Outside of a small farming community in central Illinois spreads a quilt of corn, beans, prairie, and gravel roads interconnecting farms and families. The seeds of Walnut Grove gave rise here shortly after the turn the twentieth century. Early settlers built the farmhouse in this quilt of promise connecting to Walnut Grove Road. At that time the sixteen acre Walnut Grove began it’s roots just south of the farmhouse. Accompanying the farmland the settlers planted walnut trees along the property line married to the road stretching more than half a mile. Walnut Grove was a place of raising cattle, harvesting corn and beans, drying your laundry outdoors, bailing and hauling hay, making jams and jellies from the fruit trees, and canning the garden’s yield. While much time was spent doing chores we always made time for fun. We enjoyed building hay forts in the barn, fishing in the pond, dipping into Mom’s cookie dough, jumping in piles of straw from the hayloft, horseback riding in the snow, and just being kids. It was also the place of many beginnings and hard truths. Walnut Grove is where we took our first steps and spoke our first words. In the garden we learned the reward of the fruits of labor with the tastes of the seasons. In the fields we learned to steer Dad’s pickup truck, while he dropped bales of hay for the cattle. In the pastures we learned to ride and hang on tight with our beloved Appaloosa, Ginger Boy. We later learned to say goodbye when we buried him beneath the pasture we once roamed. On the frozen pond we learned to ice skate and appreciate a warm cup of Mom’s hot cocoa. No matter the adventure, chore, or life lesson; we were always together. Walnut Grove is where we learned the meaning of family.
As our farm and family grew, the world changed. Farm productions changed, super stores replaced main streets, and generations of factory workers no longer had a place of employment after a massive closure of industrial plants in the Midwest. The economy took a turn for the worst and Walnut Grove was lost to us. Our memories and stories are nothing but bittersweet. When Walnut Grove was first settled 80% of the U.S. population was employed in agriculture. Today less than 1% of our population are farm families. The quilt our ancestors once found is disappearing and with it the connection of families and farms. It is our biggest dream to bring to share the values and rewards we once learned through farming within the pages and projects of each Bittersweet Walnut Grove edition.