Founder, Smart Farm
Three years ago, Barrington’s Kathy Gableman started brainstorming with some of her friends. They wanted to teach their community about sustainable gardening, promote volunteerism and supply healthy produce to the Barrington food pantry, which feeds a surprisingly large population.
After consulting with her cousin who is involved with Evanston’s Talking Farm and Beth Drucker, Gableman’s seeds of yearning sprouted into the Smart Farm. It quickly grew into a 3,000 square foot community garden run by about 25 volunteers who donated over 1,200 pounds of produce to the food pantry last year.
The garden uses and teaches about sustainable farming through integrated pest management, water and soil conservation and composting. These volunteers aren’t just talking about green living, they are modeling food production that is organic and productive.
Better yet, it has become a community focal point with sustainable gardening education for kids and adults, fundraisers like the Frozen Zucchini Snowshoe Adventure sponsored by Erewhon, workshops and cooking classes at Whole Foods, and the music-filled Fall Harvest Celebration. Outside groups, like scout troops, high school students and corporate groups come in for special one-day projects.
“We hope to soon build greenhouses at the garden and a local hospital,” she explains. But until that happens, she starts the seeds in her sunroom each March. Saturday Contruction Days in April prepare the garden for a May planting. Gableman’s long-term goal is to grow a Smart Farm movement that brings similar gardens and programs to other communities.
Gableman is most passionate about the Smart Farm’s educational component. “No one knows that the food they buy is shipped an average of 1,500 miles,” she says. “Kids and the families using the food pantry need this sustainable gardening education.”