Green Zebras, Earl of Edgecombe and Pruden’s Purple are just a few of the fanciful heirloom tomato varieties that will be available at this Saturday’s annual Smart Farm Organic Veggie Plant Sale. The sale, which will take place on Saturday, May 14th, from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at Smart Farm’s garden on Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital’s campus, features a wide variety of organic seedlings of heirloom and hybrid tomatoes, peppers, brassicas, eggplants, lettuces, squash and herbs. These seedlings are in high demand – and when they’re gone, they’re gone – so be sure to get there early to purchase these beautiful plants!
Smart Farm is a nonprofit with a mission to cultivate a healthy, eco-friendly community by offering adults and children learning opportunities in sustainable gardening; promoting the benefits of sustainable gardening; and donating fresh produce to support neighbors in need. All of the proceeds from Smart Farm’s annual plant sale go to support the expansion of their community education and outreach programs – so when you buy a plant you ensure that others have access to locally grown, organic produce.
Here’s a list of the seedlings available for purchase: Green Zebra, Brandywine, Crimee de Noir, Earl of Edgecombe, Striped German, Aunt Gertie’s Gold, Amish Paste, Italian, White Beauty, Black Plum, Black Cherry, White Cherry, Believe It Or Not, and Pruden’s Purple heirloom tomatoes * Red Pearl, Golden Sweet and Paisano hybrid tomatoes * Red, Yellow & Orange Bell, Serrano, Jalapeno, Poblano, Cayenne, Shishito, Carmen, Banana, Romanian, Padron, Aji Dulce, and Cherry peppers * Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Collard Greens, Red Russian, Dinosaur and Curly Kale * Tomatillos, Okra and Lettuce * Galine, Rosa Bianca and Asian Eggplants * Cucumber, Patty Pan, Yellow Zucchini, Zucchini squash * Parsley (flat leafed and curly), Basil (Italian and Amethyst), Lovage, Borage, Papalo, Feverfew, Epazote, Dill and Cilantro herbs
Smart Farm began as a seedling in 2009, when founder Kathy Gabelman and volunteers planted two community garden plots at Ron Beese Park with the hope of creating a giving garden. Their first year, they harvested and donated over 350 pounds of produce. They have since moved to the campus of Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, where they now have over half an acre of production gardens, a hoop house and composting systems. In 2015, they harvested and donated over 7,500 pounds of produce to local organizations. That’s some serious growth!
We caught up with the Smart Farm team at their recent work day on April 23rd to learn more about the farm and their goals for the coming year. Kathy and Meg are growing their volunteer base, developing new partnerships and expanding educational programs that will further their mission of sharing healthy produce and sustainability lessons with the community.
Chief Gardener Meg Mitchell has some serious sweat equity in the farm, and she also handles volunteer coordination. It takes many hours of work – almost 900 last year, from more than 90 volunteers – to make the Smart Farm grow. “We have a great volunteer base who help us make it all happen,” Meg says. “We have some people who always come on the weekend because they work, or others who come during the day. We have so many different activities and time frames that there’s something that works for everyone.”
Volunteers are always welcome at Smart Farm on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., beginning on May 16th, and on specially designated work days. “We get more and more volunteers every year, and they make a tremendous difference,” Kathy Gabelman says. “We post our listings on Volunteer Match, reach out through Constant Contact, and do local publicity to try to get the word out about work days and regular volunteer opportunities.”
This year, Kathy and Meg look forward to a growing partnership with Advocate Good Shepherd. “We want to integrate more with the hospital, and create a community garden where some of the employees will have the ability to garden with us. We hope that it will help get the word out and get employees involved,” Kathy says. “We are also working with another hospital, Advocate Good Samaritan in Downer’s Grove, who would like to create a garden as well.”
Kathy Phelan is the Trauma Coordinator for Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, and started volunteering for Smart Farm last year. “I saw the garden out here, and was curious about it. I come every Saturday that I can. I love volunteering here – it’s a great way to give back.” As an added bonus, Kathy earns points for Advocate’s Healthy You program by working in the garden. “If you get so many points you get put into a raffle, and last year I won a $500 raffle. It’s not why I do it, but it’s a nice bonus. I like that I’m out here moving, being healthy and giving back.”
Families can get in on the volunteering fun, too. Zach, Jeanette, Jack (10) and Aidan (8) Graham of Crystal Lake made time to work in the farm field as a family before heading to the sports fields with their boys. “Jeanette found this opportunity on Volunteer Match, and we thought it sounded like a good fit for us,” Zach says. “It’s something we can all do together.”
Kathy and Meg enjoy working with other community organizations, such as the Barrington Park District, local food pantries, and area restaurants and grocery stores to provide classes and supply their fresh, organic and local produce. Here are two classes that will be offered this spring and summer:
- May 21, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., All About Composting with Mindful Waste (full disclosure here: I’m part of the Mindful Waste team)
- August 13, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., All About Herbs with local Herbalist, Ashley Behrendt
Kathy, Meg and the Smart Farm team hope to see you at the Plant Sale this Saturday, and out at the farm volunteering!
The Smart Farm is located at 450 IL Highway 22, in Barrington, Illinois 60010. You can learn more about their mission, volunteer opportunities, events and classes by visiting their website at www.smartfarms.org. You can also stop by their Facebook page here, or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.