Gathering at the Farm Again

May 14, 2024

Liberty Prairie hosted spring plant sales for many years, though it changed during the pandemic. This year’s plant sale made a rousing return.

2018 Plant Sale

We (Jen & Jeff) never ran the Liberty Prairie spring plant sale before this year. For many years, we served as farmer vendors (i.e., Dea Dia Organics, Sandhill Family Farms, Prairie Wind Family Farm) supporting Liberty Prairie’s education farmers’ who coordinated this signature event. Throughout the years, Liberty Prairie’s plant sale took various forms growing, at one point, to a large event at the Prairie Crossing Farm filled with food trucks, music, and farmer vendors.

We supported our Liberty Prairie friends through marketing and sharing spaces, being respectful to only sell products that would not compete with plants grown and sold to fundraise in support of Liberty Prairie’s educational programs. We kept ourselves plenty busy feverishly planting our fields with spring crops, harvesting, and preparing for the first spring CSA pickups.

In 2020, Liberty Prairie made the difficult decision to transition the plant sale from an in-person event to a pre-order sale with scheduled, staged, and masked pickups. During the pandemic years, this was only one of the many accommodations required to pull off some of the spring plant sale as students and staff masked in the greenhouse together. Throughout those years, there was a sincere desire to be outside and build resiliency in the garden so there was continued support of the annual plant sale.

In 2023, the Grayslake High School District 127 took over Liberty Prairie’s plant sale and offered pre-ordered plants and some limited in-person sales for the first time in years. What a breath of fresh air — literally and figuratively! Jeff and I opened a Garden Center at the farm that also offered in-person sales.

Once Jeff joined District 127 as a teacher in the summer of 2023, it was time for Jeff to take over the spring plant sale project for 2024 and since we work as a team, we started brainstorming immediately.

In the winter of 2024, Liberty Prairie and District 127 staff collaborated to dream up a new event: the Spring Plant Sale and Farm Festival. We reflected on the years of plant sale iterations. We were inspired by fond memories and best practices. We did our best to honor these traditions, adding bits of ourselves and the talent of students in the process.

We hoped the plant sale would accomplish a key goal we identified in early brainstorming meetings: bringing people together again at the farm. Rather than a pre-order sale born of necessity from the pandemic, we dreamed of gathering together as a community to celebrate the start of the planting season. We hoped the event would be educational, help with sustainable education fundraising, and most importantly, offer a fun day at the farm!

The heart of this event — students!

We’re proud to say that this year’s Spring Plant Sale and Farm Festival event did all of those things…and more. In two warm, sunny days, we collaboratively raised over $38,000 to support hands-on learning at the farm. Over 50 student and adult volunteers helped over the two-day event, hosting over 1,000 people at the farm. Customers traveled from as far away as Antioch and Oak Park, and as nearby as our next-door neighbors on Harris Road. The energy was positive, students beamed with pride and many stayed for hours at the farm.

One tractor team planting, one tractor team seeding!

Now, we and our farm crew are feverishly catching up on planting, seeding, and harvest work in the fields. We’re doing so with gratitude in our hearts. Thanks to all who believe in supporting hands-on learning and sustainable agriculture education, not only this year but throughout the years, at Liberty Prairie. We’re not done dreaming yet!

~ Your Farmers and the Liberty Prairie Team