These days it seems like Farm to Table is everywhere. It's the new rage (for all the best reasons) and every restaurant is working hard to get on board. However, this concept isn't brand new, people have been selling their vegetables and crops to restaurants far longer than we might have thought!
James D'Arcy, one of our participants riding in Farm to Fork Fondo - Pennsylvania Dutch remembers most of his childhood (1983-1991) growing up on an organic farm in Illinois, about 60 miles northwest of Chicago.
"It was called Ladybug Farm because we used ladybugs as a natural deterrent to aphids and other insects, we’d have bags of them and walk around the fields spreading them each year. It was my grandfather’s farm, he’d always been an avid farmer and when he retired he decided to start a small organic farm. My parents were tired of city life and had moved to the northern suburbs, but is still wasn’t quiet enough so when my grandparents bought the farm we built a second house on it and lived there too.
What started off as a small venture, when his grandfather wanted to grow food to deliver to restaurants in downtown Chicago, grew into something much larger.
"Our specialty was tomato’s but over the years he’d always ask the chef’s what they’d like, and would then experiment next season to increase the variety of things we sold. We sold tomato’s (over a dozen varieties), baby lettuces, various baby squash and zucchini, asparagus, and raspberries."
James remembers working on the farm as well, and recalling that his favorite thing to do was to deliver the vegetables they had worked hard to grow, to each and every chef.
"I had a variety of jobs on the farm each summer (I was in charge of the compost pile), but the most fun one was helping with the deliveries into Chicago. We went every other day, ensuring the vegetables were always picked within a few days of delivery. Each day we went into the city we’d have lunch at one of the restaurants we delivered too. This was great fun because not only was the food delicious, but we’d show up dirty in shorts and t-shirts surrounded by business people, but would get first class treatment, often times with the chef’s coming out to see how we liked our lunch, since we knew them all."
The farm really grew over those years, and what started off as a hobby exploded as more restaurants, and eventually grocery stores wanted to buy the family tomatoes and other items.
Check out more about this farm here; a newspaper article written about Lady Bug Farm from 1988!