Thumbelina CSA
Mission

Last year, while we were all understandably concerned about our health and the safety of our food chain, we created Thumbelina CSA, a unique collaboration between six small-scale farmers to combine the best of what they do in a weekly “comfort box.” And we’re back to do it all again for a second year, this time with a few exciting changes!

The diverse components in each box —seasonal vegetables, fresh fruit, pastured eggs, cut flowers, artisanal bread— provide CSA members with exceptional quality ingredients and a much-needed boost to these economically-suffering farms. An 18-week Thumbelina season (only full seasons are available) will begin Thursday, June 4th and end September 30.

Though the light at the end of the COVID tunnel is approaching, stakes for the small-scale farms we know and love are still very high. So, the primary goal of Thumbelina is to deliver as much financial support as possible to these businesses; although still designed not to turn a profit, we have introduced wages this season to build in economic sustainability to the model. Many of the farms you’ll recognize from last year, while some are new faces, but we know they’re all not only remarkable farmers, but remarkable women deserving of our attention, support, and patronage.

- Emma & Kate Sherman
- Bruce Sherman, Thumbelina Chef emeritus

Farmers

Jen and her husband, Jeff, began farming within Prairie Crossing, a conservation community in Grayslake, Illinois in 2006. Together they manage 40 acres of certified organic land, using regenerative farming philosophies to steward healthy soils and embrace their diverse ecological surroundings of restored prairies, wetlands, and native hedgerows. Prairie Wind grows 125 varieties of fresh vegetables including beets, carrots, greens, radishes, summer squash, and more. Jen and Jeff have two sons.

Prairie Wind Family Farm
Three Sisters Garden

Three Sisters Garden — Tracey Vowell

Tracey Vowell started Three Sisters Garden in Kankakee, Illinois 20 years ago. The farm takes its name from the Native American planting method of combining corn, beans, and squash in the same planting bed. After decades of farming the land, Tracey continues to grow crops in keeping with the New World tradition, such as four varieties of dry beans, heirloom white field corn, and a diverse list of summer and winter squashes. She has since expanded to include products such as green garlic, baby mixed greens, peppers, spring onions, sweet and baby corn, and tomatoes.

Three Sisters Garden
Flatwater Farms

Flatwater Farms — Fran Tuite

Also found at River St. Joe

Fran was raised by two botanists and instilled with a passion for the environment from a young age. After many years in Chicago, in search of a rural respite, she bought a log cabin in Buchanan, Michigan. While walking the dogs there one weekend, Fran saw an auction sign on the farm across the street and sensed a lifelong dream to own her own farm was upon her. Flatwater Farms was born in January 2014 and the conversion to organic certification began soon after. The ultimate vision is to create a sustainable farm and business that supports the community by supplying food, employment, and education, in addition to supporting the environment through healthy soils and wildlife habitat.

Flatwater Farms
Mick Klug Farm

Mick Klug Farm — Abby Klug-Schilling

Also found at Green City Market, 61st St, Division St, Lincoln Square

Located in St. Joseph, Michigan, Mick Klug Farm is a third-generation family farm dating back to the 1930s. Abby Klug-Schilling has taken on ownership and management of the farm from her father Mick, and continues to provide quality sustainable produce to local and Chicago-based markets and restaurants. The farm’s most popular items are their strawberries and their peaches, but they also grow raspberries, blueberries, cherries, rhubarb, asparagus, grapes, apples and more. Abby and her husband Mark live on the farm with their two children.

Mick Klug Farm
Petals Farm

Petals Farm — Heidi Ong

Also found at Green City Market, Wicker Park

Petals Farm is a cut flower farm located just 45 miles northwest of Chicago in Huntley, Illinois. Heidi and her husband Troy take pride in providing unique and colorful flowers abiding by natural and sustainable growing methods. Throughout market season, Petals specializes in custom-made bouquets comprised of a variety of freshly-picked flowers, including peonies, lilies, zinnias, and lilacs. Heidi and her husband Troy live with their daughter in Huntley.

