When was the last time you stumbled onto a farm, only to find it packed with people from far and wide? If you’re from the city like I am, I think it’s safe to say never. So imagine my surprise the other day when I stumbled upon a hip-hop-happening farm day at Heritage Prairie Farm, just stopping there on a whim coming back from Norton’s Produce in St. Charles, IL. The parking lot was nearly full, and the air was abuzz with more than just bees from the Bron’s Bees hives, located on the farm.
Turns out, this was a pretty average Saturday for the farm. You know, just a market with a plethora of vendors, including my personal favorite, Bema and Pa’s (ginger-honey infused vinegar? I had to take some home). Plus their regular store that’s open 6 days a week, where I found oodles of fresh produce and goods, as well as the famous Bron’s honey. A wood-fire pizza place called Chuck’s was toasting beautiful pizzas on site, as well. Oh wait – did I mention that there was also a private event going on in the back? It was a farm-to-table educational event, complete with T-shirts, volunteers, and dozens of private guests. All on top of a normal farm work day. Quite a juxtaposition with the subtle but dedicated labor going on at Norton’s that I had witnessed earlier that morning (see my previous video). Heritage Prairie was a bustling place, and they were not quiet about what they had to offer.
Their website boasts a host of other activities offered by the farm that I didn’t witness that day. Everything from farm dinners cooked by famed Niche chef Jeremy Lycan to “Eco-Chic Wedding Affairs” for those who want a true barn wedding. And we can’t forget that this farm is a working organic farm that sources to restaurants and markets throughout the Chicago area, like Naha and Whole Foods.
So what’s the deal with these multipurpose farms? Well they aren’t that new to the table – surely you’ve heard of a farm that opens it’s gates in the fall for a corn maze or a pumpkin patch tour, maybe to make a few extra bucks. But Heritage Prairie has definitely taken pumpkin Halloween-y farm visits to a new level. The Saturday at Heritage Prairie, on the other hand, transformed a visit to a farm into an educational, sensory-stimulating, fun-for-the-whole-family (not just the kids) experience. The term Agri-tourism would suffice here, and it’s gripping the nation! Spearheaded in rural places with rich soil like California farmland, this business is booming as people yearn to find out more about their food sources. Other farms in Illinois are following suit: Angelic Organics in Caledonia offers tours and farm dinners to their CSA members, to name one. But look in every state and you’ll find tons of farms reaching out to their customers. And all with a central mission: to extend local food and local knowledge about food to local people.
Making food a memorable experience reminds us of the significance of nourishment in our lives. If it’s really true that you are what you eat, then by golly I think I’ll eat some Heritage Prairie grub, and maybe just get married there too!
Cheers to good food and a gosh-darn good time!