Purple Leaf Farms Taking a Break for 2016, Maybe Longer

To my customers, CSA members, volunteers, and supporters,

After a lot of thought and consideration, I've decided to take a hiatus from farming for 2016, or possibly longer. For those of you who have followed my journey in 2015, you know it's been a hard year. After farming for four years, I've come to the conclusion that farming the way I've been doing things is just too hard without enough return. Despite how much I love farming--how much it has become part of my identity, how I thought I'd never go back to working in an office--the realities of my current farming situation have caught up with me and so it became clear that I would have to make a change. Therefore, I've decided to take some time off from farming and get an office job with a paycheck while I save some money and think about what my future in farming may hold. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to gardening in the backyard this year, growing for myself and just for fun. Taking the business aspect out of something I love (growing things) is understandibly very liberating and I look forward to a relaxing year in the garden.  However, this decision to step away from farming is a very big deal to me and is fraught with conflicting emotions. I feel at peace with this decision, but I am also very sad about it. Even though at this point I'm trying to think about this decision as a temporary break from farming, rather than a decision to "quit" and never go back, it's hard to not feel sad.

To my CSA customers: thank you so much for all your support during the past four years, especially last season. I feel bad that I wont be able to offer you veggies again this year. If you're interested in finding another CSA farm, I'd recommend looking at the Band of Farmers CSA directory here https://boftccc.wildapricot.org/CSA-Directory . Or check out the 2015 CSA guide put out by FamilyFarmed.org here http://www.familyfarmed.org/find-a-chicago-area-csa/ .  If you'd like any further advice on choosing a CSA, feel free to email me with your questions.

That's all for now,
Farmer Jessica

To cut you down
leave only the subtle outline of your existence
erase the evidence of unrealized expectations
feels so perversely satisfying
that I question my own nature.
I kick you with my boots
knock you down
tear you up
throw your remaining beauty onto the ground
where you will eventually dissolve into nothing
and at the same time everything.
Am I a monster?
Didn’t I once care for you like a child?
But it is October in zone 6
Winter is coming
and the garden must be put to bed.
Once my obsession,
now I rush to demolish you.
I ask for no blame when
in the autumn of your life
I discard you with such joyful abandon
as though I never cared at all.
For I look past you now
toward hopes for a better season
that will surely themselves
come eventually to rest with you
in the chilly dry ground
of a regretful year’s end.
Standing among the tattered rows
carrying the worries of an hour and a season
I pluck you, beautiful orb
Holding the sun’s heat
nightshade perfection
I slice you with a soiled knife
marvel at your color and geometric perfection
juice runs down my hand
You announce the coming summer’s bounty
Always a miracle
I bite your warm flesh
juice sticky on my lip
savory and sweet, sun and umami
salt real or imagined
Combining to make the simplest
and in equal measure, deepest
late July pleasure.

Leaving Chicago; Going Back to Elgin

I am sad to announce that, due to a combination of circumstances beyond my control, I have given up my urban farm project in the City of Chicago and will be returning to Elgin to farm this season in the same location I used 2013 and 2014. I am very sad that the Chicago farm project didn’t work out—I had so desperately wanted to be an urban farmer and to have a more convenient farm location—but sometimes things just don’t happen as planned. In short, the Chicago property wasn’t ready in time for me to get my main crops in the ground. By the third week of May the property still had no water access and no information about when water would become available. I didn’t feel comfortable putting plants in the ground with no water.  This combined with other factors beyond my control lead to my decision to quit the Chicago project on May 16th. I have managed to evade complete disaster due to luck that the Elgin property was available and also the kindness of Chris and Marcy at Troggs Hollow Farm who welcomed me back. If it hadn’t been available, I don’t know what I would have done.

Leaving the Chicago project has cost me both time and money. I had already invested money in the Chicago project. The move back to Elgin has put me behind schedule another week. Thankfully I have workers helping me prepare the Elgin property and get plants in the ground at a record pace. First plants went in on Thursday May 21st. In three days we had about ¼ the field planted and almost the whole field plowed up. I had a great crop of seedlings this year and hope that they will start producing harvest soon.  Ultimately, things will be fine, I know that. It’s just been a lot of farm crisis management, work, and stress the past couple of weeks.

This whole ordeal only serves to highlight how difficult land access is for farmers. 2015 will be my fourth year of farming full time and I am no closer to finding a long term land solution than I saw as the beginning. 

If you’d like to help, you can come to the farm in Elgin and help plant seeds and seedlings. I’m happy to accept volunteers almost any day of the week, but I’m also planning a “planting party” on Sunday May 31st  2pm-5pm.  Click the link below to an event page.

Thanks to everyone for your words of support and encouragement!

Farmer Jessica

Tomatoes and basil in the ground!

Elgin as of May 24th.

Farmer Nick plowing with the new Grillo and Berta Rotary Plow

on Tuesday we drove 4 hours into Wisconsin to  pick up our new piece of farm machinery.

 We took four truck loads of seedlings to the farm this week.

Farmer Jessica

Purple Leaf Nominated for CRAFT Beginning Farmer of the Year

My farmer friends and mentors, Chris and Marcy at Troggs Hollow Farm, have nominated me for CRAFT  Beginning Farmer of the Year. I am so honored. If you don't know about CRAFT, it stands for Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training.  There are many CRAFT groups across the country.  The one is this area, Upper Midwest CRAFT, is run by Angelic Organics Learning Center and covers northern Illinois and Wisconsin.CRAFT is a great community and resource for small farmers.  They provide a variety of educational opportunities, a beginning farmer training program, and a way to connect with like minded farmers in the region. If you're thinking of getting into farming, you should definitely check out Upper Midwest CRAFT.

Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training - See more at: http://www.learngrowconnect.org/craft#sthash.xVGdfQ2h.dpuf
Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training - See more at: http://www.learngrowconnect.org/craft#sthash.xVGdfQ2h.dpuf
Anyway, thanks so much, Chris and Marcy for nominating me and taking the time to put together this great video that highlights my farm journey!

More About New Farm Location

Hey folks. I thought I'd give you a few more details about where the new farm will be located.  First, here's a google map showing the general vicinity of the farm. I don't even know EXACTLY (like down to the foot) where my plot will be, but I know it will be in this general area.


If you've never been down to this area of town--and to be totally honest I hadn't been to this location before I was offered a place in the new urban farm--the first thing you should know is this used to be the location of steel industry facilities.  I believe a few different steel companies had factories at this location.  Since the late 1990's all the steel factories were closed and eventually torn down.  If you drive down South Shore Drive south of about 79th street today, you'll see TONS of open space. 

If you follow 87th street as far east as you can go (before driving into the lake), you'll find a magical park called Steelworkers Park.  From what I understand it's a relatively new park and still being developed.  It's your typical lakeside park, with the walking path and view of the lake, but it also has these huge concrete walls which are relics from the steel factories that were once there.  The juxtaposition between nature (the lake) and industry was really moving to me.  Here are some photos.  I'm told you can see the big concrete walls from where the urban farm site will be.