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Visiting King’s Hill Farm

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

gallo family

I’ve always loved visiting King’s Hill Farm, an organic farm that produces a variety of vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, and honey. It’s located near Mineral Point in Wisconsin, more than three hours’ drive from Chicago.

We’ve been to the farm a few times before, but the first time since the Gallos, Mark and Delia, took over the management of the farm this year. Between Francis’ frequent travel schedules and our other activities, we finally made it to the farm last Sunday, with our close friend Mary.

We couldn’t have selected a better time for the visit—beautiful sunshine, perfect temperature of upper 70s, and low humidity.

Mark, Delia, their two young sons, Enro and Nico, and Delia’s mother, Barbara, who was at the farm for a visit, extended their warmest hospitality to us by treating us with a home made eggplant lasagna, green salad and the sweetest “star strip” yellow watermelon I had ever tasted, with all the fresh produce from the farm.

Mark with his melons

Mark with his melons

Mark took us for a tour after lunch, accompanied by their two dogs. Rows of green onions, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans (different colors), tomatoes (different varieties), rhubarb, sweet potato, onions (different variety), melons (different varieties), pepper (different varieties) and etc. extended in the field before us, not to mention many different kinds of fruit trees, including apples, Asian pears, plums, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries…. We picked berries bursting with juicy along the way and pumped them directly to our mouths.

“I want to show you some melons I’ve never seen before,” Mark said, taking us to the other side of the farm in his jeep.

The sprawling hills cover an area of over 800 acres, and they’ve only farmed a small portion.

I was delighted to see what we call ‘fragrance melon” in Chinese, my favorite, lying on top of the black ground cover. These melons are rarely seen in the U.S. We picked a few among the watermelon row and tasted one immediately when we returned to the farmhouse. The fragrance brought me back home.

 

Asian pears

Asian Pear

As Francis shared his expertise on organic farming with Mark, I took a few small containers and went back to the fruit trees to pick berries. I think I ate as much as I collected.

King’s Hill Farm does a successful Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, making deliveries to their members in the Chicago area every other week. They also set up a booth to sell fresh produce at the farmers market in Lincoln Park and Glenview. Mark gave us a CSA box to take home, with a variety of greens, tomatoes, and melons. We’ve enjoyed them and shared some with a couple of friends. They are so tasty and fresh.

Check out the farm if you are interested in a visit or becoming a member of its CSA program for next year. Enjoy the local and organic bounty!

 

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary movie by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com for more information.

 

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Farmers Market at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
Chicago Botanic Garden Edens sign

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On Sunday, my wife and I went to the first of the season’s Farmers Market at the Chicago Botanic Garden, where our farmer friends from Wisconsin, Jay and Joel Kellum of Kings Hill Farm, were selling their produce.  Unfortunately, it was rather a chilly damp day, and so I think the number of patrons were not as numerous as one would have expected.

 

This is the second year that the Chicago Botanic Garden has been putting on an alternate Sunday, Farmers Market throughout the summer.  So far, they have ten participants – a couple of stalls selling vegetables and fruit, a stall selling clay and ceramic pot containers, and an Asian lady selling tomato and other flower and vegetable plants.  There were also baked goods from an organic bakery, and a stall selling preserves and honeys.  All the produce and products were organic, and it seemed the public were very knowledgeable about Organic Foods. 

 

The Kellums, in addition to selling their beautiful produce which this week, included rhubarb, scallions, mini leeks, giant fresh asparagus, field greens, kale, and radishes, also had pre-packed boxes of vegetables for their CSA, as they are partnering with the Chicago Botanic Garden as a pick-up point for Kings Hill members.  CSA (community supported agriculture) members support the farmers by purchasing a box of organic seasonal vegetables delivered weekly or every other week, to pick-up points in the Chicago area.

 

It was interesting to see how discriminating the customers were in looking at the vegetables and choosing carefully.   Most of the offerings were priced at $2.00 to $4.00 – certainly, not enough to “break the bank.”  But it was nice to hear the customers appreciating the look of the produce, its freshness and quality.

 

Jai Kellum also distributes a weekly newsletter from Kings Hill Farm  (http://www.kingshillfarm.com/) describing the week’s activities, detailing the vegetables that are available for that week, and including some interesting recipes. This together with the Kings Hill Farm Brochure seemed to be well received by the buyers.

 

The Chicago Botanic Garden, which has so many great programs for all ages of the family, was also hosting a Wine Tasting Festival.  This also drew the crowds, somewhat dampened again by the weather.  Throughout the summer, The Chicago Botanic Garden Farmers Market and Kings Hill CSA Program will be on display every other Sunday. 

 

I was also told by Jai Kellum that they are hoping to participate in the Green City Market in Chicago on Wednesdays and Saturdays as well.

 

I have no doubt that the Kings Hill Farm customer base will rapidly expand, and my wife and I are looking forward to seeing their next offerings.

 

 

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com

 

 

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Notes from China (2)

Thursday, May 7th, 2009
A market in Changchun
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Changchun, the capital of Jilin Province in the northeast, is the place where I call home in China. I was born in the city and my mother and two of my sisters live there today. I took an overnight soft sleeper train from Beijing to Changchun and arrived at 6:30 A.M. Despite my insistence on not meeting me at the station during a weekday, I heard the familiar voice of my sister Wen the moment I stepped out of the train station. My regret for taking the train and negotiating the push and pull of the Labor Day holiday crowd in Beijing dissipated when I saw the smiling faces of Wen and her husband Mingfu. I knew I was home.

 

As always, everywhere I turn to look, there seems to be changes. In addition to the new buildings and streets that emerge like mushrooms in the city, the most striking sight that catch my attention this time are the gated communities, with civilian guards lifting automated bars for passing vehicles and residents using magnetic cards to go through the side metal doors. The Aviation Garden where my sister and mother live follows suit as well. The muddy construction site three years before is now neatly lined up with nine 11 or 12-floor condo buildings, complete with paved roads, blooming trees, small parks, and of course, a guarded gate. The ground level of the three buildings facing a busy street is designed for commercial use and most of the space has been occupied by restaurants. From the 5th floor of my mother’s apartment I could see their flashing neon lights. I’m relieved that the smell of the stir-fry dishes permeating the air below doesn’t reach this high.

 

Thanks to my jetlag, I’m up at 4 A.M. every day. I write for a couple of hours before taking off for a nice jog in the South Lake Park nearby. I start each day with anticipation: the sudden rise in temperature bring the blossoms of cherry and lilac trees; the dirt on the side streets being dug up one day and filled with bushes the next; the green produce spread out on the ground at a nearby farmer’s market, and the fresh tofu I pick up each morning on my return from the jog. I observe everything with the curiosity and excitement of a visitor. Part of me feel right at home, but the other part is keenly aware of the land that I’m no longer so accustomed to.    

 

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. www.mulberrychild.com.

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