Category Archives: Wadsworth Farm

First Fall Farm Festival a Success!

The third Saturday in October proved to be a perfect day to invite visitors to the farm! The first Fall Farm Festival at the Freedom Farm was a success with visitors from local areas and as far away as Kenosha, WI. The ages ranged from 18 months to ? Veterans present were reserve duty officers and veterans of WWII, with their families.

Activities kept the children busy and let parents join in the fun together. Pumpkins from the farm garden were lined up and painted by the children and visitors to be delivered to the VA patients the next Wednesday. The pumpkins were traditional and colorful…in the best way that a 2 yr old could manage….and all were loved and a wonderful surprise for the patients and residents at the VA. The children also got to go into the garden and choose their own pumpkin to take home for Trick-or-Treat.

More fun included face painting, assisted by volunteer Dianna Dick, a neighbor of the Ress’ who asked to participate in the event. Spiders and butterflies highlighted the designs. Kids also got to feed the chickens and ducks apples from the trees on the property and corn from the corn stalks. They enjoyed being able to be right at the fence with the chickens and not having to wait in any lines for the fun. They also worked on drawings for the logo for 2012. The design will earn the winner a free t-shirt painted for the festival for 2012, containing the essence of their design for items for sale.

The raffles held at the festival were a quilt raffle and a red, white, and blue decorated Christmas tree, donated to the festival by Leslie Price-Robison. Tickets were sold at $1 each or 6 for $5. The winners of the prizes were: Tree: Rosemary Ress, sister of the four brothers that the stars in the Freedom Farm emblem represent and the wife of Frank Ress, the father of Director John Ress. The quilt winner was Mary Thedford of North Chicago, IL (pictured). Mrs Thedford is a regular participant at the Waukegan VFW and purchased her ticket there. Her husband is a Vietnam veteran that returned to the theater 4 times before the end of his time in the service. We thank both of these ladies, and all participants in the raffles for their donations.

The bake sale that was held for the day was also a great success. Donations were taken for the food and baked goods were donated by Leslie Price-Robison, Marty Cornett, Rosemary Ress, and Mr. and Mrs. Depke of Wadsworth, who donated 75 taffy apples. After the day concluded, extra baked goods were distributed to veterans and taken to the VA for the volunteers that assist veterans there.

We considered the beautiful day a great success. Adults and children enjoyed the farm, horses, feeding the ducks and chickens, and the other activities. We hope everyone will join us again next year and bring friends and family.

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Filed under Events, Wadsworth Farm

Fall Farm Festival!

The Farm is ready for fall…and welcomes all veterans and their families to the farm for a Fall Farm Festival!

The farm festival will be held on Saturday, October 22 from 1-5 PM on the farm grounds.  We are planning a bake sale, face painting, quilt raffle, T-shirts for sale, and a logo contest.

The logo created by a visitor will be used for the 2012 festival design.  The winner will receive a free T-shirt for next year.

Since the roses are not blooming as they were in the warmer days, we are inviting visitors to paint pumpkins from the garden and we will deliver them to patients at the VA hospital for their rooms.  We hope that it gives you a way to wish them well and will give the pumpkins from the garden a special purpose.

We will have a diagram available for visitors to see about the future growth of the farm and a list of proposed services we are developing.  Time lines are not yet determined, but we want everyone to know what they can expect from us ….and we hope to be able to serve veterans needs in any way we can.

So, come down to the farm on a sunny Saturday and enjoy some time getting to know us and letting us get to meet you!  See you there!

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Filed under Events, Wadsworth Farm

September Update

September’s garden production was fairly good despite the days of heavy rain. Most gardens had trouble this year but it didn’t seem to affect us very much due to the newspaper and grass combination we use for mulch. The soil doesn’t get washed away with the hard rains, and when the rain is over the moisture stays put. This method has allowed us to produce larger and healthier plants, and it also increases the yield by 25%.

We have donated in excess of 1000 lbs. so far this season to the Most Blessed Trinity food pantry on 8th and Lincoln in Waukegan. They have been hit hard by this economy and they have not received as much government help as in previous years, so they are extremely glad when they see us at their door. It looks like they might get two more deliveries from us this season before we’ll be done for the year, thanks to all those who helped with this year’s garden program.

Our Rose Memorial Program got off to a great start this year. My sister Marty became our Rose Lady, and to date she has brightened the days of 51 of our Veterans hospitalized at the James Lovell V.A. Her larger than life laugh can brighten up anyone’s day, and the personal touch she adds with each delivery touches the hearts of those she sees.

Next year we will be taking the photos for the dedication plaques. In the first season a rose is planted, it takes most of the summer for the plant to get established and start producing. The following summer the bush will be more mature and full for the photo.

