The inspiration for Harvest Moon Herb Farm began while Jill Yeck was living on Long Island. During a canoe trip, she came upon a small detour in the river and decided to explore it. Much to her surprise, the small creek led to an herb farm just a short distance from the river. Intrigued by the farm, she decided to contact the owners and ended up becoming an apprentice there for seven seasons.
After gaining the necessary skills on the herb farm, Jill moved to Illinois where she began growing herbs on a small scale in her backyard. During this time, she started selling her herbs at local farmers' markets in Illinois, where she learned about the business side of local farming.
With over a decade-worth of experience growing and selling herbs, on her 40th birthday, Jill bought her own greenhouse in Utica, just outside of Stoughton. Her farm is currently six-and-a-half acres and is tended solely by Jill, with occasional help from friends who help water the plants and sell them at farmers' markets.
Jill's most popular herbs are rosemary, basil, and lemon verbena. She considers lemon verbena her favorite because of its fresh citrus flavor, but says that each of her herbs are great, depending on your mood. The stand can be found through mid-June at North Carroll Street on Saturdays, as well as at the downtown farmers' market on Wednesdays.
The Daily Page: What's your secret for growing great plants?
Jill Yeck: I tell them that I love them, and I use my own soil mix made with pine bark and peat. Most of all though, the secret is committing to the plants and their well-being.
Have you noticed any differences between farmers' markets in Illinois compared to Wisconsin?
Yes, customers in Wisconsin are definitely more knowledgeable about small farms. There is also a greater sense of community, because customers want to know as much as possible about the farmers they buy from.
Can you share a recipe you make with your herbs?
Sage Hazelnut Pate.
The recipe is: 1 cup hazelnuts 1/4 cup sesame seeds 8 ounces cream cheese 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1 tablespoon chopped sage 2 tablespoons olive oil 4 tablespoons milk
Toast nuts and seeds on separate trays in oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Grind nuts and seeds in food processor until they resemble fine crumbs. Add cream cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, sage and oil. Process until completely mixed. Add milk to reach desired consistency. Serve on lettuce with toast or with crackers as an appetizer.