AS THE FAMILY GROWS, SO DOES THE FARM
From prairie, to farmland, to apple orchard … how this piece of Central Illinois has changed! Many local farms have expanded and changed over the years to support a growing family, and we are proud to be one of them.
For most of its history, the Curtis family farm sustained the family through corn, soybeans and hogs, but by the time my grandpa Paul married my grandma Joyce in 1956, the farm had become too small to support the growing family. One day, as Grandpa mulled over his options, he savored the satisfying crunch of a juicy apple, and the answer became obvious. He decided to transform the farm into an apple orchard.
In 1977, Paul and Joyce took the first small step by planting 700 trees on three acres. As they prepared to open their doors to the public three years later, a hailstorm came through and damaged much of the apple crop. Grandpa Paul still has a saying from that year: “When life gives you lemons you make lemonade, but when life gives you hail-damaged apples you make apple cider.” He went out and bought a small cider press that year and started making apple cider. It has been an award-winning Curtis Orchard favorite ever since.
Over time, Paul and Joyce’s children and grandchildren (including me) joined the family business and it grew into the Curtis Orchard that we see today. Things certainly look different than the 700 baby trees that were originally planted here, but we are still just a local family living the dream that Grandma and Grandpa Curtis had nearly 40 years ago, supplying our visitors with fresh local apples, honey, berries, pumpkins and more!
Photography by Mike Tedesco, Illinois Partners Magazine.
REGARDLESS OF THE LABEL, DAIRY IS LOCAL
Our family has been farming in central Illinois for more than 150 years and shipping our milk to local bottling plants for distribution in surrounding communities. We’re just one of many dairy farms across the country – in fact there are dairy farms in all 50 states shipping milk to neighborhood stores and markets, making dairy a true local food!
So what does it take to bring you some local goodness? Well, every day, regardless of birthdays, weddings, graduations or weather, our alarm sounds long before the sun comes up. We milk our cows twice a day and on average, each cow spends about eight minutes in the milking parlor – five of those minutes with the milking units attached. Our milk is cooled down to 38 degrees until the milk hauler comes to the farm. Then our milk is transported to the Prairie Farms bottling plant in Peoria, Ill. Testing is done for quality and safety before the milk is pasteurized, homogenized and bottled. Milk offers great nutrition with a lean source of protein, Vitamins A, D and calcium, just to name a few.
About 48 hours after the milk leaves our farm, it arrives on your store shelves and then on your dinner table!
LOOKING FOR LOCALLY GROWN FOOD IN CHICAGO? LOOK NO FURTHER.
Local, sustainable food is in demand as consumers want fresh, nourishing and environmentally-friendly eats. Three out of four Americans care that their food is grown locally. Illinois has some of the most fertile soils in the country – and Metropolitan Chicago’s GO TO 2040 plan emphasizes strengthening our region’s food systems.
LOCAL IN THE STORE
The good news is local produce, meats and dairy products are popping up at grocery stores all over the Chicago area and at Wal-mart and Meijer stores across the state. Jewel-Osco proudly supports local farms and families with their produce buyers sourcing from nearby farms in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. In addition, Hy-Vee has a Homegrownprogram, which stocks local produce grown within a 200 mile radius of each store.
LOCAL AT THE MARKET
With dozens of neighborhood farmer’s markets and grocery stores supporting local farmers and producers in Chicago, you can find fresh and local food any day of the week. Because food is getting from the farm to table more quickly, less fossil fuel is burned with shorter transportation times – lowering the agricultural carbon footprint.
LOCAL ON YOUR DOORSTEP
Online services, such as Local Foods, offer groceries from local farmers and purveyors all over Chicago. In addition, Local Foods allows nearby farmers and butchers to come together to create a space for wholesale distribution, as well as a retail center and market for restaurants and chefs to purchase a variety of local grocery items.
Cultivating close relationships with Midwestern farmers and producers, has allowed the Green Grocer to support the local economy and offer fresh and delicious food. Customers can buy into produce and meat shares at Green Grocer and receive local produce and meats for weeks or months, whatever time frame they desire. Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Markets are popping up all over Chicagoland, too. These grocery stores source seasonal produce from over 50 local farms and buy direct from certified organic farmers and growers. Fresh Thyme prides itself on freshly picked, high quality fruits and vegetables.