This year marks the third year that our offices have held the Late Summer Field Days. Each year since 2014, I have worked with a farmer in our area to showcase their farm and invite the general public out to visit. Unlike a farm tour, these field days have a set time and location. What I've enjoyed with these field days are the responses I get back from attendees: "I didn't know you could grow this here" or "I've driven by this place so many times but had no idea this farm was here". These are the type of responses I hope to have and to me, says that these field days are serving a purpose in helping people know how their food is grown and the grower/producer behind it. These field days allow the general public to ask a lot of questions and get advice on how to grow crops as many times what the homeowner/backyard grower is dealing with, the commercial grower deals with on a larger scale.
Our first field day this year was held at Wishful Acres Farm and Brewery in Lena, Illinois. Penny and Nate Peterson are the owners and operators. They have a very robust CSA (community supported agriculture) program where they deliver boxes of produce each week for a given amount of weeks for subscribers. In the last year, the farm expanded to a microbrewery operation on site. This is very unique in the Midwest to see an actual on farm brewery. They are using some of the fruits and hops they are growing in their beers too. Their brewery is open on Fridays (4-9PM), Saturdays (12-9PM), and Sundays (12-5PM).
Our second field day was at Groezinger Produce Farm. Located in Stockton, Illinois, Drew Groezinger oversees a vegetable farm operation and sells his produce to local restaurants, Territory Farmers Market, and a CSA. He further grows different dahlias in a new business he has started, Clara Joyce Flowers. Drew grew up in the 4-H program and is currently a college student, balancing out his commitment to his farm operation and schooling.
It was clear through both of this field days that farmers in our area are very passionate about what they do and how they grow and market their operations. Both are currently/moving into niche production that is setting them apart in our region. At the end of the day though, they are strong champions and assets in our local food systems in Northern Illinois.
So I know as I spoke with others that it will be hard to top these 2017 Late Summer Field Days next year but I will sure try.