After five years of reverse commuting from the city to their Barrington Hills farm, The Gentleman Farmer, organic farmers Dominic and Jessica Green are relocating their family to Barrington–and returning to Jessica’s roots. As they begin their fourth year growing for their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members, they’re also expanding their offerings and looking forward to selling their delicious, locally-grown produce at the Barrington Farmer’s Market.
Dominic and Jessica didn’t always plan on becoming farmers, nor did they envision a move to Barrington. It’s home for Jessica, a Barrington High School graduate, but Dominic hails from the South of England–and both are dyed-in-the-wool world travelers. They each had careers in the arts – Dominic as an actor, and Jessica as a dancer and Pilates instructor – but were looking for a lifestyle change. As new parents to their son Henry, born in 2008, they craved a more direct connection to food and community.
They also had access to Jessica’s family’s land in Barrington Hills–beautiful, fertile land just 35 miles from the city. As Dominic and Jessica sought direction for their next move, farming began to emerge as a strong contender.
It was during that time that the couple fell hard for the lifestyle and ethics of the River Cottage, a self-sustaining farming community founded by British chef and journalist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Jessica began researching the Stateline Farm Beginnings program through Angelic Organics, and the couple decided to apply.
Dominic says that the program provided them with invaluable training, but nothing compares to the farming experience itself. The Gentleman Farmer was certainly born in the Stateline Beginnings program, but has grown only through seasons of work in the field. “I’m like a toddler learning to walk, gaining stability each year,” he says. In his first year, he farmed a third of an acre, and grew vegetables for fifteen families and friends (Dominic and Jessica affectionately refer to that as year zero).
As their farm grew, so did their CSA membership and their following at the Logan Square Farmer’s Market, where loyal customers sought them out each week. Dominic increased his yields, and Jessica managed CSA subscriptions, maintained the website, and crafted newsletters each week.
Now in his fourth official year, Dominic is farming seven acres, two and a half of which will rest each year, planted with cover crops. The Gentleman Farmer is offering 100 twenty-week CSA shares this year (click here to sign up). “I’m planting 130 varieties of about 45 different vegetables,” Dominic says. This diversity is a key component of sustainable farming practices, and also ensures gorgeously varied boxes for CSA members.
Full Share CSA members receive a box each week; Half Share members receive a box every other week. The boxes – which members can either pick up at the farm or at Norton’s USA – each contain about 7-10 fresh, organic, seasonal vegetables. Members also receive a weekly CSA newsletter including notes from the farmer, recipes, nutritional information, photo and video updates on the crops and weekly harvest, and usually a fun farm anecdote.
Dominic and Jessica are also offering a new membership option this year called Worker Shares. In exchange for one shift of work at the farm each week of the season, Worker Share members will receive 1 full Vegetable CSA Share (worth $595). This is a formal commitment to work on the farm for one morning or one afternoon per week (4 – 5 hours). The work will include everything from seeding, planting, weeding, harvesting, washing and packing etc. It’ll be hard work, but the rewards will be delicious–and made that much sweeter by your labor.
Barrington resident Cory Flahaven tried two CSA programs before finding The Gentleman Farmer. “We really think that three times is the charm,” she says. “This is true Barrington local, and the communication Jessica provides is unsurpassed. Her recipes range from simple (which is sometimes perfect) to more sophisticated, and they’re always good.”
Cory and her husband have a four-year-old daughter, Kendall, who adores her weekly trips to the farm…
“I usually drive my convertible Beetle, and Kendall and I try to spot wildlife on our drive to the pick-up.” When they arrive, Kendall loves to play with the Greens’ sons, Henry and Oliver.
Jessica and Dominic often provide a little something extra at pick-up, ranging from a potted herb plant to an extra bag of greens. “Each visit is interesting, and they make it a fun adventure rather than an errand,” Cory says. “The little surprises are just such a nice touch.”
As a recent cancer survivor, Cory describes herself as “very in tune” with the importance of organic produce. “This is the freshest organically grown produce you can find,” she says. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have been a TGF CSA member since 2012, and I agree wholeheartedly with Cory.)
Dominic takes great care to ensure that the CSA boxes contain a great variety of veggies: you’ll always find some staples like carrots, lettuce, or broccoli, but you can also count on a wild card like kohlrabi or thai eggplant. Don’t know what those are? Don’t worry: Jessica explains each veggie thoroughly, and provides recipes to try…
The Barrington Farmer’s Market will provide another great way for Dominic to connect with the community. “I’m really looking forward to packing up the truck on Thursday and driving just a few minutes to the market,” he says. “For most farmers, a trip to the farmer’s market is a several-hour journey.”
This is just one aspect of the lifestyle change he and Jessica envisioned six years ago. With their move to Barrington, they’ll enjoy more time on the farm, and more time as a family. Jessica says the boys were their primary reason for pursuing farming: “The farm is a touchstone, a way to keep them grounded as they grow up in this crazy fast-paced world,” she says. “We want to show them the value of hard work and a connection to nature.”
“We searched far and wide for a home for our family, and it turned out to be right where we began,” Jessica says. “We’re so grateful for the opportunity to further establish our business and farm for the Barrington community – it really is a privilege.”
The Gentleman Farmer (at Hill N Dale Farm)
65 Spring Creek Road
Barrington Hills, IL 60010
(Please note: The farm is located on private property, and is only open to members on designated pick-up days.)