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CCFB News» May 2018

A Farm Generations in the Making

05/15/2018 @ 10:10 am | By Ruth Zeldenrust

I’m a third-generation farmer.  Our farm started with my grandpa after he emigrated from Holland.  He grew vegetables- radishes, greens, celery, beets, and other produce- and trucked them from Stony Island to Randolph Street for the market every day in the summer.  I spent my summers, working side-by-side with my dad in the fields and at the farmers markets.  I’ve been at farmers markets since I was 15-years-old.

Like so many farm kids, when I graduated college I never imagined that I’d end up farming.  With my degree in hand, I moved to Washington D.C. and worked for a phone company.  I quickly realized that I hated being in an office doing the same thing day-after-day and that I wanted to return to home, so I gave up my 40-hour work weeks for 100-plus-hour work weeks and returned to our family farm.

Today it's me, my husband Henry, my mom, and my three daughters and their families who help on the farm, with extra help from employees during the busy times. We farm just over 30-acres of vegetables along with greenhouse-grown flowers and nursery stock.  Our farm helps to hold our family together. 

My dad didn’t want me to farm because times can be hard, but I came back to the farm because it’s what I love and I want to ensure that future generations of my family can make the same choice that I did-to farm.

To improve soil health, we routinely test soil nutrient levels and only apply nutrients if necessary.  To conserve water, we use drip irrigation and only add water when necessary.  To minimize chemical use, we scout our fields and identify pests before applying any chemicals. 

To minimize soil compaction, we harvest everything by hand- it’s the only way we’ve ever done it.  In the summer, I walk the fields before our employees arrive and pick one or two of the best-looking vegetables based on size and color and lay them on our porch railing.  Anyone helping for the day can easily see what needs to be picked.  We only pick what we need for our roadside farmstand and farmers markets.  And we only pick what we can use in a day.

I’m committed to taking care of our land to ensure that future generations can continue our family tradition, farming.