CHAMPAIGN — Around a century ago, a large white barn with a rounded roof was built on a field north of Champaign. In any direction from that farm, the view was flat and unobstructed, meaning farmers could see for miles on a clear day.
For that reason, “Clearview” was written on that barn, which was torn down by the current owners of the property, The Atkins Group, because it wasn’t structurally sound. When the company decided to put in a new, regenerative farm on the land, they drew up a rendering of the farm and made it their logo.
“That was the classic barn shape,” said Jim Goss, who manages The Atkins Group’s farms.
When members of the public visit Clearview Farm’s 25-acre sunflower field this summer, they’ll be able to walk through the rendering of the barn carved out in the field. It’s similar to a corn maze but simple enough that it’s meant to be more of a path with a few clearings for people to go for a walk and take photos in a stunning field of sunflowers.
The Atkins Group planted a similar sunflower field last year at the former Stone Creek Golf Course, which was shut down before it was donated to the University of Illinois.
This year’s field, though, will be better, Goss said.
“When you get that whole field of sunflowers in bloom, it’s going to be stunning visually,” Goss said. “There’s a lot of topography that we didn’t have at Stone Creek. The sunflowers are going to be a lot bigger this year, because they were planted on time, for one, and the soil is a lot better than what we had at Stone Creek to work with.
“I think a lot of people will notice that the sunflower field is a lot taller. I think there’s going to be a lot of really neat opportunities for photography.”
While they’re out at the sunflower field, Goss hopes people tour the rest of the fields. Among the plants on the 140-acre farm are quinoa, flax, canola, alfalfa, wheat, triticale, popcorn and sweet corn, most of which Goss said are rare in this region in this large of a field.
Some crops will be sold to individuals for different purposes. For instance, the sunflowers might be harvested and used for premium bird seed, he said.
“I’ve been managing farms for almost 33 years now, and this is one of the most fun projects I’ve been able to do,” Goss said. “It’s pretty exciting. We expected some things to fail, and we haven’t had complete washout failures on anything.”
This won’t be the last year for the regenerative farm. Goss said The Atkins Group is already looking at plans for next year, when it will rotate the crops with each other, phasing a few in and a few out.
“The ag nerd in me says this regenerative agriculture will be the future of agriculture,” he said. “We’re not necessarily early adopters, but we’re bringing it to the forefront with a lot of interesting things that other people aren’t doing.”