Spence Farm

Spence Farm

A recorded visit with the Travis family on their Illinois farm

by Lynn R. Miller of Singing Horse Ranch

Last March I traveled to Illinois to speak at the first general meeting of the Central Illinois Sustainable Farming Network. The Travis family of Spence Farm, Journal subscribers, had been instrumental in getting me to go out. I paid their magnificent diversified farm a short visit before the talk. Marty, Kris and Will were working in the maple syrup rendering shed amidst their farm forest. Several folks had joined them for the work day. I visited with them as we walked that crisp morning, once in the shed and after introductions I recorded some of the conversation…

Spence Farm

Lynn: So you are making sap right now?

Marty: We are boiling sap.

Lynn: Will? The variety of trees?

Will: We’ve got maples, sugar maples, burr oaks, red oaks, black walnut, wild black cherry, hackberry, green ash, white ash, Kentucky coffee tree, red elm and American elm, basswood, hawthornes, osage orange, paw paws. I can’t really think of a whole lot more.

Lynn: All in this one woodlot?

Will: Yep

Lynn: And the maple are the only ones you get sap out of?

Will: That’s correct.

Lynn: And the variety is customary? Or is that something that you guys have cultivated?

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Marty: Well they are a native sugar maple, but syrup has been made on this farm since pre-settlement time. And so the Natives showed my fourth great grandfather how to do it and it has been passed on and it was lost basically after my great grandfather died in the 1950’s. I wasn’t born yet. So then Will basically has picked it up. When he was about ten years old he started making syrup again. We started it, resurrected it. And then a few years ago he decided that he wanted to try to resurrect the business part of it. So he built this structure and we were able to get equipment and now he’s selling everything he can make.

Lynn: And Will said he needs a bigger evaporator. Is there a size measure to this by the gallon?

Marty: By the number of taps you have out on trees.

Lynn: But does this have a volumetric name to it? This evaporator?

Marty: It’s just known as a two by four.

Lynn: And you want a four by eight. (laughing).

Marty: We want a two by eight. A four by eight might be a little big.

Lynn: Well, see I haven’t a clue as to what I’m talking about. (laughter)

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Lynn: You have with the homestead here, is this a collaborative, or a cooperative or strictly a family?

Marty: This is our family’s farm.

Lynn: And you say four generations?

Marty: Will is the eighth generation.

Lynn: Eighth generation that has been here?

Marty: 180 years, 181 years this year, since 1830. It’s the oldest. It was the first farm in Livingston County. And it’s one of just a handful of farms that have been in families this long in this state. We’re excited to be responsible for this generation.

I made references to how unique their farmstead was, with so many original mixed farm buildings, comparing that to their immediate neighborhood of farms where there were no fences no barns just newer houses and metal equipment sheds.

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M: It’s just… you see all the buildings on our farm, this is the anomaly, very much. Most of what you have seen is a farmhouse and a morton building.

L: What do you mean when you say a morton building?

M: A metal tool shed to put their tractors and equipment in. They need bigger equipment so they need bigger tool sheds or equipment sheds. Very little livestock on the farms. A neighbor of Will’s over here, he’s in financial trouble but he basically farms 10,000 acres, corn and soybeans. And he in many ways has driven out a lot of the small family farms. What we have worked at trying to do is to enable those who wish to dream and have their kids stay on the farm to find small acreages or have small acreages be able to find markets for specialty produce, food, whether it be watermelons or eggs or pastured turkeys or pork or whatever. And this county has become in the last five to ten years, in the last five years especially it has changed dramatically in growth of those small family farms. We still have a huge way to go. Driving through it you are not going to see that change. But you wrote in your magazine a few years ago about our Stewards of the Land group, the local food project that we started with 25 small family farms. This past year those 25 small family farms grossed in excess of $1,000,000 selling locally raised, sustainably done food. You passed probably one of the few on-farm dairy stores on the way out, Kilgus Dairy, Kilgus Farmstead, they also raise meat goats. We have another farm that is doing hydroponic year round vegetables, salads and so forth, farms that are producing pastured pork, grass fed/grass finished beef, pastured turkeys, chickens, eggs, all of those things. But many of the folks that are in this Stewards group are under the age of 18. We have a 13 year old that grows $10,000 on his piece of land…

L: I heard what you said and I heard the intonation. You said, “BUT!” What exactly did you mean? In other words, “because they are young, we lack…” What?

