• Whitley Pleas

Calvert Returns to Roots With Elawa Farm

By Whitley Pleas

Having grown up on a farm in Central Illinois where her family has lived for generations, agriculture is in Laura Calvert’s blood. 

“It’s definitely something that I am rooted in,” Calvert says.

“I was super excited to get back onto a farm operation,” says Elawa Farm Executive Director Laura Calvert.

She has experience working on several organic farms, developing the Chicago Botanic Garden’s urban city harvest program and even working to reduce barriers for urban farmers at the state and city level. So she was thrilled to join a farming operation in January 2020, when she became executive director of Elawa Farm.

“I was super excited to get back onto a farm operation,” Calvert says, “and one that was doing really exciting programs.”

Elawa Farm was built in 1917 for A. Watson Armour, who helped head Armor and Co., one of the largest meat-packing companies in the world at the turn of the 20th century. Though A. Watson and his wife, Elsa, had a city home, they developed Elawa and lived there through the 1950s. Next, the Carroll family operated the farm and raised chicken and cattle there until 1998, when the City of Lake Forest - Elawa’s current owner - purchased the property. 

In 2020, in the midst of COVID-19’s spread, Elawa gave back in a huge way. It provided produce – more than 1,600 grocery bags worth -- and meals to needy families throughout Lake County.

“We were super proud,” Calvert says of Elawa’s 2020 initiatives. “It allowed us to pivot in a really important way.” 

This year, Calvert looks forward to implementing accessible programming at Elawa. She aims to make its garden, culinary, and wellness programs accessible for community members who do not speak English and have limited mobility.  She sees a bright future ahead for Elawa, thanks to the Lake Forest community. “It has helped us grow and stay thriving during a really crazy time,” she says.

Find Elawa Farm merchandise at the Lake Forest Station Pop-Up Shop, open for a limited time this holiday season. All proceeds are distributed back to the participating organization. Find details at LakeForestStation.com.