TLC is grateful to Natural Farm Stand in Richmond IL for growing the vegetable starter plants we are offering as part of our Sustainability Sale. The number of people growing food in their home gardens has exploded over the past year, in large part due to the pandemic. People want a reliable source of fresh, healthy vegetables. The plants offered by Natural Farm Stand are chemical-free and Certified Naturally Grown. Here’s a little more about the farmers at Natural Farm Stand.
Natural Farm Stand has been in Gary Gauger’s family since 1923, and not once have pesticides or herbicides been used on the land. Gary has farmed the land since 1975, and was joined by his wife, Sue Rekenthaler in 1997.
Sue handles all the off-farm marketing, supervises farm staff, does the book keeping and helps with the planting and the harvesting, while Gary focuses mostly on planting, cultivation and harvesting.
Natural Farm Stand specializes in heirloom tomatoes, but also grows a vast array of vegetables including peppers, potatoes, beets, carrots, onions, summer and winter squash, tomatoes, lettuce, pumpkins, leeks and garlic. The farm attained Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) status in 2002. CNG standards are similar to the government organic certification but are tailored for direct-market farmers producing food for their local communities. Gary and Sue welcome their customers to the farm to learn more about their naturally grown farming methods. They also believe that healthy food should not be so costly that it is available to only those who can afford it.
Why is growing organic a priority? In Gary’s words “There is no other way. Once I understood the difference between organic and conventional agriculture in terms of nutrition, society, livelihood and the planet, I realized it had to be done this way.”
“It’s all organic, and we farm about 30 acres of the property. We keep about half of it in cover crops for weed management and soil fertility, and the other half, we do in vegetables and leaf crops. It’s all from heirloom seeds meaning they’re not hybrids but old-time varieties handed down through generations of farmers and gardeners. We grow our fruits and produce from seeds that are collected here in addition to seed that we purchase.
“We’ve also made our own varieties of tomatoes right here through cultivation and open-pollinating.”
Gary can still picture himself at an early age on the farm. “I was about 6 years old, and my grandfather had already retired from dairy farming. He let my sister and me put a little wooden box at the end of the driveway, along the busy road, to sell sweet corn. He’d let us keep the money, and we thought that was pretty good. But that’s how I got started in selling produce. That was around 1960.”
Gary Gauger and Sue Rekenthaler, the farmers of Natural Farm Stand in Richmond, IL
Natural Farm Stand operates an on-farm self-serve vegetable stand during the growing season, located at 3016 Route 173, Richmond, IL. Phone 815-678-7072.
Sue and Gary are also presenting the Tomatoes 101 webinar on April 14. Click here to learn more about it.