Small family farm transforms into 5 bountiful acres
by Rachel Baruch Yackley
Ten years ago, Tim Fuller and Beth Propst bewildered their neighbors by transforming the yard of their home into a mini farm.
What began as a small effort to grow their own food flourished into Erehwon Farm, which provides healthy produce to hundreds of people.
After getting things growing in their yard near St. Charles in 2001, “the neighbors were starting to comment,” said Tim Fuller. “Then (in 2005) we got in with Garfield Farm Museum (at Mongerson Farm). Last year, we got an opportunity to start over at our new location, which we are leasing and helping the owners develop.”
Erehwon Farm is now at 40W248 Hughes Road in Elburn, just west of the Mill Creek subdivision. Two brothers, Hazis and Rakip Azemi, both stonemasons whose father immigrated here from Albania, own this acreage.
“We have about 5 acres, here,” Fuller said. “We have a lot of trees and we're designing an edible forest garden with apple trees, peach trees, berry bushes, and lots more. We have maple trees (which were tapped this spring, yielding 5 gallons of maple syrup). “On the ground we're growing asparagus and all sorts of things. We also have an herb culinary garden. And part of our farm is designated for picking by CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members.”
From the ground up, everything is unique about this farm, starting with its name. “Erehwon,” which is “nowhere” backward, was inspired by a mythical place described in a novel with the same name, by author Samuel Butler.
“What I feel is our mission is to provide affordable food to local folks around here,” Fuller stated. “I believe in small and simple and in (using) a low amount of equipment. For example, one of the things we've done is develop a low-cost portable hoop house. Part of our mission is also to educate. People can grow their own food anywhere.”
Traditional growing is key on this farm, with an emphasis on “natural.” No chemicals of any kind are used. Nonetheless, this is not a certified organic farm.
“We don't see the need (to become organic),” Fuller said. “We mulch our own compost which we heat in an oven per organic requirements. And we don't use any chemicals. We probably exceed organic guidelines.”
The farm also accepts yard and kitchen waste for composting from its customers as a way to help the environment, as well as old newspapers and cardboard for mulching.
Fuller and Propst are learning how to interplant crops and keep the beds full. They transplant into beds, and also grow starts (new plants from seeds) of their own.
Erehwon offers a three-season CSA program, with this being the first year of their spring offering. About 30 subscribers (or households) are participating in the spring CSA, 100 subscribers are expected for the summer CSA, and 40 subscribers for the fall.
This CSA draws subscribers from all around the western suburbs, who purchase shares of what is grown at the farm and receive the freshest possible produce, May through December.
This farm's produce is also sold at two local farmers markets: Geneva Green Market (June 2 to Aug. 8), and Batavia Farmers Market (June 25 to Oct. 15).
Current customers and CSA subscribers have already been able to enjoy Fuller's “spicy health mix” salad greens mix, Jerusalem artichokes, turnips, broccoli raab, scallions, garlic scapes and more.
Subscribers pay in advance, thus helping with the costs of farming, and deal directly with the farmer who is growing the food. They can even volunteer to pitch in and help around the farm.
Farming is not without its challenges, one of which is making a living. Some of the farming costs are offset by CSA subscriptions, which are paid at the beginning of each season.
Fuller also said, “Wind has been our biggest challenge, with the hoop houses. We build it so that if it fails, it falls gently and doesn't hurt the plants. We learn by doing; we look at the last one that failed and we learn.”
Erehwon continues its plans to grow, while drawing ever more customers and remaining dedicated to providing quality locally grown produce.
You can find abundant recipes on the farm's website (erehwonfarm.com), such as arugula and pear salad, turkey and greens quiche, kale chips, radish tart, baked squash with apples, and more, all of which incorporate fresh locally grown produce.
Plenty of opportunities exist for checking out this local farm. Coming up this week is the first open house at the new location. This free event, from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 21, is open to all, and will include an edible farm tour, cooking demonstrations, a scavenger hunt for kids, and a chance to feed and pet goats.
For more information about the farm or the CSA program, call Fuller at (630) 485-9963, or visit erehwonfarm.com.