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posted: 4/19/2017 7:00 AM

EXCHANGE: Man escapes Chicago bustle to be a hobby farmer

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  • In this March 28, 2017 photo, T.K. Tushaus feeds his chickens and ducks at his home  outside of Ursa, Ill. Tushaus worked in Chicago for decades before returning to the area to become a hobby farmer in which he grows almost everything he needs to be self-sustaining. (Jake Shane /The Quincy Herald-Whig via AP)

    In this March 28, 2017 photo, T.K. Tushaus feeds his chickens and ducks at his home outside of Ursa, Ill. Tushaus worked in Chicago for decades before returning to the area to become a hobby farmer in which he grows almost everything he needs to be self-sustaining. (Jake Shane /The Quincy Herald-Whig via AP)
    Associated Press

 
 

URSA, Ill. -- T.K. Tushaus is living off the grid - sort of.

Tushaus has embraced a growing trend in agriculture called hobby farming. Hobby farms are small agricultural operations not intended to be a primary source of income. Tushaus' crops are grown solely for his own consumption. He estimates he grows at least one-third of the food he eats.

"Growing up, all I wanted to do was leave Quincy," Tushaus said. "I ended up in Chicago and was there for the next 25 years. Getting back here was something I was thinking about the whole time I was in the city."

Tushaus worked as a catering manager and event planner at the prestigious Chicago Club for 18 years.

"It was an intense place," he said. "We had all the heads of state, the senators, the governors come there."

Tushaus became disillusioned with city life. With aging parents and a yearning to simplify his life, he began searching for properties in Adams County.

"I just wasn't happy anymore," he said. "I found this property, and it was love at first sight."

When he first saw his 37-acre property near Ursa, it was little more than unincorporated pasture. He had a log cabin built and moved to the property in 2010.

"My reason for wanting to come here was to pursue my passion for gardening and hobby farming," he said. "It's my little experiment. It might seem crazy, but it's just what I wanted to do."

His farm - which he calls Greentopia Acres - now boasts more than 20 fruit trees, nut trees, beans, various other vegetables, chickens, ducks and bees. A believer in lessening his carbon footprint and the ethical treatment of animals, Tushaus uses geothermal energy to heat and cool his home, and his animals freely roam.

"I've been a vegetarian for 40 years," he said. "I always wanted to see how much food I could grow for myself. I know I can't be totally self-sustaining, but every day I eat something I've grown."

Keeping up with the farm is a constant chore. Most mornings, Tushaus goes swimming and visits with his parents before returning to the country and making his rounds.

"I pretty much go all around my property every day just to observe it and see what's going on," he said. "In the fall, I'm stocking up on firewood. In the winter, I'm shelling beans by hand."

He doesn't have a tractor and does all of the chores either by hand or with basic machines. While he does maintain a cellphone and television, his proximity to nature helps him stay grounded, he says.

"I just wanted to live a more simple lifestyle and escape the rat race," Tushaus said. "People are just stressed out and can't get away from their gadgets."

The life, while peaceful, has its disadvantages. Tushaus' property is off the beaten path, and the solitude can easily become isolation.

"There's a trade-off. I spend a lot of time alone, but I'm happy and pretty proud of myself," he said. "It's super peaceful here. I work in the afternoon, and then I kick back on the porch. I do talk on the phone a lot."

He envisions the property one day becoming a sort of community, with tiny homes dotting the landscape.

"I have friends in the big cities, and they are really stressed out," he said. "That was me. My life got to be really stressful there, until I quit."

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Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://bit.ly/2oe1uLq

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Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://www.whig.com

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