound 100 days before harvest and divide the
animals by how much longer we need to feed them to their most profitable point,”
the cattleman said.
During the tour, Martz noted the lack of flies around the
“We have an employee in charge of fly control, and a couple
of years ago we started using these wasps that are shipped here from Texas every
week,” he said. “We put the wasps out along the bunks in the barns, and each
wasp will eat from 30 to 45 fly larvae.”
As a result, the fly population is controlled without the
use of any chemicals.
“The secret is we have to start in April,” Lynn Martz added.
“We have to be ahead of the hatch and continue to put out the wasps every
During the afternoon, the field moms took the opportunity to
ride in a combine to harvest corn or in the tractor that was pulling the grain
cart. One of the moms told me that sitting in that combine as it moved through
the field was an eye-opening experience.
In addition, she learned that sweet corn and field corn are
two different crops. Another mom said she loved the ride in the combine.
“It is amazing what the farmers learn from the monitors,”
she said. “I could watch these combines all day. It is mesmerizing.”
One of the many goals of the field moms program is to
provide consumers the opportunity to ask questions about food and farming from
farmers who are involved in producing food every day. These field moms took
advantage of this opportunity to ask numerous questions throughout the day.
And, more importantly, Mike, Lynn and Norm took the time to
answer each and every question. They are great spokespeople for the agricultural
I bet there are a lot more Illinois farmers who also would
do an outstanding job of talking about their work. If you are one of those
people, I hope you take that opportunity whenever it occurs.