Locally grown produce isn't easy to find.
According to the Illinois Food and Farming Jobs Act, food is shipped in average of 1,500 miles from the farm to Illinois homes. Farmland in the state is also decreasing at an alarming rate. Despite the obstacles, a Barrington organization is going against the odds.
Tucked away in the back of Beese Park is The Smart Farm. The organization, which is run entirely by volunteers, grows everything from carrots to swiss chard and donates its harvest to local food pantries.
While food donations are a large part of The Smart Farm's mission, the other aspect they focus on is education.
"We educate people on sustainable gardening and teach them how to live off of locally grown foods," said Kathy Gabelman, a board member of The Smart Farm.
The Smart Farm was started in 2009, and it's already making a large impact on the community. About 900 pounds of food will be harvested from the garden this year, up from 350 pounds last year. The organization is also looking into renting a larger space, which would allow them to grow a wider variety of foods.
"We'd like to expand to raise chickens and eggs," Gabelman said. "We're talking with a company to lease 3 acres. We're possibly looking for a more permanent home."
Involvement with The Smart Farm doesn't stop at the Beese Park garden. Barrington residents can help others through their home vegetable gardens as well. Instead of throwing out any unused produce, donate it to "Veggie Share," a program operated by The Smart Farm. All donations will be given to a local food pantry.
Christina Chopra, a Smart Farm board member and volunteer, is a strong supporter of the program.
"With Veggie Share, we're trying to make a greater impact in what we're already doing as an organization," Chopra said.
In order for The Smart Farm and Veggie Share programs to continue, there is an urgent need for community help and involvement.
"Volunteers are the biggest thing we're in need of," Chopra said. "If we get a permanent location, we'll need the manpower to run it."
While working out in the garden can be hard work, Chopra emphasizes how much she has enjoyed being a part of the organization.
"It's a relaxing place to be," she said. "If you're having a bad day, it's a great place to let everything go. It's very Zen-like here."
To donate time or money to The Smart Farm, go to www.smartfarms.org.