Do You Know Your Farmer?

By Jolee Keplinger (C’20) | Principia Center for Sustainability

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Amy Cloud isn’t your average farmer and initially, she did not intend to become one. Although she grew up on a corn, soy, and dairy farm in Michigan, the atmosphere didn’t resonate with her. Instead of following in her family’s footsteps, she decided to study English literature in college. While interning at a publishing company, Amy quickly realized that the literary life was not her calling. Fortunately, during her college education, she was introduced to Wendell Barry’s work.

Barry, an American novelist, poet, and environmental activist, holds deep reverence for the land, which is evident in his 40+ published pieces. 

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Wendell’s work inspired Amy to incorporate an environmental science minor into her college education. This led Amy to apprentice on organic vegetable farms, and at one of them, she met her husband Jose.

Later, Amy was hired as a farm manager at La Vista CSA(Godfrey, IL). This allowed her to truly learn about the farm lifestyle and develop her skills. She realized that starting her own farm with her husband was the next step.

While working at La Vista, Amy talked to a biology professor from Principia College, (which lies on 2,600 acres in the nearby village of Elsah, IL). This conversation resulted an opportunity to lease land from the college.

3 Rivers

After managing the CSA for three seasons, Amy and Jose were ready to establish Three Rivers Community Farm. There, they built a multi-purpose barn with their home on the second level. The first level houses the seasonal farm stand, produce washer, and stores food.

Currently, Three Rivers Community farm is Amy’s full time job, along with being a mother of two. Even though farm work can be physically demanding, she appreciates this hand-on, low-tech lifestyle. She’s grateful her kids can grow up playing outdoors and be able to have an abundance of fresh, organically grown food. 

How It All Started

I first met Amy last summer (2018) at Tower Grove Farmer’s Market, which is an hour away from the farm and Principia College. I was interning in St. Louis, MO at the time, and routinely visited farmers markets on Saturday mornings. While exploring the Tower Grove market, I stopped at Amy’s booth, and noticed the sign which stated the farm was located in Elsah, IL. I had heard about a CSA that was near campus, but I assumed it only served those who were members. I didn’t know Amy also sold at farmer’s markets and operated a farm stand on site. I couldn’t believe I had gone two years without utilizing this local resource.

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Once I returned to Principia College in the fall, I regularly visited Amy’s farm stand and loaded up on fresh vegetables, fruit, cheese and eggs. By wintertime, the farm stand closes since production slows, but I look forward to visiting as soon as it opens in mid-May.

On one of my visits, I noticed a Principia professor (the same one who connected Amy with the land) shopping there. It was so exciting to see how the farm was benefitting the local community.

Last semester (fall 2018), one of my goals was to ensure that Amy’s locally grown goods would become integrated into Principia College’s Dining Services. I coordinated a meeting with Amy, our executive chef Trey McCartt, and our director of sustainability Karen Eckert. This meeting was a success, and it led to a collaboration between the farm and Dining Services. This fall (2019), farm-fresh produce should be expected!

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A Fruitful Future

The relationship between the farm and Principia College will strengthen This summer. Principia student and biology major Allegra Pierce will be working there! For those living on campus, look forward to farm-fresh produce this fall!

The Farm-Fresh Difference 

Many people assume that simply buying organic produce from Whole Foods ensures optimal nutrition and flavor. At a local panel, which was part of my Sustainable Food Systems course, Amy emphasized that there is still a significant difference in quality when comparing freshly harvested produce to store-bought. She compared processed baby carrots to freshly pick, stem-on carrots from the farm. I learned that industrially processed baby carrots are soaked in a chlorine solution to prevent harmful bacterial growth. Personally, I’d much rather eat the whole, unaltered food, than a chemically processed version. That simple anecdote demonstrates the importance of sourcing local food that’s in its natural state. Even if a vegetable is sold fresh, whole, and grown organically, it may not be the best quality. 

Visit

Farm: 22935 Chautauqua Rd. Elsah, IL 62028

The farm stand is open Thursday and Friday from 10-7 and Saturdays 9-2 starting in mid-May through October. Their very popular plant sale is the last weekend in April, both Saturday and Sunday from 9-4.

What you can find:

  • A wide array of produce
  • Local apples
  • Fresh flowers
  • Free-range eggs right from the farm, locally sourced meats and Marcoot cheeses, spiced apple butter & more!

Personal Favorites: 

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Shopping Tip:

Reusable produce bags are an excellent way to reduce plastic waste, and advocate for a less wasteful & sustainable world. I ordered these Earthwise produce bags from Amazon.com.

Want to continue learning about local farmers? Click here for a short video.

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