M: Because they are under the age of 18, we see that as a positive thing for the future.

L: Oh good, I mistook what you were saying. I was going to ask you because you talked about two very distinct things there and that is having people Will’s age wanting to farm and then finding the markets. Where’s the bigger challenge?

M: I think getting more kids involved, more farmers. The market is there. Kris and I do much of the marketing and delivery of that product to the Chicago area for chefs such as Tom (Leavitt) and many other chefs but the Stewards group also has opportunities at the local grocery store, small CSA’s, farmer’s markets, local restaurants are now supporting us. This 13 year old, $10,000 on basically a ¼ to a ½ acre of ground, and his produce is exceptional.

L: Wow, what a story. What is his name?

M: Derek Stoller.

L: And is he on family land?

M: Yes, his folks just built in the last several years a new house on one of their parent’s property and Derek now is purchasing two more acres from his parents, or grandfather.

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L: I would like very much to meet him. Deborah (Cavanaugh – Sustainable Group’s administrator) did something that no one has done in my forty years of traveling around and speaking, I don’t know why it just struck me as very generous and a little bit, I don’t know, maybe frightening, she sent me a complete list (names, addresses, and phone numbers) of everyone who will be there tonight. I’ve never had that.

M: Yep, we do that. That’s the network.

L: That’s remarkable.

M: It’s important for you to have that. And this is something that is so totally foreign to the conventional farms, we all are working together to help each other to build each other up.

Kris: You’re supporting us by coming here to talk to our farmers, so this is our way of being able to support you too by saying this is who we are and what we are about.

Lynn: So you (Tom) are a chef?

Tom Leavitt: Yes I am.

Lynn: At a certain restaurant in Chicago?

Tom: No I have a personal chef business, I cook in people’s homes.

Lynn: Oh, excellent, and you are in the city then?

Tom: Outside the city.

Lynn: So your connection, your attraction to all this is food, right?

Tom: Yes, it’s food and I’ve always had an interest in the environment and sustainability and it all just kind of came together. My philosophy, or way of life is to be a better steward and after getting introduced to Marty and Kris, actually I saw a story, a profile in the NY Times so I kind of saved it and didn’t do anything and then I emailed Marty because I was looking for some of his corn and he invited me to come down and visit the farm. This was last year, one year ago. We did a tour of the farm and it was great, we bought some of his product and at the same time I asked him if he wanted to host an on farm potluck because I was following these two men who were bicycling across the country and they were doing this to promote the conversation of local food and they were doing it through potlucks in the communities that they rode through. So I asked Marty if he wanted to host an event and he said yes and we had like 40 people that day, it was in May and they had a film crew come out from Pepsi Refresh because they had gotten some funding through them. But most of the people who came by were from Stewards of the Land, the community.

M: Well, then, the story didn’t finish there, so then after we passed the mustard on the thing with the bicycle guys he then asked if we would host a work day here at the farm in October and it was through 350.org.

Tom: That’s my environmental activism. Have you heard of 350.org? It’s an environmental group started by Bill McKibben. He’s trying to inspire citizen action to solve climate change. The 350 comes from, according to scientific knowledge that 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere (is the highest sustainable level) and two years ago he had a big rally worldwide and then he thought well why don’t we just do something, get some work done. And I volunteer with some other groups so I thought why don’t we just get a crop mob to come down to the farm and I asked Marty and he said, “Sure, bring them on down!”

L: How was that?

M: It was excellent. We harvested probably ¼ to a ½ acre of sorghum in about 45 minutes.

K: It was all done by hand, no machines.

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Kris: I think if you are a sustainable farm and if you have a sustainable community that you don’t need anything really. I mean that’s what we are trying to form here.

L: You said, “If you are. . . “, are you?

K: We feel that we are. But speaking for others I don’t think that there are a lot of sustainable farms and communities still out there.

L: Is there a distinction between a sustainable farm and a sustainable community.

K: I think they would be tied together but I can see where you could have a sustainable farm without having an outside community.

M: But, if you have sustainable farming going on and enough sustainable farmers you then do have a sustainable community and that’s part of what we try to teach. We have thousands of folks here each year to the farm and we do a lot of things with school age kids, 2nd graders, 5th graders, high school. If we can get them to understand the next step of supporting buying local and being a responsible sustainable consumer then we are keeping that money here locally, we are keeping those kids on the farm. We are expanding the economic development of that community in such a way that we are not having to ask Wal-Mart or any outside industry to come into our community because we are building from within. That’s how it used to be.

