April 2, 2010

International Panel of JournalistsVisit Creme de la Crop
Taking An Inside Look At The Revival Of Organic Farming In The Midwest

Group Photo of International Panel of Journalists with Leann

Valparaiso, Indiana - Ideally located at the NW corner of US 30 and 250 W, Crème de la Crop, a 70 acre USDA certified organic farm in Valparaiso, Indiana is receiving growing local and international attention. On March 14th, the East West Center, a non-profit organization that promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific, brought an international panel of journalists from Afghanistan (BBC), India (Sahara India TV Network), Indonesia (IslamOnline.net), Iran (Iranian Freedom Institute), Malaysia (The Star), Pakistan (The Associated Press), and the Philippines (National Broadcasting Network) to Crème de la Crop for a farm tour and dialogue session. Leann Landgrebe, the farm owner, credits her partner, Lesley Saliga, and John Baum of the International Visitors Center of Chicago for setting up this invigorating connection.


Upon arriving at the farm, the journalists were fascinated, even giggling, to find Leann and Lesley, two young and highly educated women, into farming. The discussion naturally revolved around the revival of organic farming in the Midwest, how it contrasts with US Agribusiness, and the two young ladies' ambition to make a difference in their community.


According to Leann, at Crème de la Crop, "we specialize in mixed vegetables and herbs of over 200 varieties-- growing heirlooms and other unique varieties for their flavor, appearance, interesting history, and our moral commitment to preserve the biodiversity of food." The farm uses strictly organic methods along with biodynamic principles and the latest scientific techniques. Unlike conventional industrial agriculture, the farm requires very little fuel, avoids the use of pesticides, herbicides or antifungals, and strives to save water and to be as energy efficient as possible. "Our focus is to mend and build the soil," Leann says, "by working in harmony with nature and incorporating the ecosystems of the natural environment."


Leann and Lesley are doing their part to create a more sustainable food production system in Northwest Indiana and to improve access to eco-logically safe, top quality organic produce at affordable prices. Last season the farm fed over 100 families (with less than 6 acres) through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and managed to start a new and flexible business relationship with WiseWay Foods, a local grocery store franchise in Lake and Porter County. "This season," Leann says, "we are planting 3 times more than last year, and there is still incredible potential for expansion."


The international panel of journalists also asked many questions related to the growing health and environmental concerns connected with industrial farming. Ethel Constantino, a senior reporter for the National Broadcasting Network based in Davao City of the Philippines, shared some of the dreadful experiences of farmers in the banana fields of the Philippines. Ms. Constantino says, "Crop dusters spray pesticides and other chemicals from overhead never considering the health of the field workers below, who suffer difficulty breathing, blurred vision and one skin disease after another. We used to have extremely clean drinking water throughout the Philippines, now the water is chocked full of pesticides and other chemicals, no longer fit for drinking from the tap."


Leann and Lesley expect greater investments and steady movement toward more sustainable farming practices throughout the United States and the rest of the world. According to Lesley, "We would like to see more people interested in where their food comes from and how it is grown, bringing this dialogue from the margins of society to the mainstream public. At Crème de la Crop, if you don't mind a few calluses, there is hardly a need for gloves. You can eat food right out of the fields and the beauty of nature and life buzzes all around you. It is not a fairytale…this is the reality of this amazing planet. Many visitors come to the farm and say it reminds them of a farm from the past. We like to say it is a farm fit for the future."

The journalists were amazed at the diligence and dedication shown by the two ladies. Ms. Yee-Ping Foo, Deputy News Editor for The Star, Malaysia's most widely read English Language Daily, states, "Their passion for their work is inspiring. It is always great to see young (and lovely) women putting so much effort into doing something they love and believe in."

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