Ron and Jacque Suttill-Simpson
2201 Groth Rd.
Springfield IL, 62703
One block East of Southeast High School
Farm Stand, Old Capitol Farmers' Market, Illinois Products Farmers Market, Store/Retail, Restaurants: Maldaner's, American Harvest Eatery, Augie's Front Burner, Angela's A Taste of Italy- All Springfield Restaurants
Open April - Thanksgiving.
8:00-5:30 Monday - Saturday
We are fourth generation farmers. The fifth generation is being trained. Greenhouse and garden.
By: Elaina Conley-Keck, Summer Intern
The Suttill’s Gardens produce stall has been a staple of the Old Capitol Farmers Market for many years, and this family farm has been a Springfield classic for over one hundred years. In a 2013 interview in the Illinois Times, Ron Suttill of Suttill’s Gardens discusses how his grandmother started the farm in 1902, and that it has been family owned and operated ever since. Ron took over in the sixties from his father. I met with his daughter and granddaughter, Jacque Suttill-Simpson and Caitlyn, at the Old Capitol Farmers Market in downtown Springfield one sunny Wednesday morning. Although it was just 7:30 in the morning, Jacque and Caitlyn had already arrived and were finishing up unloading their produce for the day when I walked over. While her mom was finishing writing the daily prices on a chalkboard sign I had the chance to talk with Caitlyn about her family’s farm. Caitlyn is the fifth generation of Suttill’s Gardens; she explained that the entire family helps out at the farm, including herself, her mom, an uncle, and of course her grandfather, Ron Suttill. She notes that there are over one hundred years of history and hard work that go into producing these crops.
Suttill’s Gardens grows specialty crops including colorful varieties of okra, heirloom tomatoes, plums, and more. This year they are debuting the first round of peaches, which were planted two years ago. Jacque told me that they even used to grow apples and make their own apple cider. There was a time when Jacque’ grandfather owned part of the east side of Springfield and filled it with beautiful orchards. She reminisced with me about sorting out cherry tomatoes for his deliveries; Suttill’s Gardens used to deliver to grocery stores all around town in addition to selling at the farmers markets. Today they mainly sell to consumers at the markets and to local restaurants including Maldaner’s, Driftwood Cocktail and Eatery, Augie’s Front Burner, American Harvest Eatery, and Panther Creek Country Club. When asked why Suttill’s does not sell to grocery stores anymore, Jacque replied that there is less demand for local produce at stores. Grocery stores are interested in buying in bulk from consistent sources. Stores are less willing to make space for smaller displays of local produce that may vary based on the season or availability due to weather. Fortunately, we are starting to see a shift in what is available at stores as consumers become more interested in where their food is coming from. Stores in Springfield such as Schnuck’s are beginning to feature small local produce displays.
Buying local and eating what is in season is more than a trend for the Suttill’s, though; it is a way of life. Jacque told me that eating seasonally from their farm and the surrounding area has been an important value bestowed on her throughout her entire life. There are many challenges associated with being a small farm, such as financial struggles and the variability of the weather; Suttill’s Gardens, and many other farms, were hurt badly by the tremendous amount of rain this year. But Jacque, and the rest of her family, want to share their values with their customers at the farmers market and through the restaurants they serve. Having the chance to talk with Jacque and her daughter reminded me why going to the farmers market is so important: it gives you the chance to interact face to face with the farmers who grow and harvest your food. This experience connects us back to nature and reminds us of the gifts we have in farmers who provide for our community.