I've been helping on the farm since I was old enough to go out with dad. It has changed a lot over the years since then. My wife and I moved home and started working full time on the farm in January of 1997.
2. Tell us a little bit about your farm.
Jones Country Gardens is a very diverse farming operation.The home farm is 160 acres that was purchased by my parents in 1973. Prior to that my dad and grandfather had farmed it for several years for the previous owners. It started as a traditional row crop and livestock farm and in the early 1980s my parents diversified and started a 10 acre pick your own strawberry operation. Over the years they added other fruits, vegetables, pumpkins and fall agri-tainment. In the 1990s we transitioned out of most of the fruits and vegetables and into greenhouse production of annual and perennial flowers.The greenhouse operation is the biggest part of what we do currently.We have about 2 acres of heated growing space for flowers. We currently operate three retail garden centers: the home farm in Pontiac, a location in Streator, IL and Cliff's Market in Metamora, IL. We got back into vegetable production in 2009 when we started leasing and managing Cliff's Market in Metamora, IL. Cliff's had always had a summer produce stand so we started growing tomatoes and peppers and a few other items to sell. In 2013 I became involved with Legacy of the Land and our vegetable production has grown to around three to four acres.We also now raise pastured meat chickens and egg layers along with a few pastured pigs.Most of those products are sold to our customers at Cliff's
3. Tell us a little bit about the sustainable farming practices that you use.
Legacy of the Land is committed to chemical free fruit and vegetable production. While no one in the group is certified organic we follow those growing practices and implement those practices in all of our fruit and vegetable production that is sold through Legacy. In addition to our chickens and pigs being pasture based they are also fed non-gmo feed rations. We are starting to convert some of our traditional row crop acres back to non-gmo varieties to be able to provide our own feed.
4. Why is it important to you to use the particular sustainable practices you mentioned above?
In the long term picture of our farm I see us transitioning to more sustainable methods to help us in many ways.As we strive to increase the natural fertility of our soils they will become healthier which in turn helps us produce a more nutrient dense product that is better for our customers. Our customers are desiring more nutrient dense, chemical free, local produce products and that is what we are hoping to provide.
5. Why did you become a farmer?
It is what I have always known. I received my degree from Illinois State in Ag Business with the intention of one day returning home. What farming looks like now has changed since I have returned home and will probably continue to change in the future. Farming small acreage, you have to be diversified and flexible.
6. What is your favorite part of farming?
I enjoy being outside and all the different aspects and variety that comes with being a farmer.You get to wear a lot of different hats at times. Some days I am a horticulturalist dealing with flowers, other days dealing with vegetables, other days with animals, other days I am a mechanic, and other days, maybe a carpenter.
7. What are the main ways we can find your products
Our products are available at the home farm, at the farm stand at Cliff's Market, through our CSA, and available for restaurants, groceries, and institutions through Legacy of the Land. Our website is www.jonescountrygardens.com. We are also on Facebook with Jones Country Gardens and Cliff's Market.
8. Do you have a favorite or meaningful moment that happened on your farm?
My philosophy and thoughts on sustainable farming changed quite drastically about four years ago.I saw a show on television on CMT called Farm Kings. In one of the episodes they visited Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm.That lead me to reading a lot of Joel's books and going to see him speak.From there I started reading a lot of other books about sustainable farming practices.Eliot Coleman, Jerry Brunetti, Jean-Martin Fortier, Gary Zimmer, and others.If it wasn't for watching that show when it was on, we wouldn’t be farming the way we are farming today.