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L: … Maybe no one here is going to ask this question that I’m being asked elsewhere. I keynoted the Carolina Farm Stewardship Conference and folks at that large conference came to me and they said, “How are we doing?” I said, “What?” I spoke in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine at the Common Ground fair and people come up to me in the last eighteen months and say, “How are we doing?” When Paul and I went to Minnesota and Wisconsin I had people at the Land Stewardship Project and at farm meetings in Wisconsin say, “How are we doing?”

M: They are looking for an answer from you?

L: They recognize that perhaps just a handful of people for whatever reason have an opportunity to hopscotch around and meet in Illinois and North Carolina and New Hampshire and wherever else and I think the answer to your question is, compared to everyone else, or compared to whatever there may be as a kind of general sense of a goal. You know, where are we supposed to be? And so in your case…

M: We just do it. If we see that there is a need, we will try to fill it and help others along the way and get them to the point where, you know we start with these young kids that are involved in the Stewards group. They get to the point where they are big enough now, they don’t need the insurance, they don’t need the marketing, they’re on their own. But they are turning around saying, “Hey there’s this 14 year old kid down the road from me I think I can help him get into this restaurant if he would do…” They are passing that on. If we can pay that forward, we’re doing okay.

K: I think it would be hard for us in Central Illinois to compare how we are doing with say Vermont, or somebody in a different state. I mean we can compare it to how we are doing within our state. And I think for us, right here where we are located, with our small group of farmers, I think we are doing really well. Because when we look at what the rest of farming is like around us, you know that is what we have to compare it to. It’s kind of an apples to oranges kind of thing.

L: The answer I kept wanting to give at each of those places was, “Well, if you are asking that question you are doing pretty good because it’s obviously important to you.” And there is the evidence of all of the efforts they have. But what you are suggesting Kris is even better would be not even to ask the question at all.

K: If you think you’re doing okay, if you think you are doing okay within your community, then I guess you are doing okay. People are coming to us saying, “Hey, you guys are doing a great job, how are you doing it?” Then we must be doing okay.

L: And not only with that travel but in the last 18 months of fairly rapid visits all over the country, what’s obvious is that what is happening here right now, is happening all across the country and we are not all sitting down together saying okay where do we take this next. Everyone seems to be following a progression that has a common value structure behind it, has a common set of goals behind it. The kinds of things you’re talking about, I’m hearing the same narrative (spread all across the country).

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Speaking about the wild rise in farmland values and the difficulty this poses for people wanting to start farming…

L: But I don’t know how you do anything other than what you are already doing by instilling in people Will’s age the values that deny the attraction of the other.

M: Part of it is, to be honest, there are several things, there is the demand for what we do but there’s also that relationship. Kris and I, a few years ago, walked out of a restaurant where we’d just finished eating and one of the patrons followed us out into the parking lot and said, “Hey, you guys are from the farm. I just want you to know how great your blah, blah, blah is.” Now, do you think those farmers that take their stuff to the elevator ever have anybody chase them down in the parking lot and say, “Hey, your corn is just absolutely to die for.” But Tom and his colleagues and the chef community in Chicago and throughout this part of the country that are supportive of the small family farms are supportive of these young people starting. And what a great thing for kids Will’s age and younger to have somebody pay attention to them and want something so desperately that they are willing to pay what some folks would think is an obscene price. That’s the best motivator.

K: Peer pressure, or peer acceptance, and not even just your peers but people that they admire accepting what they produce. The rest of those conventional guys, we don’t see them getting that. We don’t see them getting the pats on the back for what they produce.

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…speaking of their own farm operation’s rapidly growing success…

L: When markets are expanding faster than you can produce, are you feeling the pressure to increase production?

K: We have a rule for our farm that if we can’t do it with the three of us, then we don’t want to do it. We don’t want to be managers, we want to be farmers. And so we try to find crops that we can manage not just now at this age with the three of us but when I’m 80 years old I still want to be involved with the farm and I want to be able to pick pau paus and be involved with the crop somehow and so we look to the future in what we are able to do on the farm with three people and then hopefully someday maybe grandkids helping and that type of thing but we see too many people that get big and they become managers and their farms get too big and then they end up with a lot of overhead and they’re not happy and we don’t want to do that.

