Food brings people together. This has always been true for Ellen Kamps in both her life and her work. The Geneva native is dedicated to strengthening the local community’s connection to sustainable food through her newest venture, FoxTrot Organic Farm in St. Charles.
“Today, there’s such a disconnect about where food comes from,” says Kamps. “We’re helping people build that connection and form that relationship. It’s so much more sustainable and environmentally friendly to eat locally.”
Kamps runs FoxTrot Organic Farm with Jeff Hughes, her “partner in love and agriculture.” The pair grows more than 135 different varieties of produce and they began selling their crops this year, after spending three years preparing the land for organic certification. It is now one of two USDA-certified organic farms in Kane County.
“Our goal from the start was that we wanted to produce really tasty heirloom vegetables in a customer-centric, responsible way while engaging our neighbors in the process,” says Kamps, who quit her marketing job to wholeheartedly jump into running the farm. “I believe that your business reveals who you are, and I like to think that our creativity and our hard work are evident.”
Even when she was young, Kamps had a deep appreciation for all types of food.
“I was born with a really developed palate; I was the 4-year-old eating escargot and liverwurst,” she says with a laugh. Kamps remembers exploring her grandmother’s garden and watching her mother pickle habanero peppers. “As far as growing food, I think it was hereditary.”
Opening the farm felt like a natural move, says Kamps, and the community has already welcomed the fledgling business. Shares of the farm’s FoxBox – a subscription service based on a community-supported agriculture model – sold out in four days. And, in the morning, there is always a line for the farm’s weekly market at Primrose Farm in St. Charles.
“Our Saturday morning market is my moment of Zen,” says Kamps. “We’re super grateful that our neighbors seem to embrace us so early on. It has become a hub for the community, and it has created a culture of kindness and communication.”
Kamps continues to foster that culture through her volunteer work. She is a board member of Slow Food City’s Edge, a local branch of the grassroots movement Slow Food USA. Its mission is to cultivate the enjoyment of local food in order to encourage a more sustainable food system.
“People really do embrace this sustainability lifestyle and this mindset,” Kamps says.
She is the founder of the local chapter of CHILLINOIS Young Farmers Coalition. It is the first Illinois chapter of the national nonprofit dedicated to supporting young farmers. The group focuses on debt relief, farming as a public service and providing social and educational resources. Kamps recently received a scholarship to attend a meeting of chapter presidents in San Diego.
Kamps also volunteers with Fox Valley Food for Health, which provides nutrient rich meals, nutrition education and personal caring support to people and families in need who are dealing with a serious illness. She also volunteers with the Chicago Market Co-op and Shared Harvest Co-op.
Kamps says her favorite part of working with these organizations is connecting with community members who share her passion for sustainability and giving back.
“That’s what I love and what drives me – being inspired by all these amazing people who are making a difference in the community,” she says.
For more information about FoxTrot Organic Farm, visit foxtrotorganicfarm.com.