PlanItGreen holds regular Lunch and Learn sessions that provide institutional and communitynleaders with expert information and facts on various sustainability topics. The April 8th Lunch and Learn focused on CSAs, with Matt Sheaffer of Sandhill Family Farms as the guest speaker.
Sandhill Family Farms has been delivering CSA shares to Oak Park residents for the last 11 years, dropping off boxes of its organic produce at the Buzz Cafe. Based in Brodhead, Wis., just across the Illinois border, and on 90 leased acres of land in Grayslake, Ill., Sandhill was the first certified organic farmer to have a regular booth at the Oak Park Farmers’ Market.
CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, is a food subscription service that allows individuals and families to purchase locally and seasonally as part of a farm share --and support local farmers. CSAs have grown in popularity in the last several years, boosted by the interest in locally grown food.
“In its purest form, Community Supported Agriculture consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes essentially that community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and rewards of food production,” according to Band of Famers, a Chicago-area coalition of CSA farms and supporters of CSA farms.
Sandhill Family Farms is a partnership between two families, Peg and Matt Sheaffer and Jeff and Jen Miller. The Sheaffers started the original Sandhill Organics 15 years ago in East Troy, Wis. In 2012 the Sheaffer and Miller families formed Sandhill Family Farms, creating an alliance that strengthens the economic viability of the traditional family farm business model. Over the years, Sandhill has became one of the Chicago area’s most widely respected CSA farms.
“We’re a small business and our business is farming,” Matt Sheaffer, who grew up in Glen Ellyn, says proudly. Situated in northern Illinois and surrounded by lots of natural habitat, the farm grows chard, leeks, kale, carrots and uses high tunnels to control moisture and get an early start on the growing season. Tomatoes are a signature crop, Sheaffer adds.
Sandhill’s CSA, Sheaffer says, currently serves 600 families, with plenty of space to take on more. The Oak Park market makes up about 10 percent of their CSA business, and 90 percent of what the farm produces goes toward filling CSA shares. “Our shares are geared toward families of four who like to eat vegetables,” Sheaffer says.
A typical produce delivery includes an assortment of 6-10 different organic vegetables such as (depending on the season): baby beets, green onions, baby carrots, lettuce, radishes, arugula, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, chard, cucumbers, zucchini, red potatoes, leeks, bok choy, spinach, turnips, acorn squash and green cabbage. Sandhill also offers fruit, dairy, eggs and meat shares.
This year’s local deliveries will start the first week in May and run until Thanksgiving. Sandhill plans to try out home deliveries this year, too, Sheaffer says. CSA shares are typically delivered to community, or neighborhood, pickup sites, where customers can retrieve their boxes.
Sandhill’s Oak Park area customers can pick up their shares at Oak Park, Buzz Cafe, 905 S Lombard, Thursdays, 4:30-7:00. Learn more about Sandhill’s CSA here.