L: Is that a topic (for family discussions)?

M: It is a topic, the dairy up here, they have increased what they can do, their demand is still through the roof, Whole Foods has picked them up. They will top at 130 cows, and that’s it. They said they don’t have enough pasture to do anymore, they are not interested in doing anymore. When they reach 130 cows that is going to be it.

K: And it’s not all about the money, it’s about the quality of life. We could work day and night doing syrup and make piles and piles of syrup to sell but is that how we want to live our lives? That’s not necessarily worth it.

L: How is the market here for maple syrup?

M: Give me 20 minutes and I can sell 1,000 gallons.

L: The season has not been good in New England the last couple of years and the supply there from those we know has been half of what they normally were producing.

M: See we are small potatoes. Last year we were doing 50 gallons of syrup and again that was a short season it was only a couple of weeks but we have small equipment, we only have so many trees, we can sell everything, its all pre-sold, before we ever start. We could sell 1,000 gallons easy if we have it this year. And we are trying for more than 50.

L: You said you could sell 1,000 gallons but do you want to make 1,000 gallons?

M: No, I think if we made a couple hundred gallons that would be good, in a three week period that would be a lot for us. But I don’t want to have to hire people to do stuff like that. I still want to be able to do it with just us. We don’t need to sell 1,000 gallons. No we don’t have all those expenses and overhead. We just need enough to pay our bills and live comfortable and be happy. It’s like people always ask me why I don’t open a restaurant and it’s like, well my business is not a lot of overhead. And you have time with your family. A lot of folks don’t have that luxury.

L: You probably heard the story, I think it was in Brooklyn, two partners make pizza by hand, and some folks were so upset that it took so long for them to get pizza because the lines were down the block, that they started a campaign, a petition saying you simply have to expand your production. . .

M: Well, would the product be the same if they hired a bunch of people? It might not be made the same way and then you have a quality issue with your product. We’ve seen that just with some of the stuff we’ve done around here, it’s not going to be washed the same way, we would rather know that it is done right.

K: And from the food standpoint, like with pizza, it’s the hands in the dough that make the difference.

L: This is ethanol country – your neighbors don’t grow food here anymore.

M: But so many of these farmers here still believe they are growing food. And that they are feeding the world. What would it take for them to understand that this isn’t anything like food? Many people who come to our farm, sometimes when they come from Chicago they will come down the road that comes from the east, and we’ve had so many people say, when I get to that corner I know that this is your farm just because it looks different. I know that I have passed all those other thousands of places that I knew weren’t it until I came here.

One of our biggest supporters and clients is Rick Bayless from Frontera Grill in Chicago, their restaurant supports a lot of farmers. We deliver every Wednesday to downtown Chicago. It was named the Nation’s Top Restaurant a couple of years ago.

K: That’s part of the relationship, our chef family, they support us and we support them.

M: Here it didn’t really start until five to ten years ago. A lot of restaurants in Chicago if you don’t have a local connection you’re not in, it’s a very competitive, keep up with the other guy kind of thing in terms of those sensibilities.

L: Are there enough farmers for those restaurants?

M: No, there is enough demand but we need more farmers. Not near enough farmers, and distribution is an issue too. One of the restaurants we deliver to every Wednesday I would go down to their prep kitchen and drop our things off and this prep cook is prepping 40 pounds of brussel sprouts, every week he’s doing 40 pounds of brussel sprouts and I finally said to him, “You do this 40 pounds of brussel sprouts every week?” And he says, “No, I do this 40 pounds every day.” A tub full of brussel sprouts every day. And this was not a huge restaurant. And I said, “You don’t get these local do you?” He said, “No, I wish we did.” I don’t know that one farm is set up to grow 40 pounds per day in Illinois.

L: There is a justice element to all of this.

K: We have the second graders come out to our farm every year to see how apple juice is pressed. We have to start with the kids and help the kids learn how to appreciate the food and appreciate where it’s coming from so that we do have more people that will be buying those products and paying more on the level that they can. … We would rather spend the money on really good food, healthy food. And I think priorities need to be taught to the kids.

M: The kids do learn, they are teachable. And this is a way that we can impact a community. At that young age, for those second graders to go home and then three weeks later I have one of the parents catch me in the grocery store and say, “I don’t know what you guys did to my second grader but they will not stop talking about local food, it absolutely changed, when we come in here to the grocery store we have to go over to the Stewards section and see what we can buy first before we go anywhere else.”

