The final cuts were made Thursday to what could become Lake County's newest selfie spot, just in time for the opening of the Radical Root organic farm stand near Libertyville.
Carrots aren't in season yet, but a 15-foot replica carved into a dead sugar maple tree is now the beacon for visitors and tens of thousands of motorists on Milwaukee Avenue near Casey Road.
With the last of the dead trunk cut away, the facsimile root vegetable -- appropriately colored with a sealing stain -- has emerged as a stand-alone sign of healthy produce.
Dave Neu, executive director of Conserve Lake County, had the idea for a whimsical interpretation to attract attention to the organic farm and the organization.
Neu said he first considered removing the 100-year-old tree that flanks the entry to historic Casey Farm.
"Then I thought, why not re-purpose it and create and art piece that would serve as a landmark for the farm?" he said.
Conserve Lake County bought what is considered a vital property in 2007 and leases it to Alex Needham and Allison Parker for the farming operation.
"It just seemed a shame to take it out completely. The tree had a natural shape of a carrot, and what better symbol of an organic produce farm than a carrot, especially a business called Radical Root?" Neu said.
But the vision wasn't immediately apparent when Neu pitched it to the Conserve Lake County board.
"Some were like, `Yeah, go for it.' Others were scratching their heads," Neu said. "Once it got underway, everyone was on board."
Chainsaw carver Eric Widitz, whose business is called Art in Trees, was hired, and donors covered the $1,600 fee that did not include removing the top of the tree. A portion of the trunk behind the carrot was left as a brace, but Neu feared the weight of the top on the narrowed base could cause it to topple in a storm.
Todd Schara, an arborist with Bartlett Tree Experts, agreed to donate the time and labor to remove the top. The company is a Conserve Lake County sponsor.
"I think it's one of the neatest projects I've been around. It's going to be a landmark for the farm," said Schara, who lives nearby in Wildwood.
Dan Timm, the Conserve Lake County board member leading a long-term renovation project for the farm, described Neu's carrot idea as a "eureka" moment.
A plan to renovate the farm and grounds was revealed last week at Conserve Lake County's annual meeting. The yearslong process will involve volunteers, sponsors and partners to install demonstration gardens, incorporate native plants in the landscape, renovate the barn's interior, build self-guided trails and make other improvements.
"There are some great plans, but what we want to do is get some things started," Timm said. "We are looking for all kinds of help."
Radical Root's first farm stand of the season is May 6.