Young Leader vice chair: Farm Bureau is a family affair

By Ashley Rice

Wayne Gehrke of Kane County is no stranger to Farm Bureau. In fact, he jumped at the chance to be involved on the county level after college, and eventually the state level. 

“I was involved with Young Leaders as soon as I graduated college in 2012,” explained Gehrke. “I got involved with Young Leaders on the county level. My parents have been involved with Farm Bureau. Both of them have sat on the county board. So, it was a little bit of a family affair there, too. They were involved, so it was easy for me to get involved. I started to get involved on the state level by going to the agri-quiz bowl at the state fair and going on a couple of the agriculture industry tours. And as I got involved on the state level, I was asked to be on the Young Leader committee. It just kind of built on itself.”

Expanding the farming operation to include hay and pumpkins in addition to corn and soybeans, allowed both Wayne and Carolyn to return to the farm.

Their roadside pumpkin stand, known as The Pumpkin Wagon, is located on U.S. Highway 20 in Elgin. At just 11 years old, Wayne and Carolyn started growing and selling pumpkins, and haven’t stopped since.

“We are grateful to all the customers who supported us then, and continue to do so almost 20 years later,” shared Carolyn.

“Fall is one of our favorite times of the year, and we look forward to welcoming everyone to our stand,” added Wayne.

As 2020 vice chair of the Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leaders executive committee, Gehrke said the year has not been without challenges.

“It’s certainly not what I expected as vice chair,” noted Gehrke. “I think how we (the young leaders) adapt is kind of ongoing. We’ve all realized this isn’t going away anytime soon, so what do we as a Young Leader committee want to be able to accomplish? I think that we as a committee will have to look and re-evaluate, and talk about ways that we can keep the membership involved and make sure that everyone is doing OK.”

In closing, Gehrke noted how Farm Bureau and experienced agricultural professionals have been beneficial to him as young farmer.

“For those who aren’t involved in Farm Bureau, I’d recommend it. It’s played a big part in my life these last 10 years. Also, I would recommend seeking out advice from people who have been in the business — not being afraid to ask questions or to try new things.”

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