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posted: 10/26/2012 8:58 AM

Moving Picture: Farming that's old school at Primrose Farm in St. Charles

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  • Jon Kuester has been a living history farmer at Primrose Farm in St. Charles for four years.

       Jon Kuester has been a living history farmer at Primrose Farm in St. Charles for four years.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Jon Kuester grabs a handful of chickens so he can clip their wings. They clip one on each bird to keep them from being able to jump or fly over the fence of their enclosure.

       Jon Kuester grabs a handful of chickens so he can clip their wings. They clip one on each bird to keep them from being able to jump or fly over the fence of their enclosure.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Living history farmer Jon Kuester takes the horses out to work in the field at Primrose Farm in St. Charles.

       Living history farmer Jon Kuester takes the horses out to work in the field at Primrose Farm in St. Charles.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Jon Kuester milks the cows at Primrose Farm in St. Charles. They have three cows producing milk this fall.

       Jon Kuester milks the cows at Primrose Farm in St. Charles. They have three cows producing milk this fall.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Jon Kuester drags a wheat drill behind an International Harvester McCormick-Deering Farmall at Primrose Farm in St. Charles.

       Jon Kuester drags a wheat drill behind an International Harvester McCormick-Deering Farmall at Primrose Farm in St. Charles.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Jon Kuester introduces a group of kids from Batavia Covenant Preschool to Doc, the horse at Primrose Farm.

       Jon Kuester introduces a group of kids from Batavia Covenant Preschool to Doc, the horse at Primrose Farm.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Moving Picture: 1930s Farmer

 
 

Growing up, farming was in Jon Kuester's blood.

It just wasn't in his plans.

Kuester, the living history farmer at Primrose Farm in St. Charles, came reluctantly to his career path.

"I grew up on a farm in central Indiana," he said, "But I never had any interest in farming as a kid."

Kuester wanted to study history and maybe teach. He got a job at a museum at 15 and has worked in museums ever since.

"I didn't let anyone know that I could farm for several years, and when it came up it opened a whole new window of jobs I could do full-time professionally," Kuester said.

So now, Kuester does farm. And teach. And study and live history. As a living history farmer he works Primrose Farm in St. Charles as close as possible to how it was done in the 1930s. He milks the cows with a surge milker. He uses a horse-drawn corn binder to shock the corn field. And he passes along that knowledge to the thousands of visitors to the park each year.

Kuester, who lives in East Dundee, has a unique perspective based on the experiences he's had at the different jobs during 14 years of professional farming. He's worked at sites that recreated farms in the 1780s, 1830s, 1880s and now 1930s at Primrose Farm. "When I look back, I can see every 50-year period from the beginning of this country in the 1780s up to my childhood in the 1980s. It definitely gives me an advantage."

The name Primrose Farm dates back to 1917, though farming took place on the land in the mid-1800s when George Minard bought the property. The most recent farmers on the land were Swan Anderson and then his son Ernie. Developers bought the property in 1994 after Ernie Anderson died and it was acquired by the St. Charles Park District in 1995.

Kuester started working there four years ago.

Operating a 1930s farm in 2012 is not without its difficulties.

"One problem is that we don't have the support of a 1930s community. We have wonderful support of the modern community, but when our equipment breaks we can't go next door and borrow the neighbor's. There is no 1930s neighbor."

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