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Why I Farm: Behind the Movement

Meet The Henningsens - Family and Heritage

Published on Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Is there a special item in your family that has been passed down for generations? Maybe it’s the original document from when your family purchased the farm, an antique tractor, or a family Bible that, even with its tattered pages, still sits by your bedside. Two special items in my family are the original seed bags from my grandfather’s seed corn business, and my grandma’s cookbook that is filled with all the recipes she made for my grandpa and her twelve children on the farm. 

History and family heritage have always been fascinating to me. I could spend hours going through family photographs and recipes, or listening to my grandpa tells stories about long-time family traditions.

That is why I was so excited for the opportunity to visit The Henningsens on their family farm and interview them as part of the Why I Farm Movement.

In case you haven’t heard the news, The Henningsens partnered with Beck’s Why I Farm Movement to honor farmers and have even written a custom song called, “Why I Farm” which was just released last week! There is even a music video coming out later this month, but I’ll share more on that later.

In preparation for the release of their song, we had the opportunity to visit Henningsen Farms for a tour and interview with them. It was such a fun experience and since they are a fairly new country music band, we wanted to give you the opportunity to get to know them as well.

But before I go any further, let me introduce myself. My name is Chelsea O’Brien, and I am honored to join Ashley as an assistant tour guide in taking you behind the Why I Farm Movement

I grew up in rural southern Indiana and have been around farming my whole life. While my parents don’t directly farm, I spent a large part of my childhood over at my grandparents’ dairy farm. And it was there that my love for agriculture, and food, was born. If you want to learn a little more about me, you can check out some of the other blogs I have written about family and farming here.

Meet The Henningsens
On a sunny Friday morning, Joel, Zac, Mackenzie and I hopped in the truck to start our trip to Atwood, IL. As we were driving down the rural roads, I couldn’t help but think to myself how unique of a situation this was. To help paint the full picture, let me give you the quick background on The Henningsens and their farm.

The Henningsens are a family country music band consisting of Clara Henningsen (lead vocals, guitar), Aaron Henningsen (guitar, vocals), and their father Brian Henningsen (bass, guitar, vocals). The Henningsens released their self-titled digital debut EP in 2013 which included their Top 15 debut hit, “American Beautiful,” and the gorgeous follow-up single, “I Miss You.”

Beyond their music career, they are also a seventh generation farm family from Illinois who have an amazing appreciation for their family heritage. Their family has lived in the same house, used the same barns, and farmed the same land for 144 years. And with 10 children, some people may have said Brian and his wife Debby were crazy for not building a bigger house. But to them, it’s the preservation of what the generations before them built that was most important.

From the minute we arrived on their farm, I was truly in awe. Not because we were getting to spend the day with a famous country music band, because we were getting to spend the day with a family who values the same things about history and agriculture that I do. And because their farm is like something out of a dream.

Before we unloaded our equipment for the interview, we were greeted by the family and invited inside for a cup of coffee and tour of the house. The inside of their modest farm house was truly like an agricultural and historic museum. I could have spent hours inside, looking through all of their black and white photographs, antiques and farming memorabilia. The part that made it even more meaningful was that those weren’t just items they went shopping for in antique malls, they were family heirlooms that had been passed down and taken care of for generations.

“It’s like a working farm or something…”
We set up the interview in their front yard with the house in the background, thinking it would be the perfect setting. Brian, Aaron and Clara did a great job, but as you may hear a little bit in the background, we had to overcome a few audio obstacles. We initially thought the birds chirping in the background might be a little distracting, but little did we know that a helicopter would be making applications on a neighboring field for most of the interview, along with tractors, mowers and trucks periodically going by in the background.

“It’s like it’s a working farm or something,” Aaron joked. Everyone was a good sport about it and the various interruptions made for some good laughs. But his statement was true, it truly is a real working farm with things to get done.

Since Brian has to be gone a lot with their music career, most of the day to day management of the farm is taken care of by his sons Andy and Paul. But he is still actively involved as much as he can be. As he says in the video below, he couldn’t imagine not farming.

After the interview we were invited inside for lunch, just like we were part of the family. With 20 people huddled in the kitchen, a home-cooked meal, and conversation all around, I instantly felt like I was back on my grandparent’s dairy farm as a kid. It was the perfect ending to an amazing day.

Oh, I almost forgot – the other reason we visited their farm was to scout out the areas of the farm to feature when we came back in a few weeks to shoot part of the music video!

I can’t reveal any more than that just yet, but I’ll be sure to tell you all about it in my next blog after the video is released! Until then, be sure to like Why I Farm on Facebook for some exclusive sneak peeks as the release gets close. 

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Author: Chelsea O'Brien

Categories: Why I Farm, Family and Farming


Chelsea O'Brien
Chelsea O'Brien>

Chelsea O'Brien

Beck's Hybrids marketing associate, social media specialist, southern Indiana native and advocate of agriculture.

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1 comments on article "Why I Farm: Behind the Movement"

Dawn Stanley

8/13/2015 3:35 PM

this was a great article. I have seen the Henningsens in concert & they are awesome! Met them & they seem like good down to earth people. Very nice to their fans.

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