Beginning farmers in Illinois face many barriers to building successful agricultural enterprises. Securing access to farmland is consistently rated as the number one challenge, particularly so in Illinois given there is no single place for farmers or farmland owners to turn to for advice, resources, and assistance with land access.
The Land Connection is thrilled to share the news of a grant award from The Lumpkin Family Foundation to begin establishing the framework for a full-service farmland access strategy for the state of Illinois. For two years we have been diligently working with Liberty Prairie Foundation and The Conservation Fund to develop this framework and, in April, we finalized our strategy. The first investment towards beginning this work has come from The Lumpkin Family Foundation. They have awarded our collaborative $25,000 per year for the next four years to cultivate the next generation of Illinois farmers as they build successful enterprises on Illinois farmland.
A handful of the most critical components of the strategy include developing an inclusive and coordinated network of technical resources and service providers that fully represents the diversity of Illinois’ food and farming system; farmland access navigators across the state to provide one-on-one direct services to farmers and farmland owners; a moderated statewide Illinois FarmLink Website to connect farmland owners and farmers with land, resources, and each other; and trainings tailored to support Illinois farmers and landowners.
We are pleased to build this project with support from partners across Illinois and the United States. Our support team includes: American Farmland Trust, Black Oaks Center, Chicago Food Policy Action Council, Food Works, Illinois Environmental Council, Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT, and Land for Good. As this project takes off this fall, we know we will be joined by many other individuals and organizations across Illinois as we work to sustain Illinois’ rich agricultural legacy.