Petals Farm
All Grass Farms

All Grass Farms — Anna Lipinska

Also found at All Grass Farm Store

Anna’s farming experience began while growing up in Poland, spending time on her grandmother’s homestead helping with the harvest, animal care, and winter preparation. In 1996, she came to the U.S. but didn’t pay much attention to food and farming here until reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and watching the documentary Food, Inc. These opened her eyes to food production and farming practices in America. Her love for organic and regenerative farming blossomed from there, as she decided to change course and devote herself to learning as much as possible about regenerative agriculture. She quit her corporate job, joined All Grass Farms, and the rest is history. She began milking and caring for the cows, helping with pasture-raised hogs and poultry, and later taking on a flock of hens for pastured eggs. Anna and her partner love their lifestyle and are proud to educate future farmers and land healers by providing nutrient-dense food to their local community.

All Grass Farms
Hewn Bread

Hewn Bread — Ellen King

Hewn is an independent, women-owned bakery in Evanston, Illinois started in 2013 by Ellen King and Julie Matthei. Hewn is a rustic bakery specializing in made-from-scratch breads, sandwiches, and pastries. All of the bakery’s artisan breads and baked goods are naturally leavened and crafted from local grains. Ellen is classically trained and oversees all baking operations. You can visit their retail shop at 1733 Central St., Evanston, IL. Ellen and Julie have 4 children.

Hewn Bread
Weekly Boxes

Typically, a weekly Thumbelina box will feed two people for 3-4 meals if supplemented with other proteins. It will include 5-6 different greens or vegetables, a couple of different fruits, maybe some dried goods, a half-dozen eggs and a beautiful bouquet of mixed fresh-cut flowers. A loaf of artisanal bread will be included every other week.

A June box might include: Asparagus, Radishes, Watercress, Green Garlic, Baby Greens Salad mix, Popcorn, Strawberries, Rhubarb, Eggs and a bouquet of Peonies and Wildflowers;

A July box might include: Cucumbers, Snap Peas, Beans, Fingerling Potatoes, Baby Squash, Pecans, Blueberries, Cherries, Eggs and a bouquet of Snapdragons, Stock and Sunflower;

An August box might include: Heirloom Tomatoes, Beets, Carrots, Eggplant, Bell Peppers, Sweet Corn, Peaches, Plums, Eggs and a bouquet of multicolored Zinnias;

A September box might include: Sweet Potatoes, Melons, Cipollini Onions, Celeriac, Hard Squash, Shell Beans, Apples, Grapes, Eggs and a bouquet of Lilies and Dahlias.

As weekly boxes reflect the growing seasons and conditions, farms cannot guarantee any specific item’s availability at any time. Mother Nature is always in charge! Likewise, as in life, oftentimes products may be imperfect, but they’ll always taste delicious.

Due to the nature of CSAs and farmers’ work, we will not be able to accommodate omissions or substitutions based on tastes or allergies. That’s truly one of the beauties of the CSA model: it encourages people to learn how to treat, eat and enjoy unfamiliar and novel products!

