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updated: 6/8/2012 10:15 AM

Moving Picture: 19th century farm thrives in Schaumburg

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  • Evan Zimmerman plows while volunteer Chuck Henry of Schaumburg holds the reins at the Volkening Heritage Farm in Schaumburg.

       Evan Zimmerman plows while volunteer Chuck Henry of Schaumburg holds the reins at the Volkening Heritage Farm in Schaumburg.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Evan Zimmerman closes the door to the corn crib as he carries a treat for the hogs at the Volkening Heritage Farm in Schaumburg.

       Evan Zimmerman closes the door to the corn crib as he carries a treat for the hogs at the Volkening Heritage Farm in Schaumburg.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Using a pitchfork, Zimmerman drops hay down to the lower level of the barn while feeding the animals at the Volkening Heritage Farm.

       Using a pitchfork, Zimmerman drops hay down to the lower level of the barn while feeding the animals at the Volkening Heritage Farm.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Zimmerman pauses in front of the barn at the farm in Schaumburg.

       Zimmerman pauses in front of the barn at the farm in Schaumburg.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Zimmerman attaches a milking machine to Heidi, one of the dairy cows.

       Zimmerman attaches a milking machine to Heidi, one of the dairy cows.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • The two Percheron horses on the farm need most of Zimmerman's attention.

       The two Percheron horses on the farm need most of Zimmerman's attention.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Zimmerman brings the horses into the barn for grooming.

       Zimmerman brings the horses into the barn for grooming.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Moving Picture: Urban Farming

 
 

Overseeing the daily operations of an 1880s living-history farm in a suburb of more than 74,000 people is a unique challenge for Evan Zimmerman.

Zimmerman is the farm operations coordinator at the Schaumburg Park District's Volkening Heritage Farm at the Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg.

The farm is open to the public on a seasonal basis, and Zimmerman, with the help of staff members and volunteers, shows visitors what life was like on a Schaumburg farm during the 19th century as animals are cared for, the grounds are maintained, and crops are planted and harvested.

When he needs to purchase supplies like animal feed, or if he has to sell an animal, Zimmerman must drive a good distance to communities that still support agriculture.

"Not only are we running a farm, we're running a farm in a suburban atmosphere," Zimmerman said. "And I can't just go to downtown Schaumburg, or even to downtown Chicago, to get grain. That doesn't exist anymore."

Zimmerman says his interest in farming stems from having grown up in an agricultural area outside Cincinnati. After college, he worked at a living history farm near Des Moines, Iowa, then landed the job at the Volkening Heritage Farm more than three years ago.

Zimmerman rents an apartment above the visitor's center so he can monitor activity on the farm during the night. If problems arise he can tend to them quickly.

Animals at the farm include varieties of poultry such as chickens, ducks and geese, as well as cattle and hogs. The cattle have names that reflect Schaumburg's German immigrant heritage, including a Jersey steer named Otto von Bismarck and a milking shorthorn cow named Heidi.

A pair of Percheron draft horses named Prince and Duke receive much of Zimmerman's attention at the farm. The massive horses must be well fed, groomed, and kept busy.

As jobs go, Zimmerman's is certainly different from those in gray cubicles in nearby Schaumburg office buildings.

"That's what's nice about here, I spend a lot of time outdoors," Zimmerman said, "but I have to spend time in my office, too."

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