Think Globally, Eat Locally
The historic John B. Walkup House is one of Crystal Lake’s landmarks. Built in 1856 by the Walkup family, one of the first to settle in McHenry County when the area was opened up in 1835, the home is one of the oldest and most unique in the area. It is made up of more than 70,000 cobblestones, many of which were hauled on ox carts from the shores of Lake Michigan.
Though much of the original Walkup land has been sold and developed, the home still stands on five acres and provides shelter to Walkup family members. Michael Walkup, a descendent of the original Walkups, and his wife, Carolyn, have lived in the home for 11 years.
About five years ago, Michael began a gardening project that has blossomed into a three-acre operation. Walkup Heritage Farm & Gardens is a family-owned, organic farm, offering heirloom plants and vegetables as well as a community supported agriculture program.
“This is a hobby gone haywire,” said Michael during a tour of the property, which includes a barn, two greenhouses and vegetable and ornamental gardens. Michael’s haywire hobby shows no signs of slowing. He has plans to add animals to the farm next year.
The Walkup approach to farming keeps true to the historic nature of the property. Heirloom plants, also known as heritage or antique, are superior to their commercial counterparts, which sacrifice qualities such as fragrance and taste for flower size, repeat blooming, shipability and shelf life. Additionally, all plants are grown organically.
Everything on the property has a purpose. Behind the big red barn is a compost pile, where the Walkups make their own organic fertilizer. Even the ornamental gardens serve a purpose. The native plants are a form of integrated pest management. Predator insects hang out in the ornamentals and fly over to the vegetable gardens to eat their prey, the herbivores who love to munch on the same vegetables we do. This natural form of pest management does not require harmful, costly pesticides.
Michael is excited and proud of the farm. He is eager to build a sense of community with members he calls, “enlightened consumers.” For more information about Walkup Heritage Farm & Gardens and the CSA program visit www.walkupheritagefarm.com or stop in at 5215 Walkup Rd. in Crystal Lake weekdays 3 to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.
What is a CSA?
Community supported agriculture connects a community with their food source—their local farmer. CSA members subscribe to a program and receive a share of the farm’s crop each week. By making the commitment to support a farm throughout its growing season, members assume the costs of running the farm, such as seeds, labor and equipment. This ensures the farmer a market, allowing them to produce quality products at a price usually less than retail. Many CSAs also offer “work-for-food,” volunteer opportunities in exchange for produce.
Walkup Heritage Farm & Gardens offers three eight-week programs from mid-May through mid-November. The Walkups predict, depending on weather and other forces of nature, a dozen varieties of heirloom tomatoes, two varieties of sweet corn, half a dozen varieties of melons, peppers, eggplant, squash, lettuce, arugula, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, radishes, beets, carrots, okra, garlic, beans, peas and edible pumpkins.