CHICAGO (CBS) — Sitting on land owned by Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington is a place called Smart Farm. It’s a place drivers can pass and not even know it’s there.
Smart Farm is an all volunteer sustainable garden.
“We’re learning every year,” said Smart Farm founder Kathy Gabelman. “Growing new things, which is a wonderful thing for teaching.”
Gabelman is fulfilling a passion to give back following her mother’s death.
The operation, now 10 years strong, recently moved to the hospital grounds after outgrowing a smaller plot.
She uses donations and volunteers from all over to keep it growing.
Up to 50 volunteers at a time sign up from all over, including students from nearby schools to help plant, grown and pick a variety of fresh food.
Once ready, it’s delivered to local food pantries.
“There’s no better job,” said head farmer Meg Mitchell. “I get to be outside. All the volunteers want to be here with the same mind and spirit, same values.”
“We had a student out today,” said Emily Zack, Smart Farm assistant manager. “As he was leaving, I thanked him for coming, and he said, ‘No, thank you for teaching me how to do something like this.”
The day CBS 2 was there, they harvested 50 pounds of specialty peppers, now ready to head out to families in need.
Gabelman’s goal is to have a food forest set up there for many generations to come.
“Permiculture is permanent agriculture, and we’re working with the land instead of against it,” she said.
Right now the farm supplies 10 local food pantries, but in the future it hopes to feed hospital patients.
“It would be a dream to be a part of that,” Gabelman said. “We would have prescription boxes for certain illnesses. That’s something I really want to key in.”
“It’s just medicine for your body, good food is,” said Mitchel. “Why wouldn’t we combine it with them?”
They also hope patients will be able to walk the grounds and help plant and pick the crops as therapy.
Smart Farm is always looking for volunteers. To sign up go to smartfarms.org or sign up for its annual fundraiser coming up next month.