K: And so it does work. And like with our Stewards group, having so many kids, this incubator system with the kids, and young people, and young farmers are coming into it and learning how to grow healthy foods and being able to sell it at their local grocery stores in their local communities and then also having the option of if they can sell it to somewhere like the restaurants in Chicago there is that option too. But we have to start at the ground up with these kids and teach them how to grow the food and what’s special about the food and how to support the farms.

M: On the other side of the equation we touched on this morning the school food issue and how horrible it is and how it’s another component of what some people consider a broken food system and it’s the kids who are suffering the effects of having to eat that horrible food that we feed them. If they come to the farm they will understand more. They’ll talk to their parents, “Why do I have to eat what they are serving?”

It’s got to come full circle. From the ground up. They are spending money on that food and then the issue becomes not so much do they have the money? And rich people will spend it to get good food but it’s seeking out where that good food comes from because there are a lot of farms like us that are growing good food and we sell it at the same price as the grocery store does, that everybody else does. It’s just knowing to go to our section where we are selling it, and knowing to look for that farm.

M: When I have second graders I take it one step further I will have an apple that we get from Washington State and then I’ll get an apple from one of our local farmers. And I’ll say, “So Beth and her family grew this apple, picked this apple, offer this apple at the grocery store for a dollar. Here’s an apple from Washington state for a dollar. Who grew this one? Who picked it? Whose farm did it come from? What do you know about this apple? How did it get here? Who gets the money for this?” And second graders get it.

K: And it’s that connection with that person or that farm. They know that farm because they drive by it every day or they know a farm like that farm even. Even that connection, a little bit of a distance connection.

M: It’s all a part of this whole relearning code.

L: I can show you correspondence within industry that those sorts of things like raw milk and on farm produce sales, some of the things we are talking about are considered terrible threats to industrial agriculture.

M: American Farm Bureau, our Illinois Farm Bureau president has no use for small family farms.

K: I’ve got this great article where he bashes small farms, and we’re members of farm bureau so we can get the cheap insurance and it’s like you’re caught kind of catch-22 with it. But they don’t support the small farms around here at all. I think that’s one reason why this one group that is starting in Central Illinois with the Sustainable Farmers Network is so important because it’s a lot of farmers our size, smaller farmers getting together to support each other and to form a network so that whether we are supporting it by selling things or helping people find employers or employees.

M: Sharing markets, creating markets…

K: Distribution whatever else. There is not a support system for us small farmers…

M: There’s not any of us that are ever going to be able to supply the demand, I don’t care what it is.

K: … we like going to the shops (restaurants and retail stores) while other people like going to farmer’s markets but there’s a lot of markets out there and different ways and you’ve got your local grocery and all that, but I think too it comes down to, we see that a lot of the young people in our farmer’s group, we are teaching them marketing skills. So when somebody comes in and they’ve got a boom out and they’re at the farmer’s market it might be something that a different type of marketing for that product, or a different market for that product, or it might be changing that product. And having a different kind of specialty something that nobody else can get. So if somebody comes in and is selling heirloom tomatoes then we get a tomato from the Galapagos Islands that nobody else has. As soon as everybody has that we will find something else. So it’s continually thinking outside the box but we’ve got to teach these young people to do that too.

M: And also teaching the young kids how to communicate, how to do that marketing. So everybody else has those tomatoes, you need to figure out how to tell your perspective clients, your customers, what’s so special about yours.

K: And get those customers to start forming that relationship so that they keep coming back to you no matter who has this same tomato. No matter who else has this same tomato they are still going to come back to you to get that tomato.

Walking around the farmstead Marty spoke of the uniqueness of their diversity…

L: Stinging nettles as a crop?

M: As a crop, it’s a cooked green. We have a lot of chefs that will use it in their cuisine, in a risotto, like a cooked spinach. So we do a lot of wild, collected kinds of things.

L: Back to the stinging nettles, do they have to be careful how they prepare that?

M: Sure. We have to wear gloves when we harvest it. We’ll harvest up to 60 pounds a week, for $8 a pound. When the chefs get it they have to do all their prep work with gloves on so that they don’t get stung.

L: So are you planting the stinging nettles?

M: No. It’s all wild foraged. We encourage it but, at this point it is still hand harvested.

