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City People ‘Adopt’ Farmland To Learn Problems

January 10, 1985

ALBION, Ill. (AP) _ Some Illinois farmers are giving their neighbors a glimpse of the agriculture business by allowing them to ″adopt″ three acres of corn, pay all production costs and try to sell the grain at a profit.

The Edwards County Farm Bureau devised the plan last spring to show city dwellers the problems and joys of farming.

And even though the ground is cold, the city folks are finding out that the farmers’ work doesn’t end with the harvest. Some participants are still trying to peddle the grain at a profitable price.

Most people don’t understand agriculture, said farmer Bryan Roosevelt, chairman of the adopt-an-acre program, and ″it’s up to us to get our message across.″

″We wanted to put them in our shoes and let them know what we go through every day,″ said Roosevelt. ″They sweated with us this summer when it didn’t rain, and they rejoiced with us when it did.″

The Albion Chamber of Commerce, the Albion Rotary Club and the Grayville Chamber of Commerce each took responsibility for one acre. They paid more than $200 for the seed, fertilizer, chemicals and other production costs for each acre.

Local farmers raised the crops. They kept the groups in Albion and Grayville, which have about 2,300 residents each, informed on the progress of the crop throughout the growing season and visited the cities with samples.

The city folks saw various stages in the development of corn, the effects of proper fertilization on growth, and the kind of root system needed to withstand periods of dry weather. Many, like accountant Terry Harper, drove into the country to ″see how the crop was doing.″

Participants say the program accomplished its goal.

″At harvest, our net profit for an acre would have been $6. That told us making a decent living at farming is difficult,″ said Ronalds Walker, an attorney.

″I’m sure it’s pretty hard to break even in agriculture any more,″ said insurance agent Jerry Brock-Jones.

Yields were about 100 bushels per acre, average for the county but far better than drought-ravaged production in 1983.

Selling the grain was left up to the city residents. One group sold it with the rest of the farmer’s grain; another is still holding out for a higher price.

″A farmer can make or break himself with marketing,″ said Roosevelt. ″We wanted them to do it and see what we face.″

Don Copley, who owns a grocery store, said he concluded that farming was a business unlike any other.

″I don’t know of another industry in the world that buys its raw materials retail and sells its product wholesale, and doesn’t even get to set that price,″ Copley said.

Many of those involved said city residents in Edwards County already had a good concept of farm life. They suggested the adopt-an-acre program would be most effective in areas that contain much larger cities.

Farmer Mike Mann said he’d like to see the program carried a step further.

″Let a few congressmen in Washington adopt an acre,″ he said.

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