The farm season has officially come to an end for 2016. Justin and I pulled up the remaining plastic in the field and I broke down the hydroponic system in preparation for the farmers to shut off the water. Despite a few setbacks with the replanting of our transplants and downy mildew, this was an amazing season. The weather was finally in our favor with a hot, dry summer. Most importantly, after three years we finally secured a BADASS farm crew that will be returning in the spring. I have never had more fun at work than I did this year. The crew worked hard, were reliable and did it all with a smile and a great sense of humor.




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I owe a huge amount of thanks to so many people for this year’s success. Thank you to the University of Illinois Department of Crop Science for allowing us to lease land and supporting our mission. Thank you to Hendrick House and the Hendrick family for encouraging the farm and shared vision to make this dream become a reality. Thank you to the chefs for your support and menuing fresh farm food. Thank you Jeremy Shafer, Eric Kinkelear, Billy (B nizzle) Sharp, Bryan Warsaw, Michael Douglas (not the actor) and Matt Turino for your continued guidance, patience and loyal assistance throughout the year. Thank you to Rick Weinzierl and Mary Hosier for teaching me the ropes of farming and for your continued support through the years. Finally, thank you, thank you, thank you to my fabulous staff (Justin Slade, Terren Gaither and Rey Jackson) for all of your hard work and great laughs.

I will be spending the winter making new and exciting preparations for the 2017 growing season. We will be implementing season extension tools for our 3 acres and I am going to redesign the rooftop garden to increase functionality while implementing education workshops for the chefs and the community, hopefully making us eligible for grant opportunities. I have also been furiously putting together a workbook for the chefs which will serve as a field guide when they are menuing and ordering for the 2017 growing season. There are many exciting things to come in 2017 so please stay tuned!! …….Ann out


Living on Borrowed Time


I knew what was going to happen last weekend and dreaded looking at the crops yesterday morning. I was hoping by some miracle we could get one more week but alas, the peppers were droopy and mushy when I walked the bed. We knew some of the crops were living on borrowed time. The first real freeze of the season happened last weekend and it was sayonara. I am very happy that the season went so late and the harvest numbers for peppers blew 2015’s numbers out of the water.



I was hoping that would be the only loss for now, that was until I saw my basil. This year, like the many years before it proved to be tough for growing basil. With downy mildew so prevalent in this area I think it is nearly impossible to grow in the field. This being my first year for hydroponics, and the crop doing so well in the beginning, I thought I had found my solution. Although the cold weather cause the immanent death, I still had a few problems toward the end. I am not giving up though!! I will do more research this winter into growing hydroponically and be sure to start my basil early in the season, as that seemed to be the prime time for success.


Unfortunately we lost a majority of our romaine crop. Although we still beat the numbers from last year, by a lot, I would have had liked to have one final harvest. Unfortunately the crop was too small to harvest before the freeze last weekend and when I walked the bed yesterday there was a considerable amount of damage to the leaves. Although disappointing, I knew I was pushing the envelope with the last planting. The lettuce that was marketable was beautiful, lush and green.


The farmers are draining all the lines to irrigation around the farms which means no water so the end is near. I am going to harvest the rest of my kale this week and the chefs have agreed to take the large amount and process it down to use during the winter months. I plan to get the plastic and drip tape up before the ground really freezes, which could be as early as this weekend. I have decided not to till the plot this year, to try to keep as many nutrients in the soil as possible. This will be my first year trying to make more permanent sustainable beds with the same plot plan, just rotating crops by the 1/2 acre.


The farm is going and going and going and going and going …..

I know you loyal readers are probably sick of me talking about the warm weather and how long the season is going this year. I can’t help it! It is not only unbelievable but absolutely fantastic. Growing in the fall is the absolute best because you don’t have to worry about most of the problems you encounter in the spring, such as pests!


I had another amazing harvest, pulling 150 lbs of just peppers! I am still harvesting bells, Carmens, poblanos, banana and jalapeño peppers. I am truly amazed at the size and quality along with the longevity. I found two extra remarkable Green Bell peppers yesterday so I had to track Justin down just to show him. They were bigger than his hands!! Poor guy can’t get away from the blog, hehe.


Hard to see the spots in this picture but the cauliflower heads look beautiful!

I do not want to let the crazy phenomenon of the peppers over shadow the rest of the fall crops that I anticipated harvests on this late in the year. As you know from last week’s blog post our cauliflower is finally ready. It seemed like I was waiting an eternity for the plants to mature. One of the phenomenal chefs, Kat, who takes a lot of farm produce each week, asked me why some of the heads had small purple spots. This was a great question because it forced me to do a little extra research on cauliflower. Cauliflower is in the same family as cabbage, broccoli, kale etc and that is called the Brassica family. Like (red) cabbage, the coloring has to do with the amount of antioxidants in the plant. They are called anthocycanin. The crops have been getting an unordinary amount of sunlight for this time of year along with the unusually warm temperatures. The sunlight brings out more of the anthocycanin, hence the small purple coloring on the head of the crop.

We learn something new every day :)!


Unbelievable size so I had to end the blog with another picture


Fall crops are in full swing and so are… peppers???


Beautiful Broccoli Raab. My favorite tasting crop of 2016

This has been a strange growing season, fortunately to our advantage. It has been unusually warm this time of year with temperatures reaching 80 on Nov. 1st?? Crazy!


Beautiful Broccoli Crowns


I was waiting on pins and needs for the cauliflower. It is finally here!

Our fall crops are doing very well and are loving the cold night time temperatures. They consist of broccoli, broccoli raab, cauliflower (which finally started producing), kale, squash (which made a come back with the warm days) and surprisingly enough, peppers. Broccoli and cauliflower always make me nervous because they take for-e-v-e-r to produce. Despite my impatience, when they do finally produce it is a beautiful and abundant crop that the chefs love. This is my second year growing the variety of broccoli called Gypsy. It is fairly maintenance free and you really only have to worry about cabbage looper. It produces and large crown and then you are able to harvest the off shoots  for florets. I’ve found that this is a real winner with the chefs as most students are familiar with and like eating broccoli. It is also easily cleaned and great in stir fry, which is also a very popular request from the students.


HUGE Bell Peppers!!

Our peppers are producing more now than they did in August, which is supposed to be our peak season for peppers. With the disappointing and short tomato season for us this year, we really are doing well to make up that loss. The other farmers in the area can’t believe the abundance of peppers they are getting from their home gardens either. It’s really a true phenomenon. The plants are big and beautiful and show no signs of bacterial spot. I have not been preventative spraying copper and I have not irrigated or fertilized since our irrigation was stored for winter two weeks ago. Also, the cold nights we had last week wiped out the bug population so we are not battling that either.  I grew a new variety of bells this year called Red Knight Xr3. I saw this being grown in a research plot across from mine last year. The peppers were big and beautiful! Although I was battling bacterial spot pretty fervently in my plot last year, I saw no signs of the disease on these peppers, despite the wet cool season we were experiencing. I decided that this variety was exactly what I was looking for in a bell (being big and disease resistant) and thus grew them this year with a lot of success. They are sort of a late producer so it has been very conducive to this weather.



I am still pulling hundreds of pounds of beautiful looking produce off the farm every week. Yesterday we had 100lbs of just peppers alone. I wish every season was like this.This will be the longest growing season in the books thus far. I love it!