Craver's Little Red Barn
by Chris Nordick
Nestled behind a winding blacktop driveway with hundreds of maturing fruit trees framing the idyllic road is Craver’s Little Red Barn. A family owned, operated, and produced, work of love, filled with overflowing dedication and abundance. Jill and Jeff Craver are the minds and muscles behind the 25 acres of fertile soil which are nurtured on their family farm. Apples, peaches, cherries, pears, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries fill the yearnings for fresh, naturally grown, fruit.
“Our children love fruit… They can’t get enough of it.”
The Cravers have six children ranging from four years old all the way to 21. Their youngest bundle of energy, Bode, often can be found alongside Jill picking berries in the long, 500 foot, neverending, wellmulched blueberry rows. Jill’s pickings go into the bucket. Bode’s? Well, those amazing plump berries go straight to the tummy. And who could blame him?
The varieties of vegetables grown on the farm seem endless. “We grow everything from apples to zucchini.” Asparagus, beans, okra, carrots, beets, lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, and some of the best tasting scrumptious sweet corn one can find in the Quad Cities can be found throughout the growing season from Craver’s Little Red Barn (among many other varieties). One of the first vegetables of the season for Jill and Jeff is asparagus. And after a long, cold winter, the richness and flavor of fresh asparagus is like no other.
But there’s more! In addition to fruits and vegetables, Craver’s Little Red Barn raises Suffolk meat sheep and lambs, Black Angus beef, and horses for barrel riding and competition. The children have the primary responsibility for feeding and caring for the animals. And then, each year a few of the cattle are sold and all the profits of the sale go into one of the children’s college savings account.
The soil on the farm is tended and cared for in an environmentally friendly manner. Manure, cover crops, light till, mulch, and crop rotation keep the earth filled with nutrients and that soil health is then integrated into the happy and healthy plants. Pollination is enhanced through honeybee hives and pollinator friendly practices are followed for pest management. The end result? Luscious green plant growth, nutritious healthy produce, and happy taste buds.
All this harmonious environmental living and farming comes at a cost. Farming fruits and vegetables is labor intensive. The “easy” part is tilling, planting, and harvesting. The day in and day out maintenance of watering and weeding is always a challenge. Jill is the “weeder extraordinaire” and hand pulls each and every weed growing close to the thousands and thousands of plants. However, the Craver’s have an ingenious tool they made from an old pull behind 5 foot rototiller. Inspired by a farmer friend, Jeff removed the center tines of the rototiller. By creating a 12 inch space for the row plants within the middle of the tiller itself, Jeff is able to clear two feet on each side of the row easily and efficiently. Such a time and back saver
Craver’s Little Red Barn, located in Taylor Ridge, IL, is an amazing example of a small family managed, and labor of love farm. Some of life’s best, hardest, and most soul filling lessons are discovered on a family farm. Quiet meaningful conversations while tending the soil and caring for animals result in a family with strong bonds of love and respect for one another and the environment. And the Craver’s certainly epitomize these qualities.
One can discover Craver’s Little Red Barn through Facebook, purchase fresh, beautiful grown local produce at the Freight House Famers Market, the Quad Cities Growers Market, and at their cute family farm stand in Taylor Ridge, IL May through October.