Click before Cooking: Abbey Farms Online Store is Open for Business

March 29th, 2017

We have fresh news for you – Abbey Farms now has an online store! A selection of our private labeled food items are just a click away.

Apple Cider Donuts

Yum! Our Apple Cider donuts are available to pick up the first Saturday of the month. Order yours via our online store!

It is easy to order online and pick up locally at Father Bede’s Produce Barn by the windmill on Wednesday mornings. Alternatively, ship your appetizing products direct to you or to a friend as a gift. Shipping and handling charges are an additional charge for this option. Wednesday morning pickups are available from 9 – 11 a.m.

We even have our delicious – and locally famous – Apple Cider donuts available. Preorders are required, in quantities of one dozen, for $11.50/dozen. Pick up your order on the first Saturday of each month at Father Bede’s Barn (smaller barn) from 9 – 11 a.m.

How to order from the online store

A rotating stock of Abbey Farms products are available to order online. You can even order fresh baked pies for Wednesday pickup. As you shop, our system automatically prompts for each step of the way. To order:

  1. Visit the Abbey Farms online store by clicking this link.
  2. Select a product or products and click either “Select Options” or “Add to Cart.”
  3. This will send you to a new page where you can select quantities. For most products, you’ll also have the option to click “In-Store Pickup Wednesday.”
  4. Select the quantity you’d like to order, then click “Add to Cart.”
  5. Once clicked, your cart totals will be calculated. It will show a total cost, including tax and shipping, with the option to either checkout or continue shopping. If you’ve chosen store pickup, shipping isn’t charged. Otherwise, there is an option to enter your zip code to get the estimated shipping charges. Two other options on this page are to enter a coupon code, or a gift card.
  6. Once you go to check out, you will need to set up an account, if you haven’t previously. The form asks for your name, company name if applicable, address, and a phone number. You can also check “Ship to Different Address,” where you will get a new form to enter the correct address. There is also a place to add special requests for your order, under “Order Notes.”
  7. On the “Continue to Shipping” prompt, you will be given three shipping choices: UPS Ground, UPS Second Day Air, or In-Store Pick-Up.
  8. After determining your shipping method, you’ll proceed to Payment where you will securely enter your credit card information.
  9. Once you verify your order, shipping requests, and credit card payment, you will click “Submit Order.” By submitting the order, the checkout process is complete and you can no longer make changes to the order.
  10. And…you are finished!

Recipes

Online Store Product

This Citrus Rosemary Grilling Sauce is available through the Abbey Farms online store. It tastes delicious used in the Grilled Pork Tenderloin recipe we’re sharing with you.

Usually, 50 or more products will be available online. Many of our unique food items will add a kick or new flavor to some of your tried and true recipes. Here are two to get you started!

Cheddar Cilantro Corn Muffins Recipe

Grilled Pork Tenderloins

We hope you find our online store easy to use. If you have problems, contact us via email info@abbeyfarms.org, or call (630) 966-7775 during normal business hours. Let us know what your favorite products are, too. Bon appétit!

Hashtags: #AbbeyFarms, #OnlineStore, #AppleCiderDonuts, #FreshBakedPies, #BonAppetit

Tags: Online Store, Abbey Farms, Condiments, Recipes

Thank a Farmer: Today is National Ag Day!

March 20th, 2017

Abbey Farms is proud of our role as an urban farm. So, were happy to support National Ag Day 2017.

Yes, we may be more agri-tourism related, but we are also committed to produce fresh food for your table. Each year our produce market has grown, and we plan to plant more vegetables this year as well. Next year, we’re excited that our dream of an apple orchard begins!

2017 National Ag Day

National Ag Day

The theme for National Ag Day 2017 is “Agriculture: Food for Life.”

March 21, 2017 is National Ag Day. The Agriculture Council of America (ACA) organizes the promotion. ACA is a nonprofit organization composed of leaders in the agricultural, food and fiber community. They dedicate their efforts to increasing the public’s awareness of agriculture’s role in modern society.

