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The Blade – Farm-to-Table Attractions

The Farm to Table movement is huge in the big cities. One might ask – What is the “farm to table movement”? It is the big reason why Fairbury is becoming famous in Chicago!

Farm to Table refers to growing food locally and delivering that food to local consumers. More and more people, especially in the metropolitan areas, are concerned about knowing the source of their food. They are interested in food that is fresh and locally raised.

Years ago, Marty and Kris Travis, with Spence Farm of Fairbury, the oldest farm in Livingston County, had the intuition that this movement could be huge for our area. They took a real interest in sharing, with young farmers, how a small farm can be sustainable in this age. They organized groups of farmers, The Stewards of the Land and subsequently Legacy of the Land, and started helping market these groups’ produce to Chicago restaurants.

This marketing has been hugely successful as Fairbury and the names of our Fairbury farms are on menus in many high-end restaurants in the Chicago-land area. Between Kilgus Farmstead, Cascade Gardens, Slagel Family Farm, Spence Farm, Stewards of the Land, Legacy of the Land, South Pork Ranch, plus other small farms in our area, Fairbury has become a hub for this Farm to Table movement.

“Kilgus Farmstead milk can be found all over Chicagoland. We are proud of this,” says Bobbi McKeon, coordinator of the specialty shops group. “Cascade Gardens’ plants are growing on a roof garden at the Omni Hotel, 676 North Michigan Avenue in Chicago.”

Slagel Family Farm, owned by LouisJohn Slagel, has organized a monthly “Dinner of the Farm” event (www.slagelfamilyfarm.com) whereby two Chicago chefs come to his farm in rural Fairbury and prepare a four course meal for the guests.

“Recently, a couple folks from our group attended one of the events at Slagel Family Farm,” says Bobbi. “It certainly is a huge attraction for Fairbury, drawing many people from Chicago. It is living proof that folks will drive a long way to see what our area farms can offer. Not only was there a wonderfully, delicious, chef-prepared meal, but also, the Slagels provided an interesting tour of their farm and a butchering demo showing cuts of pork and uses for the whole hog.”

Spence Farm Foundation (www.spencefarmfoundation.org) holds a huge annual event, Harvest Feast, which also attracts many, many out-of-town folks. This year it is scheduled for Sunday, September 21st. The Foundation has been holding the feast for several years and has successfully attracted a lot of interest, continuing their grass-roots efforts of promoting farm heritage and fostering sustainable lifestyles.

Here is a quote from one of the chefs – “That weekend was definitely one of the most inspiring, humbling and clarifying moments for me in my career. What you are doing at the Foundation and the Farm is so much more than just about Spence Farm, and that is truly admirable.  Your big picture outlook and willingness to band together like minds and educate and influence the people that will influence the future of food is beyond inspiring.  I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of what you are doing.”  Chef John Asbaty, White Oak Tavern & Inn

“The success of putting Fairbury on the map in the Chicago-land area is largely due to the efforts of area farmers. Our shops appreciate the benefits that come from folks visiting the area. Tourism such as this helps boost our local economy. We want to say “thank you!” says Bobbi McKeon.