Produce Farm Tour: Organic or Not?

October 10, 2016

sweet corn and kale

As a City Mom, every time I go on a tour provided by Illinois Farm Families, I am always amazed by how many different aspects of farming there are. On this tour, we were introduced to Ruth Zeldenrust of Zeldenrust Farm Market in Chicago Heights, IL. They are family owned and operated, and as Ruth told us about their business it was very apparent that she loves what she does despite the hard work and long hours during peak season. They have a greenhouse which provides bedding plants, patio pots, hanging baskets and vegetable plants, as well fresh produce and honey. They sell their produce at their farm stand, to neighbors, to a local grocery store for their “Locally Grown Produce” and at least 8 different Farmer’s Markets in the Chicagoland Area.

I had never really thought about the Farmer’s Market aspect of farming. Ruth was telling us that the operation usually runs from May – November, but they have also participated in the Evanston Winter Farmer’s Market where they sell honey, kale and microgreens. I did not even know Winter Farmer’s Markets existed.
 
The Zeldenrust’s farm 32 acres of fresh produce and 50 acres of corn and soybeans. I was reminded again about all the different variables a farmer has to contend with each year: soil type, disease, pests, and weather, etc. In fact, Ruth told us they had lost most of their pumpkin and squash crop this year due to all the rain.
 
One of the questions Ruth gets asked quite often at the Farmer’s Market is if they are organic or not. Their operation is not organic certified, but they use many of the same farming methods as an organic farm would such as crop rotation and hand weeding. And yes, they do use pesticides when needed and that is okay, because organic farms use pesticides too. If that statement surprises you (I know it did me the first time I heard it), I would suggest you look for more information on the Illinois Farm Families website watchusgrow.org. It provides a wealth of information, perspectives and resources for anyone who is curious about farming or who would like to get some real answers to their questions or concerns about the food we eat and how it is raised and why different methods are used. You will get to hear first hand from farmer’s such as Ruth Zeldenrust and industry experts on so many of the issues that we, as consumer’s, get confused about. It is definitely worth your time to explore so that you can make informed decisions about the food you choose to buy and eat.

Anita Mann

Anita Mann Naperville, IL

 

Anita is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2015 City Moms. Throughout the year she will visit Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each visit, the City Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms. 

 

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