Creating an Experience with Local Foods
People everywhere are prioritizing experiences over things. But that doesn’t always mean traveling to far off places. Gray Farms can help you create a food experience in your own kitchen.
Marty and Crystal Gray of Iroquois County provide fresh organic produce and offer insight to the 50 members of their 20-week community supported agriculture (CSA), farmers market customers, and farm to table restaurants.
“We see the farmers market as a blank canvas that we paint with our vegetables,” says Marty. “We draw people in by offering quiet help and telling our story. There aren’t a lot of small family farms providing vegetables anymore, so we want to share what’s happening on our farm to anyone interested.”
Members of the CSA receive an e-newsletter detailing the week’s efforts on the farm. The stories shared exhibit their passion for growing local, organic vegetables. According to Marty, a fresh plate of produce offers an exceptional eating experience differentiated by flavor you can’t get at the grocery store.
The Grays started their farm with one and a half acres of vegetables and have grown their operation to include 13 acres of vegetables with 10 acres of cover crops and four greenhouses. More recently, they began farming 560 acres of corn and soybeans.
“We enjoy our small farm and serving our local communities, but having my hands in the same dirt my dad and grandpa had their hands in means a lot to me,” says Marty. “It’s not a job that can be faked; it has to be done with care and attention. Pride in the fields and passion for local foods is what pushes us.”
To help expand the family farm, Marty has worked with Farm Credit Illinois, starting with a greenhouse.
“Our needs are pretty small in comparison to row crop farms, but these small loans make a big impact on our farm,” explains Marty. “I was taken seriously from the start and Farm Credit took the time to go through each of the one thousand cells in my balance sheet to make sure the financing options were best suited for our needs.”
Beyond credit, Farm Credit Illinois’ Watseka office also assisted Gray Farms in finding crop insurance coverage to protect their income.
“We had struggled to find a way to cover a diversified vegetable farm because it’s difficult to quantify what is yet to be sold when the weather so greatly impacts output. Being able to provide projections based on years past gives us a guarantee when things are volatile.”
“Having Farm Credit there to explain the program that might one day save our farm has been a huge help. I appreciate Farm Credit taking our needs seriously because farming is so close to our hearts and we want to keep our family farm going.”
Gray Farms produce can be found at the Andersonville farmers markets and in locally-sourced restaurants and groceries throughout the Chicago area.
To begin a food experience, visit www.grayfarmsproduce.com.