Article from today’s Joliet Herald News:
A fresher take on fast food
By CINDY WOJDYLA CAIN firstname.lastname@example.org
Sep 22, 2010 07:50PM
MINOOKA — Bill and Pam Kunke are wondering what the sweet potatoes are up to.
This is the first year they’ve planted the crop, and Pam said last week that she was ready to grab a fork to probe the potato patch.
If they’re ripe, the sweet potatoes will be added to the Kunkes’ vegetable stand, which is in their driveway at Creekside Natural Farm, 1221 W. Bell Road.
Creekside opened a year ago, and the Kunkes are thrilled with the response from customers who are clamoring for chemical-free foods grown closer to home.
“One customer took a picture of (her produce) and put it on Facebook because she loved it so much,” Pam said.
Others seek out the natural produce because they have allergies or health problems.
The fruits and vegetables are grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. Pam uses heirloom seeds whenever possible.
Heirloom plants aren’t hybrids. The seeds produce food meant to be eaten right away, not shipped thousands of miles to grocery stores, she said.
The self-service vegetable stand is convenient for Ridge Road motorists who can travel a short distance west on Bell Road to buy a few items and serve them for dinner that night.
“Everything is handpicked when it’s ripe, not green, and put into the vegetable stand within an hour,” Pam said.
The season started with lettuce, radishes, strawberries and snap peas, moved on to onions, cucumbers, sweet corn and tomatoes and will end with sweet potatoes, garlic and pumpkins.
Also in the mix were five different kinds of peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon, okra and wonderfully fragrant basil, which is being used by a local restaurant. The couple also is selling flowers, including mums, and hay bales for fall decorating.
Last year, customers lobbied for beets. “The beets went over really well,” Pam said.
Also a hit were eggs, which won’t be available again until spring when a new batch of chicks is mature enough to start laying.
The Kunkes’ chickens are allowed outside to roam the farm each night and eat insects in the garden. Sometimes they wander into the flowers though and start digging because they’re bored, Bill reported.
“People are very surprised by the difference in the taste,” he said of the eggs.
Creekside also features sustainable agriculture techniques.
A large tank captures rainwater from the garage roof. A 1.5 inch rainfall will produce 1,100 gallons of water for the garden, Bill explained.
Labor of love
Bill and Pam grew up growing things. Pam, 48, always had a big backyard garden in town. During summer vacations she worked on her grandfather’s farm in Arkansas.
Bill, 49, grew up on the Kunke farm where Creekside is now. And he and his brother farm 500 acres.
The Kunkes would like to open their farm for agri-tourism — possibly with a miniature donkey for kids to pet because “chickens aren’t that cuddly,” Pam said.
And Bill wants to install a drip irrigation system and plant more native Illinois prairie grass as part of a conservation program.
The Kunkes both work day jobs, so running Creekside is sometimes exhausting. But it’s worth it, they said.
“It can be very hectic at the height of the season in July and August,” Bill said. “But we’re winding down now and already thinking of what we can do next year.”
For more information, go to www.creeksidenaturalfarm.com or call 815-467-5259.
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