Green Acres

October 2019 View more

By Cara Sullivan

In this hypermodern world, where convenience is practically a currency, there are two types of people: those who indulge in the occasional farm life fantasy as a respite from the status quo, and those who are called to turn that dream into reality. On the following pages we’ll introduce you to a handful of the latter—fine folks who have made it their life’s work to grow fresh, healthy, happy, and sustainable food. Every slice of tomato, bite of bacon, and drop of honey they yield is a delicious reminder that, while convenience is indeed a beautiful thing, there’s more to life than hypermarkets and same-day shipping. Here are seven incredible local producers of home-grown goodness.



Step off the road onto this gorgeous sprawl of country, and you’ve officially entered a dream—Marc and Luis Bernard’s dream, that is. Marc, a former chef for the Lettuce Entertain You restaurants, and Luis, a special education teacher (both pictured at right), had been indulging the occasional #farmlife daydream for years—until one fateful day in 2011 when a home with a barn on five acres in Elburn became their home. Fast-forward nearly a decade and these farmers with a capital F spend their days cranking out eggs, honey, pasture-raised chicken and heirloom pork—think chops, bacon, jowl, and breakfast sausage—as well as (wait for it) more than 100 varieties of fresh produce.

Since its humble beginnings, the farm has nearly quadrupled in size and the Bernards have added a robust CSA program to their mouth-watering menu of offerings. Shares come in three sizes (personal, half, and full) and run for 20 weeks, from June to November, with weekly pickup from a handful of farmers’ markets. A shorter fall share, from late September through early November, makes a great option for lovers of harvest veggies like squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts, and greens, and pasture-raised eggs are always available as an add-on. Farm-raised turkeys (broad-breasted whites raised on organic pastures with non-GMO feeds, to be precise) and all the fixings can be ordered for pre-Thanksgiving pickup at Rustic Road’s annual holiday market in mid-November. And lest anyone forget Marc began his career as a chef, the farm’s website is loaded with recipes designed to maximize the full potential of everything it yields, from pork to peas (see below for one of our favorites).

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Bernards enjoy mixing and mingling with members of their loyal community almost as much as farming itself; you’ll see them out in the pasture, chatting up customers at the market, and teaching the tiniest farm visitors the fine art of goat belly rubs. If there’s a veggie you’d like them to grow, just say the word (though to be fair, chances are pretty good that they already are). Need help with your home garden? Just ask—and be prepared for more info than you bargained for. These guys are the real deal, and we’re lucky to call them neighbors.

Elburn Farmstand | 1N292 Brundige Rd.
Wheaton French Market | Main and Liberty Sts.
Aurora Farmers Market | 65 Water St.



There isn’t a family in Illinois that doesn’t at least attempt to squeeze a farm day into the fall schedule—we’re talking puffy vests, matching plaid, apple cider doughnuts, all of it. And nobody nails the family-fun-at-the-farm-thing quite like Keller’s, a sixth-generation sustainable spot in Naperville with an Oswego farm stand that turns into Fallapalooza come September (expect an apple orchard, pumpkin patch, corn maze, farm animals, and plenty of those aforementioned doughnuts). It’s open rain or shine every weekend from early September through the end of October—and because Keller’s fresh produce is every bit as satisfying as their specialized brand of fall fun, we’d be remiss not to remind you to hit up the farm stand while you’re there.

Oswego Farmstand | 2500 Johnson Rd.
Naperville Farmstand | 516 Knoch Knolls Rd.
Plainfield Farmstand | 15066 S. Wallin Dr.


City Bee Savers

Truth: Agriculture as we know it cannot exist without bees—and local beekeeper Bill Whitney and his honeybee farm are here to do something about it. The mission of City Bee Savers is threefold: produce delicious, sustainable honey (at $10 per pound), educate the next generation of bee lovers and keepers ($140 will set you up with everything you need to start a colony of your own), and, ultimately, do its part to save the honeybees—literally. That’s because Bill and his team moonlight as specialist exterminators, bee-removal experts who spend their summers relocating unwanted residential and commercial hives to the City Bee Savers’ happy, productive colonies in wildflower-rich areas of DuPage County (namely West Chicago Prairie, Herrick Lake, and the Great Western Trail).

Abbey Farms Aurora Farmers Market | 2855 Hart Rd.



