by Jonathan Wright
On Down River Farm in East Peoria, Evan Barry grows nearly every vegetable that can be grown in this part of the Midwest. “We choose varieties of crops based on flavor, aiming to give folks the best-tasting vegetables they’ve had,” he explains. By employing “bio-intensive” growing methods, Barry is focused on maximizing yield from a minimum area of land, while increasing biodiversity and improving soil health. “We never use synthetic fertilizers, nor do we spray pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.”
Down River Farm operates on the same land as Kira’s Flowers, and the two work in tandem. “Our fields are almost always producing something edible or flowering, which creates a rich ecosystem that attracts beneficial bugs and keeps pest pressure down,” Barry notes. “We also grow everything without the use of a tractor. We use hand-scaled and hand-powered tools, with our Italian BCS two-wheeled tractor being our only method of soilworking.” They also invest significantly in their soil, adding generous amounts of compost from Peoria’s Better Earth Compost.
Utilizing simple hoop houses and fabric row cover, Barry works to “extend the season”—planting earlier in the spring and keeping crops in the ground later as fall turns to winter. “We’re able to have crops to sell all the way until the end of January,” he explains. A mainstay at local farmers markets, Down River Farm offers a CSA (community supported agriculture), allowing members to subscribe to their seasonal harvest. They recently began to offer online ordering and expect to continue their expansion in 2021.
“Like most years, we plan to experiment with season extension, new crops, and new varieties of crops in an effort to see what people like or are willing to try out,” Barry explains. “We just hope to continue to improve our growing and offerings to make our customers happy and continue to feed them nutritious and delicious food straight from our own Peoria landscape.” downrivervegetablefarm.com PM