Oh, the Web We Weave – The Many Connections of Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm

February 7, 2012 at 9:55 am

Editor’s Note: We love farmers.  Nudge us a bit, and we’d even profess love (well maybe like) for GMO plantin’, not a’tillin’, big Agers, but really the farmers we love the best, the ones we love the most are the ones working hard to do things the right way. You can offer to do things the right way, you can say you’ll do things the right way, or you can just do things the right way.  Jody and Beth Osmund do things the right way.  They have been leading providers of sustainable meat to our community.  We were thrilled when Jody asked to contribute to the Beet.  We love our farmers and we love hearing from them.  We think you will too.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Moran

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Moran

There is a lot of talk in the sustainable, organic, and local food world of Food-webs. It begins  in the soil and extends out to all the living organisms dependent on that soil for sustenance. As a grass farmer, I could speak in depth on the importance of diverse and vibrant Food-webs; but, just as important to our sustainable farm is the network of human relationships that enable our farm and business to survive and thrive.

Over the coming weeks and months, I will write about the human connections and interactions that enrich our farm and community. There are many branches, cross-connections, and circles back. Farms compete and cooperate. These relationships are rewarding, synergistic, and multiplying.  The cooperative nature of local foods is the antithesis of farmer as rugged individualist propagated by conventional, corporate agriculture’s PR people.  As circumstances (peak oil, global climate change, bubble- economies, etc.) drive our society to make hard choices toward sustainability conventional and sustainable/organic farmers must interact in order to move our food system to a healthier model.

What follows is the story of an ongoing relationship that touches our Farm, Cedar Valley Sustainable, but extends throughout our local foods community.

Several months ago, Richard Wood of the Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT)  contacted me about a new project. Richard wanted to see if I would serve as a farmer/advisor for a modest grant program to encourage farmers to move towards more humane livestock growing practices. Of course, I said “yes,” because I know Rich and support FACT’s mission, and I know the effectiveness of small grants given directly to farmers.

I met Rich and staff from FACT in 2008, when Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm hosted a Sustainable Agriculture tour. The Sustainable Agriculture Tour is a project of the University of Illinois Extension’s, Illinois Small Farms. CVSF was on the tour schedule because we were awarded a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) producer grant in 2007 to explore and expand direct to consumer retail marketing of our farm raised meats.  The success of this grant project prompted us to start the first meat CSA in Illinois.

Since that first meeting at our farm, Rich or FACT staff and I have run into each other several times at various local food and sustainable farm confabs in and about Chicago.  Not surprisingly, our relationship has grown.

With help from fellow farmer, Greg Gunthorp and whole lot of work by FACT staff, the Healthy & Humane Farms Funds Project came to fruition. It was feted in October at a launch party held at Uncommon Ground in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago. FACT invited me to speak about our farm, the health and humane benefits of grazing animals, and the grant project. I look forward to reading grant applications this spring and seeing the first grants awarded.

Another farmer, Harry Carr of Mint Creek Farm, also, spoke at the launch event. Richard and his wife treated Harry, his daughter, Rae, and me to dinner after the event. Free flowing conversation followed – it’s always nice to get to be social with other farmers. The discussion included Harry mentioning that he was marketing holiday turkeys. CVSF has raised turkeys in the past for our members, but did not this year.  Of course, we get requests for turkeys, and since we didn’t raise them – suggestions on where to buy. From our dinner talk, Harry agreed to offer his turkeys to our CSA members at the same discounted price (25% off retails) he was offering to Mint Creek’s CSA members. Win/Win!

While at the launch party at Uncommon Ground, I had the pleasure of meeting Helen Cameron, co-founder with her husband, Mike, of two award winning, green, farm to fork establishments. When we were introduced, Helen exclaimed, “I can’t believe we haven’t met before.” Having been involved in Chicago’s local food scene for nearly ten years, I felt the same way. I found that the Cameron’s share our passion for local and sustainable foods and work just as tirelessly promoting it as we do. From this brief meeting springs another relationship.

In January, Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm adds meat share deliveries at both Uncommon Ground locations in Lakeview and Edgewater. Beer pairings with Revolution Brewing beers and CVSF meats promote the new sites. The first meet-up was held at the Lakeview location on December 7th, an another happened in Edgewater on January 11th.  Revolution Brewing’s participation flowed from connections to both Helen and CVSF. Uncommon Ground has some of Revolution Brewing’s beers on tap. The tie to CVSF goes back even further. I met Josh Deth back in 2005 as one of the inaugural vendors of the fledgling Logan Square Farmers Market.

Then Josh was a partner in Handlebar working with the Logan Square Chamber of commerce to get it’s farmers market established, brewing beer at home, and dreaming of opening a world class brew pub. As with Richard and FACT, Josh and I have had many interactions over the past few years, and again our relationship has grown.  In fact, Revolution Brewing serves pork from our neighbors Mark and Kristin Boe of La Pryor farms.  La Pryor farms is from whom CVSF, also, buys stock. We introduced the Boes to Josh a couple of years ago after he had asked about sourcing locally raised meats. If you visit Rev Brew, try the La Pryor Farms pork chop; you won’t be disappointed.  Finding a tasty dish from our friend’s farm and a friend’s restaurant is just one great aspect of our many connections.

Jody Osmund grew up on a diversified grain & livestock farm just miles from where he farms now. However, he did not follow a straight line into farming. Jody graduated from high school in the late eighties (during the farm crisis that gave us Farm Aid); and, like many other bright young farm kids, he went off to college in search of another career.  Fast forward 15 years. Jody moved back to family land and started (with his wife Beth) the first Community Supported Agriculture vegetable farm in LaSalle county. Livestock were added; and, five years later, Cedar Valley Sustainable farm was again first introducing CSA meat to Illinois and Chicago. As of 2012, CVSF delivers monthly meat shares to Evanston, Edgewater, Lincoln Square, Lakeview, Logan Square, Oak Park, Naperville, Frankfort, and Ottawa. From June through October, you can find Jody delivering shares and selling his wares at the Logan Square Farmers market two Sundays a month.