The willingness to work hard appears to be in the blood for the Chesnut family. The children of Alan and Leesa Chesnut are known for their ability to give it their all when working on the family farm or for neighboring farmers. Two of them, who are in high school, have farmland that they rent.

Dad Alan answers the questions in our latest installment.

How long has your family been farming?

I graduated from the University of Illinois in 1998 and returned to the farm with my dad after graduation. Dad is Morris Chesnut, and he retired from farming last year. My wife, Leesa, and I have four sons. Gavin is a freshman in college studying mechanical engineering. Blake is a junior in high school. Colin is a sophomore in high school, and Lewis is in the fifth grade.

We (Leesa) home-school our boys, and they are active in sports, 4-H, church and FFA. We are not sure what generation of farmers we are, but at our current location in Vermilion County, I am the third generation, and the boys are the fourth. Blake and Colin have their own farmland that they rent and have an interest to return to the farm someday.

Our family has farmed in southern Vermilion County for 80 years; however, we are not sure how many generations back were farmers. Alan’s grandpa moved to the area from southern Illinois while he was still a teen working for local farmers in Champaign County picking corn by hand.

Where is your farm operation?

Our operation is based in the Ridge Farm area.

What does your operation consist of? Is it strictly grain, or do you also have livestock?

Our primary operation produces corn and soybeans. However, our boys have a few sows that we farrow throughout the year.

How many people does the operation support?

The farm operation supports my immediate family. However, several family members are landowners, so they receive financial support from the operation.

Are any of the family members in the operation also working other jobs?

The boys are still in high school and work away from the operation to earn extra money on the side. This includes working at another hog operation, along with helping out other farmers in the area with yard and farm work.

They have built a reputation for being hardworking farm boys in the area and are in high demand when they are not working here on the home farm.

How have you seen farming change over the years?

Probably the biggest change I have seen in farming is the availability of farm labor. It is becoming very hard to find skilled people that are qualified to do the various jobs around the farm. Because of this, technology has changed the way we farm.

Your equipment: Green (John Deere), Red (Case IH) or other?

The operation runs mainly green, but it also has a small variety of other colors.

What makes farming such a good vocation?

We are able to see the beauty and details in God’s creation firsthand.

How many vocations are out there where you can study and learn about how things grow and work together in our environment, how things were created to work together, such as plants, root systems and the soil biology? There is no way these things just happened.

What’s the best time of year to be on the farm?

I have no favorite season to be on the farm. There are things in each season that we as a family enjoy.

How much of an impact have higher inputs and soaring fuel prices had on your operation?

Prices have had an impact on the farm. We must look at each input and decide what kind of return on investment it will give us.


Our County Editor

Dave Hinton is editor of The News-Gazette's Our County section and former editor of the Rantoul Press. He can be reached at

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