Eric Rund Named Plowman of the Year

    The Chicago Farmers presented Eric Rund with the 2017 Plowman of the Year Award for his many contributions to the organization during the September 11 meeting. Eric served two terms as president of TCF. He also served as vice-president, treasurer and as a director.

    Eric and his wife, Maria, operate their ancestral family farm that is located south of Champaign. The farm produces corn for Frito-Lay and seed beans for Pioneer using strip-till and no-till. The Runds also grow the perennial biomass crop miscanthus. It was planted for cellulosic ethanol, but today the Runds sell it for poultry and livestock bedding. “Eventually, we believe it will be used as a biomass fuel replacing LP gas,” said Eric. “To demonstrate the practicality of this, we sold and installed a multi-fuel biomass boiler at the University of Illinois’ energy farm, where anyone can see how it works.”

    He went on to say, “My years with The Chicago Farmers have been rewarding. This unique organization has given me opportunities to listen to viewpoints from the consumer side of agriculture as well as the production side and from the landowner side as well as the tenant’s side. If farmers are to be successful, we have to know what our customers want and respond to that need. If customers want abundant, safe and inexpensive food, then they must become informed consumers and learn the facts and the science behind food production. The Chicago Farmers, like no other farm organization with which I am familiar, provides these learning opportunities to its members. I have met many intelligent and influential people while attending our meetings over the years, all of whom I have learned something from and many of whom have become lifelong friends.”

    Jeff Martin receives Distinguished Service Award

    By Andy Holstine, Past President

    Jeff Martin has been associated with the Chicago Farmers for nearly twenty years.  During this time he has been very active, serving as a director, president and in nearly every other voluntary role.  He hosted the summer picnic on his family farm in Mt. Pulaski and spent fifteen years as co-chair of the Farmland Forum.  In short, his efforts to make our organization better have been enormous. 

    But Jeff’s energy and contributions extend well beyond the Chicago Farmers and his industry leadership and service made the recognition of the “Distinguished Service to Agriculture” award well-deserved.  The Chicago Farmers first created this award in 1977 and you can find the list of past winners here.  You will find that past recipients of the award include the founder of McDonald’s, captains of agribusiness, leaders in academia and research, prominent media , and a Secretary of Agriculture.  While Mr. Martin may describe himself as “only” a farmer, the impact of his life’s work has contributed greatly to the evolution of farming practices employed across millions of acres each year.

    Jeff started farming with his father in 1976.  As he recounted when accepting the award, early in his career he watched a dust storm destroy their fields.  For Jeff, who had grown up listening to his grandfather extoll a belief that the land they lived on could provide for their family forever, this experience galvanized a belief in the importance in taking a long view valuing conservation as central to good stewardship of the land.  This mindset led him to continually examine existing farming conventions and practices, explore new technology and share techniques that improved the land and added worth. 

    Jeff was a very early adopter of no-till farming, initially building his own equipment and culminating in an award as the no-till innovator of the year and recognition in 2016 as one of 25 “no-till legends.”  After seeing the benefits of setting aside CRP acres on his farm, he started a business that has since planted more than 1,000 acres of trees and prairie grass.  He was at the vanguard of the use of cover crops and research he conducted on his fields was published in an industry magazine.  Jeff was appointed member of the Federal Reserve Agriculture Advisory Board for several years.  He has also been recognized as the Illinois wildlife landowner of the year, received the corn growers’ environmental action award, named the AgriNews farmer of the year, and his family has been featured in numerous publications over years.  Jeff has farmed with his grandfather, father, brother and now has both sons farming with him full time, maybe the greatest measure of success and a life well-lived. 

    I view Jeff as a remarkable example of doing well by doing good.  When accepting the award, he remarked that the Chicago Farmers was one of the best groups he had ever been a part of.  Speaking for the Chicago Farmers, I would like to express how fortunate we are that Jeff chose to contribute so much over the years and congratulate him again on an award truly earned.

    2016 Land REALTOR of America Award Recipient Chicago Farmers Member Ray L. Brownfield

    May 2017 - Recently at the REALTORS® Land Institute National Land Conference, held at Charlotte, North Carolina, Ray Brownfield was the sole recipient of the 2016 Land REALTOR® of America Award. This prestigious award is bestowed upon a REALTORS® Land Institute member who has achieved the Accredited Land Consultant designation, excelling in extremely high levels of real estate transaction competency, displaying above reproach ethics, leadership and professional standards.

    Ray is the managing broker and owner of Land Pro LLC, located in Oswego, Illinois. He is also an Accredited Farm Manager through the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. Ray and his staff provide professional land real estate brokerage in Illinois and farm management services throughout Illinois, parts of Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska. In 2016 Ray was the real estate broker for over $20M in real estate sales and managed over 7,000 acres of farmland. He is a native of Iroquois County Illinois, and thoroughly enjoys his family farm at Thawville. He and his wife Patty live in Naperville.

