Thursday, April 15, 2010

U.S. Equities Helps Grow Community Supported Agriculture Programs in Chicago's Suburbs

Access to locally grown produce has never been so convenient – especially for Illinois Tollway users. Beginning this summer, boxes of seasonal, local produce will be delivered weekly to Illinois Tollway Oases participating in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Membership sign-up runs now through mid-May.

CSA programs traditionally drop off produce for residents in dense urban neighborhoods but have a harder time serving suburban communities. Through an innovative collaboration between Oases property manager, U.S. Equities Asset Management, the Illinois Tollway, and three area farmers, suburban residents and commuters can now enjoy easy access to their share of the crop every Wednesday throughout the summer at area Illinois Tollway Oases.

“U.S. Equities is thrilled to help extend the reach of local CSA farms and create new and innovative uses for the Tollway Oases,” said Sundee Wislow, Director of Sustainability at U.S. Equities. “This program grants commuters a convenient way to support sustainable agriculture and helps remove barriers that CSA farms face in reaching consumers. The idea came out of our sustainability work which initially focused on energy and water conservation.”

Building on the sustainability work at Oases facilities, U.S. Equities is creating new drop off locations at six Oases for bountiful boxes of fresh, local produce from Harvest Moon Farms, Scotch Hill Farm and Triple A Farms. By becoming CSA program members, Tollway drivers support the farms by committing to buy fruits, vegetables and other farm products before the growing season, and then enjoy the bounty of the farm as weekly produce deliveries arrive.

“The Illinois Tollway welcomes this resourceful strategy to connect farmers with local consumers and help support the communities around each Oasis,” said Illinois Tollway Board Director Tom Weisner, who chairs the Tollway Oases Working Group. “We support U.S. Equities’ continuing efforts to look for new ways to better serve our customers - whether they are commuters on their way to work or families living in the neighboring communities."

CSA programs are member-based in that members purchase a “share” of the farm’s produce for a season. A share usually consists of a box of fruits or vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Members are required to pick up their box of produce each week throughout the farming season. To participate in the CSA program through the Illinois Tollway Oases, customers can sign up for shares directly with the farm supporting the Oases of their choice.

“Though we have demand from individuals throughout the suburbs, memberships lack the density that our city drop off locations provide and we continually struggled to find that perfect suburban location that will provide enough members to make a drop off location successful,” said Tony Ends of Scotch Hill Farm. “With hundreds of thousands of commuters driving under the Tollway Oases each day, we can reach many without having to establish a drop off location in each suburb – it’s really a win-win for everyone.”

“In addition to each week’s crops, we try to provide ideas and experiences to people through the produce we grow,” said Bob Borchardt of Harvest Moon Farms. “Each week’s crops come with savory recipes for both the novice and expert cooks to enjoy.”

Illinois Tollway Oases/CSA Drop Off Locations, Costs and Sign-up Information
The CSA programs last from 12 to 20 weeks depending on the farm. Sign-up is done directly with the farm.

Belvidere Oasis, Belvidere, Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90)
Harvest Moon Farms: 773-472-7950 or http://www.harvestmoonorganics.com/

Des Plains Oasis, Des Plaines, Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90)
Harvest Moon Farms: 773-472-7950 http://www.harvestmoonorganics.com/
Scotch Hill Farm: 608-897-4288 or http://www.scotchhillfarm.com/

o Hinsdale Oasis, Hinsdale, Tri-State Tollway (I-294)
Harvest Moon Farms: 773-472-7950 or http://www.harvestmoonorganics.com/

o Lake Forest Oasis, Lake Forest, Tri-State Tollway (I-94)
Harvest Moon Farms: 773-472-7950 http://www.harvestmoonorganics.com/
Scotch Hill Farm: 608-897-4288 or http://www.scotchhillfarm.com/

o Chicago Southland Lincoln Oasis, South Holland, Tri-State Tollway (I-294/80)
Triple A Farms: 815-405-3305 or http://www.tripleavegetables.com/

O'Hare Oasis, Schiller Park, Tri-State Tollway (I-294/94)
Harvest Moon Farms: 773-472-7950 or http://www.harvestmoonorganics.com/

About U.S. Equities Asset Management – A U.S. Equities Company
U.S. Equities Realty is a leading full-service commercial real estate firm headquartered in Chicago. The company serves as a strategic real estate advisor to clients throughout the United States and Latin America, providing development, program management, build-to-suit and construction oversight services; asset management, receivership and leasing services; tenant representation, consulting and advisory services; and financial and investment services.
Recognizing that commercial real estate has a significant impact on the environment, U.S. Equities is dedicated to serving as a leader in sustainable real estate services. Its nearly 30 million square foot property management portfolio includes 2 LEED EB certified and 5 Energy Star rated properties. For more information, visit http://www.usequities.com/.

About Illinois Tollway and Oases
The Illinois Tollway maintains and operates 286 miles of interstate tollways in 12 counties in Northern Illinois, including the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355), the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) and the Tri-State Tollway (I-94/I-294/I-80).

The Illinois Tollway Oases offer daily commuters, long-distance travelers and area residents and workers exceptional conveniences while on the Illinois Tollway. From a variety of restaurants and services, to meeting spaces, to gas and sundry shops, and now fresh produce, the Oases are the perfect stop on your way to your destination. Excellent leasing opportunities at each Oasis are available, for more information, visit www.usequities.com/oases.

About Harvest Moon Farms
Harvest Moon is a 20-acre certified organic farm in west central Wisconsin's driftless region on the South fork of the Bad Axe River. The land is incredibly fertile and high in natural organic matter, which means the tastiest, most nutritious food grows here.
In 2009 the farm formed Harvest Moon Farms Producers Guild. Its guild is comprised of six area farms growing certified organic and certified naturally grown produce. Creating the Guild helps better serve Harvest Moon’s clients and CSA shareholders by offering larger quantities and more varieties. It also serves the farms by allowing shared resources and collaborates on transportation and distribution, which in turn reduces our collective carbon footprint. For more information, visit http://www.harvestmoonorganics.com/.

About Scotch Hill Farm
Scotch Hill Farm is a diversified family farm with certified organic crops in Southern Wisconsin. The farm has operated a CSA since 1994, growing from 5 members the first season to 215 in 2009. Scotch Hill plans to serve 300 households in 2010. The farm offers 20-week subscriptions, fall shares and flower shares. In 2010, the farm has 41 acres in certified organic vegetable and field crop production. Deliveries to the Chicago area are done with a hybrid SUV and trailer. For more information, visit http://www.scotchhillfarm.com/.

About Triple A Farms
In 1998, at ages 13, 10 and 6 the DeGroot brothers: Andrew, Adam, Aaron, partnered together to try their hand at business. The brothers had a great introduction from their father & uncle – brothers who as partners operated the family farm in St. Anne, IL, roughly 60 miles south of Chicago. The three of them began selling vegetables from the farm at a new nearby farmer’s market in Kankakee. Since then the number of markets where they distribute their produce has grown and they continue looking for additional ways to get the harvest of St. Anne to the tables of the citizens of Chicago. More information at http://www.tripleavegetables.com/.
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