Local Food For All

by Dan Lobbes, Director


Like many of you, we believe that every person should have access to local, organic, nutritious food. The benefits have been well documented, and we all agree that they shouldn’t be reserved just for those who can afford it. Indeed, this food may have even greater benefits to those who cannot afford it.


So, what are we doing about it? Well, we have developed a multi-tiered approach to distributing the food we grow here at the McDonald Farm. First, of course, is our shareholder program. Well over 90% of our vegetables are distributed directly to people who purchase a share each season. Our farm program, like most programs throughout the country, used to operate on a one-size-fits-all mentality. (And some still do!) That historically equated to one standard box (around ¾ bushel) each week per shareholder. Not only can that be a lot of food for a smaller household, it’s the most expensive option around as well. Many people were shut out of that model.


About 5-6 years ago, Steve Tiwald, who founded Green Earth Institute, changed all that. He created the Personal size share, which is 2/3 of the size of the Standard share. And then he took it one step further: he created the option of picking up vegetables every other week instead of every week. So, then there were 4 different options available which provided more flexibility and a better fit for our community to participate in the farmshare program. He then made one more significant change, recognizing not everyone really appreciated the pre-packed CSA boxes or all the vegetables inside: The fully customizable farmshare was sprouted, reducing waste and increasing satisfaction.


In the 2022 season, we have created yet another option: the 5-pickup “Farmshare Sampler.” This is meant for people who would like to try-on a farmshare, but prefer to start off very small because of a busy summer schedule. Or for people who are just starting out on their organic vegetable farmshare journey. We’re thrilled that this new option has been very well-received; we have sold all but one of these shares in just over 2 weeks!


We continue to explore options outside the farmshare model as well to bring more of our organic vegetables to more people. In 2019, we started off the season selling vegetables on Wednesdays at our farm stand located here at the McDonald Farm. It became a popular option for people who wanted local, organic veggies but either couldn’t afford a share, or for whom a 20-week share just would not work. In 2021, we added a Saturday morning farm stand as well, allowing us to provide vegetables to even more people in our community.


For those people who are experiencing food insecurity, we work with a number of social service agencies to bring fresh, healthy food to their clients. Building on Steve’s prior work, our leftover produce goes to Loaves & Fishes, a food pantry which serves the Naperville area. We’ve recently been successful getting a grant to work through Bridge Communities to feed a couple dozen additional families. And a new nonprofit, A Drop in the Desert, has purchased our shares to distribute to families in need.


We’ll continue to expand access in whatever way we can, without jeopardizing the quality and quantity of vegetables for our shareholders – or sacrificing our ability to try and pay a living wage to our farm crew members. We are all in this together, and we all deserve access to local, organic food!

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