April 20, 2024

Resilience Fund grants support local food system

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Applications for grants designed to increase the capacity and resiliency of the local food system through on-farm investment in infrastructure are being accepted by the Illinois Stewardship Alliance.

Reliance Fund grants through the alliance are made possible through the support of the Chicago Region Food System Fund.

In the coming months, $175,000 will be awarded to local food producers for investment in critical infrastructure to increase the capacity and resiliency of our local food system. Farms and farm collaborations will have the opportunity to apply for grants of up to $10,000.

With financial support from the Chicago Region Food System Fund, the alliance launched the Resilience Fund in 2020 to help Illinois farms invest in critical infrastructure to scale up and adapt their business models.

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically increased demand for locally produced food in Illinois. With the right investment in on-farm infrastructure, local food producers can leverage this grant to expand the supply and diversity of local food.

The deadline for applications is Feb. 15, and decisions are anticipated by April 1. The full application, as well as additional information regarding ineligibility, funding priorities and previously awarded projects, can be found on the Illinois Stewardship Alliance website at www.ilstewards.org.

Last year, the Resilience Fund awarded 27 local farms a total of $225,000 in grants. In all, 80 local food farmers applied for over $1 million in support, indicating an ongoing and unmet need for local food infrastructure development.

2021 Recipients

Wertheim Gardens, a certified herb and garden shop located in Atlanta, Illinois, received a $5,000 grant from the Resilience Fund last year to extend water lines to hops, herbs and spice fields.

“Our increase in revenue was up 40% in 2021 due to our ability to keep the crops irrigated during the long gaps of dry weather,” said Amy Wertheim.

“But more importantly, the additional water lines installed allowed our staff to be able to concentrate on new and exciting varieties and value-added products, of which we now have 84 different items to offer.”

“Converting the old garage into a honey house was always a far-flung goal,” said Kacey Nelson of Two Million Blooms, a family-owned bee company in Urbana.

“Thanks to the Resilience Fund, we now have a dedicated, on-farm structure in which to house and grow the sticky business of providing quality honey to the local community.”

Other grant recipients in 2021 were:

Down at the Farms, Fairbury, walk-in cooler and delivery truck; Terripin Farm Stand and Co-op, Quincy, co-op community commercial kitchen; Broadview Farm and Gardens, Marengo, equipment upgrade; Tiberfeast, Chatsworth, on-farm freezer storage; Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, Champaign, using freezer storage to extend shelf life and add value;

Closed Loop Farms, Chicago, hoop house construction and delivery van down payment; Green Earth Harvest — a Conservation Foundation program, Naperville, improving storage and reducing lost produce to support expansion; Iyabo Farms, Pembroke Township, Good Food GSP — Grown, Stored and Processed; All Seasons Farm, Cobden, upgrading packing shed;

Cook Farm, Heyworth, wash pack shed upgrade; Prairie Wind Family Farm, Grayslake, year-round local food access; Sola Gratia Farm, Urbana, advancing capacity for year-round feeding with additional cold storage; PrairiErth Farm, Atlanta, expanding local fruit and vegetable production with increased irrigation capacity;

Smits Organics, Oswego, growing and harvesting and washing greens and root vegetables in hoop houses; Star Farm Chicago, Chicago, year-round cultivation and value-added production; Little Egypt Alliance of Farmers Food Hub, Carterville, complete coolbot trailer project to transport food to areas with limited access to local food;

Ten Men Farm, Pecatonica, path to safe and efficient egg production; Ryder Family Farm, Golconda, capacity expansion; Catatumbo Cooperative Farm, Chicago, season extension; Greenlight Acres, Ridott, season expansion; Hilltop Community Gardens, Mt. Pulaski, caterpillar tunnel project; Middleton’s Preserves, Wadsworth, season extension;

Moon Girl Farm, Pleasant Plains, food preservation; RoseLee Farms, Paxton, purchase and retrofitting of an all-crop head; and Sunnyside Community Garden and Food Forest, Bloomington, expansion project.

Other organizations receiving grant support from the Chicago Region Food System Fund are Advocates for Urban Agriculture; Chicago Food Policy Action Council; Faith In Place; HEAL Food Alliance; and the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.

Major funders of this round of the Chicago Region Local Food System Fund are Builders Initiative; Crown Family Philanthropies; Food:Land:Opportunity — funded through the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust; Fresh Taste; Little Owl Foundation; The Lumpkin Family Foundation; Margot L. Pritzker Fund; Walder Foundation; and Walter Mander Foundation.

Tom Doran

Tom C. Doran

Field Editor