Block I Farmers
When it comes to their Alma Mater, Jay F. Allen, ’72 ACES, and his son, Jared B. Allen, ’15 ACES, “bleed Orange and Blue,” and the proof is as clear as a cloudless day. An 8-foot by 8-foot barn quilt emblazoned with the Illini Block I hangs on the side of a corn crib on their sixth-generation family farm in LaSalle County, Ill., visible from the intersection of county roads E10 and N38, just a few miles northeast of the I-80 and I-39 junction.
Jay’s wife, Linda, commissioned the quilt from a local artist several years ago to commemorate her husband’s retirement and her son’s graduation. It complements another source of pride on the Allen’s expansive front lawn—a sign from the Illinois Dept. of Agriculture certifying the spread’s official recognition as an Illinois Sesquicentennial Family Farm.
The 700-acre Allen farm has deeper roots in Illinois soil than the University itself, having been purchased by Jay’s great-great-grandfather, Henry Warren Willey, in 1848, nearly two decades before the University was founded. Jay helped his father, Fred, work the farm for 42 years, while employed full time at the Moews Seed Company in Granville, Ill., and Jared served as Fred’s “hired hand” when he was boy. Jared later began renting land from his dad for a Future Farmers of America project and currently rents 150 acres from him, while working full time at agricultural-supply company, Ag View FS. in Toulon, Ill.
Jay well remembers the “four wild years” he spent at Illinois (1968–72), noting that, “This little farm boy grew up in a hurry. I was there for the riots with National Guard troops on campus.” But that experience didn’t diminish his love for his Alma Mater. “It’s such a great school,” he says. “Whenever I go back to campus, I feel like I’m home.”
Jared felt that way from the day he arrived as an Illinois freshman, having accompanied his parents on numerous occasions to football games and other Illini events. Meeting his wife—Kayla Bennett, ’16 ACES—as an undergraduate only deepened his fondness for the University.
With Jared and Kayla expecting the birth of a son before the fall harvest, there may be a seventh-generation farmer and/or a third-generation Illini in the Allen family’s future.