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Kim Meier: Down on the Farm

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Since she got on her first tractor at the age of 5, Kim Meier has had a passion for agriculture. Meet this Freeport farmer, and discover what she loves about the region she calls home.

Kim Meier. (Tom Holoubek photo)

The best advice Kimberley Meier ever received came from her father, who emphasized the importance of listening to your heart.

“My dad always taught me that I could do anything I wanted to do,” says Meier, a Freeport-area farmer. “You’re not going to get rich farming, but you have to love it to be successful. And I do.”

Meier, who was driving her first tractor at the age of 5 and overhauled the engine eight years later, works on her family’s 3,000 acre farm in Ridott, just outside of Freeport. The property includes Meier Farms and Meier Meadows, home to 250 dairy cows, and is owned by her parents, Keith and Linda, along with two uncles and an aunt. One of her three sisters, Kelli, and four cousins also work on the farm.

After graduating from Freeport High School in 1992, Meier attended the University of Platteville, returning to the farm when her grandfather became ill. She was three semesters short of earning a degree in engineering agricultural design. Despite the difficult circumstances, she has no regrets about coming home.

“I’m happy doing what I’m doing,” she says. “I don’t think I could sit in an office all day.”

There’s no such thing as a typical day for Meier. She rises early to do chores and helps her sister feed the cows dry silage and grain, and the calves milk, grain and hay. They also feed the steers and heifers at one of the other farms, which can take two to three hours, depending on the number of calves. After feeding time, she starts on other projects, such as bedding the nursery barn, working in the shop, and working in the field.

“We always find something to keep us busy,” Meier says. “We all pitch in where needed when things get crazy.”

In the spring, she hops on her John Deere tractor to plant corn, and, a few months later, heads back to the fields to work 14- to 18-hour days harvesting. “There’s a two-week window – weather wise – to get everything planted so we can have a really good yield,” she says. “That’s our bread and butter.”

But there’s more to Meier than just tractors, plants and cows. Away from the farm, she devotes much of her free time to working as a sound and lighting technician for local and regional musical and theatrical productions. It’s a passion that sprouted in junior high and high school, when Meier spent time behind the scenes during school productions.

“There’s a rush you get when putting together a production,” she says.

When she returned home from college, Meier found part-time work for a local production company. When the business closed, she decided to work strictly as a freelancer, mostly in the Chicago, Milwaukee and northern Illinois area, to accommodate her hectic schedule at the farm.

During the summer, Meier works as a lighting coordinator for a number of county fairs throughout the northern Illinois area. She’s worked shows from rock to country, for the likes of Bon Jovi, Blake Shelton and Toby Keith. She also runs sound for charity events such as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

“I like the variety,” she says. “I’ve thought about going on tour with a group, but I think I’d get bored doing the same show night after night.”

For the past two decades, Meier, and several members of her family, have assisted the Freeport High School drama department with building sets, rigging up lights, and other tasks. Meier serves as a sound technician for the school’s fall musical, holiday show and spring performance.

“Kim and her family are good, hard-working people,” says Tim Connors, director of theater and speech at Freeport High School. “They not only care about farming, but they care about helping the community.”

Meier is a perfectionist. Leading up to the performance, she’ll do her homework, listening to previous concerts to get a sense for how the entertainer works. There are certain ways to select colors for each performance that enhance the concert experience for fans, she explains.

“The feel of a song is conveyed through the colors that are used,” she says. “For a love song, you want to use lavender or blue colors. For fast songs, its bright colors like ambers and reds. As the lighting technician, you want to make sure the stage has a nice wash so that it’s visually appealing.”

Not every show, however, goes according to plan.

During one county fair, Meier injured her knee while unloading equipment and was rushed to the emergency room. Another time, when one of the speakers blew out the night before the high school’s production of Footloose, Meier worked late into the night to secure and rig up another one before the curtain was raised the following night.

Ten years ago, she was working a tornado relief concert in Utica, Ill., when, ironically, a tornado was spotted two miles away, forcing crews to take immediate cover. “Like any job, there can be problems and stress, especially with Mother Nature,” Meier says. “You just work calmly and do what you have to do. Thankfully, nothing bad has ever happened.”

In her free time, Meier enjoys tractor pulls, cheers on the Chicago Blackhawks and serves on the Stephenson County Fair board. She also takes pride in arranging special events. Meier is planning her best friend’s wedding – ordering decorations, the wedding cake and even – you guessed it – coordinating the lighting. “I enjoy doing the little things so my friends can enjoy their day,” she says.

That’s pretty typical of Meier, say those who know her best.

“She has a heart of gold,” says Connors. “Every student in our productions knows and respects the work Kim does. She’ll work 14 straight hours on the farm, but no matter how tired she is, will give you everything she has. She’s a person you want on your team.”

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