Chanticlare Farm is an urban farm in the Chicago suburb of Aurora, Illinois. We grow over thirty different types of vegetables and annual fruits, in addition to various microgreens, herbs, and cut flowers. The farm has quickly established a reputation of quality, especially known for its eight varieties of culinary garlic, legendary heirloom “Brandywine” and “Sun Gold” tomatoes, and the freshest salad mix and lettuces. The farmland is two acres in size, half of which is in production and the other half is an old pasture that is periodically mown, composted, and fed to the productive half. Before our tenure as stewards, the land was pasture for over forty years and a working farm before that.
The farm officially began in the summer of 2016 when we put plow to pasture in preparation for our first growing season. But in both spirit and experience we had been building towards this endeavor for most of our lives. Mary was raised on a small dairy farm in the rural west of County Clare, Ireland. There she cared for livestock and learned stewardship of land and living things. Matt's family cultivated a large garden every summer throughout his youth, the impact of which would plant the seeds of his passion for growing things. He also worked for a summer at the Oak Park Conservatory where he learned the delicate craft of plant nursery work.
When we were married in 2007 one of our first undertakings together was to plant a garden. Matt would trellis his cherry tomatoes twenty feet up the side of the house and into Mary’s walk-in pantry. Matt’s epic cherry tomatoes, affectionately known as the “rockstars”, and Mary’s native prairie flowers earned them the reputation of being some of the best gardeners in the Oak Park area. And while Matt honed his skills in the garden, Mary cultivated hers in the kitchen, becoming involved in the local good food movement. What had begun as a small plot of Mary’s potatoes and Matt’s tomatoes grew each year to the point where we rented an additional garden plot in Naperville, established and maintained family and friends' gardens, and volunteered on local organic farms. One day that garden finally got too small, and so the leap into full-time farming was the obvious next step.
Why We Farm
Our experience gardening not only taught us how to grow great food, but to realize the interconnections of food, family, health, and happiness. This farm is truly an extension of our garden, our table, and our lives.
We farm because good food and health are essential to life. Good food is nutritious and delicious, and the key to both is its freshness. Genuine health begins with living soil, continues through fresh, whole food, and achieves wellness in a balanced body, mind, and soul. We live in a moderately toxic environment, which is the primary cause of our chronic conditions. But by healing the land we heal ourselves.
We farm because we want to make a positive difference in this world. Both Mary and Matt come from a background in teaching and this farm is a continuation of that vocation. Our farm aspires to be hub for education, encouragement, and enlightenment. We value community beyond an economic relationship. A business is not just an economic undertaking, but one of the ties that build and bind a local community. Climate change is the greatest challenge this planet is facing and agriculture must lead the resistance by creating a local food economy that is less dependent on fossil fuels.
We farm as a family. The good life is the simple life that strips away all the distractions and focuses on the essential. And essential to our lives is spending time with our two young sons. What a joy and a privilege it is to bring our kids to work with us!
Food has the power to heal, to change, and to bring people together sharing a common table, truly living the good life.
How We Farm
We have chosen to farm using sustainable, "beyond organic" methods. Not only is our farm free of synthetic pesticides and GMO seeds, but a deeper understanding of agriculture is cultivated here. We have decided not to pursue USDA organic certification because the ideal of "organic" has been much diluted by industrial agribusiness since it was first pioneered in the 1960s and since we are selling directly to the end customer the need for a third party's stamp is negligible. Our growing philosophy is best defined as "biological" and "ecological". Our job as farmers is to nurture the ideal environment in which the plants can thrive and feed the soil in faith that it will in turn feed the plant, all in the knowledge that it is not the farmer that grows the plant but the sun and living soil.
It is in this spirit that we encourage our customers to come visit the farm and see for themselves how their food is grown. Central to our relationship with our customers is an ongoing transparent dialogue that educates both farmer and consumer concerning the standards and methods of growing good food. And it is also good fun. We host a festival, potluck, bonfire, and a pumpkin pick throughout the season. We hope to see you soon!