EXCHANGE: Sunflowers prepare farm for organic future

Fifty acres of sunflowers bloomed in northwest Barrington Hills in one August week to create a unique carpet of bright yellow.

But in addition to providing a vibrant visual along the village’s country lanes, these sun-worshipping plants play a practical role in the conversion of the nearly 700-acre Barrington Hills Farm to purely organic.

Among the criteria for such certification is the soil must be found to be chemical-free — and sunflowers are among the species that can help expedite that process, experts say.

J.R. Davis and his wife, Dawn, took control of the farm four years ago and have spent the last three working to purify the soil.

They see themselves carrying on the vision of the late Barbara MacArthur, who with her late husband, Alex, ran the Strathmore Organic Farm at the same location on Spring Creek Road in McHenry County. Barbara MacArthur, who died last year, was a passionate pioneer of organic farming, decades ahead of its rising popularity today.

But the land passed into other hands between the MacArthurs and the Davises, requiring work to restore its…

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