The Medical Referral Program has started out very well, with all participants getting the help they need. We have helped one Veteran get a scooter that he needed, and we also found him a transport van. We’re in the process of helping another Veteran try to get his discharge status changed and have him signed up to receive his V.A. Medical Coverage. We’re also helping more Veterans to get their service connection status changed, which will allow them to receive the benefits for which they’re entitled.

These are some of the ways program operates, and with the help of the GREAT staff at the Lake County Veterans Assistance Commission, to things get done. Thanks to all for a job well done!

We’ve had many visitors benefit from the stress relief provided by our peaceful setting and friendly staff (and animals). It’s amazing the calming effect that a 1400 lb horse can have on someone.

Sometimes we’re even blessed with music played by one of our regulars. Playing and singing is this Veteran’s way to relax, and the farm setting provides the perfect atmosphere.

We have a saying here, “If you don’t try, you don’t do”, so if you’re looking help or you’re looking to give we will be glad to assist you in any way we can.


  • To Linda Benge for donating her time to create our logo. Linda worked very hard to help us create a logo that best represents our project. Thanks again, Linda.
  • To Barb Karacic from the Most Blessed Trinity Food Pantry. Without her help and support we would have never gotten our project off the ground.

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Filed under Monthly Updates, Our Donors, Wadsworth Farm

August Update

The garden production has been somewhat altered by the rain this summer.  Not enough when needed and too much when it comes.  We’ve been making our weekly food donations to the pantry and will continue as long as the garden continues to produce.  We are re-planting crops such as lettuce. carrots and beans; these should last till Oct.  The pumpkin patch continues to flourish with the rain and heat and should be good this fall.  Check the web site for the notice on our pumpkin pick’n party this fall!

The attendance has been somewhat slow, probably due to the excessive heat and rain, and the animals haven’t enjoyed it much either.  The vets that have been here have said, “What an enjoyable and peaceful place this is!”, and many have returned for another visit.

We have used our contacts to help some vets with their medical and transportation needs to the V.A.  We have also introduced vets to other vets who are participating on the farm, producing many new friendships and contacts.

Rose Page update

The roses are doing quite well despite our goofy summer.  The blooms are coming, but a little on the small side due to young plant growth.  We have taken pics of the roses and will shortly be attaching them to the name of the veteran to whom each is dedicated on our Rose Memorials page.  Plaques that will be placed next to each rose, displaying the photo and a dedication to the vet for whom it was planted, are still in production and will be ready when the roses are full grown.  We’ll update the Rose Memorials page with new pics and produce new plaques as additional roses bloom.  (UPDATE: Pictures were added on Aug. 20)

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Lake County News Sun: “Let freedom ring on Wadsworth farm”

Freedom Farm For Vets was profiled by the Lake County News Sun this week. Special thanks to Tina Johansson and photographer Thomas Delany Jr. for taking the time to share our story.

“The owner of a farm at 13155 W. Hart St., is seeking funds to transform the property into a rehabilitation haven for veterans.

John Ress of Trevor, Wis., president of Freedom Farm for Vets, said his idea for the program to help bring a stress-free environment where veterans can come, has been in the works for several years. He hopes to have his Freedom Farm open April 1.

Ress wants to focus on helping soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, inspired by what his grandfather John Balen, Sr. did for his own sons who went off to war, including his uncle, Mike, who served in two major battles during World War II and came home ‘shell-shocked,’ he said.”

Read more on the Lake County News Sun web site and check out the accompanying Photo Gallery of John and the Wadsworth Farm.

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Filed under In the News, Wadsworth Farm

“Who Loves Ya?”

John, and his cousins spent many of their younger years at the farm working alongside their Uncles, Fathers and Mothers. The Balen family went out of the mink business in the mid sixties but the farm remained. Uncle Mike continued spending his free time on the farm raising any animal he felt like and turned them all into pets with names. Reserved only for his pets, his favorite saying was “Who Loves Ya?”

Over time he started gardening on a larger scale now that the space was available. His sister and her husband who was also a combat veteran lived in the farmhouse with their two daughters. Uncle George was quite the gardener with his straw hat and his corncob pipe resting his chin on the handle of his hoe and gazing across his lush vegetable gardens. One time when John was about ten he asked Uncle George when was doing his gazing “What ya thinking about?” George replied, “How peaceful it is here.”

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Filed under Balen Family, Wadsworth Farm

Working On The Farm

The farm started to take shape with the building of a farmhouse. Sometime during this process they found time to shovel out a road west one mile to the farm – now called Beach Road. To this day the kids in the family hear all kinds of funny stories about those early days. Grandpa and Uncle Mike were working hard on the farm and the farm was working on them. All this continued until the farm was somewhat complete and they started up a small time mink operation called Midwest Furriers.

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Filed under Balen Family, Wadsworth Farm