Chicago Tribune

At the Illinois State Fair, farmers celebrate ag but bemoan a 'nightmare' of a year

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Cooper Garlisch, age 2 1/2, was not about to lose the Cutest Little Farmer contest. Climbing atop his red toy tractor, he scooted himself across a stage at the Illinois State Fair with gusto, drawing cheers from an audience that seemed to appreciate the showmanship.

His dad, Scott Garlisch, watched with amusement, soaking in one of the sweeter events of the annual celebration of all things agriculture - and putting aside, for a moment, the stresses weighing on his farm as the industry faces what some say is the worst year in memory.

"I have two young boys, I want to ensure their future if they want to be in ag like my dad was, like my grandpa was and like I'm involved in," said Garlisch, 33, whose family grows corn and soybeans and raises cattle in Mason County. "And it's not good times."

Beyond the carnival rides and deep-fried cheese curds, farming families gathering at the 10-day fair in Springfield are preoccupied.

Bad weather. Trade uncertainties. Volatile prices. Paired with the high cost of land, equipment and fertilizer, "I tell ya,

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