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Illinois Food Policy - 2019

tobrien's picture

On Friday, February 15, I attended the Chicago Food Policy Summit in Chicago and got a chance to hear about many of the policy topics that are being addressed in Illinois this year that have a direct impact on our food system. While some of the initiatives were Chicago-centric, many of them were statewide.

Some of the ones that really caught my attention I have listed and linked to below. Many of the groups that I listened to have not yet released their Policy Agendas for 2019 (at least not online) so make sure to check in with your local policy groups to see what their legislative agendas for the year look like and give your support whenever you can.

Here we go...

 

Illinois Stewardship Alliance (https://www.ilstewards.org/)

Winter Conferences - We Become Family

Mallory Krieger's picture

What a wonderful weekend I just spent in Madison, Wisconsin, at the Ograin Conference. Ograin is the sister conference to our own Organic Grain Conference. It is organized by Dr. Erin Silva, Harriet Behar, and Jody Padgham. This year, the conference theme was organic no-till. Dr. Silva has done some amazing research into organic no-till methods. She invited Jeff Moyer, the inventor of the roller-crimper, to deliver the keynote address and to present best practices and lessons learned through Rodale Institute’s own research into the subject.

The conference was held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus in a nice facility in the heart of town. The room was full of farmers from surrounding states, all eager to meet each other and learn about organic farming practices. They also had a small but mighty trade show of companies who work in the organic grain space, including seeds, fertilizers, equipment, and grain buyers. 

10 Lessons I've Learned from a Brilliant Farmers Market Manager

Jacquelyn Evers's picture

As we bid farewell to the brain behind the Champaign Farmers Market, I wanted to use this space to showcase Sarah and the many ways she has truly been an asset to The Land Connection’s work with food access, our farmers market, and really a million more things as well. While we are excited for her adventures ahead, we are sad she won’t be here to continue her work with TLC. In honor of all that she’s done, here’s my reflection, in no particular order, on 10 lessons Sarah has taught me since I met her last spring.

Time to Rest

admin's picture

This week's blog entry is from a guest writer, Maggie Taylor, Delight Flower Farm.
The end of the growing season is always bittersweet. Sometimes it feels like we just got into a good rhythm, only to have it abruptly halted by the first frost. Other times, we're pining for the day we can sleep in, slow down, and forget about farming for just a moment.

The sweet thing about nature, is that it always moves in these familiar patterns of birth, growth, slowing, and - ultimately - death. We know the days for rest and repair will come again; so too will another spring and summer, filled with newly incubated dreams and more flowers than the year before.

BUT - before we take a break, we do a LOT of work to tuck the field in for a long winter's nap. We take up landscape fabric that we'll store and reuse next year. We amend the soil it by applying compost and planting winter cover crops. Oh yeah, and this year we planted 6,000 tulip bulbs and hundreds of other spring bulbs!

Farmers Markets, They Grow Up So Fast!

sarah@thelandconnection.org's picture

In the grand scheme of things, we're still a pretty young market here in Champaign. With the start of the new year, however, it has really struck me: this year the Champaign Farmers Market turns 5! It doesn't feel like 4 years could have possibly gone by since we opened up on that first Tuesday of May in 2015, hoping that at least some people would show up and buy from our farmers. As we all set up for the first time, I remember us all constantly reassuring each other saying "hey, this does look like a market!"  

And so we grew up slowly, with plenty of growing pains, but even more joy along the way. We've learned to find a better balance between the size of our customer base and the number of vendors, so that the vendors we do have at the market are making enough money to keep them coming back (not that we aren't intent on working hard to grow that customer base!). We've developed exciting new incentive programs to help fight food insecurity in the community, and so far we've helped over 420 SNAP recipients, giving out over $35,000 in matching funds in just four short years! We've also helped forge stronger bonds between customers, local food producers, and local farmers, leading to collaborations that have resulted in some very tasty treats at the market!

Maybe You Should Just Do It Yourself.

tobrien's picture

This week I’m going to keep my food-centric entry brief. I could list all of the fun things I’ve been cooking (lots of soups and soba noodles with various braising greens and bok choi) or what I’m going to be making for New Year’s Day, but I’m going to focus instead on a newly inspired direction Rey and my food choices have taken. While I was visiting Rey’s family in central Texas over Thanksgiving I got to break down my own deer. It was a thrilling experience that I will never forget, and it turns out that it was one that has only deepened my appreciation for (and focus on) where my meat comes from. Since moving down to Champaign from Chicago we always tried to purchase locally raised and slaughtered meats whenever we could afford to. It meant a lot to us. We got to know the farmers who were raising the animals. Plus, the meat just tasted a million times better than the stuff you get at a general grocery store. It also meant that we naturally ate less meat, simply because we paid a little bit more for it, and in turn, we savored what we did buy even more.

Reciprocity... It's a tough nut to crack

Mallory Krieger's picture

This month I am taking a short break in my blog series “On-Farm Variety Trials” to share thoughts inspired by my weekend excursion to the Perennial Farm Gathering in Madison, Wisconsin.

Some call it permaculture, some call it woody perennial polyculture, some call it growing a grove! I call it inspiration! The Perennial Farm Gathering is an annual event for growers, enthusiasts, and activist who share a passion for perennializing the food system. The gathering is hosted by the Savanna Institute, a non-profit and friend of The Land Connection, who are working to develop paths for the planting, growth, and sale of perennial crops like chestnuts, hazelnuts, currents, and blackberries. Their ultimate goal is to convert much of midwestern american agriculture from annual monocrop corn/soybean rotation into perennial, highly diverse chestnut/hazelnut production. According to their co-founder Kevin Wolz, chestnuts are a high starch analogue of corn and hazelnuts are a high protein analogue of soybeans, perfect perennial replacements for the current cropping system!

Image credit: Savanna Institute

Would you drive a car blindfolded?

Jacquelyn Evers's picture

Have you ever thought about what scary things are lurking in your soil? Me neither… until I started working at The Land Connection. Soil is one of those topics that just keeps surfacing here. It comes up in emails, at meetings, in project conversations. It’s everywhere! Growing fruits and vegetables seemed like a pretty simple process to me. You find the soil, put the seed in the soil, your plant grows, you pick the fruit or vegetable, and you eat. Nothing complicated there, right? BUT a few months ago an article came across my email that talked about the importance of soil health and soil testing before starting a garden. This is something that never even crossed my mind. Today’s edition of Grow With Me is actually about growing! After reading this I hope you all will reconsider the process for planting your garden because if you wouldn’t drive a car blindfolded, why would you eat fruits and vegetables from mystery soil?

How the USDA has invested in TLC

sarah@thelandconnection.org's picture

Back in September at the National Direct Ag Marketing summit, I got the chance to present a poster on TLC's work combining grants to bolster our farmers market and food access programming (more about that trip in a past blog entry). In a nutshell, our poster outlined how the Champaign Farmers Market has been able to bring together funding from the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program, and the Specialty Crop Block Grant (ISC--for Illinois Specialty Crop) in order to boost sales at the farmers market and strengthen our food access work in the community. These three USDA grant programs have done more than just make us learn an impressive number of acronyms--they've allowed us to support a wide range of programs by building the programs strategically so that they all bolster each other. 

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