    TCF member cited by ISU

    Chicago Farmers member Ray Brownfield, managing broker and owner of Land Pro LLC in Oswego Illinois, recently received the Illinois State University (ISU) 2017 Alumni Achievement Award at the annual Founders Day event.  Ray graduated from ISU in 1965, majoring in education. Upon graduation, he became a farm manager at The First National Bank of Peoria, and progressed to department head. This position paved the way for rapid progression in his industry to department head at Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company and Northern Trust Agricultural Services, leading to his position as President of Capital Agricultural Property Services (CAPS), a subsidiary of Prudential.

    During his twenty years at CAPS, Ray helped build the company into one of the largest of its kind in the United States.  After retirement from CAPS, Ray formed and is Managing Broker and President of Land Pro LLC, an agriculture real estate brokerage and farm management company located in Oswego. He is an Accredited Farm Manager (AFM) and an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC).

    Ray has received numerous awards including the Hall of Fame award from the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ISPFMRA) and the D. Howard Doane Award from the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA). Ray served as national president of ASFMRA and the REALTORS© Land Institute. To date he is the only person to serve as president of both organizations. Ray received the prestigious Hobart Award from the ISU Agriculture Department and the highly-coveted Hall of Fame Award from the College of Applied Science and Technology.

    Ray served in the Illinois Army National Guard rising to the rank of CW-5, as the State Food Service Officer. He retired as a decorated thirty-five-year veteran in 2001.

    Ray and his family still enjoy coming to the family farm in Thawville.  He and his wife Patty live in Naperville. 

    Chicago Farmers member is named No-Till Legend

    National No-Tillage Conference recognizes the Top 25 Innovators.

    Chicago Farmers member and former president Jeff Martin, owner and operator of Martin Family Farms, received the title of No-Till Legend on January 12, 2017, at the 25th Anniversary National No-Tillage Conference in St. Louis, Missouri.  Martin was among the top 25 innovators in the history of no-till recognized by Frank Lessiter, No-Till Farmer editor.  Lessiter noted Martin’s passion for no-till. He related that Martin has maintained this process through the good times and the bad and has been a major contributor to no-till by reporting the results he was seeing on his fields. He not only promoted no-till, but helped to improve no-till operations over the years, Lessiter said.  Martin was unable to attend the awards dinner, but his son and business partner, Derek Martin, accepted the award on his behalf. 

    How does one achieve “No-Till Legend” status?  According to the No-Till Conference, a No-Till Legend is “a person who played a key role in the growth of no-till from 3.2 million acres in 1972 to nearly 100 million acres in 2017.” 

    Martin said that he first decided to no-till when he walked out to one of his corn fields during a dust storm and witnessed the knee high corn being cut down by the dust. Not only was precious soil being lost, but crops were being damaged.  Martin knew things had to change.  After researching viable options to improve soil quality and to prevent more soil loss, Martin finally decided on no-till. 

    Martin began to no-till in the early 1980s and still continues the practice today. He related, “No-till has many benefits that definitely outweigh the negatives. No-till promotes more earthworms, which are great facilitators. They incorporate organic matter and improve drainage and aeration; all while helping water infiltration and enhancing nutrient cycling.  No-till gives microbes a boost and allows for better cultivation of the soil. Farmers make fewer trips over their field, which saves in fuel and labor costs and sustains the soil against wind and/or rain erosion.”  

    Martin said he is happy with the results he has seen with no-till/strip-till over the last 30 years, noting the biggest benefit is better soil health, which is the key to better yields.  Martin also said he is pleased to have passed this practice on to his sons, Doug and Derek, and is eager to see what the next 30 years brings. 

    If you would like more information, please visit the farm website at or email Jeff Martin at

    Governor appoints Chicago Farmers' member to the Illinois Bicentennial Commission

    Governor Rauner appointed Chicago Farmers' member, Todd Schwebel, to the Illinois Bicentennial Commission. Todd is a proud eighth-generation Illinoisan and civic leader. He is principal at The Schwebel Company, an award-winning Residential Design & Development firm based in Chicago. In addition, he manages his family's Central Illinois real estate and agricultural interests as President of Hoffer Holdings. He has chaired major events for The University of Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Botanic Garden, and Facets Film Center. Currently, he is a Director of the Old Master's Society at the Art Institute and a member of the Chicago Botanic Garden Guild Board.

    Illinois Chamber of Commerce Waterways Study Identifies $102.5 Billion Impact


    Illinois Chamber of Commerce Waterways Study Identifies $102.5 Billion Impact

    SPRINGFIELD – Aug. 5, 2016 – Illinois waterways support more than 1.7 million jobs and $102.5 billion in wages. That’s the core finding as the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Foundation today released a report highlighting the importance of the Illinois River to the state’s economy. Total employment across the 22 counties that benefitted from the waterway in 2014 represents approximately 47 percent of all employment in the study.

