I remember the day I met Vicky Westerhoff. It was at a farmer/chef meet and greet on a beautiful April afternoon in 2009 at North Pond, organized by Chef Bruce Sherman as a Chefs Collaborative outreach. Big Jones was only a year old, and we were still very much an unknown in the local farm to table community, and I was looking to meet farmers to increase the quantity and quality of local produce we were serving at Big Jones.
Bruce had organized the meet and greet like speed dating; it was a little weird and a whole lot of fun. I’d spotted Genesis Growers at the Green City Market many times, and was always impressed by the abundance of their displays and quality of their produce. But for some reason, I never actually stopped in to buy while I was on my way to other farmstands.
Then at North Pond, I met Vicky. Her energy and optimism were infectious. The lettuce and greens she’d brought along to sample were gorgeous. She told me a little about her farm, and that they would soon complete their organic certification. We could pick up at market, they could deliver, Genesis Growers would make it easy. And it has been. For more than six years now, Genesis Growers has been one of our top suppliers, for everything from greens to lettuce, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, cabbage, herbs, and peppers. Ohhhh those pimientos! Cantaloupes, eggplant, and tomatoes. To a very large extent, our reputation is what it is because of the caliber of farmers we work with and Genesis Growers has been right there at the top.
This year, Vicky and her team have been more than a little roughed up by the freak weather we had for the first part of the year, with their fields lying under water well into July. They missed the entire first crop rotation of the year, and while things have dried up and Genesis Growers is once again nearing full production, for 2015 they will be down nearly 50% over a typical year. That’s devastating.
The weekly emails we receive from Vicky on their availability and general farm news started out the year uncertain, but like I said, Vicky’s an optimist. As storm after storm raised the water table on her fields, the emails became frustrated, then dire. All through the flooding, Vicky was most concerned that she’d get to keep her dedicated staff busy; she was thinking of them and their families even as her own future became more uncertain.
One of my all-time chef crushes, Paul Virant, has graciously offered to host a fundraiser for Genesis Growers to help tie them over until the current crops begin generating income. This Sunday, August 30 at his flagship restaurant Vie, one of the best restaurants in America, a dozen restaurants that regularly serve Genesis Growers’ produce will pitch in for an evening of local food and good spirits. Please join us on behalf of one of the most beloved members of our local farm community.
Reservations can be made by calling 708-246-2082
Vie is conveniently located right next to a Metra Stop in Western Springs, at 4471 Lawn Avenue