For Ruth Zeldenrust, her love of farming took root at an early age. She grew up on her family’s vegetable farm in Chicago Heights, and after college, decided go back to the farm, taking over her father’s farming operation and upgrading it to include greenhouses for flowers and a burgeoning honeybee population.
“I decided to get back to the farm after college, realizing that I did not like working in an office,” Ruth said. “I wanted to exit the rat race and get back to the earth that calls me every day. At an early age, I found the need to grow plants and enjoy the fruits of my labor, and that brought me home to the farm.”
According to Ruth, there can’t be too many people around Chicago Heights that love flowers, honey and vegetables, so from May to November, Ruth and her family go to farmers’ markets all around Chicagoland to sell what is appropriate for the season.
“In the spring and early summer, we sell mostly hanging baskets of flowers and other types of flower pots,” Ruth said. “In the summer and fall, we start picking vegetables from our fields and bring that homegrown produce to the farmers’ markets. What I like most about farmers’ markets is getting to know the customers on a personal level. I have many regular customers that I have grown to love over the years, and they always expect me to sell them the best product. I also have a direct line of communication with the customers as consumers, and I get a firsthand look at what is important to them and what is ‘trending.'”
What’s more, working at the farmers’ markets keeps her honest, said Ruth.
“It really keeps me working hard all year to satisfy my loyal customers,” Ruth said. “My customers even give feedback on what is important to them, like pesticides, or types of seeds, or vegetables they think are the best tasting, or how to cook the vegetables to promote the best flavor. My customers have really come to trust me.”
For Ruth, it all of the hard work boils down to keeping the customer happy and helping them understand what farmers do on a daily basis.
“If I could tell consumers one thing about myself, it would be that I am a steward of the land and that I produce safe and healthy food for them,” Ruth said. “Instead of looking to the internet for information, go out and find a farmer and have a conversation.”
Don’t forget to check out all the awesome blogs happening this month over at Prairie Farmer.
For the full Faces Behind Your Food Series, check out the links below: