It might seem like an ordinary box of produce this week. Lettuce and broccoli and other produce you see all the time in the grocery store. Does it really matter if you buy from a local farm (Chicago’s Best, by the way), or Whole Foods, or Aldis? We think it does.
There is nothing at all that’s ordinary about produce from Montalbano Farms. Here’s why.
It all starts in early December as we pore through seed catalogs. We spend weeks ordering our seeds. We order from over a dozen different specialty seed growers. We scout for heirloom varieties, Slow Food’s Ark of Taste varietals, our customer’s favorites, and new crops that we haven’t grown yet but want to try.
By February, we’ve started our plants. Each is seeded by hand. We use a special potting mix (ordered back in October) to ensure success. Over the next few weeks, your plants get water and light and a little bit of heat to help them grow.
By April many of these crops are ready for the fields or greenhouse. The crew takes each tender seedling and plants them in the ground. During the next few weeks, they get watered and weeded and searched for bugs and other diseases.
In May, we assess how the plants are growing and decide what is going in the early shares. Our harvest crew is at full strength. We train our team on proper harvest, handling,. and food safety. On harvest day, the crew treks out to the fields early in the morning. We harvest quickly and bring things up to the pack house for washing. Crew members in the pack house trim and wash and carefully sort all of the produce. After that, it gets packaged up and put into our giant walk in coolers.
Within a few days, all of the shares have been harvested. We are ready for pack out. Christina prints out the harvest sheets. An army of employees, volunteers, and worker shares pack each box and labels it with your name. The boxes go back in the cooler until we are ready to make deliveries.
First thing on Wednesday, the newsletter gets sent out to over 1,500 families. And our delivery van leaves the farm early in the morning. We have almost a dozen stops on any given day and we always hope traffic flows our way (even though it rarely does).
By the end of the day, our first shares have been delivered and rest in your kitchen. It’s time to eat.
So when you arrive and receive your share and take it home to your family, know that a lot has gone into that box. Nothing that comes from our farm is ordinary. We grow exceptional produce fresher and better than anything you’ll find anywhere else. It’s a promise and a commitment.