Harry & Gwen Carr - Co-founders, farmers, & owners
Coming from east & west coasts of the U.S., Harry & Gwen met in Stelle, IL, and here they settled down to form family, farm, and business together. Harry & Gwen have always shared a love for and interest in nature, the outdoors, and organic food & agriculture. When they bought land together in the early 1990s, they dreamed of restoring the native prairie. Harry, a self-taught entrepreneur and idealist business man who grew up hunting and gardening in rural New Jersey, quickly had ambitions towards a farm business. Gwen, a painter, writer, Montessori teacher, & homemaker from southern California, imparted her love of good food and nutritional research on the farm.
The Carrs studied Biodynamic agriculture at the Michael Fields Institute and learned that planting perennial grasses and legumes is the first step in revitalizing farmed-out land. Together they learned about biodynamics, business, farming, nutrition, homeopathics, and herbalism. Both writers & poets, they have always been each others’ editors in chief. Gwen, still an owner, caretaker, and advisor to farm, mainly spends her time these days teaching kids elementary Montessori and managing their “living lab” (a whole host of fauna & flora that live at Seton Montessori). Harry, our head farmer, has plugged along organically farming in Illinois for over 20 years now. He is a true believer in the power of perennial pasture to counteract climate change & add resilience and biodiversity to our region. Always striving for a challenge and a dream, Harry continues to be the fearless leader of the farm as it grows into one of the most inspiring & unique businesses in the Midwest.
Raya Carr - Sales Manager, Shepherdess, "Miss Eggy"
“You can take the girl from the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.”
Raya began farming at the age of 4 when Mint Creek got its first two sheep, one of which she named “Jackie.” Raya still believes that she’s “as stubborn as her sheep” from all those years of growing up with them, taking care of them, and getting them to go and do what she wanted. As a kid, Raya convinced her family she “owned” the farm’s chickens & egg production. She then single-handedly cared for the hens, washed the eggs, and distributed them to local neighbors within walking distance in the country. When her brother came around to the potential benefits of the egg business (which she called “Baukaling Farms,”) around age 10, she “sold” him “the business” for $125 and accepted a payment plan from him. Now Raya, since then nicknamed "Miss Eggy," dreams of a day when Mint Creek can finally produce enough eggs to not sell out before all her customers get some!
Raya learned communications, philosophy, writing, & ethics through her liberal arts degree at Shimer college and has been schooled in business both by working under her farmer & businessman father and by the completion of the Good Food Business Accelerator Program. Spending most of the week in Chicago managing sales, distribution, & marketing for the farm, Raya also spends a part of the week at the farm doing inventory, pickups, and coordinating with the farm’s butchers downstate. Raya has strong feelings about what it means to raise a beloved farm animal for eventual meat or egg production, and would love to talk to you about it. Her favorite thing is still to work with the sheep and she especially loves letting them into a new paddock of fresh pasture.
Jonathan Carr - Farmer, Bookkeeper & Financial Strategist
Jonathan grew up on Mint Creek, and values the responsible stewardship of the land as the most moral goal of a farm. He has done just about every job there is on Mint Creek, from caring for all manner of livestock and poultry, tractor/trailer/delivery driver, to organic certification, bookkeeping, business planning, bailing hay, soil & pasture maintenance as well as prairie restoration. He has an intimate knowledge of the local landscape and history. His interests have ranged in many directions over the years from computer science to environmental science to economics to linguistics. Jonathan loves playing music on piano and accordion (and just about any instrument you put into his hands). He is a part of a variety of bands including the “Carrheart Family Band,” a cowboy song band he created with his sister, Raya, and their friends. Jonathan has been indispensable helping hold together the family business over the years.
Michelle Volk - Farmhand
An aspiring scientist, Michelle moved from the heart of New York City to Mint Creek Farm to spend her gap year on the prairie. With a background in biology, Michelle is interested in the ways in which diseases move throughout an ecosystem and has enjoyed learning about the intricacies of farm ecology while at Mint Creek. Her favorite activities on the farm include herding sheep, working with the goats, and trying to befriend all the barn cats. She is constantly inspired by the visionary and hard-working people at Mint Creek Farm, and has learned a tremendous amount about the science behind diversified farming. A self-proclaimed "tree person", Michelle loves climbing both mountains and trees (activities which have been put on hold while she resides in the Prairie State), and has grandiose dreams of summiting the high points of all 50 states. In addition to working on the farm, Michelle enjoys reading, playing the viola, and salsa dancing.
