A 26 year-old cow known as Sugar, greets guests as they arrive Sept. 10, 2022 at Angie’s Farm in Pomona, Ill. (@CarmellaSchumanPhotography)
A 26 year-old cow known as Sugar, greets guests as they arrive Sept. 10, 2022 at Angie’s Farm in Pomona, Ill.

@CarmellaSchumanPhotography

Annual Farm Crawl gives residents a close up look at local farms

September 19, 2022

The Neighborhood Co-op introduced new farms to its annual Farm Crawl on Sept. 10 and 11. Organizer Amy Dion said the purpose of the crawl is to allow people from all over the Carbondale area to meet local farmers. 

When the pandemic was at its peak, people were thrown off by the grocery shortages struggling to get food, Dion said.

“When the restaurants shut down and more people were shopping, they were looking for a lot of the fresh items through COVID. Also some [people] were stressed and so not everybody was able to get their items in store and I know for the Co-Op, we were able to fill that gap by working with our local farmers,” she said.

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Dion said those farms are a great way for the community to get locally grown produce, and see how it is grown and get to know the people who run the farms..

“I think there’s a great opportunity to just educate a lot of people in our area, just what we do have in our backyard and how much it can provide just for our region, which makes us more sustainable,” she said. “It also teaches a lot about soil quality. A small hog farm can produce quite a bit of heat, destroying the land or putting toxins into the soils or the waters.”

Jennifer Paulson, executive director of Food Works, said the organization’s main goal is to provide Southern Illinois with fresh locally-sourced food.

“It is this really unique place where we are making real concrete changes towards a stronger food system and we’re doing it from many different angles. It includes farmer training programs, everything from how to grow food to how to run your business successfully,” she said. 

Food Works sponsors events such as Farm Crawl to get the community involved with these local farms and to help Carbondale become more food sustainable, Paulson said.

“It’s an opportunity to see farming firsthand. It’s a really special thing to be able to go onto a farm and have the farmer there. Take the whole day and talk with people about how they do what they do,” she said. “They give tours, they’re there to answer questions and have conversations with people, and it’s an opportunity to really see how our food is produced.”

Paulson said Farm Crawl offers more than just touring different farms, but is a great way for people to think about all the different career paths available to them.

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“We have university students who are coming out to learn about sustainable agriculture or design in some way. And then we also have lots of people from the community who are interested in maybe knowing how to garden a little better or maybe they’re thinking about getting into agriculture as a profession,”

Eight farms were a part of last year’s crawl. This year there were 15 farms participating, some familiar, such as Wichmann Vineyard and Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch and some new, such as Mulberry Farms, Bloomridge Farm and Meadow Bluff Farms.

Amanda Roberts, owner of Bloomridge Farms, said, her place started out with a small zinnia patch and decided to expand. She said running a flower farm on such a big scale takes a lot of time and effort.

“Usually it is at least 40 hours a week, sometimes more depending on if it’s like planting season all year long. There’s maybe two months that I’m not doing something, either starting seeds indoors or watering or fertilizing or getting the beds ready or pulling old stuff,” Roberts said.

Roberts said being a part of the Farm Crawl, helps get local farms exposure so that more people can know about them and know where to buy organic products.

“I think it helps people to see the amount of work that goes into it and then that makes you appreciate those farms even more and makes you want to buy local and support these local people that are trying to run these small businesses to keep their families going,” she said.

Melanie Aldridge, the owner of MeadowBrook Farms said her grandfather started it about 100 years ago and it was passed down to her in 2010. She said, when they found out goat soap helped clear up their daughter’s eczema, they decided they wanted to sell it to others.

Kathy Ward, co-owner of La Colina Linda, said her and her partner’s farm has been around for about 10 years. They specialize in root vegetables, organic foods and medicinal herbs. She said people can pick up their baked goods fresh the day they order them.

Angie Kuhel and her brother Colin Kuhel, who run Angie’s Farm, said, because their honey is locally sourced, people are getting more of the nutrients they need from it compared to store- bought honey.

Farmers were not the only people who had good things to say about the crawl. Laurie Power, a Marion resident, said, since she is a first time gardener she was excited to be able to tour different farms and learn from the experts.

Volunteers Amie Trojnar and Abbie Kruse, said being able to buy local food not only helps the farmers out, but reduces the exploitation of labor in other places where produce is harvested.

Paulson said, “It’s a really wonderful event, because, in the end, everybody eats. So, everybody has a connection to agriculture. And we just want to create a weekend where people can get even more.”

Staff reporter Janiyah Gaston can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @DEJaniyah. To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois News follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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