Nominate a family by emailing [email protected]
From left, Diann and Jim Moore and son Wes at the Urbana farmers market, where they have had a stand for 34 years.
Not many residents have people they consider “their farmer.” But for some in this area, the Moores of rural Watseka fit that bill. It’s who they buy from at the Urbana farmers market. It’s who they go to as part of their buyers group, where everybody knows their name. That is one of the attractive aspects of their farm operation for Diann Moore, who answers the questions for our latest farm family of the week.
Your browser does not support the audio element.
How long has your family been farming?
My husband, Jim, and I began our chapter of farming what people now know as Moore Family Farm in 1985, the year we were married and bought his family farm from his grandmother. Jim has lived and grown up working on this farm his whole life. Within a few years, we had two sons. From a young age, both of our sons — Wes and Aaron — grew up helping on the farm doing daily chores. Wes stayed on the farm working with us. Aaron has left our family farm, and he works for another large farm near St Anne.
Where is your farm operation?
Our farm is located near Watseka. This farm has been in Jim’s family for over 100 years. We also farm near Sadorus and Ivesdale on the farm owned by Diann’s family.
What does your operation consist of?
The Champaign County farm is grain — corn, soybeans and wheat. The Watseka farm is very diversified — pasture and hay, beef, pork and lamb (birth to finish), vegetables, flowers, chickens for meat and eggs. The meat, eggs and produce are grown for direct marketing at farmers markets and/or farm-to-family year-round buying groups.
How many family members does the operation support?
The farms currently support Jim and myself along with Wes and his wife, Ashley, and their three children (ages 1, 4 and 9). Jim, Wes and I care for the daily responsibilities of the farming operation. Ashley steps in often to help when the farm workload requires an extra set of hands or a driver for a tractor.
Are any family members in the farm operation also working other jobs?
Over the years, we have all held part-time to full-time jobs and often day jobs here and there for other people in our community to help pay the bills to support our two families and keep the farm going.
What makes farming such a good vocation?
For members in our family, it is more of a calling. Not many people have the opportunity to keep a family farm in the family. But we have been blessed to be able to now farm ground owned and operated by both Jim’s family and my family.
Personally, for me, producing the food that we sell at market or to a buying group customer, it is the longtime personal relationships that I have with many that is the blessing. People call us by our first name. We are their farmers. They realize how important their purchasing power is to help keep a small family farm like ours in business.
How have you seen farming change over the years?
Being vendors at the Urbana farmers market for 34 years, we have seen many changes, including people’s wants and likes each year, often depending on new, current food trends, current diet fads and what is recent on social media.
World events in recent years added new challenges. When food was not available in grocery stores as large meat-processing facilities closed, our small farm remained operational and able to supply customers.
The main change we experienced is going from being the “weird” neighborhood farm in the area (in the late 1980s) when we went back to farming as our grandparents did — rotational grazing of cattle and sheep, rotating cover crops with vegetables, seeding different pastures for the livestock to grace and attending multiple farmers markets. The whole time, we were learning by trial and error. There was little information or direct marketing.
Now, 30 to 35 years later, the neighbors, who often chuckled under their breath about us, and other farms across the Midwest are making those same changes. There is now major support from the university and mainstream agricultural media that now promote this type of farming.
Your equipment: red (Case IH), green (John Deere) or other?
For the grain side of the farm, mostly green. The livestock and vegetable side of the operation, it’s orange (Kubota) and old small red Farmall tractors and small and old vegetable tillage equipment.
If you could change one thing about farming, what would it be?
The answer to this question is totally out of control, but it would be perfect weather conditions — the right amount of rain when needed during the growing season and dry weather for harvest, and beautiful weather each Saturday morning May through October for each farmers market.
What’s the best time of year to be on the farm?
As a grandmother, I enjoy watching the grandchildren come to the farm and harvest flowers to give to Mommy. The excitement in their eyes when they watch a baby lamb or calf be born, or holding a baby chicken in their hand. Also, it’s the fun we have harvesting gourds and pumpkins in fall, finding all the different shapes, colors and textures; having the grandchildren help gather eggs. All farm activities that are making memories to last a lifetime.
How much of an impact have the higher inputs and soaring fuel prices had on your farm operation?
These changes have been very hard for us. We have had to decide, do we raise prices to cover all increased expenses and make a living or do we keep our prices lower and live very frugal ourselves and hope our customers appreciate us keeping their food cost approximately the same as in the past, which is what we have done. We hope for the continued support of our loyal customers to help weather through this current situation together.
Do you find that because of higher costs, farmers are having to farm more and more acreage to make ends meet?
Can’t answer this question for others. But as a farm family, we adapt and adjust to make the farming operation as efficient as possible. As a family we tighten our own household financial spending and pray that we can hold things together for another year.