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Juniors in the Village

Naper Notes Blog

Naper Settlement's blog will feature special events, historical happenings and interesting tidbits about Naperville's only history museum.

Nov 04

Keller's Farmstand - Growing in Naperville since 1852

Posted on November 4, 2016 at 9:59 AM by Emma Vodick

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In Naper Settlement’s journey to preserve the city’s rich agricultural history and explore the importance of locally-sourced produce, the Kellers stood out as an established farming family that has been in Naperville since 1852 and in the past 20 years have created three very successful farmstands in Naperville, Plainfield and Oswego, known as Keller’s Farmstand.

The Keller’s originated in Bavaria, Germany and purchased land along River Road on the north side of Naperville. During hard times, the first Frank Keller sold the farm and began work at The Naperville Bank, but after some time returned to farming and bought a new farm along Ogden Ave. It was used primarily as a dairy operation, but the farm also had a range of crops including apples, grapes, raspberries and potatoes. During the Great Depression, the Keller’s put up a table alongside Ogden Ave. which was a tremendous success.

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“My grandfather always said that the raspberries and blackberries paid the bills during the Great Depression,” said Frank Keller IV. “The specialty crops have always been an important part of the farm.”

In 1966, Frank Keller Jr. sold the Ogden Avenue farm and purchased a larger farm on 95th Street (now named Knoch Knolls Road). Keller Jr. then retired from farming, allowing his two sons, Frank III and Ray, to raise corn, soybeans, oats, hay and cattle. The dairying was discontinued.

After Frank III’s son, Frank Keller IV, graduated college, he decided to join the Peace Corps. He ended up working with farmers in southern Africa teaching them how to grow vegetables.

“I figured if I was teaching agriculture over there, I should probably do it myself,” said Keller IV. “Once I returned, I rented about 5 acres from my dad and uncle and started the farmstand on the home farm.”

In 1991, the first Keller’s Farmstand opened along 95th Street and shortly after the second location opened on their Plainfield farm. After a four-lane highway was planned to cut through the Keller’s Naperville farm, the family decided to acquire land in Oswego to make up for the loss. In 2008, the Keller’s decided to open their third farmstand in Oswego. This is where Keller IV started to grow specialty crops such as sweet corn, pumpkins and apples.

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Frank Keller IV thinks it’s incredibly important to educate community members on Naperville’s agricultural history. “When someone moves to Naperville they think ‘Wow, the layout of Naperville is great, there’s plenty of stores and businesses.’ But they don’t know that there were a lot of people spending their entire lives getting Naperville to what it is now, and a big part of that was the farm community,” said Keller. “There are a lot of families still around that were very instrumental. Pushing for good schools, running the city, etc.”

Keller’s Farmstand also welcomes schools to educate the students on farming and show them how great the United States agricultural system is.

“From my experience in the Peace Corps, you see that food is the number one issue for everything,” said Keller. “However, [in the United States] it’s mostly an afterthought, because agriculture is just so good here…. People don’t have to think about where their food comes from.”

Although there’s been plenty of hard days on the farm and bad weather throughout his career, Keller loves what he does. “Thankfully there’s many days where you love being on your own and working outside. I’ve enjoyed working with my family and my great grandfather. Our family is close enough to enjoy Naperville, but we are far enough away to feel like we’re in rural Illinois.”

For more information on the Keller Farmstands, visit their website at www.kellersfarmstand.com.

If you’d like to learn more about Naper Settlement’s Agricultural Interpretive Center and its goal to preserve the region’s agricultural history, visit our website at www.napersettlement.org/aic.


Oct 18

Farmers open their doors to Chicagoland mothers

Posted on October 18, 2016 at 1:47 PM by Emma Vodick

To create a relationship between farmers and consumers, the Illinois Farm Families Program invites Chicagoland mothers to tour farms and processing plants to ask questions and learn more about how they get their food, fuel and clothes.

Continue Reading...

Sep 19

Meet Barn Raising Benefit’s Masters of Ceremony

Posted on September 19, 2016 at 11:09 AM by Emma Vodick


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In an effort to preserve and support our region’s rich agricultural history at the Barn Raising Benefit on Saturday, Nov. 5, Naper Settlement and the Naperville Heritage Society are proud to announce two very special guests as masters of ceremony, award-winning agricultural journalists Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong.

Samuelson and Armstrong have dedicated their lives to educating the public on agriculture and have a weekly radio show on WGN Radio “The Morning Show with Orion and Max,” as well as a popular RFD-TV program “This Week in Agribusiness.” Samuelson and Armstrong both grew up on Midwestern farms and recognize the importance of educating urban residents and students on agriculture.

Proceeds from the Barn Raising event will benefit the new 5,000-square-foot Agricultural Interpretive Center that will be an ideal place for students, teachers and visitors to share and talk about the history, business and modern-day innovations of agriculture.

For more than 55 years at WGN, Samuelson says he’s been trying to build bridges of understanding between farmers and city residents. With less than 2% of the world’s population involved in producing food, fiber and energy, Samuelson thinks it’s essential to educate people living in cities. “It becomes more important than ever to educate city folks, or as I say non-farm consumers, on what it takes to put food on their table, clothes on their back, a roof over their head and now energy in the tank,” said Samuelson.

“I think if the tools farmers use is explained to [consumers] they’ll have a better understanding of why farmers do what they do,” said Armstrong on the advancements of agriculture for the ever growing population. “We need high output agriculture, scientifically based agriculture and environmentally friendly agriculture which is what our farmers are working on today.” 

Armstrong previously lived in Naperville for 25 years and is overjoyed the community is supporting the Agricultural Interpretive Center. “I’m so thrilled that the community is embracing this kind of a center,” said Armstrong. “You can go into a lot of places to get information about our food supply... but with the kind of interactive displays that will be at the facility in Naperville it will really bring [the message] home.”

Samuelson hopes the center will create more interest in agricultural science. “I'm hopeful the Agricultural Center can lead the way to better understanding and that's why it is important to support educational programs based on science,” said Samuelson. 

Samuelson and Armstrong have won countless awards and honors throughout their careers. As the most honored agriculture journalist in the country, Samuelson is a member of the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame, the National 4-H Hall of Fame, the National Association of Farm Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the National Radio Hall of Fame. 

With 30 years of agriculture broadcasting under his belt, Armstrong has created broadcasts from all 50 states and 30 different foreign nations. He has twice received the Oscar in Agriculture from the National Association of Farm Broadcasting with awards in the highest honors by the National Agri-Marketing Association and the American Agricultural Editors Association.

Join us for a unique evening to support Naper Settlement’s Agricultural Interpretative Center at the Barn Raising Benefit on Nov. 5 at 6 p.m. at 523 S. Webster St., Naperville, IL. This special night will feature a preview of the center, while guests enjoy cocktails and a beautiful, locally sourced farm-to-table dinner by green restaurant and caterer Big Delicious Planet. Tickets are $250 each. To reserve tickets or for more information, please contact Nata-Leigh Preas at PreasN@naperville.il.us.

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