Is it technically a farm? Not exactly. But what it lacks in baby animals and haystacks, it more than makes up for in gardens. Lots of gardens. A fixture of the community since 1936, the Growing Place is split between two locations—one in Aurora, and one in Naperville. Each is unique and well worth a visit, but there’s one glorious similarity: Both have an acre-wide learning garden designed for green and black thumbs alike to explore and study more than 800 labeled plants. On-site demonstrations are designed to educate guests on common garden situations—things like sunny borders or dry shade—and themed areas include plantings meant to attract hummingbirds and butterflies and miniatures for visiting kids to explore (hot tip: littles will love the hidden garden atop the bridge at the Aurora location, which just so happens to be available for birthday parties).
Landscape and container design, native plantings for wildlife, and delivery and installation services are available, and here’s where it gets really good (tasting): The Growing Place is the place to go for vegetable, fruit, and herb plants, which are grown and sold in the centers’ production greenhouses. All plants rely on organic soil and fertilizers, and a beneficial insect program ensures pest populations are managed within the greenhouse. Perhaps most important, on-site experts are committed to matching customers with plants that will live happily ever after in their home gardens.

Aurora Garden Center | 2000 Montgomery Rd.
Naperville Garden Center | 25w471 Plank Rd.



Before we dig into the heavenly fruits and veggies, we’re going to let you in on a little secret: Heritage Prairie’s honey latte is on a whole other level of deliciousness. Try it at the farm store this fall, and you’ll never stand in line for a pumpkin spice latte again.

But we digress … This small but mighty Elburn farm churns out produce and microgreens good enough to line the shelves at local markets, including Whole Foods, Blue Goose, and Plum. The four-season operation employs Eliot Coleman methods (a name and concept worth Googling) to maximize its low acreage, and features a robust CSA program to ensure the surrounding community is involved at every level. In addition to scoring first dibs on seasonal veggies each week, CSA members receive 10 percent off tickets for the farm’s in-demand monthly dinners that feature partnerships with many local brewers and distilleries.

In between the rows of garden-fresh goodness, there’s something else growing here: love. Since 2008, Heritage Prairie has been hosting all-inclusive weddings at their onsite venue—and if there’s anything more romantic than saying “I do” on the farm, we don’t know what it is.

Elburn Farm Store | 2N308 Brundige Rd.
Wheaton French Market | Main and Liberty Sts.
Geneva Green Market | 327 Hamilton St.
Geneva French Market | South and Fourth Sts.


Anderson Tree Farm

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are your branches … especially when they hail from Anderson Tree Farm, the coziest spot on Earth (seriously, they hand you a steaming mug of hot chocolate while they wrap your tree). Choose from Norway spruce, Colorado spruce, or white pine at this Plainfield farm, chop it down yourself or leave it to the pros, and—this is the best part—opt to have it planted in your yard when the holidays are over. Don’t celebrate Christmas? Don’t worry: Anderson sells beautiful pines, birch, maple, and other varieties of tree for home landscaping, plus fresh firewood, too.

Plainfield Tree Farm | 508 W. Route 126



Little in this life is more idyllic than a flower farm, as anyone who’s had the pleasure of visiting Mayneland can attest. Sitting pretty on a 15-acre plot nestled between subdivisions in Naperville, the entire shebang is run by second-generation farmer Jeremy Mayne, whose family purchased the land in 1976 with humble intentions of starting a family garden. Whether by luck or green thumb, it didn’t take long for the garden’s bounty to exceed the Maynes’ needs, and a profitable produce stand was born. The farm’s operations have expanded considerably since then, but the old-school (read: cash-only) store remains tucked into the corner of Mill and Bauer, spilling over with fruit, vegetables, and flowers. Which brings us to our next point: omigodtheflowers.

Yes, the wide variety of produce is as fresh and delicious as it gets, but Mayneland’s Farmhouse Flowers ( showstopping blooms—all grown from seed—are what keep in-the-know locals coming back for more. Even so, grab-and-go stems are just a small part of Barbara Landiak’s flower show. In addition to running a wholesale program that services local florists, the farm’s talented designers lead innovative workshops throughout the year; guide private parties in the art of arranging (think birthday or bachelorette party); and love nothing more than creating inspired arrangements for events, both big and small.

Naperville Farmstand | 27W265 Bauer Rd.