    “Commercial navigation and our inland waterways are unsung assets of our transportation networks. This report identifies not only that they are a significant source of employment for Illinoisans across the state with over $102 billion in annual wages but that with additional investment, these benefits can grow,” said Benjamin Brockschmidt, executive director, Infrastructure Council of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

    The findings are in the Final Report: An Economic Impact and Cluster Analysis of Illinois River Lock and Dam Facilities for Beneficial Users, prepared by the Economic Development Research Group, Inc., in association with the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee.

    “According to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis, more than half of U.S. soybeans are destined for export markets, and around half of those soybean and soybean co-product exports are moved by barges on the inland waterways,” according to Illinois Soybean Association Director Paul Rasmussen, who farms near Genoa, Illinois. 

    “This ground-breaking research helps quantify the critical importance of the Illinois River. Its natural and man-made systems of the Illinois River support our communities in many ways,” Rasmussen says. “In fact, the Illinois River passes through or touches 22 counties, and nearly two million jobs in the state are tied to the smooth operations of the river.”

    "The economic information gleaned from the study clearly shows the importance of our inland waterway transportation system to Illinois and surrounding states. This will prove to be invaluable as we continue to advocate for future investments," said Tom Mueller of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.

    “This report highlights the invaluable contribution of the Illinois River and Chicago Waterway System to the state’s chemical industry,” said Mark Biel, executive director, Chemical Industry Council of Illinois. “Our industry is a robust provider of over 45,000 jobs in Illinois with an average annual wage of above $112,000. These great jobs depend on the open and continuous movement of goods on Illinois’ waterways.”

    For more information about the Illinois Waterways study, go here.

    2016 Plowman of the Year named

    The Chicago Farmers named Andy Holstine Plowman of the Year for his outstanding service and leadership to the group during the May 9, 2016, annual meeting. Andy served as president of TCF for two terms. He also has served two terms as vice president and several terms on the board of directors. Currently, Andy, an attorney, is filling a director vacancy on the board.

    “Andy has been very generous with his time and knowledge,” said President Eric Rund as he presented the Plowman award to Andy. “He has always been supportive of Chicago Farmers and me. We greatly appreciate Andy’s contributions.” 

    2016 officers and directors elected

    The Chicago Farmers’ 2016 officers and directors were elected during the May 9 annual meeting at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

    The officers include Barbara Clark, president; Mark Thorndyke, vice president; Eric Rund, past president; Sharon Perry, secretary; and Brian Duke, treasurer. Among the board of directors are: serving the first year of a first two-year term, Landon Frye and Alan Gunn; serving the first year of a second two-year term, David Oppedahl and Dan Stokes; serving a director vacancy for the second year of a first two-year term, Andy Holstine; and serving the second year of a second two-year term, Bruce Ahrens.

    Past President Eric Rund thanked retiring directors Dr. Susan Kern and Pete Petges for their service and commitment of time to TCF.

    Picture caption:
    2016 officers and board of directors, from left, back row, Andy Holstine, Alan Gunn, Brian Duke, and Landon Frye; from left, front row, Mark Thorndyke, David Oppedahl, Barbara Clark, Sharon Perry, Bruce Ahrens, and Eric Rund. 

    TCF member visits Icelandic greenhouse operation

    TCF member visits Icelandic greenhouse operation

    Chicago Farmers’ member Marilyn Mayer and her daughter, Hillary, visited Iceland over Thanksgiving last fall and they found the country beautiful, enthralling and full of agricultural surprises.

    “We visited Fridheimar Greenhouse, which grows tomatoes all year in a charming family run operation,” related Marilyn.  “It can do so because of the extensive geothermal advantages of Iceland.  With 130 volcanoes and vast quantities of underground heated water, greenhouses are a breeze.”

    Marilyn continued, “Green energy, pure water and organic pest control are the Icelandic standards.  Geothermal water flows into the greenhouses at 203 degrees Fahrenheit, and sunlight is maximized by glass panes only 4mm thick—with hot water compensating for the heat loss.  Hydro and geothermal power plants produce the additional electricity that is needed.  Photosynthesis is enhanced by using carbon dioxide produced from natural geothermal steam.  And ‘boxes of bees,’ imported from Holland, finish the job with pollination.”

    Marilyn said that a little café within the greenhouse lets visitors enjoy soup made from the tomatoes, and salads composed of greens, basil and cucumbers that also are grown in the greenhouse. 

    “We found the greenhouse experience to be a magical oasis in the cool climate of Iceland,” Marilyn said.  “And after our soup, we were able to go off to the Blue Lagoon spa not far away and actually swim outdoors in a geothermal pool, although the outside temperature was only 18 degrees Fahrenheit.  Overhead, the Northern Lights ‘came on’ to shower the sky with eerie green waves and darting white streaks.  A magical country indeed!”

    Photos 1:
    Exterior view of the greenhouse in Iceland.

    Photo 2:
    Tomatoes growing in the greenhouse in Iceland this past fall. 

    Photo 3:
    One of the beehives purchased for the greenhouse from Holland.

    Picture 4:
    Marilyn Mayer, right, and her daughter, Hillary.