Ready to Serve

Posted: July 18, 2023

Farm Bureau’s New President Berkeley Boehne

Sometimes it’s all about the timing

It was the right time for Berkeley Boehne to serve as DeKalb County Farm Bureau’s top leader.

Berkeley’s leadership and experience are the driving forces that led to being DeKalb County Farm Bureau’s 17th President.

“It’s my time. My term,” said Berkeley. “With years of experience, I am ready to serve.”

Four months ago he was elected by the 17-person board of directors to lead the county Farm Bureau.

Like other presidents before him, he was “honored and humbled” to be elected.

Berkeley has served on the Farm Bureau Board for 15 years. He became a Farm Bureau Director from Shabbona Township in 2007, at the age of 28. Back then, he was one of the youngest directors.

He aspired to be part of the leadership team serving as a member of the Farm Bureau’s Executive Committee for eight years and as vice president for six years.

Berkeley, now 44, wants to maintain the high standards set by the organization and as president will strive to move Farm Bureau forward with a focus on the next generation.

“Young people are the future and it’s important to have them involved in Farm Bureau,” said Berkeley. “We have to focus on youth and opportunities to keep them engaged.”

He stepped up when he was a young farmer and wants others to do the same by being active in the farm organization. “We need all ages, but in particular we need younger farmers to help us pave the way,” said Berkeley.

Third Generation Farmer

Berkeley Boehne’s maternal grandparents grew vegetables on their farm in Elk Grove Village and sold them at the Chicago market and to the Campbell Soup Company from 1920 to the 1960s. The Oehlerking’s farmland was eventually purchased and converted to airport ground where O’Hare Airport is located today.

From 1964 to 1967, the Oehlerkings took their land earnings and purchased four tracts of 160-acre farmland in DeKalb County for each of their four children. One of the four siblings, Patsy Oehlerking, and her husband Stanley Boehne, farmed some of the family ground and resided on the University Road farmstead in rural Shabbona, where their children were raised.

The Boehne children – David, Vaughn, Rhonda, and Berkeley – were all involved on the farm helping with various grain and livestock tasks during their youth. Eventually Stanley and David farmed together and then brothers David and Vaughn were farm partners until David was killed in a car accident in 1996.

Berkeley, being 11 years younger than Vaughn, attended Indian Creek High School and graduated in 1997. He completed an associate degree in diesel mechanics at Kishwaukee College in 2000. Then he started farming with his brother Vaughn in 2001.

The Boehne brothers have been farming together since 2001– Berkeley and Vaughn. They operate a diversified grain and livestock farm and manure hauling business.

“I always wanted to farm,” said Berkeley, a third generation farmer. “My lifelong goal since grade school was to be a farmer.”

The Boehnes fed beef cattle at the University Road and Houghtby Road farms until 2005. Then, they converted the cattle barns to hog confinement buildings and fed hogs. Today they have a custom hog finishing facility at the Houghtby Road farm.

On the crop side, they grow corn, soybeans, and wheat throughout DeKalb County.

The Boehne brothers farm together but segregate their roles. Vaughn focuses on crops and finances while Berkeley concentrates on livestock and the trucking business, which is primarily for custom hauling of manure for area livestock farms. They have four full-time employees and also hire seasonal truck drivers who are employed by Boehne Farms.

In regard to helping others understand agriculture, Berkeley shares information about food production and farming.

He has visited classrooms as part of Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program and has networked with public officials.

“We are only one percent of the population so it’s important to tell our story,” he said. “I want others to know that we take good care of our livestock and crops for everyone’s benefit.”

Networking with public officials is an important aspect of being Farm Bureau president. Berkeley discusses ag issues with Congresswoman Lauren Underwood in a visit to DeKalb County farms.

Balancing Farm & Life

Similar to other farm families, Berkeley says it’s important to balance farming, family, and a healthy lifestyle.

His two daughters, Avery and Madison, are active on many fronts.

Avery, 16, is a junior at Indian Creek High School and is on the Sycamore Sycos traveling softball team.
Madison, 13, is in 8th grade at Indian Creek Middle School. She plays school basketball and works with horses at Timber Ridge Farm as well as works at Honey Hill Orchard in the fall.

The Boehne girls love playing sports and have spent a significant amount of time at softball games. Berkeley is shown with his daughters Madison and Avery.

Berkeley enjoys watching the girls’ sports and supports their other interests. For personal enjoyment he also likes to golf and fish.

In the community, he is a trustee for the Shabbona Fire District and a member of the Shabbona Community Church.

Berkeley seeks out leadership opportunities for personal growth such as previously participating in the Farm Bureau’s Leaders to Washington Program, the Illinois Ag Leadership Program, and being a director of the DeKalb County Corn Growers and Cattlemen’s Association Boards.

As he evaluates his lifelong path, he claims, “I’m happiest when I can do things for other people. And I like to leave things better than I found them.”

Berkeley Boehne is the 17th president and previously Steve Bemis served as the 16th president of DeKalb County Farm Bureau.