Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sowing the Seeds of Passion
By Nichole Odijk DeMario 
Valparaiso Values Magazine


Leann Landgrebe Pelzel has always loved to garden. As her garden grew so did her passion for agriculture. She knew she had to expand her vision. Nearly a decade ago, with three donated acres from her family, Landgrebe Pelzel began sowing the seeds of Crème de la Crop, a farm located in Valparaiso on US Highway 30 and 250 W. 

The certified organic farm, now overseen by the 36-year-old and her husband Jason, grows more than 200 varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs. 

"People say you should eat the rainbow," Landgrebe Pelzel says. "Here we try to grow the rainbow." 

Landgrebe Pelzel says that her crops are grown for flavor, but she notes what's most important is what eating organic can do for one's health. 

"People nowadays don't think about what they're eating they just go go go," she details. 

Landgrebe Pelzel's family was one of the first settlers of Valparaiso and brought their farming skills from Europe. While connecting to her ancestral roots has been rewarding, Landgrebe Pelzel is mainly self taught. 

"In the off season I am constantly doing research, reading and attending seminars," Landgrebe Pelzel explains. "I am always experimenting with new techniques, asking myself 'How can we make this better?'" 

This forward thinking led to the creation of their own Certified Organic Community Support Agriculture and Fruit Share Program (also known as a CSA). The program allows the community the ability to purchase local organic produce during three seasons of the year. 

"We've had members since day one that get so excited for their new produce," Landgrebe Pelzel says. "Eating seasonally allows them to try new things. They say it's like Christmas morning for adults."

Crème de la Crop also offers volunteer opportunities, where in exchange for the volunteered time, workers are provided with "Crème Cash" that goes toward future CSA purchases. This summer, an internship program will also be available on site. 

Leann and Jason have long-term plans in the works as well. They are developing their own line of jams, salsas and baby food. The couple hopes to capitalize on Jason's culinary degrees from the Culinary Institute of America to one day open a restaurant that utilizes the farms' produce in all of its dishes. 

"Now that Jason and I are married we can accomplish twice as much," Landgrebe Pelzel says. "We are equally as passionate about agriculture and food. We make a great team and the possibilities of the future of our farm are endless."

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit Creme de la Crop's website at www.cremedelacrop.com, e-mail at cremedelacrop@msn.com or call 219-510-4547 or 219-462-9587.

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