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The Illinois Beef Association recognizes the top junior, seedstock breeder, commercial producer, environmental steward and family in the state.

Austin Keating, Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer

June 20, 2019

3 Min Read
Derrek and Rick Dean with Illinois Beef Assoc. members
COMMERCIAL: Derrek Dean (center left) and Rick Dean (center right) receive the Commercial Producer of the Year award from the Illinois Beef Association.

Five Illinois farm families received awards from the Illinois Beef Association in mid-June for their dedication to the cattle industry.

At a ceremony in Effingham, the association recognized this year’s outstanding junior, environmental steward, commercial producer and seedstock breeder, as well as the farm family of the year.

Outstanding Junior of the Year. Award recipient Leslie Walker, Danvers, grew up on her family’s purebred Simmental operation. She exhibits at cattle shows all over the country and says as a kid, she couldn’t wait to get a hold of the halter.

Walker has served as president of the Illinois Junior Beef Association for the past year. She’s involved in the American Junior Simmental Association, and as a senior at the University of Illinois, she’s the Hoof and Horn Showdown chairwoman and a member of the 4-H House Cooperative Sorority.

At U of I, Leslie is majoring in agricultural economics and wants to work in finance as a loan officer or commodities broker. She hopes this will allow her to help producers and give back to the industry.

Environmental Steward of the Year. Joey and Nikki Chandler, Marissa, received IBA’s Environmental Steward of the Year Award. The Chandlers operate Hillstown Farms. When Joey was 15 years old, he bought five cows and developed a passion for raising cattle. The Chandlers have shown a steady growth in their purebred Simmental cattle operation over the past 10 years.

Located on and around strip mine ground, the Chandlers were able to purchase property that was identified as rough: unimproved pastures with some original strip mine ground. They worked hard to improve those acres to accommodate their 300-head cow herd.

As their operation grew, conservation, stewardship and land improvement helped them restore 400 acres of productive grassland, which now loses less water and soil. Hillstown Farms is a refuge for several wildlife species, including ducks, geese and deer. Joey knew what he wanted to accomplish and has included sons Tanner and Tyler in the operation.

Commercial Producer of the Year. Award recipients Rick and Barb Dean raise beef, pork, corn and soybeans with their family in LeRoy. IBA recognized the family’s commercial operation, Dean Bacon and Beef.

Several members of the Dean family live nearby and are involved with the family farm, including Rick’s youngest son, Derrek. Derrek’s return to the farm paved the way for growing the cow-calf herd and beef feedlot.

Seedstock Breeder of the Year. Seedstock Breeders of the Year Bob and Sherry Adcock and Justin and Emily Adcock operate Adcock Land and Livestock near Moweaqua. Now home to around 150 cows, the cattle operation began with a 4-H project 40 years ago. Since then, the family has shown cattle competitively all over the country. 

Adcock family with Illinois Beef Assoc. members

SEEDSTOCK: The Adcock family receives their Seedstock Breeder of the Year award from IBA in Effingham, Ill., in mid-June.

Each of Bob and Sherry’s children have continued their involvement with the industry and the family farm. The Adcocks set their criteria bar high for each Angus and Simmental animal that remains at the operation or is sold to customers as purebreds. They focus on high-quality genetics, using artificial insemination and embryo transfer. The Adcocks promote cattle in several online heifer and embryo sales throughout the year and sell some cattle through a production sale organized by a group of breeders.

Farm Family of the Year. Bill Graff and his family in Middletown have been raising corn, soybeans and cattle since the mid-1970s, but generations of their family have farmed since the 1820s.

With a deep agricultural heritage, it was important to the Graffs that their kids were involved in the industry. Bill and his wife, Judi, say raising their three kids on the farm has taught them not only about agriculture but also about life.

About the Author(s)

Austin Keating

Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer

Austin Keating is the newest addition to the Farm Progress editorial team working as an associate editor for Prairie Farmer magazine. Austin was born and raised in Mattoon and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in journalism. Following graduation in 2016, he worked as a science writer and videographer for the university’s supercomputing center. In June 2018, Austin obtained a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where he was the campus correspondent for Planet Forward and a Comer scholar.

Austin is passionate about distilling agricultural science as a service for readers and creating engaging content for viewers. During his time at UI, he won two best feature story awards from the student organization JAMS — Journalism Advertising and Media Students — as well as a best news story award.

Austin lives in Charleston. He can sometimes be found at his family’s restaurant the Alamo Steakhouse and Saloon in Mattoon, or on the Embarrass River kayaking. Austin is also a 3D printing and modeling hobbyist.

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