The Kankakee area is home to natural treasures – miles of beautiful river, wildlife, and agricultural scenes that locals and tourists enjoy. Our Kankakee landscape has also been the foundation that has helped our community succeed, grow, and thrive.
Kankakee farmers and landowners are proud caretakers of the land. We know land is a natural resource and we work hard every day to protect it. We’ve been doing the right things for the right reasons.
Farms are ecosystems in and of themselves. From the soil to the animals that live there, to the crops, each has an important role to play. A change in this delicate system can have wide-reaching effects. Farmers understand that the decisions they make on their land must be considered carefully.
“Farmers are stewards of the land. We want to protect the wildlife around us. We live out here, and we enjoy nature as much as the suburban and urban person looking for their weekend getaway.”Kankakee County farmer
Originally settled by the Pottawatomi Indians, the Kankakee River Valley became home to European settlers in the 1820s and 30s. Immigrants from New York and Vermont moved west to Kankakee County and settled in Momence. The Illinois Central Railroad helped to establish the city of Kankakee, and provided business, lumber, transportation, trade, and a means for farmers to sell and ship larger crops.
In addition to the railroad, the Kankakee River provided opportunities for the city to thrive. The river provided water, power, recreation, transportation, and fishing. It also provided a beautiful backdrop.
The natural resources, fertile soil, and early development of the Kankakee area lead to a strong agricultural economy in Kankakee County. The Kankakee area is bountiful in natural resources with rivers, forests, plains, and parks, and economically sound with a diverse array of agricultural products.
Corn and soybeans are the most prevalent crops grown in Kankakee County, but there are many specialty crops grown in the eastern part of the county. The sandy soil types in eastern Kankakee County are ideally suited for specialty crop production. Additionally, with the City of Chicago within an hour’s drive from the farms in Kankakee County, there is an excellent nearby market for these specialty crop products.
More than 5,400 acres in Kankakee County are devoted to specialty crops, including vegetables, herbs, fruits, and melons. Kankakee County has the largest herb growing farm in the Midwest. This herb farm, located near Momence, Illinois, grows basil, cilantro, kale, chives, green onions, curly parsley, Italian parsley, dill, oregano, garlic chives, stinging nettles, sage, and collards. There are also several large sod farms in Kankakee County as well as potato, cabbage, squash, pepper, and pumpkin production. Kankakee County is a top producing Illinois county for pumpkins, and Kankakee County grows more jack-o-lantern pumpkins than any other county in the United States.
Specialty crops require a higher investment, are a lot more labor intensive, and are much more susceptible to disease and adverse growing conditions. However, acre per acre, these specialty crops are more valuable when compared to traditional corn and soybean production. As a community proud of its unique, diverse agricultural heritage, many local festivals relate to these specialty crops.
Present Day Agriculture in Kankakee, Ford, and Iroquois Counties
The USDA Census of Agriculture is undertaken every five years. The Census of Agriculture is the only county-level, complete survey of all actual sales revenues generated by each crop and livestock enterprise present in each county, as well as valuable demographic and sales-class data. It is a "snapshot" dataset that can be compared to previous surveys and also to the USDA annual individual crop and livestock surveys, such as the annual reporting on production of the primary crops for each county in Illinois.
Agriculture and related industries contribue annually:
(over $1 Billion) of the total economic output from Ford County
(over $1 Billion) of the total economic output from Iroquois County
(over $1.5 Billion) of the total economic output from Kankakee County
Rankings in the State:
1st in other crops and hay
3rd in vegetables, melons, and potatoes
4th in nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, and sod
5th in poultry and eggs, and laying hens
7th in harvested vegetables
1st in corn for grain
1st in inventory of laying hens
2nd in total value of ag products sold
3rd in the value of crops including nursery and greenhouse
3rd in the sale of grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas
3rd in poultry and eggs
4th in acres of soybeans for beans
9th in sale of cattle and calves
9th in hogs and pigs
17th in soybean production