MORRIS – Former Chicago resident Debbie Hennigan had no experience with farming before 2012, but the former city dweller was honored as the 2013 Friend of the Grundy County Farm Bureau at the bureau’s annual meeting earlier this month.
“I am very honored,” Hennigan said Monday. “The farm bureau is such a hardworking organization. People expect to go to the store and don’t realize all of the work that goes into producing food.”
Hennigan was awarded because of her participation in the Grundy County Farm Bureau’s garden program. Since 2012, Hennigan and residents of Narvick House in Morris have cultivated a garden on an unused plot of farm land in Mazon. They keep all of the produce from the farm and distribute it to workers and residents of the Illinois Valley Community Living Programs, previously known as Narvick House.
Illinois Valley Community Living Programs serves people with disabilities to help them live independently.
“They got to take the produce back home and enjoy it, but they also learned about agriculture and farming,” said Tasha Bunting, farm bureau manager. “Debbie has been very instrumental in keeping that program going.”
The garden program won recognition last year from the national farm bureau for its work with Narvick House, so awarding Hennigan at the annual meeting was an easy choice, said farm bureau secretary Tammy Halterman.
“Immediately, this program was a hit,” Halterman said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group.”
The land used was the childhood farm of Halterman whose mother worked the garden until she developed Alzheimer’s and died a few years ago.
Hennigan said the women at the farm bureau, specifically the Ladies Agriculture Committee, helped introduce her to farming techniques. The farm bureau also bought a freezer and taught the program members how to preserve their produce.
“Debbie learned a lot,” Halterman said. “When she started, she didn’t know a weed from a plant, but now she knows.”
Hennigan said they grew okra, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber and several other fruits and vegetables on the farm.
“[Illinois Valley residents] absolutely loved it,” Hennigan said. “They said eating directly from the farm was something new to them.”
Also at the annual meeting Jan. 9, the Grundy County Farm Bureau recognized 2014 as the organization’s centennial birthday.
“On April first, the farm bureau will actually have been in existence for 100 years,” Bunting said.
Throughout the year, the farm bureau will hold special events to honor their long history and the many changes in agriculture in Grundy County throughout the last century.
Bunting said the details for all of the events have not been worked out, but they plan to start with a farm bureau open house on April 1.
In accordance with their centennial birthday, the bureau also honored all of its past presidents.
“We wanted to recognize them for their service and leadership throughout these 100 years,” Bunting said.