EAST PEORIA, Ill. — Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton gave a snapshot of a soon-to-be-rolled-out statewide campaign promoting Illinois’ diverse products and those who produce them during the Local Food and Farmers Market Conference.
Stratton was slated to attend the conference on March 11, but addressed attendees via video instead, noting due to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s disaster proclamation March 9 regarding the coronavirus, she “wanted to be available to provide my full support in ensuring that all Illinoisans are safe.”
The Cultivating Our Communities campaign through Stratton’s office will showcase the Prairie State’s farmers and other local food producers across the state.
“Our hope is to raise awareness among consumers statewide, nationwide and globally of the foods grown, raised, processed and sold by farmers and businesses right here in Illinois and to also highlight ag families by social media and traditional media,” Stratton said.
She added the Pritzker administration’s $420 million investment to expand broadband access “will open the doors for ag and business owners in rural and urban communities to market products on a global scale.”
Stratton thanked Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Specialty Growers Association for supporting the new initiative that helps promote the states agricultural diversity.
“There are so many communities that have welcomed me into their families like I was one of their own, and I’ve made it a priority to be one of ag’s biggest cheerleaders and promoters in state government,” Stratton said.
“I know how hard you work every single day and I also know that it’s not always easy, but I know how much you also contribute to our state. Gov. Pritzker and I we stand with you, we support you and we’re going to keep making sure we do everything we can to make sure you can be successful.”
Stratton said one of her favorite parts in her role as lieutenant governor is chairing the governor’s Rural Affairs Council and leading the Main Street revitalization efforts.
Over the past year since taking office, she also has visited farmers and small business owners to see first-hand just how diverse the state is.
“I traveled to Winnebago where I learned how a dairy farm works. I joined Sen. Dale Fowler for sampling at Tanglefoot Ranch shrimp farm in southern Illinois, and I was blown away by the sophisticated science and technology used by Sauk Valley Angus in Whiteside County,” she said.
“And I learned so much from my visit to Shady Knoll Farm, a sixth-generation family-owned farm in the Quad Cities. As you all know, Illinois is the No. 1 state for pumpkin production and over 90% of the processed pumpkins in the United States are grown right here in our great state.
“What I have learned and what you will often hear me say is that in so many ways ag connects us all.”
Stratton attended the Illinois Products Expo March 8 with Jerry Costello II, the newly-appointed Illinois Department of Agriculture acting director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
“As we toured, I was introduced to so many delicious and delightful locally sourced products. The pumpkin noodles and cinnamon rolls from the Homestead Bakery from the Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur were divine. My daughter was with me and she loved the strawberry milk from the Rolling Lawns Farm in Greenville,” she said.
“How about that barbecue sauce from Nuthatch Hill in Lincoln. It was absolutely delicious. And I got all fired up trying the Fired Up’s habanero jelly which is based in Carbondale. And I met Shelly and her family from Shelly’s Sweet and Chunky Salsa from Arcola, and I fell in love with this really unique pumpkin spice salsa.
“Even though I have spent just about all of my life right here in Illinois, it wasn’t until the Illinois Products Expo that I got to try my first cheese curd ever. Thank you Ropp Jersey Cheese for that delicious treat. And let me just say that the peach bellini slushy from Kite Hill Vineyards gave me a feeling of early summer.
“I also got to check out some specialty products that are made and sold locally, such as meeting one of the co-owners Serious Lip Balm, Khara Koffel from Jacksonville. Have you tried her popcorn flavored lip balm? Then I picked up some really amazing smelling lotion from Beelove and I love Beelove’s mission and I hope that you’ll check them out. I could go on and on about all of the wonderful things that I sampled at the expo.”
This diversity exemplifies what Illinois has to offer and the goal of the new Cultivating Our Communities campaign is to showcase those and other local products and those who produce them from across the state.