|
|
Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • African native participating in East Peoria Farmer's Market

  • EAST PEORIA — Growing up in Kenya, Janet Zintambila learned how to farm and grow vegetables from her mother. That passion stayed with her and she is now doing what she loves.
    • email print
      Comment
  • EAST PEORIA — Growing up in Kenya, Janet Zintambila learned how to farm and grow vegetables from her mother. That passion stayed with her and she is now doing what she loves.
    Zintambila grows and sells her own vegetables at area farmer’s markets. She is currently participating in the East Peoria Farmer’s Market. 
    At her vegetable booth, along with her friend, Carole Edwards of Peoria Heights, Zintambila talked about herself and her passion.
    Thirty-five years ago, Zintambila, 58, of Normal moved to the United States for school. She attended Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, where she got a bachelor’s degree in special education and elementary education and a master’s degree in counseling from Western Illinois University in Macomb.
    After spending many years working in the counseling field, Zintambila gave that up to pursue her passion of farming. She now has a 
    2-acre farm in Carlock and grows and sells vegetables full time.
    Zintambila offered why she drives all the way from Normal to Carlock to farm and then to East Peoria to sell her product.
    “It’s just a passion. When you have passion, you do things that don’t make sense,” she said.
    This passion, with a little inspiration, is what led Zintambila down the garden path.
    “It’s just a love for vegetables. I have a friend in Galesburg who inspired me. …  Each time I go by a stand, I desire to have a vegetable, and my mom grew vegetables for a living. That’s how she educated us. We are all farmers back home in Africa,” Zintambila said. “I just wanted to do something I was more familiar with and enjoy, and grow for my family, vegetables that are good, and share with others vegetables that I know are good for them,” Zintambila said.
    Zintambila has been married for 21 years to Dr. Henry Zintambila and has a son, Chiko, who is 20. Her family and Edwards help her on her farm, which she said is not necessarily a way to make a living wage from.
    “It depends on how you define a living. It’s a full-time job. I think what I like to tell people if you’re looking to make a lot of money, you won’t, because it’s seasonal, but if you have a passion for it, you do it, and that’s why I do it. I think it’s also so I can provide adequate food for my family. I freeze my vegetables. I don’t have to buy them,” she said.
    Page 2 of 3 - At the East Peoria Farmer’s Market, Zintambila offered standard vegetables, such as corn on the cob, zucchini, onions, beets, turnips and tomatoes, but she also offered some unusual vegetables: rappini (similar to a collard green), amaranth and spider plants.
    “It’s very rare, but it’s very good in salads,” Zintambila said of the spider plant. 
    Amaranth, which is like spinach, was sold out at Zintambila’s stand Friday.
    “The Asians, if you go to an Indian market here, they sell a lot of it. The Indians eat a lot of it. People from the Caribbean islands eat a lot of it, the Philippines, Mexico, they eat a lot of it,” Zintambila said of amaranth, which is also called calla loo.
    On her website, umojagardens.blogspot.com, the vegetables Zintambila offers for spring, summer and fall are listed with their prices. For summer these include amaranth for $2.50 a bunch, beets for $3, collards for $2, radishes for $3, mixed salad greens for $3, red Russian kale for $2.50 and rapine for $2.50.
    “Then I have white maize. I think they make cornbread out of it. The Mexicans use it a lot,” Zintambila said. “We boil it, roast it, make a special meal out of it. You mix it with red kidney beans or pinto beans and add all kinds of vegetables, and it’s just very filling.”
    Zintambila gets a lot of orders for maize from Chicago. She also sells other vegetables to customers in the Windy City as well as in central Illinois.
    All of her vegetables are certified as organic, meaning no chemicals are used on them.
    Does Zintambila have a favorite vegetable?
    “I love them all,” Zintambila said. “I like to see onions pop out of the ground. I just love to see the root vegetables how they come out.”
    Kale is one of the more popular items Zintambila said she sells. She has three varieties. For her more unusual vegetables, Zintambila said she has been educating the public on their nutritional value, how to cook to cook them and even shares some recipes.
    Zintambila said she learned of the East Peoria Farmer’s Market while driving through town.
    “I saw the sign ‘East Peoria Farmer’s Market.’ I said, ‘There’s no way I’m going home until I find out where this farmer’s market is,’” Zintambila said, adding that she plans to participate again next year.
    Page 3 of 3 - Being in the farmer’s market clique, Zintambila has gotten to know other farmers who share like interests. She said the Wettsteins, who own an organic farm in Carlock, are friends of hers who gave her information about the East Peoria market.
    Zintambila likely doesn’t have a lot of time to go out with friends, though, as she spends all day long maintaining her garden. 
    Farmer’s markets have been gaining popularity as there are now markets in Peoria, Peoria Heights, Washington and East Peoria to name a few.
    “I strongly believe that people have come to realize that goodness of having locally grown vegetables and they want to connect to the local growers and it gets them outside,” Zintambila said. “People are just getting tired of just going to Walmart and buying the same thing. They want a variety. … I think it’s a big thing nationally.”
    Zintambila said it makes her feel good that people are buying a product she produced.
    “I feel good. It’s something you see that I put in the ground. It’s grown into this beautiful vegetable and people like it and are able to buy it and it’s for their health. It’s for their benefit. When you find people who really like vegetables, to me it’s such a pleasure. It gives me so much pleasure.”

        calendar