“I think that energy is something that is added to your life when you are a farmer”

  • Entrepreneur and mother of ten from Hopkins Park, IL (Village of Pembroke Township)
  • Unadulterated Peace: In the face of change in the community, many longtime residents want peace and traditional comforts to remain unchanged

  • Nature Works in Cycles: Farming helps you understand the cyclical aspects of nature, and the give and take that helps preserve balance

  • Social Exchange: Goods, Knowledge, and Labor are commonly exchanged throughout social networks in the Pembroke community


An Introduction

Julia has lived in Pembroke Township since she was an “arm baby.” Growing up, her father was a peddler of fruits and vegetables throughout the South and West sides of Chicago. He acquired produce from large-scale farms in the area to sell, and managed his own garden to feed his family. Though she was first introduced to farming practices during her childhood, it was through marriage to then-husband, Tom, “the actual farmer of the family” that she began to appreciate the importance of home-grown foods for her own family. For Julia, farming allows her to be self-sufficient, provide affordable fresh food for her children, and find spiritual balance within her own life.  


Unadulterated Peace

Julia describes Pembroke as “quiet, spacious, and natural,” and she would like it to stay that way. The preservation of this unique, rural community allows its residents to have options that are difficult to attain elsewhere. The option to have well-water for instance is one that is very important to Julia. It is cost effective, and allows her to have a constant supply of non-chlorinated water. She does note however that residents living close to large farms that do not practice organic agriculture must be cautious of using shallow wells, as runoff from pesticides can be very dangerous.

Space is also particularly important to Julia and her family. Her house, positioned far off from the main road, allowed her to safely raise her children and enjoy the outdoors without concern for cars. It also has provided her with enough land to farm fruits, vegetables and livestock. In the front of their home, apple, pear, and peach trees line the driveway. Her family dedicated about a half of an acre in the back of their property to grow produce. Together they cultivated what use to be a forest into a garden filled with snow peas, corn, and a variety of other vegetables. Butternut squash and green beans are amongst her personal favorites to grow; along with other green-leafy vegetables, legumes, and root vegetables. The remaining open forest area served as a sanctuary for livestock and other farm animals to freely forage. Over the past twenty years, cows, pigs, llamas, horses, chickens, goats, ducks, geese, rabbits, rhea, and peacocks have all been a part of their farm.


Nature Works In Cycles

“There is an actual relationship you have with the food that you eat. Just like nurturing a baby in my womb, you know. You nurtured the seeds, you toiled the ground, you watered it—then you picked and you washed it. You know, all of that nurturing part is like you becoming part of the whole cycle of life.”

The connection between Julia and nature goes beyond the physical realm. She feels energy from the plants she nurtures, and acknowledges the importance of a give and take relationship. In order to maintain balance, she takes special care to restore what she removes from the environment. She plants trees and keeps plants in her home to replace the oxygen that is removed when she harvests her crops. She takes what she needs to eat and leaves the rest to decompose for the soil to rejuvenate. The more love, energy, and gentleness that she puts into her food, the better it will be in the end. The experience is just as gratifying as the outcome.


Social Exchange

In addition to family and personal research, Julia acquires knowledge and resources on herbal wellness and agriculture through her neighbors. Over the years she has formed many friendships in Pembroke with residents who are knowledgeable on alternative healing. For example, from a local friend she learned to make a poultice by chewing wild plantain leaves (Plantago major) that withdraws the sting of a bug bite or burn. She also learned to use the leaves of common mullein (Verbascum Thapsus) to brew a tea that effectively reduces congestion. In the past, she also used wild catnip and peppermint for medicinal uses. All of these plants are very common in the area, and offer free natural remedies for common ailments.  

Julia also exchanges goods and labor for produce and products that she does not have on her own farm. If a neighbor has a bigger farm and needs assistance with weeding and harvesting, Julia and her family may help out in exchange for produce. She also has traded her own produce with neighbors for tinctures and salves that they created. Some of her favorite resources for products and information are Ancestral Medicinals and Basu Natural Farms; two small businesses ran by very knowledgeable members of the community.


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