by Stuart Meyer
As a child growing up in a small Kentucky town, it was easy to understand and appreciate that food did not grow on grocery store shelves. We always had “community supported agriculture” because we would simply drive out to the family farms where we could buy most everything in season directly from the source, from vegetables to eggs. All you had to do was pick up what you wanted and either knock on the front door to pay or leave a little money there in the honor-system box.
Nowadays, not only do our kids know less about where our food comes and how it’s produced, often times they miss out on the beauty of how fresh produce and fruit really tastes directly from the source at the point of harvest. Once you taste fresh foods direct from the source, everything else pales in comparison. Sure, we can buy watermelons and blueberries in February but the taste is almost always diminished because they were picked at a ripening stage designed for shipment over long distances, which still adds time between harvest and consumption.
Eating fresh locally sourced foods in support of community agriculture and family farms is very much possible in Naperville. Below are 4 ways to “eat local” here in and around Naperville:
1) Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): We’ll start with CSA’s as number one because these local farms are not only a food source, they are an incredible source of hands-on education in farming and environmental sustainability. Here in Naperville, the Green Earth Institute runs a 60 acre CSA farm out on Knoch Knolls Road just around the corner in South Naperville. They grow 40 different crops and make their fresh harvest available via their CSA farm which the general public can purchase a “share” each Summer. A share entitles you to either a weekly or bi-weekly portion of the week’s organic harvest which you pick up directly from the CSA farm. Our family purchased a share last Summer and often times during the season you are allowed to hand-pick a portion. The kids love the experience and just picking up our share was an education. However, the Green Earth Institute doesn’t stop there as they also offer children’s programs and volunteer opportunities. Click hereto learn more.
2) Naperville Community Garden Plots and Home Gardening: From your backyard to Naperville’s backyard, there are terrific opportunities to grow your own fresh harvest. The City of Naperville, through the Naperville Parks District, sets aside land over on West Street during the Summer months where you can reserve your own community garden plot and grow your own garden. Of course, with a myriad of garden centers in town, including Keller’s Farmstand, you can always set up a small garden at home either in the ground or using planters on your back deck.
3) Farmers Markets… with a Caveat: Naperville and many of our surrounding communities offer Farmers Markets weekly during the warm weather months. The Naperville Farmers Markets takes place in season every Saturday at the Fifth Avenue Station and, a newer addition, at Freedom Commons out by I-88. Wanna find the freshest local products at these markets? Simply ask the seller whether or not they are the actual grower. Buying from the actual grower, as opposed to a reseller, means you’re getting it direct for the source and supporting family farmers.
4) U-Pick Farms: From the western suburbs to Michigan, there are abundant options to take your family out for a fun day of harvesting your own local foods. Each year, our family heads to South Haven, Michigan to DeGrandchamp Farms to pick 10-20 pounds of fresh blueberries at a time. Don’t tell anyone, but we may eat one or two during the picking process. While we eat a ton of fresh blueberries during the Summer, which are as sweet as candy, you can also freeze fresh blueberries for the winter by placing them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, freezing them and then putting into a freezer storage bag.
In the Fall, we head just out West to Jonamac Orchard to pick fresh apples right off the trees and enjoy some fresh apple cider doughnuts. We also stop to pick fresh raspberries along the way from a number u-pick farms.
So there you have it, whether you love to cook, simply love to eat or would like to looking to teach your children that food doesn’t grow on grocery store shelves, there are plenty of ways to experience and support the miracle of locally grown foods in and around Naperville. SM