According to ACA, the National Ag Day program encourages every American to:
• Understand how food and fiber products are produced.
• Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.
• Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
• Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry.

This year’s theme is “Agriculture: Food for Life.” It marks the 44th anniversary of National Ag Day. In its honor, we’re sharing some agriculturally-related facts with you!

Consider this…

Did you know that 2 million farms dot America’s rural landscape? According to America’s Diverse Family Farms, families – individuals, family partnerships or family corporations – operate about 99 percent of U.S. farms.

There are over seven billion people in the world today, which means that’s over seven billion mouths to feed every day. Thankfully, today’s farmers produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.), compared with 1950. However, the world’s population is predicted to grow to nine million by 2050 – 2 billion more mouths to feed. Whew!

Agriculture in Illinois

In Illinois, there are 72,200 farms according to the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. (What a mouthful!) About 75 percent of the state’s total land area is farmland.

FarmFlavor.com says that Illinois ranks at the top for several of the nation’s most important commodities. This includes ranking Number 1 in soybean production, Number 2 in corn and Number 4 in swine. Illinois is also a leader in several specialty crops, such as pumpkins, buckwheat, horseradish and Christmas trees.

Pumpkin Varieties

Look for even more varieties of pumpkins grown on Abbey Farms in 2017.

Abbey Farms is, of course, a contributor to the production of pumpkins and Christmas trees. The Farm Flavors website also says that pumpkins grown in Illinois had a production value of $47.13 million in 2014. The state’s producers harvested 7.45 million hundredweight of pumpkins – enough to fill almost 1,865 full-size pickup trucks. Kane is one of the top 10 counties in Illinois for producing pumpkins.

This year, our pumpkin patch will be larger, according to Eric Mott, Abbey Farms farm operations manager. Last year, we grew about five acres of six different varieties of pumpkins. Eric says Abbey Farms sold 60,000 pounds of pumpkins last year, nearly all of it grown on the farm. He hopes to plant 12 or more varieties of pumpkins on 8.5 acres this year. This means that those of you looking for interesting decorative pumpkins will have more to choose!

Farm education

Jackie Rakers is an Illinois-certified teacher and head of the Abbey Farms education program. She is currently adding the final additions to this summer’s camps. The camps will feature age-appropriate educational activities and farm-based play. Watch for more information about the various thematic camps and registration soon!

In the meantime, we encourage you to learn more about how your food is grown. National Ag Day recognizes and celebrates the abundance provided by American agriculture. Value the importance of agriculture in your daily life. And remember, thank a farmer and all those who work in this vital industry!

Tags: National Ag Day, Farmers, Abbey Farms, Pumpkins, Farm Education, Agricultural Education, Thank A Farmer, Food, Farm Fresh News, Farm to Table

Hashtags: #AgDay #AbbeyFarms #CommunityFarm

We’re Branching Out – Abbey Farms Apple Orchard to Sprout

March 20th, 2017

When you think of Abbey Farms, it is likely that you don’t think of apple trees. We’re going to change that! We’re laying the foundation for a 20-acre apple orchard, to be grown on the west side of Hart Road. Look for the identifying sign along Hart Road next time you’re in the area. You’ll also see a mound of dirt in the fields, this is where the orchard will take root.

Why Apples?

Adding an apple orchard is part of our long-range growth plan, a plan that is rooted in our history as a Christmas tree farm, but offers diversification to provide alternative income sources. In our previous post you learned how disease can devastate a tree crop, which can cripple revenue.Abbey Farms Apple Orchard logo Thus, cultivating other ways to fund the mission of the Marmion Abbey is imperative.

Long-time Abbey Farm patrons have witnessed the addition of the popular Pumpkin Daze, a farm produce stand and The Nagel Emporium. The Abbey Farms Apple Orchard is the latest addition and we’re excited to introduce this newest venture to you!

We’re planning to begin planting in 2018. With newer orchard cultivation practices, you will be able – weather permitting – to harvest in 2021.

