CD Bell Farms started with a single pig in 1952, when Clare and Drew’s grandpa, Ludger Schilling Sr., received a pregnant sow as a wedding gift from his godfather. He and his wife, Jane, gradually added more sows and more acres.
In the mid-1970s, Clare and Drew’s dad and uncle joined the farm and continued its growth. By 2006, the farm included 6,500 acres and a 1,200-head farrow-to-finish operation. Their dad and uncle each have four children, so when the next generation began choosing careers, the families split the operation, enabling each to specialize in a different segment of production.
The cousins transitioned into finishing; Clare and Drew’s family worked in the breed-to-wean segment. The farm’s name of CD Bell is an acronym for each of their first names: Clare, Drew; their mom, Beth; their sister Emilie; their dad, Ludger; and their sister, Lindsey. By 2007, the farm was stocked with 2,500 sows.
The business plan called for sow numbers to double every five years. In 2012, the team expanded its original site to 5,000 sows. In 2015, a second facility went up near Sparta, Ill. The second location, named Sis-Bro (for sister and brother, because owners Clare and Drew are commonly mistaken for a couple) stems from their family’s succession plan. They built the facility to accommodate double the number of sows within five years.
It’s tough to find new tracts of land for a hog operation, so the siblings are open to growth through acquisition of existing hog farms.