Friday, April 15, 2011

Don't Forget about Earth Day!

Earth Day is just around the corner. In case you don’t know the date, it is April 22nd. This year find new ways to celebrate Earth Day, but remember living green is better practiced daily instead of just once a year. Look below for some Earth Day Tips.
1. If you don’t have curbside recycling take your recycling materials to a local school or library with recycling bin. Schools and libraries are paid for the material they recycle. The money they earn goes to providing better services at these facilities (more books, renovations, student trips, etc.).
2. Refer a local non-profit organization to a program like Abitibi Recycling Program or something similar. To make the referral log on to the Abitibi Recycling Program website and fill out the referral form. Abitibi will contact your referral and set it all up for free. The local non-profit organization will earn money for the material they recycle.
3. Start a compost pile, or buy a compost bin to place your leaves and kitchen scraps inside.
4. Take the bus today. If the bus stop is too far away ride your bike to the bus stop. Did you know many buses now have bike racks to place your bikes while riding the bus?
5. Carpool. If your coworker lives on the way to your commute to work go ahead and pick him/her up.
6. Spring clean you home, office or company and donate your unwanted, but still good items, to a resale shop, a church, the Salvation Army or other charity. Your home, your conscious and the earth will be cleaner for it.
7. If you haven’t done so yet replace your light bulbs with energy efficient ones.
8. Donate your electronics to programs such as: Cell Phone for Soldiers, America’s Computers for Kids, etc.
9. Donate money to your favorite green cause.
10. Write a letter or email to your favorite green companies thanking them for doing their part for the environment.
11. Plant a plant or more with your family and if possible with you neighbors.
12. Go online and search for educational recycling crafts (such as making new paper out of old shredded paper) for kids and adults. When you find useful website bookmark them to easily refer to them on rainy days.
13. Be creative and come up with an innovative way to live green.
14. Adopt a beach, a park, or a street and help clean it up.
15. Log on to Earth Day and register to vote.
16. Go to an Earth Day Event. To find a location nearest you visit Earth Day Network.
17. Freecycle! Freecycle! Freecycle!
18. Have a garage sale. You will be surprised at what people will buy at garage sales. You’ll earn a few dollars; clean out your home and help your old items find new homes.
19. Forward links of environmental websites like to your friends and family.
20. Organize your address and phone list of resale shops, thrift stores, consignments stores, recycling center and other green locations in an address book. Keep a copy of this list in your car. In addition map out how far away these locations are from each other to save gas when you visit several of these locations at a time.
21. Sign a “green” petition you approve of.
22. Share what you’ve done or plan to do for Earth Day below.
Happy Earth Day! *curtesy of

Spring is here!

We are so happy that Spring is finally here! Regardless, if it has been a little chilly and rainy or not, we're still happy to say goodbye Winter.  That chill in the air is going to let up soon, seeds are in the ground, things are growing. Life is good. 

April is an exciting month for us here at the farm. Not only is it the first official farm dinner of the year (you can check out our Honey Farm Dinner menu here), its Earth Day on April 22nd, and April 23rd marks the day of our first wedding for the season, as well as our first annual Easter Egg Hunt. Whew! During our Easter Egg Hunt, we will also have Howling Hounds Farm's baby bunnies and chicks visiting for the day and kids craft activities. For more info, visit the farms official website here.

Don't you just love the look of decorated eggs? No matter how old I get, I still love it.  

Friday, March 4, 2011

Spring Clean

Happy almost Spring! The past few days, I can really feel Spring in the air.The snow is melting, I can smell the Earth, and the Heritage Prairie Farm crew has been busy doing our "farm clean-up." Our beautiful barn, honey house, and farmhouse are all getting their seasonal proper cleaning. Its nice to get super organized before the weather turns, for the farm is really a whole different world when the weather is nice. The staff is also gearing up to get those seeds in the ground! I am desperate for fresh produce and truly cannot wait. Some of our seasonal staff returned this week to kick off the season and its great to see their faces, as well as seeing a few new ones. For those of you out there that are still on the fence about joining our CSA, please get in touch with us soon with your sign-up!  We truly do grow produce for YOU, so its essential by the end of the month that we have an idea of how many shares we are growing for this year.  Hands down one of the best investments you could ever make, because its an investment for you, for you health, and for the health of your family.  Its becoming a rare thing to actually know where your food comes from, let alone know your farmer.  If you're interested, please check for more information here or you can call me, Katie, here at our farm store at #630-443-8253.