Apple Orchard Prep

In the meantime, a lot of soil work is necessary: first is the fill clay, then lots of topsoil with the goal of making this soil better than any around here. The orchard will be well-drained and irrigated to help offset Mother Nature’s weather mood swings. The neighboring houses will offer shelter from windburn for our trees, too.

You’ll quickly see that we’re subscribing to newer orchard practices once we start planting. We’ll purchase dwarf apple trees. And, besides being irrigated, the trees will be trained onto trellises with denser planting than orchards of the past.

What this means for you is that when it comes time to open the orchard for you-pick, it will be easier to navigate the orchard and pick apples – without needing ladders. For us, it means we can take better care of the trees, resulting in healthier trees that bear more apples.

Environmental Benefits

As with our Christmas trees, these trees contribute to a better environment in an urban setting. For instance:

  • Each apple tree will absorb CO2 and produce about 260 pounds of oxygen a year, about enough for two people for 365 days
  • The apple trees are a great source of pollination for our local bee population
  • Apple trees help to absorb runoff water, stopping erosion and preserving topsoil
  • It will also add to locally-sourced food options for you and your family and many in the surrounding community

Which Apples Should We Plant?

We hope to plant over 20 different varieties of apples – maybe not all the first year, but within the first couple of planting years. With over 2,500 varieties grown in the United States (per the University of Illinois Extension Service), we have lots to choose from!

Are you a fan of Honeycrisp? Or, do you yearn for old-timers such as McIntosh or Cortland? Perhaps you’re a Granny Smith lover. Do you prefer eating apples or cooking apples – or a mix? We have 5,000 or more trees to plant the first year and we hope you’ll share what apples score high on your wish list.

Although we may not be able to plant everyone’s favorite, but we welcome your feedback as to which types of apples you and your family enjoy the most – and why. Let us know by commenting below, telling us on Facebook or tweet Abbey Farms with the hashtag #myfavoriteapple!

Grow Your Memories

Small boy picking apples

Photo courtesy of Tim and Selena Middlestream, Apple Picking 2006. Via Creative Commons licensing.

As we grow our apple orchard, we invite you to grow your memories alongside by sponsoring an apple tree. By investing in our orchard, you and your family will not only receive special apple picking privileges, you’ll have the opportunity to give a gift that keeps on giving. (Sorry, we couldn’t help it!)

With your $225 tax-deductible donation, you’ll receive:

  • Exclusive invitation to a ground-breaking ceremony scheduled in 2018
  • Seasonal summer progress visits to the Apple Orchard for the first three years of tree growth
  • Commemorative plaque that will stay in place for the life of the apple tree (20 – 25 years or more)

You’ll also receive special picking privileges:

  • Each tree sponsor is entitled to early picking rights off their tree with a complimentary ½ peck of apples included during the first five years. Additional apples will be available for sale at market value.
  • Admission-free access to the Apple Orchard for the first five years for the sponsor’s immediate family (up to 6 people).
  • After early sponsor picking, your tree will be opened to the public for seasonal picking to help create memories for many more families!

Tree Replacement

We all know Mother Nature is not always kind, so if your sponsored tree should die prematurely, we’ll replace your tree or move your plaque to a different, unsponsored tree.

Most of all, we want to ensure that your tree provides delicious apples and photo opportunities for years to come. Christmas cards, perhaps?! Sponsoring a tree can be a way for grandparents to honor a new grandchild or it can serve as a living memorial to a cherished loved one. Imagine children’s faces as you experience the changes in your tree each year.

To plant a seed and grow family memories that are rooted in tradition, visit our online order form, or see a cashier in the Emporium. Sponsorships are limited and make a wonderful Christmas, birthday, wedding or anniversary gift. If you have questions, email us at info@abbeyfarms.org.  We are excited to grow the next branch of Abbey Farms and sincerely thank you for entrusting your family memories with us!

