CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Some farms are operated by fathers and their kids, but some are operated by brothers.

The Zelhart brothers – John, Dave and James – trace their heritage in the Maroa area to a 240-acre Depression-era farm.

“Dad’s parents, my paternal grandparents, moved to this area in 1936,” John said. “We’re not quite as diverse as they were then; we don’t have all the livestock and we don’t quite have all the crops that they had in rotation then.”

But Dave said they love what they do.

“It’s nice to wake up every morning and love what you do,” Dave said.

And they learned how to deal with challenges from their dad.

“Dad had a strong work ethic, passed down from his dad, and he passed that down to us, and we’re trying to pass that on down to the next generation,” James said.

Over in Edgar and Vermilion Counties, Darrell and Brian Morgan lead a premier conservation operation which has spread their style of agriculture in two states.

“We farm in two counties in Indiana, Fountain and Vermillion County,” Darrell said. “And in Illinois, we farm in Vermilion and Edgar Counties.”

It’s all no-till with cover crops, and they said weed control is the biggest benefit.

“The first thing we did was put in waterways and buffer strips to stop that erosion because we want that topsoil to be left on top of the ground, not going down the stream somewhere,” Brian said.

Southeast of Mowequa, Brad, Bret, Chad and Chris Burgener were raised as equals in farming and pork production, and today they work together closely and trust each other’s judgement in an exemplary way.

“Unfortunately, Dad died at a young age. He died unexpectedly at 55 years old,” Brad said. “So us four had to step up and take over the farm after he passed.”

Brad and his three brothers farm 2500 acres and market 24,000 hogs per year.


“Dad was pretty good about making us in charge of a certain aspect of the farm. Whatever we liked to do, we would be in charge of that area and be responsible for it,” Bret said. “We weren’t trying to do someone else’s job, we had our own specific job. We haul all of our own feed, Chad does all of the semi driving, hauls all of the hogs.”

And that is how bands of brothers are feeding everyone else.