As the crew is cleaning out the barn, I am blown away with how much neat stuff is in there! Some of the gems found are: an old church pew, a vintage 1950s rotary telephone, and my favorite- an old iron wash basin.The word on the street is that we MAY be having a Barn/Yard Sale in the near future. If we are, we will definitely be putting the word out on our website, facebook, and blog, so check back!

If you're not feeling the Spring vibes yet, and still have cabin fever, we are offering some really great classes coming up in March and April.  The farm is offering a beginning beekeeping course with Bron and Chef Jeremy has a ton of great cooking classes, as well as a Basic Knife Skills class.  Click here for more information!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bee Mine

We can't believe it's almost the middle of February, 2011 is already zooming by. Yet, Spring still seems a million miles away, especially with last weeks blizzard and this weeks below freezing temperatures. The good news is that the farm crew is already gearing up to order this years seeds and working out plans to get them in the ground soon, which is always a sure sign that Spring is indeed on its way.  We are also working on getting G.A.P. certified, which stands for good agricultural practices. These practices are a collection of principles to apply for on-farm production and post-production processes, resulting in safe and healthy food and non-food agricultural products, while taking into account economical, social and environmental sustainability.

Although it is still Winter, the farm is alive and busy preparing for this weekend's Valentines Celebration Farm Dinner.  The dinner is taking place in one of our greenhouses on our property, which I am very excited about.  Can you imagine anything more romantic than enjoying a gourmet, five course meal with your special honey all set in a gorgeous greenhouse in the dead of Winter? I love it! I walked down to the greenhouse this morning to get a sneak peek at how its all coming together and it already looks great. The dinner is sold out, but you can still click below to check out the delicious menu Chef Jeremy created for the event.

Don't worry, if you weren't able to buy tickets, we have lots of other great farm dinners in the works.  

Our first beekeeping class for the season began last night as well. Hannah O'Malley, our production manager/Bronwyn's right hand bee assistant, said the class was a hit.  Students will be learning about the history of beekeeping, bee anatomy, starting up a colony, equipment basics, managing a colony throughout the year, honey bee pests/diseases, harvesting honey, and other hive products, as well as performing hive inspections.  We are hoping to offer a second round of workshops later this Spring.

And if you're looking for any great gifts this month, be it for Valentine's Day or just to treat yourself, we have a lot of lovely new items in our farm store.  Local potter, Melissa Monroe, recently dropped off more of her drop dead gorgeous pottery to sell in our store.  Melissa is a potter, painter, mother, and avid gardener among other things, she works out of her studio in Mokena, IL.  Her work includes vintage inspired patterns and shapes, as well as her love for nature. You can view more of her work here  

We also have other great gifts like Bron's Bee Mine raw honey bears, Jenni Nenni sugar heart cookies, Fox Valley Winery Amore chocolate raspberry wine, and chocolate covered bottles of Heritage cherry wine.  We will actually be doing a free tasting of the Amore wine this Saturday and Sunday (February 12th and 13th) from noon til 5pm. Yum. All of our freshly harvested microgreens will also be on sale 20% off for the rest of February. Its this time of the year that I'm craving and dearly missing some fresh, delicious greens.  The moment you eat it, your body just says 'yes, this is what I need.'  So stock up while supplies last! 

Click here to learn more about Fox Valley Winery's wine collections

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Got Raw Milk?

I've been getting a lot of inquiries about RAW milk at the farm lately, so I finally decided to do some investigating. Unfortunately we do NOT sell raw milk here at Heritage Prairie Farm and there are a couple of reasons why (which I'll get to later). There has also been a lot of interest on the subject of raw milk, both good press and bad press, and here is what I found out:

There are those out there that have heard the FDA's warnings about raw milk: that there is the possibility of campylobacter, salmonella and E. coli, that its not good to drink milk thats hasn't been pasteurized or homogenized.  And then there are those out there that dance to their own tune and prefer a more natural food lifestyle despite what they say.

First, lets overview the bad press.  ANY food risks contamination by bad bacteria like salmonella and E.coli, but it is often associated with how that food was produced, handled, and packaged.  The pasteurization process destroys the risks of these bad bacteria, but it also destroys all the good bacteria.  Pasteurization came about in the 1890's to control highly contagious bacterial diseases like bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis among others. Up until then, most families and individuals owned their own livestock and milked them on a daily basis, as far back as thousands of years.  It wasn't until after the Industrial Revolution, the spread of urban living and less than sanitary conditions in meat packing districts, that livestock was being cared for inhumanely, and disease control began to be regulated within the dairy industry.   