News from Abbey Farms: Rooted in Tradition, We’re Growing Family Memories

January 13th, 2017

Welcome to our blog! Follow along as we share the news and stories of Abbey Farms. In the months and years ahead, you’ll experience the issues – good and bad – inherent in growing our trees from small seedlings to your perfect Christmas tree. We’ll share the ups and downs of farming, of hosting events and of building a vital nonprofit organization through agritourism.

People on Abbey Farms tractor

Stop in to meet our full-time staff! Left to right is Jackie Rakers, Jeff Kus, Wendy Felder, Eric Mott and Adam Voirin.

You’ll meet our staff, our volunteers, the vendors and supporters we count on. Most importantly, we’ll share the stories of some of you who create your memories with us. We have an abundance of dreams and plans and our faithful readers will be some of the first to know! To launch this journey, let’s travel back to our roots.

Cows and Corn

In the 1940s, the monks of Marmion Abbey acquired the property that Abbey Farms occupies. From day one, the operation has been a nonprofit organization to benefit the monks and their mission.

The farm was originally a dairy and corn farm. The monks slowly integrated the property into a Christmas tree farm during the U.S. Government-sponsored Soil Bank project in the late 1940s to early 1950s. And, the Abbey has not looked back since!

As you can imagine, the area surrounding Abbey Farms has changed dramatically since the first trees grown on the property were planted in 1949. Now surrounded by residential neighborhoods and paved streets, Abbey Farms takes environmental responsibility seriously.

Clean Air

If we all think back to our biology classes, we learned about photosynthesis. You remember, don’t you? It’s the process where in its simplest form, CO2 [carbon dioxide] and H2O [water] plus energy [sunlight] are converted into O2 [oxygen] and (C6H12O6) [glucose]. The oxygen goes into the air we breathe.

This makes trees and plants the air-purifiers for the earth. At Abbey Farms, our Christmas tree fields convert enough carbon dioxide into oxygen for over 2,100 people yearly!

In its heyday, Abbey Farms sold over 10,000 you-cut Christmas trees each year. This lasted until the early 2000s when the farm began a slow decline. A tree epidemic necessitated the destruction of 20,000 to 30,000 trees. Add in the challenge of farming in the center of residential neighborhoods and an ageing monk population, tree sales dwindled to about 1,300 a year.

Ushering in Change

Abbot Vincent Bataille O.S.B., the president of Marmion Abbey and Abbey Farms knew a change was necessary – and soon. During the resulting search for ideas, Father Michael Burrows O.S.B., thought of one of his past students, Adam Voirin, who has a degree in landscape architecture from Ball State. It made sense to pick up the phone to see if Adam would consider taking over the reins to revitalize. He did say yes! Eight short years later, this sole-source of income Christmas tree farm transformed into a multi-faceted business. It encompasses Christmas trees, a pumpkin farm, seasonal produce store and most recently, a rustic-chic rental venue ¬– with the seeds for more just taking root.

Fast Forward…

Today, Abbey Farms employs five full-time staff and a team of seasonal workers and volunteers that make sure every dollar earned goes to good use at Marmion Abbey. The good news keeps coming! We grew more pumpkins than ever before in 2016 (60,000 pounds were sold) and are already exploring what specialty pumpkins to add to the mix next year. Purple or blue perhaps?! And, the Pumpkin Daze festival that focuses on old fashion farm fun continues to enjoy year over year growth, with over 32,000 visitors in 2016!

Abbey Farms Christmas tree sales have rebounded to over 7,500 trees a year and continue to climb. We’re planting more seedlings each year, which means you’ll find a better selection of trees to choose from in the years ahead. Keep in mind, a tree can take up to 15 years to grow to a sellable height, so please practice patience. Those 11,000+ seedlings we planted last spring are going to need some growing time…

Name Our Blog!

We’d love it if our readers would give us some naming ideas for this blog. We’d like to make it fun, unique and reflect our venue. What say you? Add your thoughts to this post or head over to our Facebook page and give us your suggestion(s). Brainstorm away!