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    Family Farm Stays In The Family

    By Jodi Torpey

    Photography by Scott Morgan

    When Lane and Carol Burnidge look out the window of their northeastern Illinois farm home, they see a familiar, but changing, landscape. Like so many rural areas, development is steadily creeping in as more and more farms go up for sale and landowners consent to developers' top-dollar offers for their acreage.

    The Burnidges are holding out on selling their land- not to get more money for their 10.5 acre farm, but to make their living from the land and allow their youngest child, 11-year-old son, Martin, the advantages of growing up out in the country.

    Still, they see their neighbors around Hampshire — located about halfway between Chicago and Rockford, Ill. — make a killing on selling their land.

    "The land across the road was a dairy farm for three generations," Lane says. "But they sold their place for $36,000 an acre last summer. Another neighbor is asking $96,000 an acre for his place."

    The Burnidges briefly considered selling out and moving to Indiana about six years ago, but their ties to the land were too strong. Lane's ancestors settled nearby in the 1830s; Carol's about 40 years later. Besides, their first grandchild had just arrived.

    So despite encroaching development, the Burnidges continue to grow and sell produce from a farm stand, and open their farm, named "Enjoy Pioneer Farm," to guests who want to see their herd of 40 registered Dorset sheep, particularly during lambing and sheep-shearing season. It's also a popular stop for old-timers who like to reminisce about growing up on a farm.

    And this is where they want to be. "People who come to the farm stand pull up and say, 'Bet you really love it.' They can see the value in the whole thing," Carol says.

    Their young son is having fun learning what that's all about. "Martin shows his sheep at the county fair, just like his grandfather did," Carol says.

    His parents are enjoying watching their farm business grow. "The first year we started by digging up perennials around the house, putting them in any containers we could find and selling them at our self-serve farm stand," Lane says. The next year they sold 800 plants; last year they sold 7,000.

    The farm stand is located on a busy road about 100 feet from their house. Senior citizens from the neighboring subdivision drive over every day in the summer to buy one tomato and two ears of sweet corn. Young professionals stop by for vegetables on their way home from work.

    "They pick up what they want and put the money in a little wooden box," Lane says. "We do $20,000 worth of business at the end of our driveway."

    Each fall, they stock the stand with pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn, broomcorn, and light-up trick-or-treat carriers. At Christmas, they sell wreaths.

    Running a farm stand is hard work, but it's well worth it, Carol says. "I think it's unbelievable that we're able to do what we're doing."