154. Halfway House Smokehouse & Farm Cellar: Farming in Naperville

Larry Gregory grew up on a farm outside of Naperville, where the Fox Valley Mall now stands. As a young adult, he witnessed the transformation of the family farm as it adjusted to the economics of the latter half of the twentieth century. In order to speed up production, Larry automated the equipment on his family farm. His interest in electronics evolved into his business, Gregory Electric: “My company, Gregory Electric, became very involved with the early subdivisions, working with some of the early builders. Some of these were old farm families, where their children got into homebuilding. The early developers in Naperville were smart enough to realize that they couldn’t talk old time farmers out of their farm no matter what the price was. So the IRS gives any landowner the opportunity to sell their land on a tax free exchange. That means you will not have to pay income tax or capital gains tax on your sale of your property. And the tax-for-exchange method was quite a technique that was used, and it’s still being used today. I have friends in the Plainfield area who have sold farms when land was selling for thousand or two an acre. Today they’re selling farms for $100,000 an acre. Now in a tax-free exchange you can go out to DeKalb and buy a farm for three to four thousand an acre. If you’re selling for $100,000 an acre today, and you could get twenty acres for one, why wouldn’t you sell and move? We used to think back in the 30s and 40s that if you could get 25-35 bushels of corn per acre that was a good crop. Today, they’ll get 150 bushels of corn per acre and that’s because of the hybrid seeds, because of the fertilizer and the insecticides and pesticides that are used to give you peak production. A lot of people are concerned of the loss of farmland due to subdivision growth, but when you can see that we have gone from, say 25 bushels an acre to 125 bushels an acre, it’s amazing how much the productivity of the agricultural land has increased over the years.”