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August 16, 2010

Chad Wallace Named Illinois Sustainable Farmer Of The Year

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) will present the 2010 winner of the R.J. Vollmer Sustainable Agriculture Farmer Award on Aug. 17 during Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair (ISF).  This year’s winner is Chad Wallace of Oak Tree Organics.

Oak Tree Organics, located in Ashland, is a family owned and operated farm offering a wide variety of fresh produce, fruits and eggs.  Oak Tree Organics has been providing naturally grown produce to the local farmer’s market for the past six years and offers weekly deliveries to the Springfield and Jacksonville areas.

Oak Tree Organics is truly a family affair.  Wallace, his wife Dana and their three children all work on the farm.  Their oldest daughter, Amanda, takes care of the books and son, Kyle, works on the equipment.  Five year old, Erin, has worked on the farm, side-by-side with her dad since she was in a stroller.

Wallace grew up on what is now Oak Tree Organics Farm.  When Wallace was a kid, the farm was a conventional corn and bean operation of several hundred acres but after Wallace’s father retired from farming, he embarked on a different path, converting 18 acres of the family farm to chemical-free fruit and vegetable production.

To celebrate Agriculture Day, IDOA Director Jennings will host a special luncheon on the Director’s Lawn at 12:15 p.m.  Ag Day festivities will also feature a reunion of past IDOA directors, including Chuck Hartke (2003-2008), Joe Hampton (1999-2002), Becky Doyle (1991-1999), John Rundquist (1989-1991), Larry Werries (1981-1989) and Gordon Ropp (1970-1979).


The Illinois State Fair today honored 14 vendors who have spent a combined 1,000 years participating in the annual event. 

The following vendors received a framed certificate and a personal thank you from ISF Manager Amy Bliefnick and IDOA Director Jennings:

Vendor Name                                         Number of years at the ISF

Armbruster Manufacturing Co.                      130

            IL 4-H Office                                                  88

            Smiley's Novelties                                           88

            Theresa's Place                                                81

            Sutter's Taffy                                                  81

            Mehan's Lemonade                                         77

            Irish O'Brien's/O'Brien's Food Service           69

Culler's French Fries                                       66

            Downey Concession                                       64

Avanti Foods Co.                                           55

            Midwest Concessions                                     54

            Merigian's Concession                                    54

            IL Beekeeper's Assoc.                                    53

            Spiess Concession                                           53


A lot can happen in 70 years, but for the McGrew family one thing hasn’t changed.  Every year they come to the Illinois State Fair and show their Belgian draft horses.  Purple banners from years past adorn the walls of their barn as well as the ribbons from the day’s show.

“We’ve had a lot of champions over the years,” said Tom McGrew, one of the three brothers who have continued on the family tradition.

“When we were growing up, dad had 50 head of horses.  We just grew up with it.  It’s kind of like a part of you,” said Bill, another brother.

The McGrew family has been raising and breeding horses for over 100 years.  The brothers’ father raised purebred Belgians and their grandfather had Shire horses.  Bill boasted that they had a descendant of one of the original mares that their father bought with them at the fair.  The family is proud of their history and love to tell about it.

To further show their history, the family has decorated a stall with pictures of generations past and present and these pictures tell their family’s story in a way words cannot. One can dive back into the past and see what it was like to be a part of the McGrew family over the years.

If there’s one thing the whole family agrees on, it’s their love of raising and showing horses.  Bill, Tom and Ken’s grandkids are helping continue the family tradition and every one of them enjoys it and wants to be a part of it in some way.  So, it’s safe to say that this won’t be the McGrew’s last year at the Illinois State Fair.

The draft horse shows will conclude Tuesday, Aug. 17 at the Coliseum.


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