Produce is fresh off ‘The Farm’ at Westchester stand
Sylvia Flores arranges freshly picked vegetables at The Farm. | Jane Michaels~Sun-Times Media
On the clock
NAME: The Farm
ADDRESS: 31st Street and Kensington Avenue, Westchester
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
PHONE: (630) 960-3965
WEBSITE: www.thefarmwestmont.com and on Facebook.
Updated: September 10, 2012 12:31PM
WESTCHESTER — A rainbow of plump vegetables picked just after sunrise keeps customers coming back and singing the praises of The Farm, a produce stand on 31st Street, east of Wolf Road in Westchester.
“The tomatoes are wonderful,” said Gail Washington of Bellwood. “I’ve come for corn but I’m going to have to get some tomatoes.”
Washington admits she’s picky, but said she’s been a steady customer for five years, because “everything is fresh, top of the line.”
“I’m so excited with him coming here every year,” she said. “The prices are reasonable, the hospitality is excellent, and he’s a nice, honest man.”
Manager Julian Flores smiled at visitors as he unpacked boxes of luscious, red tomatoes while his wife, Sylvia, and daughter, Kassandra, waited on customers choosing several varieties of peppers, kohlrabi, beets, zucchini, cucumbers, onions, cabbage and jumbo muskmelons.
Flores said he has managed the Westchester location for 12 years, first at a stand on 31st and Wolf Road and the past five years on 31st Street at Kensington Avenue. He and other workers pick produce, beginning at 5:30 a.m. on a farm near Plainfield, and he unloads and sets out vegetables and fruits by 10 a.m. in Westchester.
The Smith family, which owns the farm, also operates stands in Westmont and Carol Stream and sells produce at the Oak Park Farmers Market on Saturdays. The enterprise began on 105 acres near the existing Westchester location in 1963.
Seedlings are raised in a greenhouse and transplanted to the field near Plainfiled in May, so vegetables begin arriving at the stands in late June or early July. Pumpkins, squash and vegetables are sold through October.
“Some of our customers tell me they used to pick their own corn near the first stand,” said Kassandra Flores, who will be a senior at Downers Grove South High School and is working for her dad during the summer.
Kassandra Flores and her dad said this summer’s record-breaking heat has posed a challenge to work outdoors, and they’re grateful for any breeze under the shade of the stand.
The drought, too, has impacted farm operations with greater use of irrigation, Julian Flores said.
“The owners have not passed along the costs, feeling it’s more important to keep customers happy,” Kassandra Flores said.
Julian Flores said the owners donate unsold produce at the end of each day to area food pantries and homeless shelters.
When asked if the increase in the number of farmers markets has cut into the stand’s business, Flores said “No, not at all. There’s a steady stream of people coming.”
Gerry Steiner of Western Springs said she has been a regular at The Farm for 34 years, first at the Westmont stand while she lived in Clarendon Hills and now in Westchester after moving to Western Springs 26 years ago. She picked out tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions.
“They have beautiful produce, their prices are reasonable and people are friendly,” Steiner said.