Kevin Daugherty displays the My Illinois Plate poster that was developed with funds provided by 1st Farm Credit Services. This poster features Illinois farmers, and it now is displayed in more than 3,000 Illinois school cafeterias. Eleven groups received a total of $102,000 from the cooperative to use for projects focused on leadership development and agricultural education.
Kevin Daugherty displays the My Illinois Plate poster that was developed with funds provided by 1st Farm Credit Services. This poster features Illinois farmers, and it now is displayed in more than 3,000 Illinois school cafeterias. Eleven groups received a total of $102,000 from the cooperative to use for projects focused on leadership development and agricultural education.

NORMAL, Ill. — Eleven agricultural organizations received donations from 1st Farm Credit Services to assist the groups with their efforts focused on leadership development and education in Illinois.

“I thank you for your commitment to the future of Illinois agriculture,” said Steve Cowser, 1st Farm Credit Services board of directors chairperson.

The groups received a total of $102,000 from the 1st Farm Credit Services Donor Advised Fund through the IAA Foundation.

“We believe working with groups such as yours is good for Illinois agriculture and our stockholders,” Cowser said. “We believe that this is a demonstration of our long-range commitment to helping your organizations in times when funding is sometimes hard to come by.”

Cowser noted that the work completed by the groups has far exceeded the expectations of 1st Farm Credit Services.

“We continue to see the impact of these donations year after year, and last year I was so impressed on how many lives you have touched,” he said.

“In the agricultural community, we’re fortunate to have a strong and supportive network and organizations like 1st Farm Credit Services that understand the need to help you continue your mission,” added Susan Moore, director of the IAA Foundation, the charitable arm of Illinois Farm Bureau.

“We are pleased to serve as the philanthropic partner for 1st Farm Credit to help them achieve their charitable goals through the Donor Advised Fund.”

Last year, the donations to the groups impacted 580,000 youth, farmers, farm families, teachers, volunteers and ag leaders, Moore said.

“Your wide scope success and resourceful use of the funding inspired the 1st Farm Credit board of directors to add another quarter of a million dollars to the fund,” she noted.

This is the first year a donation was presented to the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture program, which is organized by the Illinois Agri-Women.

“We have touched 1,250 girls through our career discovery event,” Diana Ropp said. “Each year, we try to add a different dimension to our conference.”

Kristen Faucon, now a student at Illinois State University, attended WCFA while she was in high school.

“It was wonderful,” Faucon said. “I met some awesome women in agriculture, and I saw opportunities for me.”

Groups that have received money through the donation program discussed various activities they completed with funds from last year. Western Illinois University used some of the money to help students participate on a trip to Australia.

“Another activity included sending a number of our students to the National FFA Convention,” said William Bailey, chairperson of the WIU Department of Agriculture. “We also used some of the money to support the livestock judging team, which did extremely well at several contests.”

The Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation strives to create knowledgeable and effective leaders.

“I look around this room and I see everything that’s right with agriculture,” said Don Norton, IALF president and CEO.

Over the past 32 years, 424 people have graduated from the two-year program, Norton said.

“The impact is not so much in numbers, but in accomplishment,” he said. “One-quarter of the IFB board are graduates, so I don’t have to look far to see the impact IALF has on agriculture.”

The AgrAbility Unlimited program assists farmers with disabilities from injuries or health-related problems.

“We work with farmers to help them figure out where to get funding and to make modifications they need to continue to farm,” explained Bob Aherin, AgrAbility Unlimited program director. “For example, we helped a Christian County farmer with lifts for his tractors and combines so he could get access to his equipment.”

An Urban Ag Grant program was developed by the Cook County Farm Bureau Foundation.

“We had two schools participate, and first the students were invited to attend a business plan meeting where we walked through the steps for students to develop a business plan,” said Diane Merrion of the Cook County Farm Bureau. “We accepted applications, and 30 students at Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences received $100 grants to start an ag business.”

Students at the Chicago Vocational School also received grants to start businesses.

“Many of these students are special needs students, and it is amazing to see the level of businesses these students have started,” said Luke Allen of Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education.

Annie’s Project was developed by Ruth Hambleton to teach women to become better business partners.

“Annie’s Project is now in its tenth year,” Hambleton said. “It is in 33 states, and we just went over 10,000 participants.”

The Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program developed a My Illinois Plate poster.

“We introduced students across the state to Illinois farmers and how they’re involved in my plate nutrition decisions,” said Kevin Daugherty, education director for Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom. “We have over 3,000 of these in school cafeterias across the state, and we also found a secondary market in hospitals, corporations and nursing homes.”

“The two initiatives your funding helped support were the Project Partner program and SPIN Clubs,” added Angie Barnard, executive director of the Illinois 4-H Foundation. “The Project Partner program helps us teach youth about science, engineering and technology across all projects. We are trying to change the way youth think about their projects.”

SPIN Clubs are special-interest clubs that include at least five members, and the group meets at least six times about a specific topic.

“We developed this at time when 4-H membership was declining to look at opportunities to keep youth engaged in 4-H,” Barnard explained. “Some of the most popular SPIN Clubs are shooting sports, sewing, robots, karate, skate boarding, horses, dogs and dairy cattle.”

Additional groups receiving funds included Illinois State University, University of Illinois and the Illinois Foundation FFA.