Charles Kolliker, 5, of South Elgin, pretends to steer the tractor while his grandmothers Marilyn Zimmer of Elgin, center, and Maria Kolliker of Miami enjoy watching him at the Kane County Farm Bureau in St. Charles on Friday, April 5, 2013. | Denise Moran~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 11, 2013 6:12AM
ST. CHARLES — Fewer than 2 percent of Americans today farm for a living today, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Only 17 percent live in rural areas.
The Kane County Farm Bureau’s 8th annual Touch-A-Tractor event, which was held this past weekend, allowed kids from cities and suburbs to sit behind the wheel of a tractor and climb steps to the cab of a combine. Children also were able to visit farm animals and ride a pedal tractor through a maze. A free drawing was held to give one lucky child their own pedal tractor.
This year’s program featured 15 antique and three modern tractors, a combine, a sprayer, a corn planter, and a disc planter. The machines came from places throughout the Kane County area, including farms in and near Elgin, Elburn, Big Rock, Wayne, Maple Park, Hampshire and Batavia.
“People get to see the equipment that is used for preparing the soil, planting the seeds and harvesting the crops,” said Ryan Klassy, the farm bureau’s information director.
Bruce Nagle of Big Rock brought modern farm equipment. Curtis Marschinke drove his 1949 Farmall H tractor from his farm in Wayne to the Touch-A-Tractor event.
“I stayed off Route 64,” Marschinke said. “It took about an hour to drive the eight and a half miles.”
Meredith Day of Batavia came to the farm bureau on Friday with sons Isaiah, 5; Peter, 4; and Benjamin, 2. The Day family was driving to St. Louis later that afternoon.
“We wanted to visit the tractors and get the wiggles out before the long car ride,” Meredith said.
Amy McLoughlin of St. Charles said she has been attending the Touch-A-Tractor event with her oldest son, Nathan, 6, and her 5-year-old triplets, Matthew, Kelly and Elizabeth, for the past four years.
“We like to come here,” Amy said. “The kids love sitting on the tractors. It’s not always the same. They brought bigger tractors and a bigger combine this year.”
Gary and Lin McClurg from Oconomowoc, Wis., brought their grandchildren, Connor, 4, and Gracyn, 2, of St. Charles, to see the tractors.
“Connor loves them,” Lin said. “He also likes the John Deere tractor we have at our home.”
Vinny Hlavacek, 6, of St. Charles enjoyed watching the machines used for shelling and grinding corn.
“These machines show how farming used to be when there was no electricity,” Marschinke said. “The hit and miss gas engine we are using to power the grinder would be replaced today by an electric motor.”
Burlington Central High School students J.J. Swanson, Jonathan Klein and Zach Ramsey are members of the Future Farmers of America.
The trio sold raffle tickets during the Touch-A-Tractor event for a grand prize of either a 1921 Ford Model T Huckster or $5,000 cash. There also will be second through fifth place prizes. The raffle benefits the Kane County Farm Bureau Foundation’s Ag literacy and scholarships.
On Sunday afternoon, the foundation held a ceremony to recognize 26 local students who have been awarded college scholarships.
Michael Bihlmaier of Marengo, an award-winning chainsaw carver, created a custom sculpture of a tree with farm scenes for the farm bureau lawn.
While admission to the Touch-A-Tractor event was free, attendees were asked to bring non-perishable food items to support the Million Meal Challenge. To celebrate its centennial, the foundation is striving to hit a cumulative donation of 1 million meals for local area food pantries. To date, it has provided 700,000 meals.