Wind N Oaks Farm

Wind N Oaks Farm

John Moore
Manhattan, IL
Vegetables & Beans

Wind N Oaks Farm is located in Manhattan, IL which is just about an hour southwest of Chicago. I spoke with John Moore just a few minutes before he was off to the mushroom house to pick. John, his son, and partner Claudio do all the farming which means hard work and long hours but results in great local produce.

The Farm 

Farming has been apart of John’s family for generations. The farm was started as a dairy operation by John’s grandfather in 1925 after he graduated from the University of Illinois with an agricultural degree. John’s father was born and raised on the farm and eventually took it over. He gave his father an ultimatum, that it was either him or the cows so 3 months before John was born the dairy heard was sold off. His father raised hogs and the farm grew from an initial 160 acres to over 1700 acres! John grew up on the hog farm and eventually his veterinarian brother-in-law over saw the well-being of the animals. In 1999 John’s brother-in-law moved on and the hogs were sold off. “Me and my father looked at each other like what are we going to do now?” A few years later, at 70 years old John’s father decided it was time to retire. “He told me he didn’t want to be driving a tractor every morning.”

John was faced with a difficult decision, to keep the family farm running and convert it to a vegetable operation or to try his hand at something new. He weighed his options and wondered how just one person could manage everything. The way the farm economy was going he knew he wouldn’t be able to make ends meet by just working the farm. So many of this country’s independent family farms face the same decision as they can’t support themselves on farming alone. With nothing truly keeping him in Manhattan anymore John went into restaurant management and moved to Tampa Bay. Eventually John found himself really missing farming. The independent nature of the work called him back to his hometown where he started working 10 acres. It took 2 years of preparation and planning but he converted the family’s hog operation into a vegetable farm. With the help of his son and his partner Claudio, John was successful in making 3 green houses (2 for hydroponic lettuces and 1 for tomatoes) and a mushroom house. The other 5 acres of the farm consists of fields that are divvied up into different vegetables crops like sweet corn and barley. If you were getting some beautiful lettuces from Fresh Picks over the winter you were most likely getting it from John. 

Typical Farm Day

A typical day usually starts at 8 AM in the greenhouses making sure everything looks good and everything has plenty of water. John’s prime concern is the mushroom house while his son takes care of the field crops and Claudio works in the greenhouses. Mushroom picking takes a good portion of the day as mushrooms can double their size in less than 12 hours! John must be vigilant with the mushrooms to make sure he picks them at the perfect moment. “When the mushrooms are ready to go you have to be ready.” Some days John will finish up with a first picking and find that the mushrooms he started with have grown 2 to 3 inches and he has to pick all over again! He does whatever it takes to pick them at their peak which often results in working as late as midnight or even into the early morning!

Best of Farming 

For John the best thing about farming is being his own boss. He’s able to do something different each day and is not stuck at a desk. Being able to be outdoors is definitely a great thing about farming!