Good Things Grow at Garlic Breath Farm (VIDEO)
The origin story of Garlic Breath Farm in Elburn begins with Kevin Bacon. Not the prolific Hollywood actor, but his lesser-known namesake: the Pferschy family’s pet pig.
“In 2015, we were looking for a new home closer to our jobs – a property that would allow us to keep our pet pig,” recalls Sharon Pferschy, who worked in aviation software with her husband, Tony. “When we found this microfarm, we fell in love immediately. We are known around here as the house with a pig in the front yard.”
To fans of their healthy, homegrown garlic products, however, they are better known as Garlic Breath Farm.
All About Allicin
With just under 3 acres of fertile farmland available at their new homestead, the hardworking couple, who are Kane County Farm Bureau members, wanted to get their hands dirty. While researching potential crops, garlic quickly caught their eye for its health benefits.
“We began learning how different varieties of garlic contain different levels of allicin. This was important to us because allicin is believed to have antibacterial, antimicrobial and anticancer properties. It was exactly what our hearts had been searching for,” Sharon says. “We made it our mission to provide high-quality medicinal foods to cancer patients and local food pantries.”
“The varieties we grow are hardneck because they do better in a colder climate,” says Tony, who left his job in 2019 to farm full time. “We are best known for growing the Porcelain Music variety. It’s a little bit easier to eat raw, which offers the highest levels of allicin.”
Driven by their commitment to healthy food, the couple successfully navigated the rigorous organic certification process.
See more: Farmers’ Market Side Dish Recipes
From Clove to Bulb
Garlic’s nine-month growing season begins with planting in October. (One clove will produce a full bulb by July.) In early summer, the flowering part of the hardneck garlic – a little-known delicacy known as the garlic scape – is cut to provide more energy for bulb growth.
“The stalk is completely edible and delicious. Garlic scapes can be used in soup, salads or any recipe that calls for garlic or onion,” says Tony, who learned at his first farmers’ market that a sampled scape sells itself. “Once people got a taste of them, the scapes just flew out of our stand. People were smelling their way to us across the market.”
The fresh bulbs pulled from the ground in July, known as wet garlic, offer a sweeter, milder taste than the cured garlic made later in the summer. Altogether, the farm produces roughly 35,000 bulbs each season – and “we do everything by hand,” Tony says.
That means “all hands on deck” for three generations of family: Tony’s father and daughter, Thomas Kunkel and Cassie Pferschy, and Sharon’s mother and son, Carolyn and Shayne Bauch, who came up with the farm’s charming name. “We would be nowhere without their help,” Tony says.
Garlic Breath? Good for You!
Proud of their pungent produce, the Pferschy farm motto declares: “If everyone had garlic breath, no one would be offended!” And they might be a whole lot healthier.
From fighting fungus to killing cancer cells, garlic appears to pack a medicinal punch. The Pferschys recommend eating one raw clove three times a day to harvest the health benefits.
“To get the highest levels of allicin, you want to put it through a garlic press, and then wait 15 minutes before eating it,” says Sharon, who suggests adding a tablespoon each of honey and apple cider vinegar. But her favorite combination? Garlic and peanut butter. (Move over, Reese’s.)
Catering to health-conscious customers across the country, later this year the farm plans to launch pilot programs for two new products: the Garlic Breath Cancer Care Kit™, a subscription-based service, along with the Garlic Breath Cold Care Kit™.
“We have a strong following of cancer patients who seek us out specifically for a recurring supply of garlic,” Sharon says. “If we can help people fight off disease and illness, then we are leading with love and fulfilling our mission.”
See more: Farm Focus: Garlic
Labor of Love
At Garlic Breath Farm, the sweet smell of success means nothing if not shared. In fact, the Pferschys’ passion for giving back rivals the potency of their garlic.
Well aware that many people can’t afford high-quality, organic produce, Garlic Breath Farm sets aside a percentage of every crop for donations to local food pantries.
“We want to make money, but not at the cost of our mission,” says Sharon, who held that mission in mind when she reluctantly rejected a high-profile event in Chicago last summer. “We would have needed to tap into our ‘save for donation’ supply in order to meet the sampling requirements of the event, so we turned it down.”
“We are passionate about helping others,” Tony says. As a disabled veteran and a member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, he hopes to one day use the farm to help veterans heal from post-traumatic stress disorder and to host free farm-to-table dinners for those less fortunate.
After all, good things grow at Garlic Breath Farm, the home to hard work, healing and one very happy pig.
About Garlic Breath Farm
Products: The farm has garlic scapes in June and fresh garlic in July. Beginning in late summer or fall, cured
garlic and black garlic are available through December, while supplies last. The farm also produces smoked garlic, garlic powder and garlic scape powder, as well as new garlic care kits (with special pricing for cancer patients). When the pandemic hit, they also started making and donating masks.
Where to buy: Garlic Breath Farm offers products for sale on their website anytime (just click on “Purchase” to buy), and at their roadside stand in the fall. Throughout summer and into the fall, you can also find their products at the Batavia Farmers’ Market most Saturdays. On Sundays, look for them at the Oswego Country Market.