Novice Noble Carrot Co-Op battles drought
By Romi Herron For The Courier-News July 12, 2012 3:52PM
CAPTION: The first harvest of corn planted by Noble Carrot Co-Op is anticipated this season. One of its founders, Gary Meyer of Pingree Grove, said dryness has been a challenge but the corn is faring well.
Updated: August 14, 2012 6:10AM
PINGREE GROVE — The soil is cracked from dryness, but the rows of corn at Noble Carrot Co-Op in Pingree Grove stand taller than 5 feet. Gary Meyer, one of the group’s founders, said he’s proud of this, the first crop for the new non-profit organization, which plans to harvest its first crop this fall.
“The weather has been rough. We’ve been watering as much as we can,” said Meyer, who noted the nutritional benefits of locally grown foods. Aside from the vegetables the group has planted, it also has coordinated other organic foods that will be sold in a buyers’ club. “We purchase brown and white eggs from the local farmer. It’s better for you. They’re from chickens that haven’t been raised with chemicals.”
So far, Noble Carrot Co-Op has three garden plots on land shared by St. Peter Evangelical Church in Pingree Grove. Growing now are carrots, beans, corn, melons, beets, onions and corn. Surrounding crops give Meyer a chance to compare their progress against experienced farmers’, and Meyer said he thinks they’re doing just fine.
“When corn needs water, it stands up straight,” he said. “When it has enough water, the leaves are open. Our corn looks better (than our neighbors’), and we planted in stages so we would have corn throughout the season.”
It all started when a group of friends were talking about food choices four months ago. They came up with a mission statement (To Grow A Living Economy, To Educate Our Community, To Preserve The Past, and To Plant The Seeds Of Innovation), went online to find local farmers, and got to work. They buy foods from local farmers at wholesale prices and then contribute extra money to support the co-op.
“This is just the beginning for us,” Meyer said. “There are only a couple of us with any kind of farming background, but we are learning each other.”
Participants include Pingree Grove residents John Greve, Clint Carey, Dan Rietz, Ryan Hallgren, Meyer, Jason Lawrence, Kevin Thull, Julie Dillon, Tom and Barb Engh, Julio Martinez Suarez, Shaun Morrison, Jason Rosinski, Ed Radloff, Frank Swanson and Pat Whalen.
So far, foods included in the mix are the eggs ($3.50 per carton), and cheese and honey. “The beekeeper is called Honey Hill, and he sells honey for $4.50 per jar,” Meyer said. “As members, we buy what we need, and the extra money goes into a co-op for seeding the next crops.”
After the group expands its offerings, it plans to open it up to the community.
Elaine Whalen, a faculty member at McHenry County College with a master’s in health education, said this season is ideal to take advantage of locally grown crops. “This is the prime time to buy local or grow it yourself, because the freshness is there,” said Whalen, who buys fresh produce and a farmers market in Woodstock and recommends roadside produce stands. “In the middle of winter, the best bang for your buck is frozen because it’s food that is frozen within a half hour of being picked.”
Meyer said Noble Carrot was founded based on health and cost factors.
Meyer said an abundance of harvest may be donated to local food pantries.
Whalen, who grows her own herbs and tomatoes, said she supports home-grown and locally grown harvests. “This time of year you can get fresh produce, which is optimum,” she said. “Support your local farmers.”
Noble Carrot Co-Op had initially strived to open a Farmers’ Market in Pingree Grove July 21, but that goal is now set for next year because local farmers were already committed to other markets, Meyer said.
On Oct. 20, it will host Noble Carrot Farm Fest. Details will be posted on the group’s Facebook page and its website, thenoblecarrot.org.