Couple Abandon City Life for Farming
Shared From Heirloom Gardener – Written By: Kathy McFarland
Dave Dyrek, as with most farmers, is an innovator who has learned to work with his mind and hands in other ways than just with soil and plants. While he proudly shows off his old tractor that he bought on Craig’s List, he really boasts about his homemade 2-row sprayer that he fashioned out of some old copper that a buddy of his had lying around. The friend helped him convert the sprayer so that it could be pulled behind the tractor, changing Dave’s life, and saving him a lot of time and money as he no longer had to walk around spraying his crops by hand.
In order for a farming enterprise to be successful, there must be a market for the goods produced. The Dyreks are just as successful marketing their vegetables as they are growing them. They can be found every Wednesday and Saturday at Green City Market, an outdoor farmers market located across from Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. The market has a stated mission to improve the availability of a diverse range of high quality foods; to connect local producers and farmers to chefs, restaurateurs, food organizations and the public; and to support small family farms and promote a healthier society through education and appreciation for local, fresh, sustainably raised produce and products. It requires its participants to have some type of organic, sustainable, or environment friendly certification and is frequented by shoppers looking for wholesome, locally grown food.
While Leaning Shed Farm is friendly to the environment and uses many organic growing practices, it is not certified organic. Dave says there is too much paperwork to complete and too much time required that provides no benefit for him or the farm.
Twice weekly the Dyreks and a neighbor volunteer or two head to the market loaded with whatever is in season at the time. Dave says that he plans and plants for a three-week harvest for the market. He explains that when the first of a produce type is available, it sells out quickly. During the second week, interest is waning a little, although sales are still good. By the third week, buyers are tired of that particular type or variety and are ready to look at what there is new available. Dave is known as the crazy, funky grower, and people greet him with, “Whatcha got, Dave?” In addition to his varieties of peas and beans, he is always happy to show them his nicely trimmed garlic, tantalizing fingerling potatoes, super sweet candy onions, enticingly tasty peppers, or his special papaya pear summer squash that stays firm after being cooked.
Dave prefers Green City Market over some others because of its clientele of both sellers and buyers. He has learned from experience that shoppers at farmers markets in the suburbs really prefer to buy hybrid vegetables that are perfectly formed and blemish free, while city people tend to be “more hip to heirlooms.” They are more willing to take a chance with a tomato or pepper or cucumber that looks out of the ordinary and then are often delighted to find that they really like the difference.
Dave and Denise have discovered that they have come to love growing and marketing their produce more than they ever thought they would. They enjoy the relationships they have developed with celebrated chefs and other elite buyers who prize goods from Leaning Shed Farm. They dutifully carry their produce to market throughout the outdoor season until it moves inside in November. Then the new seed catalogs begin to pour in, and they spend winter downtime planning what they will plant as soon as the soil becomes workable again in the spring.
To continue reading about the Dyreks’s Homestead Business, check out Leaning Shed Farm: Couple Abandon City Life for Farming on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.