Ron Frieders, from DeKalb County, didn’t just decide to start farming one day. For Ron and his family, it was more like a calling, passed down from generation to generation.
It all started when Ron’s grandfather moved to the farm they currently operate in 1915. In 1926, Ron’s dad was born on the farm. And in 1952, Ron himself was born on the farm and grew up there. In other words, next year, Ron and his family will celebrate 100 years of farming the same ground, continuously.
“When my grandparents died, the farm had to be sold to pay the inheritance tax,” Ron said. “But, luckily, we were able to rent it back. We’re still working part of that farm in DuPage County today. Part of it has been developed, but part of it still remains.”
Ron and his wife, Denise, and son, Ryan, operate a true family farm, with each family member helping in the decision-making and workload. In fact, when Ron and Denise married in 1972, Denise didn’t waste any time jumping into the already thriving family farm.
“She stared working with my dad and myself,” Ron said. “First she would pull wagons back to the farm in the fall. After a couple of years, she started operating the combine. She’s run the combine every year since 1974 or 1975. And my son, Ryan — he went to a junior college so he could be close to home and help farm after my dad had a stroke. He finished his four year degree at North Central College, then got his master’s degree at the U of I in agronomy. He’s been here every year helping, and this year, he did all the combining and my wife ran the grain cart. I ran the truck and the grain drying system. For me to keep up with them is a pretty good challenge because they’re pretty fast.”
Ryan has helped so much over the last few years, plans are in place for Ryan and his wife, Deanne, to take over the operation once Ron and Denise decide it’s time to retire.
“Ryan has become an excellent operator,” Ron said. “He’s very good. He and my wife do all the ordering of seed and chemicals and fertilizer. His degree in agronomy helps immensely because we don’t have to rely on other people telling us which chemicals to buy. And Ryan has the support of his wife. Behind every successful farm operation is a woman who is just as much a part of it as her husband.”
For Ron, farming is more than just a job — it’s a way of life. And it’s something that is always changing and challenging.
“We’ve always been farmers,” Ron said. “We farm corn, soybeans and some wheat. And we’ve raised some organic crops in the past, as well as seed beans for many different companies and even non-GMO crops over the years. We really try to optimize our operation and we’re not afraid to try different things.”
And it’s those different things that Ron said have helped change the way he farms and make things better for not only him and his family, but also consumers buying the food he produces.
“One of the things people seem to be really stressed about today is GMO crops,” Ron said. “We’ve been around GMO crops since they first came out and have ever seen any scientific tests done anywhere in the world where they’ve caused a problem for anyone or anything. When we’re planting our crops, if they’re not GMO seeds, we have to apply pesticides to kill the insects or they would attack the crops and destroy the seeds while they’re in the ground. To not have to apply so much insecticide and herbicide is a huge benefit for our own safety and the good of the the ground. When my grandfather was farming, 60-70 bushels per acre yields were huge. When my dad was farming and broke 100 bushels per acre, it was big. Now, especially here in DeKalb County, if you’re not getting 200 bushels per acre, it’s not good. We couldn’t feed the world or have abundant, affordable food without GMOs.”
For the full Faces Behind Your Food Series, check out the links below:
- Intro: 30 Days
- Day 1: Managing…everything
- Day 2: Building Relationships
- Day 3: 50/50
- Day 4: Irons in the Fire
- Day 5: Loaded Up and Trucking
- Day 6: Variety is the Spice of Life
- Day 7: Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.
- Day 8: You have got to start somewhere.
- Day 9: The earth that calls me.
- Day 10: Teaching changes the way I look at things at home.