Three Rivers is a 12-acre farm near the small historic town of Elsah -- just a 10-minute drive north from Alton on the River Road. Amy Cloud and her husband Segue Lara manage a 150-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at the farm, boasting "exceptional vegetables, herbs, and flowers grown sustainably and chemical-free."
Cloud said that she will talk with visitors on the tour about land acquisition, business plans, business organization, field planning, diversified marketing, running a successful CSA, infrastructure, machinery purchases, vegetable production and diversification on a small-scale vegetable farm.
"I will be very honest with folks about our finances (if they are interested) and how starting this farm has affected our personal life," she said.
"We will also talk about transitioning conventional land into organic production: our struggles with weeds and fertility. I think it is important for folks to know that this is our first year, that we are young with a lot of experience, but still a lot to learn. We just want to share with folks our story -- the triumphs and challenges of starting a farm from scratch," she said.
"My husband and I farm these 6 acres without any hired help, so as you can imagine our days are very long," said Cloud. "We harvest on the farm Tuesday, Wednesday and Fridays and other days are left for other projects. We sell at the farmers' market on Saturday mornings. We have four feeder pigs that we are raising on the farm until October and then will sell to our farm members."
Cloud said that she and her husband recently received a grant from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) to design a wash system that captures and re-channels all the city water that they use to wash produce.
The tour is co-sponsored by the University of Illinois Extension, Calhoun-Jersey Unit (http://web.extension.uiuc.edu/calhounjersey)
For more information about Three Rivers Community Farm, visit www.threeriverscommunityfarm.com.
The remaining tour schedule is:
September 14 -- University of Illinois Dixon Springs Agricultural Center (www.cropsci.uiuc.edu/research/rdc/dixonsprings).
October 23 -- Kuipers Family Farm in Maple Park (www.kuipersfamilyfarm.com).
A fee of $20 per person will be charged for each tour. This fee includes lunch. Registration at least one week in advance is required. Visit www.extension.uiuc.edu/smallfarm/ to register and for more details about each of the tours including a map and agenda or contact Donna Cray (217-241-4644; firstname.lastname@example.org).