The “First Day Farm Female” series includes articles posted on the first day of the month featuring fellow Illinois women in agriculture.
Growing up on the outskirts of suburban Chicago, Kaylee Heap never imagined she would become an important part of a family farm. When she married Kevin, a fifth generation farmer, she understood the commitment her husband had to the farm and the schedule that came with it. At that point, she realized, she could either get involved in the farm or rarely see him during peak seasons. She chose to dive in and credits that decision as the best thing she could have done.
Kaylee and Kevin own and manage Heap’s Giant Pumpkin Farm, an agri-tourism venture that is a branch of Kevin’s traditional family farm. The business has grown from a small project Kevin started in his teens to one of the top pumpkin patches in the greater Chicago area. They grow over 90 different varieties of pumpkins, gourds, squash, chrysanthemums, and sunflowers. During the fall season, the farm is opened to guests for a variety activities including a school/group tours, birthday parties / group outings, corn maze, soybean maze, haunted corn maze, play grounds, hay rides, U-Pick Pumpkin Patch and new this year, a U-Pick Sunflower Field. Concession stand offerings include local beef and pork along with local baked goods including their famous pumpkin cookie and pork burger.
Kaylee’s role is primarily managing the business side of the pumpkin farm. She handles advertising, social media, website management/design and the recruiting, hiring and management of their seasonal staff. As a skilled painter, Kaylee uses one of her talents to create educational boards and signs for the pumpkin farm. She also takes advantage of the opportunity to meet with the farm’s many visitors to answer questions about their farm, its crops, and agriculture in general.
One of the things Kaylee is most proud of is her involvement on the family pumpkin farm in addition to having a successful career working as the Business Manager for FS GRAIN. In this role, she focuses on streamlining processes and gaining efficiencies through the use of technology and employee innovation initiates. While increasing her involvement on the farm and progressing in her career, Kaylee’s family has also expanded to include two sons under two.
Kaylee is Chair of the Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leader Committee and in her fourth year in the group. She has been involved in Illinois Farm Bureau leadership training, advocacy, and advisory in several ways and is a member of U.S. Congresswoman Underwood’s Ag Advisory Team.
Kaylee takes pride in where her experiences have taken her so far in life. She advises others, “do not be afraid to get involved, try a new experience, make a change or take a chance, because you never know where they may take you.” With that attitude, it’s no wonder Kaylee has been able to balance farm, career, and family with great success.