Rejeana Gilleland - Farmer, Vet Tech
Rejeana is an experienced vet tech who oversees care of the sick and injured animals on the farm. She is an avid chicken keeper and enjoys caring for the flocks of laying hens on the farm, as well as helping with other farm chores and record keeping. Aside from her farm work, Rejeana is a wife, mother, and part-time college student. She serves in a variety of capacities in her church, distributes mail for her community, and serves as the Recording Clerk for the board of the local phone company.
Nicole Stresak- Office Guru, Artist & Market Staff
Coming from a background in photography & sales, Nicole joined our farmers' market sales team in the autumn of 2012. Since then she has become key to an ever increasing list of inter-workings at the farm, and has gotten the nickname agent "Desert Fox." Nicole is the point person for many administrative tasks, from completing vendor applications & staffing for the Chicago area farmers' markets Mint Creek attends, to collaborating with Raya on managing the farm's sales, marketing, & inventory. Nicole is an artist, responsible for many of the farm's sharpest brochures, pictures, & online promotions. Nicole also finds time to help out with occasional livestock & poultry care at the farm. She doesn't hesitate getting her hands dirty, a true farm girl at heart.
Meg Santisi - Communications Manager
Meg works in communications and development for Mint Creek, wearing many hats (like the fuzzy one pictured here.) Working alongside the amazing twin wonders Raya and Nicole, she manages the Meat CSA program and interfaces with all our CSA members and wholesale accounts. She also coordinates our farm-to-table dinners and farm tours, explores grant opportunities and fundraising for the farm, and works Logan Square Market on Sundays. Meg has a Master's Degree in Visual and Critical Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and she can often be found working in operational support of artist residency programs throughout the States. Mint Creek Farm is a constant inspiration, and truly has changed her life.
Jared Clemens - Delivery Driver, Farmhand, Market Staff
Jared has been the main delivery driver for the farm since late-summer last year, and does up to 30 delivery stops for the farm every Wednesday. He works at the farm itself a day or two a week and often represents Mint Creek at farmers' markets, too. Valuing a direct sense of connection to his work, Jared was drawn to work for a small family business and farm. An open-minded thinker, self-educator, and artist, Jared is dedicated to how unique and values focused the farm is. In his free time, Jared reads extensively, plays drums for a small cowboy folk band, and builds art installations in a Chicago loft space. The farm is proud to have such a hard-working person as well as an innovator and problem-solver on their team.
Bryan Piironen - Mint Creek Farm Chef de Cuisine
An incredible Chicago chef got involved with our little perennial pasture based livestock farm. We are honored to have Bryan working with us as a frequent farm dinner chef, as Bryan has a decade of experience cooking in Chicago's leading restaurants such as Topolobampo, Big Jones, & Lula. Bryan has offered invaluable skill and hard work to benefit Mint Creek Farm doing more than just the farm dinners, but he has also managed our farmers' market grill for the last two years and more recently done the recipes and production of new farm products such as bone-broth.
Bryan is the founder of a collaborative pop-up food, art, & music event system called the Chicago Brigade System. As chef and organizer of Chicago Brigade System, Bryan has created many events, ranging from donation based, multi-act music shows paired with farm-to-table small plates, private corporate catering featuring market ingredients, and an intimate, fine-dining style benefit dinners (featuring curated visual art) to raise money for lower income city kids to be able to afford music lessons.
Chef Bryan is currently transitioning from working at Lula Cafe to help open the brilliant Jason Hamil’s (Lula’s owner) newest restaurant, Marisol. Marisol, an exciting new restaurant & bar designed by internationally renowned artist Chris Ofili, will open in a few weeks inside the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Letter From Chef Bryan Piironen:
"While attending Kendall college, Chef Peggy Ryan took us students to the Green City Market to shop around. It was my most memorable educational experience meeting the farmers and sourcing seasonal product. It inspired me to make that a priority leading me to work in like minded restaurants such as Big Jones, Topolobampo, Frontera Grill and Lula Cafe. The focus on quality and sustainable ingredients was key. A few summers back, I was introduced to Mint Creek Farm. They presented me with the opportunity to cook at their farm stand during market. I graciously accepted the offer and have been collaborating since, doing farm dinners, as well as creating the farm’s new value-added products such as bone broth. It's an honor to cook with this elite product that has the utmost focus on health and sustainability for the animals, environment and the consumer. I can't imagine a better way to cook than to be at the farm or in the market preparing meals with product at the peak of its season. I hope to let it be the highlight of the cuisine and provide everyone with some great eats."