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IDOA Honors First Bicentennial Farm Family

Governor Bruce Rauner joined Ag Director Raymond Poe and members of the Illinois Bicentennial Commission to honor Gerald and Betty Brown of Jonesboro, the first family to be bestowed with the Illinois Department of Agriculture Bicentennial Farm designation. The family was presented with this honor at the annual Agricultural Legislative Day at the Capitol on Tuesday.

“Illinois is full of proud, hardworking farm families. The Brown family is just one example of the dedication these families bring to Illinois agriculture,” Rauner said. “We’re proud to honor them with the first Bicentennial Farm designation in 2018, as we celebrate the state’s 200th birthday.”

The journey for the Brown family started back in 1816 when Abraham Brown II, his wife, and three children made the trek from Rowan County, North Carolina all the way to Union County, Illinois. Many others were traveling west to southern Illinois and since the land that the Browns were farming was worn out, they decided to join the others.

To leave everything and head to a new location at that time took a tremendous amount of courage and survival skills as it was not a short, nor easy, trip. After their arrival in Union County, Abraham and his family took shelter in a hollow sycamore tree until their cabin was finished. Shortly after that in 1817, Abraham registered his cattle and land. That same land parcel has been passed down from generation to generation with at least one of each generation staying and farming that very same ground.

“The Illinois Bicentennial celebration pays great homage to our state’s rich agricultural heritage with the theme, ‘Born, Built, Grown,’” said Bicentennial Commissioner and IDOA Chief of Staff Grant Hammer.  “Agriculture has played a central role in our state’s history.  Illinois agriculture, much like the Brown family, will continue to sustain our strong agricultural traditions for generations to come.”

Gerald Brown currently owns the land and is the 5th generation.  His children and grandchildren will be the 6th and 7th generations to be part of this great tradition. The Brown family has also received sesquicentennial and centennial family farm designations from the Department of Agriculture.

The Bicentennial Farm designation program was launched in 2016 when the General Assembly passed legislation to honor these Illinois farm families.  The program recognizes farms that have been held by descendants of the same family for 200 years or more.  To quality for Bicentennial farm status, an agricultural property must have been owned by the same family of lineal or collateral descendants for at least 200 years.   A lineal descendant is a person in direct line of descent, such as a child or grandchild.  A collateral descendant is not a direct descendant, but is otherwise closely related, such as a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or cousin.

Agricultural Legislative Day at the Capitol is held annually to help spread awareness and show the importance of the agriculture industry. State agricultural associations and hundreds of FFA students from throughout the state grace the Capitol on this day. Agricultural groups will advocate for issues important to them, while FFA students will get the chance to tell their story to legislators and how agriculture impacts them each day.