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Board

Joe Wetzel

President

Joe is an Attorney at Livingston, Barger, Brandt & Schroder, LLP in Champaign.  Joe grew up in Mt. Zion, Illinois, attended Richland Community College, Millikin University, and law school at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale.  In 2004, Joe began his law practice in Decatur, Illinois at a general practice law firm. In 2009, Joe transitioned to a specialized area of the law focusing on banking, real estate, and financial litigation, which took him throughout the State of Illinois.  In 2014, his wife’s job brought their family to Champaign-Urbana.  Upon moving to the area, Joe immediately set out to become an owner of Common Ground, take advantage of the Champaign and Urbana Farmer’s Markets, and discover locally owned establishments to patronize.  

Joe’s aim is to give back to the community in which we live and work to make the community better for the whole. Everyone can make a difference in his or her own way.  For Joe he plans to utilize his legal experience as a resource for individuals and entities as they navigate the legal landscape.  Joe is excited for this opportunity and looks forward to being able to further The Land Connection’s mission. 

Don Elmore

Vice President

Don hopes to contribute to the organization's mission in ways other than his deep commitment to consuming healthy, local food. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Media (when it was the College of Communications) and a longtime resident of Champaign. Don and his wife, Susan, share a passion for supporting local farmers and local businesses in general. They are members of both the Common Ground Food and Art Theater Co-ops, and together they own Jane Addams Book Shop in downtown Champaign.

Don is an executive consultant with expertise in strategic planning, business development, marketing, and operations. He is a member of the City of Champaign Plan Commission and a board member of the Champaign Center Partnership, and a former board president of 40 North | 88 West, Champaign County Arts Council.  

Susan Lannin

Secretary

Sue grew up in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side and in a rural area later annexed into Northbrook. Sue earned a BA in English and her masters in library & information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana. After teaching at Richmond-Burton H.S. in McHenry County, she became reference librarian for a decade at the Merriam Center for Public Administration on the campus of the University of Chicago.

Active in environmental issues on the state and local level, she chaired the board of the Illinois Environmental Council, was active with the Chicago Recycling Coalition, and, from 1997-2007 worked as office administrator for the Sierra Club Illinois Chapter.

She received a Masters in Community Development in August 2008 from North Park University. She is Campaign Chair and represents The Sierra Club Foundation on the board of Earth Share of Illinois.

Sue, her husband Albert Ettinger, and daughter Lenore live in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago where she volunteers with the Alderman Joe Moore’s 49th Ward Green Corps, organizing a workshop series on community sustainability and working to establish the Glenwood Sunday Market, hoping to combine access to fresh organic produce from a farmers market with community business and cultural endeavors. She is passionate about the need to save farmland and train new farmers in organic practices, as she sees these as essential to protect public health, rebuild the local food economy, restore soil fertility, revitalize and connect rural and urban communities, and respect waterways.

Larry Wood

Treasurer

Larry was raised on a diversified farm in the Hudson Valley region of New York State. He worked for The Andersons, Inc., an agribusiness and retailing firm, for 34 years and retired in 2008. Throughout his career with The Andersons, he held a variety of managerial positions both at the Champaign, ILllinois facility and at the corporate office in Maumee, OH. Larry is actively engaged in the community, committing his time and energies to various organizations and projects. Some of his past involvements include serving on the Community Advisory Board of the local NPR station and the Champaign County Economic Development Council. Larry was also was active with Champaign County Network (CCNet), a discussion group interested in starting a comprehensive sustainability plan for Champaign County.

Currently, he serves as the interim executive director of the Champaign County Farm Bureau Foundation and provides volunteer business consulting services to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs through SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). Larry joined The Land Connection’s board of directors in 2010, and lives near Mahomet, Illinois, in a log home that he designed and built.

Julie Birdwell

Julie grew up on a small farm in central Illinois.  At age 6, her first “paying job” was walking beans with her father and uncle.  She earned a nickel per hour.  She was taught to drive a tractor by the time she was 8 years of age, and helped with various chores around the farm.  These experiences gave her a deep understanding of where food comes from and an appreciation for the effort that is involved to produce it.  Julie has a Master’s degree in Art Education from the University of Illinois and taught first through eighth grade art before turning to a career in construction.  For the past 26 years, Julie has co-owned New Prairie Construction Co. and serves as the President and head estimator for the company.

After completing a bachelor’s degree in Art Education, she taught art before returning to school.  In 1985 she received a Master’s degree in Art Education from the University of Illinois.  Immediately following this, Julie took a job in construction.  In 1988 she and Jill Mulder co-founded New Prairie Construction.  She now serves as President and head estimator for the company.

Julie’s interest in sustainability and community is manifest in many of New Prairie Construction’s pursuits and projects.  New Prairie Construction undertook the building of Urbana’s first straw bale home, using locally produced organic rye straw bales.  Today, Julie and her family, as well as New Prairie Construction, reside there.

Julie is excited to be working with The Land Connection and to use her skills and experience to further TLC’s vision.

 

Mary Gelder  

Mary completed her BS in computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and received her MS in telecommunication systems from DePaul University. She first became aware of the value of local organic food while living and working in London as a software developer for a proprietary trading company. Her passing interest in nutrition and environmental issues developed into a consuming passion and later into a real concern, which ultimately motivated a major career change.

Once again a student, she is now enrolled full time at the UIC School of Public Health, leaving the world of software behind to join the effort to change away from industrial food production, advocating for sustainable organic farming and local food with its life-giving contributions to health at every stage of our ecosystem. Mary makes her home in Westmont, a suburb of Chicago.