IDNR Director Colleen Callahan and her agriculture start in Central Illinois

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 2:05 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 30, 2022 at 2:08 PM CST
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(25 News Now) - I got a chance to meet with Central Illinois legend Colleen Callahan and discuss her role with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

My career began in Milford, Illinois. I would stand in our living room and I would watch Lloyd Ummel all on channel 3 give the market report and I would say to my mom I want to do that and my mom would say you can but there aren’t any woman doing that. So my mom and my dad were my biggest supporters and cheerleaders and encourage others.

Then on to the University of Illinois where I majored in Ag Communications.

I’m real partial to pigs -- they got me through college -- and they really were the start of my career because when I was nine years old -- my first year in 4-H -- my dad had transitioned away from the Chester Whites that we had -- that he had with his dad my grandpa -- and he said I think we should get a different breed I don’t ever want people if you’re successful to say they just gave her the best let’s just start over from scratch.

So my first sow was Lady Luck, a purebred Hampshire and she had in her first litter what turned to be the grand champion [...] with the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago at the age of nine for me and it brought a record price at the time of $23 per pound or $4,715. That really was the seed money for my college education.

So let’s fast forward to right here in 2022 -- you are the director of a state program, Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

It’s a significant responsibility when you have over 1,100 employees all throughout the State of Illinois and the diversity of the department is beyond most anyone’s expectations or imagination. It’s all about natural resources that’s what you see here these are natural resources -- the creek that runs behind, if you were here at the right time you’d seen deer darting across that pasture and so I think that we’ve overlooked for a long time the nexus or the synergy -- the relationship between natural resources and agriculture. When you start talking about the two-legged, the four-legged and the ones that have fins and swim I mean there is a true symbiotic relationship to all of that and the quality of the environment -- when we think about the opportunity that we have in agriculture to reduce soil erosion and the nutrient loss reduction strategy...quality of water is important not only for the humans but for those that absolutely that live there and also benefit from it.

It’s a real opportunity that I never imagined and one that I value -- and one that I am honored to serve in.