Richard and Peggy Stewart family with the new bicentennial farm

The whole Richard and Peggy Stewart family with the new bicentennial farm sign. They will be the only farm family earning their bicentennial farm award at the fair.

COULTERVILLE, Ill. — Richard Stewart’s ancestors moved from South Carolina to settle in Illinois in 1819. That choice and years of hard work establishing a southwestern Illinois farm have made the family one of only five official bicentennial family farms in the state.

Stewart’s ancestor, David Cathcart, originally emigrated from Ireland before choosing to establish roots in Randolph County in southern Illinois under the Homestead Act, on April 30 more than 200 years ago. The family chose the Prairie State to start a Presbyterian church and farm.

This year, Richard and Peggy Stewart are celebrating the gumption of their ancestors surviving through the Dirty ’30s, the farm crisis of the 1980s and modern day challenges to keep the family farm thriving and ready for the next generation to make its mark.

They will be among almost 200 families invited to the Illinois State Fair breakfast to celebrate 142 new centennial, 56 sesquicentennial and their one bicentennial farm on Aug. 13, Ag Day at the fair.

The Stewart family also held a family reunion this year celebrating their history. Today the farm grows corn, soybeans and wheat with a few “stock cows,” mostly for meat for the family.

“We milked cows here until 2001. The facilities were worn out, and so was I,” Stewart jokes.

Now their son-in-law and daughter, Tim and Mariah Harle, lead the farm operation. Stewart helps on the farm when needed. He said he is happy to see things in place for the next generation to continue the family’s long history of agriculture in Illinois.

Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.