From 2002-2005, I focused on making landscape photographs in the suburbs of Chicago (NeoNature). As part of an extensive exploration of the development of open spaces, I began to ask myself about the people being affected by this transformation. My questioning led me to the family-owned farms of Kane County, about 45 miles west of Chicago.
On these farms I found a way of life uncommon in suburbia. Unlike many families in developing communities, these families did not move to Kane County because of a job or for better schools. Rather, they form a continual community of generations living on and from this land. These farmers struggle to maintain their way of life and keep their jobs as the inevitable transition from farmland to strip malls consumes the land around them. The development not only disrupts the farming, but also the possibilities of another farming generation while their children attend suburban schools. As they are influenced by and exposed to lifestyles outside the farm, their interest in farming rapidly dissipates.
Despite the evidence of sprawl I found within their townships, in their homes I found collections of history, family, and farming that define the unique sense of place they have created for themselves. I was surprised to realize the intense feeling of nostalgia their homes were filled with, almost as if their farms were already gone. Interviews with my subjects brought even more surprises, as I discovered a way of life extremely foreign to my own suburban upbringing.
Through these images, my goal is capture the transition of these fleeting lifestyles, both as they are today and in their impending new state of being. This body of work represents a culture in flux. Personally, these families are adjusting to drastic changes within their environment, in addition to eventually being displaced from their own community. As the encroaching development raises the value of their land, economically the farmers are forced to make a decision: fight to farm or cash in? Two of the six of the farms in these photographs have been sold since I began this project in October 2005. Whatever my subjects ultimately decide, the farmers of Kane County stay realistic in knowing their lives and livelihoods are undergoing a severe change.