By Kim Jansen
News Report Staff
The Hartke family of Teutopolis has a legacy of farming that has been passed from generation to generation for over 100 years.
But the Hartke family’s legacy extends past the running of their 1,300-acre family farm in rural Teutopolis to a community role where members of each generation have dedicated himself or herself to serving, promoting and improving the agriculture community through local, state and even federal organizations.
The youngest generation is no exception.
The Hartke quadruplets – Taylor, Alex, Dustin and Garrett – are the fifth and youngest generation on the farm, and they have positioned themselves to continue the work of their father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather.
The three boys are all working on the family farm – Hartke Swine Center – and active in the agriculture community. But their sister, Taylor, has taken her role in the agriculture community in a different direction.
Taylor, a 2017 Teutopolis High School graduate, was recently elected to serve as treasurer on the 2018-2019 Illinois Association FFA Major State Officer Team.
After an extensive application and interview process, she was elected by a majority vote to serve as this year’s treasurer and will represent the state’s 18,000 FFA members.
“It is an honor, for sure,” said Taylor. “I never thought I would get to this position.”
Taylor remembers when she was a freshman in high school attending the statewide convention and seeing the state officers on stage, but she never imagined that one day she would be one of them.
“I remember seeing them and thinking they are really cool and that would be really awesome, but I never thought that I would be good enough to do it. I never thought it could be me,” said Taylor. “I still question exactly how I got here, but it is humbling and an honor to serve all of the members in Illinois.”
Taylor’s election to the position is not only a major accomplishment for the teen, who plans to pursue a career in the agriculture field, but also has a historical significance because this is the first time in the state’s history that an all-female board has been elected to represent the state.
“It’s quite an honor to make history as the first all-female team,” said Taylor. “We will retire 50 years after women were allowed in the FFA, which is something very cool and momentous.”
Although Taylor is excited to be part of the first all-female board, she is more excited for what the team will accomplish during its year of service.
“Making history that way is great, but I know that on behalf of my teammates and I, we are excited to make history in our own ways and in our own aspects of making a difference in the lives of members,” she said. “We are excited to make history not only in the first way, but also in ways throughout this year through our service. We are really excited.”
Taylor’s father, Dave, and her grandfather, Phil, have both been influential in her life, with both having been members of the FFA, along with numerous agriculture-related organizations and boards.
Members of the Hartke family have been very involved with the community, including her great-great-grandfather Henry Hank, who was instrumental in getting the first oiled roads in their township and bringing extension services to Effingham County.
Taylor’s great-grandfather, Alphonse Hartke, continued in his father’s footsteps in representing the agriculture community.
Alphonse served on the state board of the Illinois Livestock Producers Association, which was a livestock group that marketed animals and took steers and hogs to St. Louis. The group is still in existence, but is now called Interstate Producers and operates under United Producers.
Phil remembers his father’s service to the community.
“My dad took real responsibility of things other than just the farm. He was dedicated to community service,” Phil recalled.
Phil followed in the footsteps of Henry and Alphonse by operating the family farm, but also taking time to serve the community.
“When I graduated from high school and began farming, I became involved in Effingham County Farm Bureau, and I was on the Young Farmers Committee,” said Phil, who added he also served on the Board of Directors for the organization for 12 years.
Phil also was elected to serve on the Effingham-Clay Service Company Board, which he served on for 25 years, and to the Effingham County Fair Board, which he has served for 31 years.
“Farmers have to step up to the plate. If farmers are not willing to serve on these county boards, then the leadership is lacking,” Phil emphasized. “People who have good common sense and dedication need to step up to the plate and serve these community service committees and boards.”
Phil’s son and Taylor’s father, Dave, found his place on the farm and in the community, including serving on the Effingham County Pork Producer Board, Illinois Soybean Board and the United Soybean Board, a national organization.
When it comes to Taylor’s new role with the FFA organization, both Dave and Phil are quick to agree that her accomplishment makes them proud.
“I am very proud. It is really something because I would have never thought she would pull off something like this,” said Dave, adding Taylor is the first state officer from Teutopolis and only the third from Effingham County.
“It has brought a spotlight back to the Effingham community and shows there is something else out here that we have taken for granted,” said Dave.
Phil said the FFA is an outstanding organization that often gets overshadowed in the community.
“It brings the focus of the FFA in the county and in the community,” said Phil. “When you say FFA, you think of the blue jackets, but it’s more than classroom work and projects. It teaches community leadership and responsibility. These kids know how to get a job done.”
Phil added he is very proud of his granddaughter, who he said has always managed to assert herself.
“With the quads, she had to assert herself, and she wasn’t going to take second fiddle,” said Phillip. “I was really impressed with her speeches at state, and I am just so proud of her. Forever now, she will be remembered as an FFA state officer. It is very exciting.”
Because the role of a state officer is extensive, Taylor will take a year off of college to fulfill her duties to the organization, which will include lots of traveling.
“It is a full-time job. We are constantly gone and doing things, so they ask us to take a year off,” said Taylor.
Although she is not certain of her future career path, Taylor said she does plan to return to Lake Land College to complete her degree in the agriculture transfer program.
But after that, she can’t say for certain.
“This year of service will do a good job exposing me to the different career opportunities and career paths available. I might find exactly what I want to do and where I want to go,” she said. “Traveling across the country and the state will definitely be eye opening.”
For now, she is just taking it all in and enjoying the experience.
“It is still surreal,” said Taylor. “It hasn’t really hit yet. But there has been a lot of little moments that have been eye opening.
“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it is an honor and a privilege,” she added.