UPDATE: 9:45a.m. Wednesday, July 11
Editors Note: Barrington Patch received a phone call from Cynthia Nawiesniak, owner of the Freedom Organix farm in Harvard, this morning. She did not want to be interviewed or quoted, but did say she would like to submit a written reply via email at a future date. When we receive Nawiesniak's email, we will publish it.
Meanwhile, Corryn Flahaven forwarded Barrington Patch an email written by Nawiesniak and addressed to all Freedom Organix CSA participants this morning. The email states that CSA boxes will be delivered this week, and cites the drought and severe temperatures as the delay.
Signing up for a community supported agriculture share, or CSA, is one of the ways some Barrington residents stay healthy and support local farmers. However, several people say they were scammed out of hundreds of dollars after signing up for a CSA that never delivered.
For Barrington residents Heather Boehm and Corryn Flahaven, it all started when the CSA they had been participating in decided to cancel its program and refund money.
“I was crushed,” Boehm said. “I really enjoyed my CSA experience last year getting that fresh box of produce every week. I quickly researched to see of there were any other CSAs delivering to Barrington,” she said.
Boehm and Flahaven found a couple of CSAs with Barrington drop-off sites and eventually decided on Freedom Organix, a farm located in nearby Harvard. After contacting the farm’s owner, Cynthia Nawiesniak, Boehm found out there were still spots available and decided to sign up.
“They were listed with localharvest.org, which is the national organization that oversees Farmers’ Markets and CSAs,” she said. “I figured she’s got this professional website, she’s listed in local harvest, she’s very professional with her dealings with me, so I said what do I need to do to sign up.”
Boehm filled out an online application and mailed it off with a check for $819.09 the week of June 4. The money would pay for a box of produce and fresh eggs for 18 weeks, plus a holiday box and fresh eggs for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Once the check was mailed, Boehm got an email saying her application was received and more information would follow. Nawiesniak’s communication with Boehm virtually ceased at that point.
“I waited a week, a week passed, and nothing. On June 18 I emailed again. I assumed she was busy and cut her some slack. I said I haven’t heard anything about the start date, pick up times…nothing.” Boehm said. “That’s when I checked my bank account and my check was cashed on June 18.”
“Cindy was uber responsive whenever we emailed her questions before we signed up,” Flahaven said. “She did sent a really friendly response when she received our check and said to wait for details.” Like Boehm, Flahaven heard little from Freedom Organix once her check was cashed.
Boehm and Flahaven both tried contacting Freedom Organix again by email and did not receive a reply. Phone calls to the farm went unanswered, and the voicemail box was full.
Boehm decided to take matters into her own hands and did an Internet search about Freedom Organix. Her search brought her to Barrington Patch where the farm had posted an event regarding the CSA shares available.
After reading the comments related to the Barrington Patch posting, Boehm realized she wasn’t the only one who had a check cashed with no produce to show for it. Several comments on the event were written by Patch users in the same situation.
When Flahaven went to look at the Barrington Patch event listing, it had been removed by its creator, Cynthia Nawiesniak.
Boehm, an attorney, decided to contact the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office and an office dealing with Harvard businesses to see what could be done. The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office told her she could file a police report but has not done that at this time. The Harvard business office said the farm was out of their jurisdiction, but it wasn’t the first time someone had called regarding Freedom Organix.
Barrington Patch tried calling Freedom Organix to see what their response was to these allegations. Our phone call wasn’t answered, and the voicemail box was full. Our email to the farm also went unanswered.
“It’s really lame because we’re all trying to contribute to something good for the community. We want to help local agriculture and local farmers so that’s the most upsetting thing for me,” Flahaven said.
Several people who say they have been scammed by Freedom Organix say they’d like to file a class action lawsuit against them.
There are other options for those looking for a CSA with a Barrington pick-up site. recommends Sandhill Organics located in Grayslake.
Freedom Organix advertised drop-off points in the following communities:
- Chicago-Irving Park
- Chicago-Rogers Park
- Crystal Lake
- Hoffman Estates
- Lake Forest
- Lake Zurich
- Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
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