Beginning farmer couple promotes local foods

2016-09-23T08:00:00Z Beginning farmer couple promotes local foodsBy Phyllis Coulter, Illinois Farmer Today Illinois Farmer Today
September 23, 2016 8:00 am  • 

SHELDON — Found in the buckle of the Corn Belt is a little food oasis designed by Danielle and Jason Tomes.

On Route U.S. 24 in Sheldon, the bold “UR Foods Farm & Market” sign is eye-catching nestled among the corn and soybean fields.

“We want to grow your food,” Danielle said of the name, pronounced both “You Are Foods” and “Your Foods” by visitors to the shop in Eastern Illinois.

The entrance to their store, through an arbor, has the agri-tourism feel the Tomes are going for. Inside, the cozy shop provides farm-fresh eggs and produce provided by the couple and their neighbors.

The Tomes, who came to the community in 2013, sold most of their produce through farmers markets in 2014. They added on-farm sales in 2015 in a 40-year-old potting shed they converted from a possum den to a shopper-friendly store.

The Tomes were among the first students of the Illinois Beginning Farmers Program. They learned about the challenges of starting a small farm operation and discovered the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) that helped fund their high tunnel for growing produce.

While Danielle grew up in the Chicago suburbs, Jason learned about healthy food from the garden on his grandparents’ soybean and corn farm. He studied horticulture and business. They were both working in the medical field in Chicago when they decided they wanted to live a different life.

They want healthy food to be available in their new community.

“A cucumber costs more than a candy bar,” Jason notes. But at their store, a cucumber costs 75 cents.

Aside from the usual modes of payment, they accept food stamps and bartering.

“We are purpose over profit — that is one of our guiding principles,” he said.

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