I took the “Illinois Farm Beginnings” Class during 2011, and began farming and marketing at the Downtown Springfield Farmers’ Market in 2012. We added a small CSA as well in 2013.
2. Tell us a little bit about your farm.
I grow vegetables on two acres near Loami, with the assistance of many, many friends and family, including my parents Richard and Hannah McDaniel; my roommate Yetunde Agbesola; my children Glen, Willow, and Gideon; our family friend Larry Keinzler, and landowner Tim Moore and his family. We raise everything we can fit into the season, from head lettuce to beets to tomatoes and peppers. Because I work full-time off-farm for the legislature, we focus our efforts to provide for 20 weeks of vegetables from June through October. We have just added a high tunnel, but most of our produce is grown in the field.
3. Tell us a little bit about the sustainable farming practices that you use?
I farm using organic practices, although without organic certification. I use cover crops and soil amendments to create a healthy ecosystem for the plants, and will occasionally use OMRI-approved substances (like Neem Oil) from time to time to address certain fungi or insects.
4. Why is it important to you to use the particular sustainable practices you mentioned above?
I want to know that I can pull a tomato off the vine, wipe off the dust, and hand it to my children to eat right there without any worry about pesticide or herbicide residue. I want to know that I’m not adding any more chemicals to our watershed, and that I’m not unintentionally killing off native species of plants or animals with my growing practices.
5. Why did you become a farmer?
I’ve always grown large gardens, and when I found myself a single mother of three delightful children, I decided that I wanted to start to use this existing interest of mine to add to our resources and to sustain my family both financially and nutritionally.
6. What is your favorite part of farming?
I love the outdoor solitude, getting to know the wildlife that surrounds us, and the deeply fulfilling feeling of working the soil and harvesting food that will be delicious at dinner.
7. Tell us about a favorite or meaningful moment that happened on your farm.
I had just received a large semi full of compost delivered to the farm. The three kids were climbing and playing and pretending, and making all sorts of discoveries. “Wow, this is so HOT!” and “Look, I found a pumpkin seed!”
I was weeding and working soil not terribly far from them, and I looked over as the sun was setting and dusk was enveloping us. All three of them were lying at the top of this very tall pile on their backs, looking up at the sky as it became night. They were just talking, and noticing the air and the birds and the sunset, and it was just perfect. Every kid should get the chance to lie on a big pile of dirt high above the ground and watch the sun set.
8. What are the main ways we can find your products?
For 2016, we will be almost exclusively a CSA farm. We will have a very limited presence periodically at the downtown Springfield Farmers’ market, but we will be focusing on catering to our CSA members. (Interested members can email email@example.com, there are very limited spots available. You can also learn more at www.sallysfields.com.)