Thumbelina CSA

During this strange time, when we’re all understandably concerned about our health and the safety of our food chain, we’ve created Thumbelina CSA, a unique collaboration between six small-scale farmers to combine the best of what they do in a weekly “comfort box”.

The diverse components in each box —seasonal vegetables, Michigan fruit, fresh 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 Wednesday, June 3rd and end September 30th.

This enterprise is being undertaken solely for this unprecedented growing season with the primary goal of delivering as much financial help as possible to these businesses; it is designed not to turn a profit, but merely to serve as a pass-through for the farms and their families. I’ve personally worked with all of these exceptional folks for many years and know them to be not only remarkable farmers, but remarkable women deserving of our attention, support and patronage right now.

- Chef Bruce Sherman

Green Acres Farm

Green Acres Farm — Beth Eccles

Also found at Green City Market, Evanston

Beth Eccles and her husband Brent began farming at Green Acres in North Judson, Indiana in 1996, but the farm has been around for much longer. In the 1930s, Beth’s grandfather, a Japanese immigrant, moved to Indiana and began a small truck farm, selling Japanese and Chinese vegetables to stores and restaurants in Chicago. In 1969 his son, Beth’s father, took over operations, running the farm for 35 years, and later passed it on to Beth. Green Acres has since expanded their original niche product market and now the Eccleses grow more than 500 varieties of fruits and vegetables, including radishes, potatoes, greens, beans, carrots, beets and melons. Beth and Brent have two daughters.

Green Acres Farm

Three Sisters Garden — Tracey Vowell

Also found at Green City Market

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
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
Ellis Family Farms

Ellis Family Farms — René Gelder

Also found at Green City Market, Oak Park, Skokie

Located in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Ellis Family Farms is a family-owned and operated produce and egg farm. René grew up on the farm and inherited it from her parents. The Gelder family takes pride in providing specialty fruit and vegetable varieties as well as free-range eggs from their diverse flocks of laying hens. René’s daughter Mary owns and cares for all the hens on the farm, and oversees all egg operations.

Ellis Family Farms
Petals Farm

Petals Farm — Heidi Ong

Also found at Green City Market, Oak Park, 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
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 live in Evanston with their kids.

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!


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 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, including gloves and masks at all times. We will enforce a ‘social distance’ pick-up method in which no CSA members will need to come within six feet of anyone managing the pick-up or within that distance of 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 donate its contents to a local food bank.
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 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 that 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. Plus, luckily we have a professional chef on-hand who would love to tell you how to use celeriac (and you probably have a neighbor who likes zucchini!).
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. For now, we are hoping to be able to let you know the night before pick-up day what will be in each box the following day to help with your 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?
As much as we would like to cut down on waste by reusing boxes each week, we are taking the precautions necessary and have decided not to recycle the boxes. We would rather be as careful as possible about preventing COVID’s spread than risk putting anyone in harm’s way.
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) and his daughter Kate. He’s currently “between jobs” and wanted to find a way to help out some of his farmer friends who find themselves in dire straits considering the state of our world right now. And Kate is between semesters at college, looking to pitch in on a worthy cause.
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 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 may be a challenge for some, but the CSA model for CSAs 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 year has been especially challenging in that regard, considering that much of farmers’ income from restaurants and institutions has vanished. It is precisely for this reason that Thumbelina CSA came into existence. And the weekly $40 cost per box is an exceptional value in any year, considering the quality and provenance of its contents.