180. “Get Growing” with Jessica Green: It Takes a Village


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A few weeks ago, we introduced you to Jessica Green, our latest community contributor here at 365Barrington.com.  Today, we’re giving her new series a name.  Jessica and her husband Dominic run The Gentleman Farmer, a CSA program based on their Barrington Hills family farm.  Be sure to watch for Jessica’s latest posts here at 365Barrington.com about farming, gardening, food and family with our regular new feature, “Get Growing” with Jessica Green.

The Gentleman Farmer's  Jessica Green on Gardening, Farming, Food and Family
The Gentleman Farmer’s Jessica Green on Farming, Food and Family

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It Takes a Village

by Jessica Green – Mother-of-two and Co-Founder of The Gentleman Farmer

It takes a village to raise a family and it certainly takes a community to support sustainable farming. This year at The Gentleman Farmer we have implemented a Work For A Share program.  This model — where a person commits to one five-hour shift a week in exchange for a share of fresh produce — is used by small farms across the nation.  What it does, much like the model of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), is lighten the work load of the farmer throughout the season, but it also creates a point of entry to the local food movement for the community by offering a way to access fresh veggies, mentorship from the farmer and a connection to the land through one’s time rather than dollars.

Tony Mensik with The Gentleman Farmer's Work for a Share Program - Courtesy of The Gentleman Farmer
Tony Mensik with The Gentleman Farmer’s Work for a Share Program – Courtesy of The Gentleman Farmer

Our worker shares this season come from all different backgrounds and all different ages, but one thing unites them and that is the love for the environment and wanting to be involved in the organic and local food movement in their areas.

Tony Mensik with The Gentleman Farmer's Work for a Share Program - Courtesy of The Gentleman Farmer
Tony Mensik with The Gentleman Farmer’s Work for a Share Program – Courtesy of The Gentleman Farmer

One of the most exciting aspects of the local food movement is that it is proving to be a perfect medium through which healthy, organic food is being made available to many different socioeconomic groups across the board.

On June 9th, the US government launched a program called Local Food, Local Places. This program provides experts in agriculture, transportation, the environment and the regional economy to rural communities to help them build local food systems.

In our own backyard, accessibility to healthy food is being addressed by Barrington’s non -profit SmartFarm, whose harvests go to local food pantries and programs that help educate the community.

Organizations such as Angelic Organics Learning Center in Rockford, GrowingHome in Chicago and Growing Power in Milwaukee and Chicago are using different small scale farming models from urban farming to aquaponics as a vehicle to empower under-priveledged youth.

At some farmer’s markets, many farmers are enrolled in the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program, which assists women, infants and children as well as families with a low to medium income in purchasing organic and fresh vegetables directly from the farmer. And there are educational opportunities such as the Budding Farmers program –who has a stall at this year’s Barrington Farmer’s Market – which focuses on educating children on fresh produce from learning the different varieties to growing ones own.

How do we harness this momentum and make accessibility to local foods the norm rather than the exception?

Be active! Support restaurants and grocers that source produce from your local farmers.

Barrington has a handful of food providers which choose to support local farms when possible: The Barrington Country Bistro sources its greens from Middlebury Farms – a farm which was begun in Barrington and now grows its produce in Woodstock; and chef Gaetano Nardulli at NEAR Restaurant also sources organically and from local farmers when possible, he even supported The Gentleman Farmer when we had a surplus of eggplant our first year farming!

And Heinen’s Grocery’s mission prioritizes supporting and knowing the local farmer too. With more of a demand from customers, in time, more restaurants and grocers might consider looking locally to source their produce meaning more accessibility.

When the local farms prosper, they are able to expand and supply more variety and feed more people. That results in more opportunities for the community from employment, to outreach and even education. While the community is supporting local farming, so local farming supports the community. It’s a win-win, all just from going local!

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Photo by Christina Noël
The Gentleman Farmer Family – Photo by Christina Noël

About the Author

Jessica Green and her husband Dominic run The Gentleman Farmer, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program from their family farm in Barrington Hills.

You’ll find the Greens selling their freshest fruits and veggies at the Barrington Farmers Market on Thursdays each week from 2 to 7 p.m.

When they’re not working on the farm, Jessica and Dominic keep busy looking after their two young boys, Henry and Oliver.

For more information about Jessica and Dominic’s efforts in local and sustainable farming, visit Gentleman-Farmer.com.


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