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Grants support expanded local food capacity, security

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Twenty-seven Illinois farmers were awarded a total of $250,000 in grants from the Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s Resilience Fund.

The Resilience Fund, with financial support from the Chicago Region Food System Fund, was designed to help farmers collaborate and invest in infrastructure to scale up their business models to meet skyrocketing demand for local food spurred by the pandemic.

“We received over 80 applications from local food producers requesting nearly $1 million in support,” said Liz Moran Stelk, Alliance Executive director.

“Farmers’ projects — to build walk-in coolers and packing sheds, construct hoop houses, install irrigation, to name a few — inspired us about farmers’ grit and determination to feed our communities.”

A diverse panel of a dozen agriculture and food specialists reviewed applications and selected Resilience Fund recipients who produce local food across Illinois.

Dan Lobbes at Green Earth Harvest Farm in Naperville will receive a $10,000 grant for a refrigeration unit.

“As we’ve had the third warmest summer on record, every day brings a worry about the patched together cooling system we have on the farm. We are so grateful for this opportunity to upgrade to something more dependable,” Lobbes said.

“What I thought might happen slowly over many years is suddenly a reality in the very near future,” Kacey Nelson of Two Million Blooms in Urbana said of her project to convert an old outbuilding into a dedicated honey house, which will help them streamline and scale up the business.

Jill Rendleman of All Seasons Farm in Cobden said she and the farm’s workers, interns and volunteers are excited to upgrade their packing shed with a cooling unit and insulation — their working environment will be much better.

“This grant will take us to another level of production in terms of both quality and quantity of organic produce,” Rendleman said.

For Down at the Farms, a 60-member farm collective in Central Illinois based in Fairbury, their $25,000 grant will support their pivot from restaurant sales to direct-to-consumer sales.

In the wake of the shelter in place order in March, farmer Marty Travis and his son, Will, who lead the Down at the Farms collective, lost 30 Chicago farm-to-table restaurant accounts overnight.

A new walk-in cooler and delivery truck will help the collective meet new consumer demand and sustain restaurant buyers who are starting to come back.

“The pandemic has changed the way we all think about food. We need local supply chains for food security into the future,” Travis said.

“It’s clear there is so much need for small and diverse farms to access resources. Local food producers make our communities more resilient and food secure in the face of future pandemics and climate crises,” Stelk said.

“COVID-19 has had an immense impact on farmers, particularly those who focus on selling their crops locally,” said Daniel Doyle, program officer for the Lumpkin Family Foundation in Mattoon, a founding donor to the Chicago Region Food System Fund.

“These producers are the backbone of a resilient local food system and their success is critical to our collective food security. Their ability to access capital in order to pivot business models, ensure their ability to get products to consumers and increase production to meet community need has been critical.

“The Chicago Region Food System Fund is proud to support programs like the Illinois Stewardship Alliance Resilience Fund and their great work providing resources to the family farms we depend upon.”

Resilience Fund grant recipients were:

• All Seasons Farm, Cobden — upgrading packing shed.

• Broadview Farm and Gardens, Marengo — equipment upgrade.

• Catatumbo Cooperative Farm, Chicago — season extension equipment.

• Cook Farm, Bloomington — wash pack shed upgrade.

• Closed Loop Farms LLC, Chicago — hoop house construction and delivery van down payment.

• Down at the Farms, Fairbury — walk-in cooler and delivery truck.

• Green Earth Harvest, a program of The Conservation Foundation, Naperville — improving storage, reducing lost produce to support expansion.

• Greenlight Acres, Ridott — season expansion equipment.

• Hilltop Community Gardens, Mt. Pulaski — caterpillar tunnel project.

• Iyabo Farms, Pembroke Township — Good Food GSP (Grown, Stored & Processed).

• LEAF Food Hub, Carterville — coolbot trailer project.

• Middleton Preserves, Wadsworth — season extension polytunnels.

• Moon Girl Farm, Pleasant Plains — food preservation dehydrator.

• Prairie Wind Family Farm, Grayslake — year-round local food access.

• PrairiErth Farm Inc. — expanding local fruit and vegetable production with increased irrigation capacity.

• Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery LLC, Champaign — using freezer storage to extend shelf life and add value.

• RoseLee Farms, Paxton — one tool all crop head to serve a diverse farm.

• Ryder Family Farm, Simpson — 2020 capacity expansion.

• Sola Gratia Farm, Urbana — feed community year-round with investment in additional cold storage.

• Sunnyside Community Garden and Food Forest, Normal — expansion project.

• Smits Organics LLC, Darien — growing, harvesting and washing greens and root vegetables in hoop houses.

• Star Farm Chicago, Chicago — year-round cultivation and value added production.

• Timberfeast Inc., Chatsworth — on-farm freezer storage.

• Terripin Farm Stand and Co-Op, Quincy — co-op community commercial kitchen.

• Ten Men Farm, Pecatonica — path to safe and efficient egg production.

• Two Million Blooms, Urbana — honey house construction.

• Wertheim’s Gardens, Atlanta — increased water distribution.

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