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Once at the house, Marty shared the remarkable story of their Iroquois corn…

M: So the white corn, the Iroquois white corn, Rick Bayless’ restaurant had always used this white corn done by the Iroquois Nation in New York and seven or eight years ago the chief died and they couldn’t get this corn anymore, this cornmeal. And they asked if we would grow this corn. And I said, “I think I can find it. If we can find it, we will grow it.” So, this is it. Basically, I called a place in California that had it, and they discontinued it the year before. I called a place in Canada that had it for $50 a pound for seed. I said, “I’ll take a pound and a half.” First year we planted eight rows, 200 feet long, and most of the ears looked like that. But we saved nine pounds of seed, and I ended up with 63 pounds of cornmeal. Now what we do, we hand harvest it, dry it, then I roast it over that grill over oak fire after the corn is dry. Then shell it with a hand sheller and then we mill it through a stone mill here on the farm. It is the most aromatic, intoxicating cornmeal that you can imagine. So I took 63 pounds to Brian at the restaurant and he sat on the counter and cried. He said, “I can’t believe you did this.” He said, “Now, I need 800 pounds of it.” I said, “What are you willing to pay for it?” He said, “I would pay $20 a pound, Marty.” I said, “That’s too much Brian.” He said, “What do you mean it’s too much?” I said, “We can’t go home and tell people we get $20 a pound for our corn when there’s farmers right next to us getting $3 a bushel.” And he said, “Alright, what’s fair?” I said, “I would go $15.” And so we went $15 a pound. That’s $840 a bushel. So I came back and called the place in Canada, told them that I needed another six pounds of corn because I wanted to plant an acre of it. I said, “Nine pounds I have, I need 15 pounds.” And they said, “Well, now the price has changed. We now sell it for $20 for 250 kernels.” I said, “I bought from you last year, and I need six pounds.” And they said, “Well, there’s not six pounds, there’s only five pounds and that’s all there is.” I said, “I’ll buy it.” I bought it all. We planted it the next year and we ended up with 1,200 pounds of corn. So I managed to satisfy them and we had more and now here we are down the road, we’ve got this corn that is going all over the country. It was used in the birthday dinner for the President in Chicago. And it is a wonderful product and we are saving this corn.

Post Script


Marty sent us this follow-up email talking about a unique and successful idea he and Kris came up with to draw restaurant chefs to the farm for a cross-pollinating educational experience. This is an outstanding venture which may have legs, in other words it is easy to imagine such collaborations springing up on good farms all over the planet. LRM

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Kris pointing out the important parts of a young pig. Photo by Christina Rutter.

Good morning,

… We did host what we have termed Chef Camp on September 18 and 19th. It went amazingly well. We had roughly a dozen or more celebrity chefs, a couple of sous chefs and a culinary student and her instructor here to be totally immersed into sustainable farming. It rained! We had farmers, consultants, beekeepers all share their expertise and stories with the group. We also did hands on field work, butchered a goat, 2 rabbits, and 3 chickens, all new experiences for most. We did side by side taste tests of various eggs from various sources as well as a beef test with about 6 different examples of breeds and production techniques. The chefs also learned about seed saving, wild harvests and a myriad of other cool stuff. They were all overwhelmed! That event is launching us into a series of chef camps this coming year. We expect to do the basic intro and then do a series of advanced study courses in everything from meat curing, bread oven making and baking, biodynamics, etc, etc.

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Photo by Christina Rutter.

We have already had chefs from New York hear about it and are looking for an invite. So, with all of that said, we should explore if this is something that you would consider being a part of and how to make it happen.

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Chefs outstanding in a field. Photo by Christina Rutter.

Another outcome of the chef camp is that this group of chefs are now, basically on their own motion, beginning a Spence Farm Foundation Chef’s Advocacy group in Chicago as planning a series of fundraisers and also taking on at least one neighborhood school to share what they have learned and how to begin a school garden and program. We are moving!

Two weeks ago I also spoke to a fair size group of Illinois Weslyan students and their instructors and University provost. Topic was Human Scale Sustainable Agriculture in Central Illinois. I spoke for about 45 minutes and then answered questions for another hour and a half! The students are also working to create their own gardens and find ways that they too can impact the community.

So, enough of all of this, what are your thoughts, plans or ideas? How can we best use all of this to inspire and throttle others into action? Let us know and we will see what we can do together.

All the best to you and your family.

Enjoy the beauty of the day!

Marty, Kris and Will (Spence Farm)