Funk Farms Heritage
The name Funk --especially to anybody involved in agriculture from the 1930's into the 1970's-- brings to mind an immediate association with hybrid seed corn. And rightly so. The Funk Seed Companys Funk's "G" Hybrid was the first commercially sold seed corn in the world. Funk Farms goes back far before hybrid seed corn. That operation thrives today, though no longer in the seed business.
The Early Years
In 1824, brothers Isaac and Absalom traveled from Ohio to stake their claim to the rich soils of McLean County, Illinois. Isaac became an Illinois State Senator during the civil war, and co-founded Illinois Wesleyan University. During the course of the next 40 years Isaac Funk accumulated 25,000 acres of Central Illinois prairie land.
Along with corn, livestock became a major part of Funk Farms. Cattle and hogs formed the principle produce of Isaac Funk's farming operation. Arriving in McLean County ahead of the railroads, he drove both hogs and cattle to the Chicago Union Stockyards more than 100 miles away, spending 14 days on the trail.
One of Isaac's sons, Lafayette, was co-founder and director of the famed Chicago Union Stockyards.
The Seed Corn Business
Funk Farms has a long history in the seed corn business through the development and marketing of the Funks G-Hybrid label.
The Funk family entered the seed business in 1901 when Eugene Duncan (E.D.) Funk, son of Lafayette and grandson of Isaac, founded Funks Bros. Seed Co. Under the guidance of E.D. and later his sons, the family business grew into one of the nation's largest seed companies. Funks Bros. Seed Co. was instrumental in the research and development of hybrid corn production for commercial sale.
Funk Bros. Seed was sold to Corn Products Co. in the late 1960's, but the seed was sold under the Funk's G-Hybrid label for a number of years even after changes in ownership.
Funk Farms Trust
E.D. Funk Sr. established Funk Farms Trust in 1941. That trust was formed to operate 2500 acres of land and feed approximately 6000 head of cattle. Today that land is owned by the descendants of E.D. Funk. The board of trustees is comprised of four cousins - all grandchildren of E.D. Funk. It is their duty to oversee the direction of the farm ensuring the heritage of the Funk Family is maintained for future generations.
Members of the Funk Family operated the farm for many years. Then in 1958, Eldon Koons, a Kansas cattle feeder and acquaintance of Funk family, took over supervision of Funk Farms. He managed in conjunction with managing trustee Ted Funk and three other trustees, all Funk heirs. In 1970 Dan Koons became co-manager with his father Eldon. In 1983 Dan became General Manager and during some of Agricultures most turbulent times led the National Cattlemen's Association as President in 1994. In 2013, Brian Bangert, the Crops Manager since 1993 and son-in-law of Dan, was promoted to General Manager.
Today, Funk Farms still embraces diversity. Funk Farms has 3 cash crops - corn, soybeans, and alfalfa - as well as a sizable cattle feedlot capacity of 1000 head, and composting operation.
To learn more about the history of the Funk Family, visit the Funk Prairie Home, and Gem and Mineral Museum. The home and museum are open to the public for tours from March through December.