Farmer Cyndy Ash greeted me as I turned off the road near Clinton, at the base of a gentle hill, "Welcome to Jubilee Farms!"
I parked the car behind a trim red barn and followed Cyndy through the gate and into a pasture where four long-necked alpacas grazed. The alpacas, all female, share the pasture with Naomi and Ruth, two ewes who are newcomers to the farm. The pasture has a fenced area with 20 peach, apple and cherry trees which will begin to bear fruit in a couple of years. Cyndy laughed, "I had to put up a fence because, although they aren't supposed to bother trees, these alpaca ladies did. The fence will keep them from "trimming" the trees to death." Through another gate, we enter the chicken's territory. There are 50 of them, all different colors and sizes. "I get about 18 eggs a day, but that will go up as the young ones start laying," Cyndy says, holding out blue, green, brown and white eggs from the nesting boxes.
The 2 ½ acres of vegetables that are the heart of Ash's operation are planted in shapely plots that hug the contours of the slope the farm is built on. There isn't a square corner to be seen, except on the hoop house where 200 tomato plants are climbing toward the sky, and the small green house, where starts are sprouting for later crops.
Cyndy classifies her operation as an "emerging CSA". She will be selling shares for the 2017 season. This year, she is part of Legacy of the Land co-op, which markets to HyVee in Bloomington, and at area Farmer's Markets. The LoL co-op also supplies all the fresh produce for the Tri-County Food Hub CSA located near Peoria. Food insecure residents of Peoria, East Peoria ad Tazewell counties receive shares of healthy, sustainably grown produce as part of a program from the Gifts in the Moment non-profit.
Besides being a graduate of the Beginner Farmer's program, Cyndy has a few other degrees, including her MBA and an M.Div degree from the University of Dubuque. She is certified for ordination in the United Church of Christ and envisions serving a congregation that cares reverently for Creation and feeds hungry neighbors wholesome, local food.
Cyndy would love to share her vision for faithful people and healthful food as part of a worship service or adult education at your house of worship. To check for availability, please email Central Illinois Outreach Director, Cindy Shepherd.