MT. CARROLL — Fern Stadel’s connection with food goes way back to growing up on a farm that featured dairy, hogs and cattle.
She became a baker by profession for a time, bought a small 40-acre farm in 1963 with her husband, Buster, and runs a popular bed and breakfast with him, which of course, features her baking.
Some of the land they own is rented for pasture, and the guests love to look at the beef cows just outside the historic town of Mt. Carroll.
Stadel was the baker for Shimer College in Mt. Carroll for nine years, then she worked for 20 years as a Carroll County clerk.
For her, the opportunity to bake again for the Prairie Path Guest House has been a joy.
She also bakes pie crusts weekly for the First Lutheran Church Cottage Bakers as a fundraiser for the church in June, July and August.
Her cozy kitchen features gifts from people who enjoy her skill, including a little Pillsbury Dough Boy cookie jar.
She has other treasures, including a collector plate she received from the University of Georgia in recognition for her Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake.
“It became famous and I didn’t even know it,” she explains. The university staff chose her recipe online among the top recipes from bed and breakfasts across the nation.
They made the chosen recipes for 8,000 students and guests at a “sunset breakfast.”
They sent her the modified recipe showing how many pounds of flour, how much cream cheese and how many dozens of eggs they used.
“I was very pleased,” she says.
National fame for her baking includes an article in the Dallas Morning News written by a couple who were researching a story about Galena and discovered the Stadels’ guest house. She also was featured in the Chicago Tribune.
She notes on both occasions, the writers were paying guests. At a promotional event she attended for bed and breakfasts, she was told giving free night’s stays would help bring publicity and customers.
“Everyone who wrote about me paid for the night’s stay,” she jokes.
She and Buster also operate a small store featuring antiques, items he has repurposed and quilts she has made.