Category Archives: 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.

SPECIAL THANKS:

  • 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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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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Coming Home After The War

After the war the four brothers came home with memories that would forever change their lives. They lost their mother as well as many of their childhood friends. Uncle Mike had it the worst. He suffered many sleepless nights and would eventually be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The family doctor told Grandpa that he would keep an exam room open any time Uncle Mike needed him. “Just bring him in”, is what the doc said.

That’s when Grandpa bought the farm land. Maybe he thought that if he could keep Uncle Mike busy and surrounded him with family he could somehow work through it all.

.:.

Image Credit: A cavalry weapons troop moves from the beach past splintered trees and fires caused by the heavy bombardment preceding their landing on Leyte Island in the Philippines. Creative Commons 2.0 Generic from otisarchives2 photostream.

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Filed under Balen Family, Wadsworth Farm, World War II