SPECIFICS, LOGISTICS and LIMITATIONS

FAQs
bulletWhat is a CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and is an effective and rewarding way for consumers to buy fresh and seasonal products directly from farmers. Traditionally, a farmer offers a certain number of shares to the public, each share generally consisting of a variety of fruits or vegetables, and often additional farm products. Each purchasing customer pays for their share in full at the start of the season, and receives their boxed portion of the share at a set interval, whether weekly, monthly, or otherwise. Paying upfront allows farmers an increased cash flow to support them throughout the season, and the more direct farm-to-consumer element of a CSA provides a valuable way for farmers to get to know the people purchasing their products. For the consumer, a CSA is a great way to explore a variety of reliably high quality products from a known source.
bulletIs it safe?
In accordance with all COVID-19 recommended protocols, everyone involved with Thumbelina will be taking all necessary precautions. All of our farmers are respecting official guidelines on their farms in an attempt to keep us all safe. Everyone packing boxes and handling goods will be wearing proper protective gear, and we’ve all been fully vaccinated! We will enforce a 'social distance' pick-up method per appropriate CDC guidelines in which no CSA members will need to come within six feet of anyone managing the pick-up or other members. We hope to maintain a safe and healthy environment in order to provide this small gift each week, and we will do our best to do so within recommended guidelines.
bulletWhat if I miss my pick-up or can’t make the pick-up window?
Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to hold boxes for longer than the pick-up window. If a box is still left unclaimed at the end of the day we will happily find it a new home or donate its contents.
bulletWhat if I’m planning to be out of town? Can someone else pick-up my box?
If you know ahead of time that you will be out of town or unable to pick up your box one week, you can coordinate with someone you know who is willing and able to do it for you. Simply let us know in advance the name of who you have designated to collect your box. If you would prefer to donate your box for the week, let us know ahead of time and we can also make that happen. Due to the nature of this CSA we will be unable to provide any refunds or to cut prices corresponding to missed/skipped weeks; everything will be paid in full for the 18 weeks.
bulletCan I buy extra product from the farms?
At this point, we are considering this as an option going forward, depending on the progress of the CSA. We are working with our farmers to decide if this would be a productive or efficient method of sale beyond the CSA boxes. If you think you might be interested in purchasing additional products sometime in the future, please email us at thumbelinacsa@gmail.com and let us know! We would love the feedback.
bulletI don’t like zucchini or know what to do with celeriac. Do I have options?
Due to the nature of this CSA model, each box and its contents will be standard for every member each week. That means all included products will be the same for every box with no substitutions or omissions. We know this can be a point of hesitation for some prospective shareholders, but it is truly the most effective way to manage the CSA and provides a bountiful and entirely week-to-week representation of what’s at its peak, making it all the more exciting.
bulletWill I know ahead of time what’ll be in my box?
Because the boxes are all about what is in season spontaneously at each farm, we won’t know exactly what will be included each week until the last minute. We will let you know the night before each pick-up what will be in your box the following day to help with meal planning. At this point, we can give you an idea of what to expect from a typical box each month, which we’ve listed in the What’s In A Box section of the website.
bulletCan we recycle our boxes?
Yes! In fact, we ask that you do bring back your boxes each week. Not only does it help us cut down on waste, it also helps us save money, which we can pass back to the farms.
bulletCan I share with someone?
Sharing is caring and we think better than not signing up at all, but due to the limitations of Thumbelina we ask if you want to share to please do so off-site among partners.
bulletIs there another pick-up spot in Chicago?
No. The one and only pick-up spot will be located in central Evanston, and all members should join knowing they will be able to make it to that location each week within the pick-up window.
bulletWhy “Thumbelina”?
It’s an adorable and tasty heirloom variety of carrot, something special and at risk of disappearing if more people don’t pay more attention to the diversity of our food system. And a charming fairy tale about a tiny princess who ultimately finds love and happiness in a field of flowers!
bulletWho’s behind this?
Chef Bruce Sherman (formerly of North Pond) started Thumbelina last year as a way to help out some farmer friends who found themselves in dire straits due to the effects of COVID on restaurant and market sales. As we, daughters Emma and Kate Sherman, are taking over operations this year, he’s confidently and enthusiastically stepping away to concentrate more fully on “what’s next.” We are currently between jobs and years of college, respectively, and wanted to make sure the CSA could happen again this year. We had so much fun last year and love to support the farmers in every way we can.
bulletWhere’s the money going?
Nearly all proceeds from Thumbelina will be going directly to the farmers. We are only withholding funds to cover administrative expenses and are attempting to cut down on fees in every way possible to ensure we get as much to the farmers as possible. This is why we aren’t taking credit cards, so as not to pay extra fees, and why there’s no profit built into our business model. We are committed to providing as much business to the farmers as possible in this unprecedented and difficult financial period.
bulletIs there an opportunity to make a supplemental donation to the farmers?
Thanks for asking! We’ve included a box on the sign-up sheet to allow for any supplemental donations. The farmers would be greatly appreciative of any additional funds you may send their way.
bulletWhy do I have to pay up-front? Can I pay in installments?
Payment for the entire season is due upon signing up. We understand this is a big ask, but the CSA model is predicated on providing much-needed cash for farms before actual harvesting season begins. Their cash flow is challenging when many of their annual costs have already been “sunk” into seeds and the labor needed to start, sow, and maintain, and oversee care of the products. This past year has continued to be especially challenging in that regard, considering that much of farmers’ income from restaurants and institutions is just now beginning to come back.. It is precisely for this reason that Thumbelina CSA came into existence. And the weekly $45 cost per box remains an exceptional value in any year, considering the quality and provenance of its contents.
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