Pasteurization is an end-of-process 'solution' designed to remedy the less than optimal sanitary practices of many dairies. Named for Louis Pasteur, the process involves heating milk to a temperature of about 155 degrees Fahrenheit to kill harmful bacteria. Ultra high temperature (UHT) pasteurization, introduced in 1948, may be thought of as extreme pasteurization. This process results in milk heated to a temperature of about 285 Fahrenheit, resulting in the complete sterilization of the milk and the death of its life enhancing properties.

Homogenization is a process designed to prevent the cream in a bottle of milk from separating from the milk. This is accomplished by breaking up the fat globules in the cream so that they stay suspended in the milk. The primary reason for homogenization seems to be to extend the shelf life of milk products.

So why choose a raw milk option? Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized, it retains its natural enzymes and antibodies.  This milk contains powerful lactase that actually naturally protects itself from some dangerous bacterial diseases, but also aids the digestive system in breaking down milks natural sugar, lactose.  It is also rich in fat soluable Vitamin A and D. There are some claims that raw milk can ease symptoms for  auto-immune diseases that attack the digestive system, even Crohn's Disease. Today, raw milk is actually illegal in a few states, and heavily regulated in others.  In other parts of the world, pasteurized milk and cheese are actually considered low quality, and high quality gourmet dairy is always raw.  Very interesting. Here are the Illinois laws:

Raw milk sales are legal on the farm if the farmer complies with the following conditions:
  1. No advertising the sale of raw milk.
  2. Customers must bring their own individual containers. If the farmer uses his own container to bottle the milk, he is operating a "milk plant" according to the Department of Health Regulations, and the milk must be pasteurized. The farmer can only collect the milk in the customer's container. The farmer cannot process the milk in any way. Sales of raw cream and raw butter are illegal.
  3. The farmer must produce the milk "in accordance with the Department (of Public Health) rules and regulations. "The Department does not apply these rules and regulations, including the permit requirement, to farmers with just a few cows who sell raw milk only on the farm.
see for more information about other state raw milk regulations/laws.  

I'll be the first to say, I am no expert. Everyone should do their own research, especially if you are interested for medical reasons. Like many of you out there, I am quite sensitive to milk. In my childhood, I was even called "lactose  intolerant." I was raised on ultra pasteurized, homogenized milk bought at your everyday grocer  When I would drink milk, I was always plagued by uncomfortable stomach cramps. That was until I started pursuing organic options.  

Here at Heritage Prairie Farm, we sell Crystal Ball Farms organic cream line milk.  It comes to us from Osceola, Wisconsin, delivered every week by our awesome milkman, Mike Watters. If you need to know anything about dairy, Mike is your expert, and very enthusiastic about the raw milk debate.  I recently asked him, unknowingly, if there was a way that we could get raw milk from him and the answer was an "absolutely not."   Apparently, among all the other regulations, its highly illegal to transport raw milk across state borders. The good news is that the Crystal Ball Farms milk is organic, low pasteurized, and non-homogenized.  Recent thirty year study by Dr. Kurt A. Oster, shows that homogenized milk may be linked to heart disease.  Homogenized milk breaks up fat molecules into tiny particles containing a xanthine oxidase enzyme that passes through the intestine walls and into the circulatory system.  This creates lesions in the artery walls and heart tissue, and your body naturally tries to heal these lesions by depositing fatty tissue and cholesterol on them.  Over time this leads to build up and blockage, and thus heart disease. On the other hand, in NON-homogenized milk, this xanthine oxidase enzyme passes through the digestive system normally because the fat molecules are far too large to pass through the intestine wall.  Homogenization began in 1932, and curiously before this time, heart disease was rare and now it is one of the 6 leading causes of death.  

Very interesting indeed.  My suspicion thinks that the reason that the FDA is so against raw milk, as far as to make it illegal in some states, suggests to me that the true conditions at some corporate dairy producing farms are less than sanitary, so they MUST enforce ultra-pasteurization so that the population won't get sick. The true question is how are those pathogens contaminating the milk in the first place? And they must homogenize milk because the milk is distributed far away, so it increases the shelf life of the milk, and thus they can make more money off of it.  

So if you're going to try to seek out raw milk, know the source of your raw milk and demand that it be from predominantly grass-fed animals. Preferably organic .Raw milk from cows fed diets heavy in grain, soybeans,and cottonseed meal, etc., apparently cannot effectively protect itself from pathogenic infection. Everyone agrees, it must be pasteurized.

I think what it all comes down to is knowing what you're putting in your body and where its coming from.