SUMMER’S HERE, and with it comes the chance to taste the best of what the season offers. Ripe heirloom tomatoes, plump squash, fresh greens, and more make for a delightful meal directly harvested from Elawa Farm’s own grounds.
Elawa Farm Foundation’s Summer Solstice Party, an annual fundraiser in the property’s picturesque gardens, is set to take place on Saturday, June 25, from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. It will feature dishes prepared by Elawa’s very own culinary team, including a chef and pastry chef.
“We’ll take produce coming from our farm, as well as other locally sourced food, and share a beautiful meal together,” Elawa Farm Executive Director Laura Calvert says. “It’s such a unique experience that you can’t really find in the Chicago region.”
A fun, casual event featuring a pig roast, cocktails, music, and lawn games, the Summer Solstice Party raises funds needed to continue stewarding Elawa Farm’s historic buildings and surrounding gardens, as well as the nonprofit’s ongoing work to increase food access, educational initiatives, and garden accessibility for people of all ages and abilities.
Elawa’s 16-acre parcel of land was once home to a gentleman’s farm built in 1917 for A. Watson Armour, a member of one of Chicago’s oldest and most distinguished families. Designed by famed North Shore architects David Adler and Alfred Hopkin, the land and buildings comprising Elawa’s main farm group were purchased by the City of Lake Forest in 1998 to be preserved and maintained through a unique public-private partnership.
One can feel, upon entering the grounds, that they’re stepping into a piece of history.
“Seeing the transition of this property over the last two decades has been unbelievable,” says Elawa Farm Board Member and Co-Chair Susie Schlachtenhaufen. “It’s so nice to be able to see that some of it has remained unchanged, but other parts have been enhanced and improved.”
While preserving the history of the farm, it had been adapted to today’s use to gather community through food and agriculture with a sustainable farm, weekly market, and educational programming for youth and adults. “It’s really special and rare to go to a farm where the buildings have prestige with architecture and restored in such a significant way,” Calvert says.
More than two acres of Elawa Farm’s land is cultivated each year for flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Planted by volunteers and staff, the garden utilizes sustainable farming practices like field rotation, cover cropping, beneficial predation, and organic composting. Freshly harvested produce, flowers, and baked goods are sold at the on-site Garden Market, open Friday and Saturday mornings during the summer.
“Elawa is like a little gem, and you feel so lucky if you stumble upon it,” adds Schlachtenhaufen, who’s also one of the beekeepers at the farm. “I was asked if I would help, and Elawa is such a meaningful and unique place, I didn’t hesitate to say ‘yes.’ It’s great that we’re supporting bees and offering fresh honey to the community, as well as teaching classes about maintaining beehives and the importance of bees for the environment.”
In addition to beekeeping, Elawa Farm’s year-round educational classes include plant propagation; gardening; cooking; poultry and fish butchery; and bread baking. And its bilingual programs make sure this education is accessible to the greater area, both on the farm and off-site. In 2021, 535 local families attended free educational workshops at the farm, and they’re hoping to create even more free, family-focused programs.
Additionally, 10,600 pounds of fresh produce (15,150 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables) were harvested from Elawa in 2021. An estimated 825 families who were facing food insecurity in Lake County received free grocery bags of fresh, nutrient-dense food, and another 200 families and individuals received fresh produce and prepared meals. “Since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve made healthy food accessible by working with community organizations to donate produce to families in the community,” Calvert explains.
Elawa also serves as a business incubator for other local farms, giving them a platform to sell their products and build their brands. Last year, 20 local farms and food businesses were supported with more than $100,000 in purchasing for Elawa’s weekly Garden Market and Take & Bake meal program.
“Elawa is such an unbelievable and special resource that serves so many people in the community,” Elawa Farm Board Member and Co-Chair Jamie Pruett says. “For the last 15 years, I’ve used the farm and its surrounding resources a lot with my three kids, so it’s exciting to give back by serving as a board member and furthering the cause of Elawa Farm.”
Through the support of sponsors and the community during the Summer Solstice Party, Elawa can deepen its impact in 2022 and focus on what makes it essential to the community as a vital source of local, healthy food, and engaging education.
What better way to enjoy the bounty of daylight the solstice will bring than to join the celebration of summer upon Elawa’s magical grounds?
For more information or to purchase tickets visit elawafarm.org.