Big summer flavors with Blue Moon Farms

Potatoes. Kale. Collard greens. Tomatoes. Carrots. Peppers. Egglplant. Cilantro.

It’s more than what’s on your plate.

At Blue Moon Farms, which has been providing East Central Illinois with high quality, deliciously fresh vegetables since 1998, it’s about loving what you do.

“If you don’t love what you do, then it is work,” Assistant Farm Manager Shea Belahi, who is a co-owner of Blue Moons Farms said.

The 20-acre CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) certified-organic farm, which was started by Jon Cherniss, provides locally grown vegetables, is a popular stop at the Urbana Farmer’s Market and provides local ingredients and seasonal foods to grocery stores and restaurants throughout Illinois.

“We have a very diverse crop, but it’s very specialized,” Belahi said.

Belahi also said that produce grown locally has a different flavor profile than food grown in other regions.

“The tomato varieties that come from stores are bred for transportability,” she said. “They are picked for how long it can last in transport and they are picked when they are green.

“The tomatoes we grow here are picked two to three days in advance and are all picked for different flavor profiles. They are deeper and sweeter.

“In the refrigerator, our produce lasts for weeks; from the store, they may not last that long.”

The process from ground to consumer is one Belahi has been interested in her whole life.

“When I was a kid my dad and his friends had a big garden,” she said. “I loved working in it so much that I would work in it before they would get there, and I would get in trouble because it wasn’t technically our garden.

Because I got in trouble, I swore, “I am going to have my own garden when I get older.”

As an adult, Belahi owned a home with a garden, but it wasn’t enough.

“I went through a period what do I want to do with the rest of my life? What do I want to do every day?” she said. “And I saw an ad for a Central Illinois farm beginners class through the land connection here in town, and talked to the teacher at the time to see what that would involve.”

After working with a mentor and learning about the business aspect of owning a farm, Belahi went to work at Gray Farms in Wateska before joining the Blue Moon Farm team four years ago.

“After working there in the summer, I realized that I loved it and it was the thing I could do every day for the rest of my life,” she said.

A year later she joined owners Jon Cherniss, Michelle Wander and Lorien Carsey and a farm manager.

Blue Moon produce is served at several local restaurants, including Bacaro, Black Dog BBQ, Watson’s Shack and Rail, Piato, Radio Maria and Red Herring.

The produce can also be found at local grocery stores such as Harvest Market, Common Ground Food Co-op and from May to December at the Market at the Square.

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I may do it all, but I have not done it all.

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