Read Our Story – The History of Abbey Farms
As you gaze around our farm today, it is difficult to imagine that it all started in the 1930s with a tree, determination, hard work, and of course, monks. Flash forward to the 2000s and Abbey Farms finds itself surrounded by a bustling metropolitan area. Houses replaced the surrounding cornfields and traffic lights popped up to control busy intersections. However, one thing has never changed – Abbey Farms’ commitment to deliver wholesome, self-made fun and great memories for family and friends.
The Monks of Marmion Abbey acquired their first 100 acres of farmland in the mid-1930s. Shortly thereafter, Abbot Gerald facilitated the purchase of two adjacent 100-acre farm tracts. Picturesquely, these 300 acres are situated on Kane County’s second highest vista.
A Christmas tree farm is born
Originally, the monks ran the farming operation as it had been prior to their purchase, a dairy and corn farm. Then, with the introduction of the Soil Bank program, they planted their first trees in the late 40s, 1949 to be exact. At that time, the Soil Bank program required that land lay untilled for seven years to collect subsidies.
Correspondingly, it takes about seven years to grow an evergreen suitable to cut as a Christmas tree. One of the monks saw this as an opportunity to earn some extra income from Christmas tree sales. Sales began in the 1950s with a suggested donation price of $5, but didn’t require payment. Speaking to Abbey Farms’ commitment to the community, if a family in need could not afford the donation, they gave them the tree. Ensuring that a family could enjoy a Christmas tree was more important than the price.
From the 1950s through the 1990s the farm’s popularity grew. By the 1990s, the monks sold over 10,000 u-cut trees each year. The monks totally ran the farm during this period, with the exception of a small group of Marmion Academy students who would help shape the trees each summer.
Agri-tourism takes root at Abbey Farms
Because of an aggressive tree disease, the number of trees available to cut fell dramatically in the 2000s, leading to a corresponding drop in income for the monastery.
To help, the monks of Marmion Abbey hired the first layperson to run Abbey Farms, Adam Voirin, in April 2009. A graduate of Marmion Academy, Adam created a plan to transform the farm into an agri-tourism destination, retaining the family atmosphere of the 1940s farm. Abbey Farms remains a not-for-profit farm that directly benefits the Monks of Marmion Abbey.
We invite you to stop in and meet our small, but hard-working team. We are steadfast in our commitment to grow Abbey Farms and contribute in multiple ways to our local community.