Chef’s Creations


We have a lot of tomatoes but I feel like they are stealing the thunder from some other superb crops this year. We had a magnificent potato crop, harvesting nearly 900 lbs. We planted three varieties which were Yukon Golds (my favorite: buttery and delicious), Strawberry Paw Paw’s (beautiful pink color on the inside and out) and Kennebec potatoes. We were able to hold off the pesky potato beetle long enough so that the damage wasn’t killing the actual crop. We also used a tractor implement called a potato harvester which saved us immense back labor. I think everyone was surprised at the ease of this year’s harvest. Once the potato harvester dug out the potatoes from there it was like an easter egg hunt. Slight touch of the sides of the bed to dislodge any remaining potatoes and then just collecting them in a harvest container. Easy Peasy!



I want to highlight one other phenomenal crop this year and that is the onion. I have no rhyme or reason why this is the first year we have grown them but hindsight is 20/20, eh? Beautiful harvest, no bugs, grown in plastic so very little weeds, 3 months later viola! We sold out of 200 lbs in a week! Very high demand with the chefs. We have another planting in the ground right meow so round 2 will be coming shortly.


This picture does not do this creation justice! Apologies for the poor quality.


The chefs are creating some AMAZING meals out of the produce they have been receiving. This is extra great for us as we like to be taste testers during deliveries. Lance the chef of AOPi created a blueberry/ tomato balsamic dressing to highlight his delicious pasta salad, also made with farm tomatoes. It was so delicious and the color was breath taking. I had never heard of blueberry balsamic until now and was very impressed. Those are some lucky ladies.


It is no surprise to walk into an amazing lunch at Hendrick House. Jon, the chef of Hendrick House is as cool as they come. He is my biggest supporter, never saying no to produce and always finding new and creative ways to incorporate it into his huge operation. I honestly don’t know how he does it. Definitely a person worth knowing if you don’t already.

Thanks to all the chefs these last two weeks. Everyone is taking so much produce that we had to break out deliveries up into two runs. What a great problem to have! 🙂


Total Eclipse of the Sun


Happy 2017 total eclipse readers. If you were lucky enough to be near totality I heard it was pretty cool. No rest for the weary though! Me and the farm crew were back at it in full force yesterday, pulling thousands of pounds of tomatoes off the plants…. literally. They say a perfect harvest is supposedly 20 lbs per plant. I know this year we are getting more than that. I have never seen anything like this. It is creating some storage problems but I will take that over some of the other rotten years we have had, pun intended.


The sororities are in full swing and the rest of the students are heading back this week. We have so many standing orders this year it has been a puzzle trying to piece it all together. We decided to try to get everyone on standing orders before they get too busy into the semester. So far so good. Organization is key! 🙂


Justin, Rey and I are seeing a lot of our hard work being served during lunch. Chef Jon Curtis and his team have made some really delicious food this summer. I am excited to see what the other chefs do with the same product.



Starting School


The end of summer is here and the university students are days within moving in. This means crunch time for the chefs and the farm. We have been busy taking standing weekly orders to be delivered to sororities and fraternities as well as the dorms.

We are still having an abundance of tomatoes. In fact, we have so many tomatoes that we constantly run out of harvest containers and space to store all of them. We are playing a strategic game of jenga two times a week. I know Jon and Adam (two chefs that have been taking all of our produce this summer) are happy to have some relief soon.


We are still dealing with bird and rabbits out at the farm. It has become a very frustrating problem because there isn’t a sure fire way to prevent the pest damage. The farmers at the U of I have put out a predatory bird caller but that only seems to help for a couple of days until the crows get used to the sound. I thought a dry year would be good for us and it has in some ways. Unfortunately, the crows have been looking for not only food but also water. It is a struggle trying to repair the drip irrigation overtime we need to water. It’s also really disappointing for me and my staff to see beautiful produce become unmarketable due to bites taken out of it. The rabbits are eating our small transplants faster than we can replant. Incredibly frustrating.


On the bright side, we got our first onion crop of the history of HH farms. They are beautiful and currently curing in the greenhouse!


AAAAAhh, the tomato


The highly anticipated part of the year has arrived. . . Tomato Season. I have been working this profession for the last 5? years and FINALLY the stars have aligned and we are having a great tomato season! It is very important for HH farm to have a good year in tomatoes because that is what we dedicate most of our land to growing. We use an entire 1/2 acre for just tomato production and unlike other faster growing crops that we can replant throughout the season, that piece of land is dedicated to tomatoes for the entirety of the growing season. Tomatoes take a long time to mature so by the time they are ready to harvest it would be too late to plant another crop in that same spot without having a high tunnel to protect it from the elements.


Aside from dedicating a lot of land to tomato production we also depend on them for our cash crop. The reason I chose tomatoes for our cash crop is because they are one of the most widely used and diverse crops throughout the company. Another step towards sustainability is not only using fresh produce grown within the company but also to process that produce down into items that can be distributed throughout the kitchens. Examples of this would be: salsas, spaghetti sauces, soup bases and much more.


This is the first year, in my experience, that we have had more unblemished tomatoes than blemished. The unblemished tomatoes are really great for us because they get double the dollar value and are a nicer product to showcase for the farm. The tomatoes are so beautiful we even added another product to our sales list… heirlooms! Our heirloom tomatoes sell $1.00 more than our high value unblemished 1sts due to intensity of flavor and difficulty to grow. We harvested 1,100 lbs of tomatoes yesterday and 900 of those lbs were unblemished. If our bodies didn’t hurt so bad at the end of the day I’m sure that Justin, Rey and myself would have literally jumped for joy. I’m not going to lie though…. it was physically challenging.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I LOVE LITTLE VISITORS. It is so much fun to see the excitement on their faces when they are able to see, harvest and eat what we produce. There is a HUGE educational component to this project and changing the way generations eat and look at food starts at the beginning, when children are young and before they have formed bad habits and negative opinions regarding fresh vegetables. Justin brought his kids, Jamey and Zachia, out to look at the farm. They quality tested some vegetables and we got a good review. Children are as honest as they come so we were relieved and happy to get a good feedback. I’ve asked Justin if he would bring them back to quality test our fall crop in a couple months and make sure we are staying on our toes!