Where can you find alfalfa, sunflowers, flax, buckwheat, quinoa, popcorn and more growing side-by-side? At Champaign’s Clearview Farm
The 140-acre Clearview Farm property on the northwest edge of Champaign is sandwiched between Mattis Avenue, Olympian Drive, Interstate 74, and I-57, just south of St. Thomas More High School. For over a century, this farm has reliably yielded some combination of corn, soybeans, cattle and hogs from its fertile ground.
In 2020, plans for Clearview Farm changed.
Champaign County developers The Atkins Group (TAG), owner of Clearview Farm since 1997, had planted sunflowers in Urbana’s Stone Creek subdivision during the pandemic year of 2020. The mass August blooming attracted widespread community attention and created a social media buzz as visitors flocked to the fields with their children, dogs and cameras in tow.
This sunflower success story in Urbana is now part of the backstory for Clearview Farm’s new identity as a place of agricultural community engagement. By planting portions of the farm in 18 different crops — most of them not typically grown in Illinois — TAG has set ambitious goals for its new venture: educational, commercial, and academic. It also invited the public to enjoy watching the farm’s progress in 2021 as each crop grows.
According to its website, TAG’s vision for Clearview Farm is as follows:
- A visually stunning, photo-ready destination during all four seasons
- Field trips, demonstrations, and internships for students
- Abundant testing ground for non-native crops
- Commercial and academic partnerships to strengthen and enrich our local economy
Some of the farm’s 18 crops will be visible from Olympian Drive as well as from the Clearview residential subdivision where TAG currently leases seven single-family houses. Most public viewing will be possible by driving through the fields on Legacy Avenue, the road curving through the farm that was built over a decade ago (when perhaps a non-agricultural use for these 140 acres had been envisioned by the developers). This loop road, along with the paved paths encircling the central ponds, has until now served as a hidden proving ground for teens learning to drive, roller bladers, and bikers and walkers of all speeds.
Now Legacy Avenue will let drivers view informative signs for each of the 18 crops planned for Clearview Farm.
These signs are the most visible element of Clearview Farm’s educational arm so far. According to the signs and to its website, TAG has lined up a solid group of local financial and agricultural partners. It will be interesting to watch the educational, commercial and academic partnerships grow over time and take on additional focus.
We imagine the most highly anticipated crop of 2021 will be another field of sunflowers due to bloom at Clearview later this summer, although this field will unfortunately not be as large as the 34 acres planted last year at Stone Creek. There is even talk of creating a sunflower maze, which would be a great addition to our family summer entertainment lineup.
In the meantime, if you find yourself wondering what a field of flax looks like, or if popcorn looks different from Indian corn or field corn when it is growing, we know where you can go for an answer. Head to Clearview Farm, and bring your roller blades.