I’m guessing that Robert Richardson, who homesteaded 160 acres in Spring Grove, IL (population 3,880) in 1840 would be amazed at how his family farm has transformed over the years. Spring Grove is located about 60 miles NW of Chicago, on the outskirts of its rapidly growing suburbs and just south of the WI border. The farm, still owned, run and worked on by three generations of the family has grown into two farmsteads and 450 acres.
In 1982 Owen Richardson decided to try diversifying away from his traditional crops of corn and soybeans, planting a few Christmas trees. When weeds overran his young seedlings, he almost gave up that effort, but stuck with it adding 3,000 trees per year.
In 2001, the family decided to put in a corn maze….not just a corn maze….but the world’s largest corn maze. This year’s maze, built with a Chicago Bears theme is 28 acres in size, the size of 10 city blocks! They’ve also added a smaller corn maze that celebrates the University of Illinois Chief, which was retired this year by the university. In 2007, they added a 50’ tall observation tower for viewing the corn mazes.
The Richardson’s are a trend that I’m seeing of farm families diversifying their farming activities and more fully utilizing all of their natural assets, rather than being caught up in a dependency upon the fickleness of commodity prices.