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In 1860, Bill and Michelle Unland’s ancestors purchased land in Cass County. Four generations later, Bill and Michelle are continuing the family farming tradition, but with their own twist. While they still grow corn, soybeans, and wheat, the Unlands are known most for their produce.

Boasting three high tunnel greenhouses and 15 acres for pumpkins and gourds alone, the Unlands grow multiple varieties of more than 20 fruits, vegetables, and melons. They sell their produce from their home farm, to wholesalers, and at two farmers market locations – one in Beardstown, and one in Jacksonville.

“One of the benefits we are able to offer as local producers is a guarantee,” says Michelle. “If a customer takes home a watermelon and they’re not happy with it, we will take it back and give them another – we can’t tell if it’s good until you cut into it and we don’t want to sell a bad product.”

While traditional farming practices have been made less labor intensive, growing and harvesting produce remains just as arduous as always. Thankfully for Bill and Michelle, some of the next two generations of Unlands help around the farm and get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

“Nothing about this job is easy; it’s work intensive and stressful, but it’s in my blood,” says Bill. “We enjoy the work and the connections we are able to make with our family and customers.”

The Unlands built their relationship with Farm Credit Illinois loan officer, Mike Lonergan, in the same place they connect with consumers – at a local farmers market.

“Tracking down a specialty producer during harvest isn’t easy – and getting them to stop their around the clock manual labor long enough to talk about their upcoming loan renewal isn’t exactly their ideal afternoon,” says Mike Lonergan, FCI vice president in Jacksonville. “Understanding their operation’s priorities and unique needs helps build our relationship and allows Bill and Michelle to continue their work without too much interruption.”

“The secret to a successful market is getting the public to know your product,” says Bill. “Farm Credit is the same way. Your members know that you’re behind them and that you believe in them.”

“Mike gets his hands dirty; he knows what it takes to raise a crop and understands that you may have a crop loss, but you’re still going to get right back out there and start digging,” says Michelle.

As the agriculture economy changes, the Unlands are thankful for a diverse operation that will help them supplement their income.

“There are some days our produce has been more profitable than our row crops or even livestock,” says Bill. “Sometimes when things aren’t very good in one area, another will kick in and get you over the rough places.”

“Every day you have to make sure you meet your budget and don’t overspend,” says Michelle