Business Profile | Steve Tiwald

May 2017 View more

Some people may consider Steve Tiwald simply a farmer. But when describing his work as executive director of the Green Earth Institute, Tiwald himself is more likely to see his dedication to organic farming and education as a continuation of his previous life in the health care field—only now with a focus on more preventative health through nutrition.

As his nonprofit passion project turns fifteen this fall, with its founder still hard at work and its mission unwavering—most notably through the growing popularity of its community-sponsored agriculture (CSA) program, in which community shareholders commit to buying the farm’s organic fruits and vegetables throughout the season—Tiwald believes the anniversary offers further proof that the citizens of Naperville continue to see the importance of environmentally aware consumerism and education.

What was the inspiration behind establishing the Green Earth Institute back in 2002?

That was a time in my life when I had become very concerned about environmental issues, and had wrestled with some personal health issues that I was able to remedy by changing my diet. I found myself wanting to spread the word and educate more people about environmental stewardship and also the value of fresh organic vegetables for a healthy body.

Why do you believe this farm is so important to the community?

The Green Earth Institute provides practical opportunities locally for people to practice environmentalism through their food purchases. The produce from our organic farm is grown in a way that is good for the earth, good for your health and tastes wonderful. Our setting also provides some unique opportunities for kids to discover the wonders of nature and connect with the Earth through gardening in summer camps, preschool programs and other children’s group activities.

When was the CSA program initiated, and how do you feel it has contributed to the Green Earth Institute mission?

We started the CSA in 2003, which was our first year of farming. That year we had twenty-eight households participating, and by 2016 our numbers had grown to 591 households. Our CSA participants get to experience the farm as the source for the food they feed themselves and their children. This happens when they come to pick up their weekly or biweekly share of freshly-harvested vegetables in the barn—they see the crop fields, they talk to the farmers and they get a better sense of where their food comes from and how it’s grown.

What do you like best about running this farm in Naperville?

I get to work with some great people, including our small volunteer staff—people who give their time because they believe in the mission. We also collaborate with the great folks at The Conservation Foundation, from whom we lease our acreage at McDonald Farm.

Giving tours of our organic farm is one of my favorite things. Whether it’s a group of adults during an open house, a college class, high school students or elementary-age children, I love to share my knowledge of farming and environmental stewardship. It’s great to see people interested and engaged.

What about the Green Earth Institute are you most proud of?

Over the years, we have been able to touch many people with education about environmental sustainability and nutritional health, and have provided opportunities for people to take action by participating in our CSA program. We have developed a community of people who care about these things and are taking steps in their own lives to make the world a better place.

Most importantly, though, is that we’ve had an impact on the children. They will be the environmental stewards of tomorrow, and when I see their excitement at discovering what a broccoli plant looks like during a farm tour, it truly renews my spirit.

Note: At press time spring CSA shares have been sold out, but main-season and late-fall shares are still available for pick up in Naperville, Lombard, Western Springs, and Winfield.

Green Earth Institute
10S404 Knoch Knolls Road