26 Jul Jonathan Cartu Reports: Community resilience: New grants will fund Illinois farmers…
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Stewardship Alliance is launching a new Resilience Fund that will provide 25 Illinois farmers with $5,000 to $20,000 grants to scale up and adapt their business to meet the skyrocketing demand for local food.
With support from the Chicago Region Food System Fund, the alliance will distribute $225,000 to farmers for on-farm investments, supply-chain infrastructure and multi-farm collaborations.
“When international, national and even regional food supply chains faltered and left grocery store shelves empty, consumers quickly turned to local farmers to put food on their table,” said Jackie de Batista, farmer and executive director of Angelic Organics Learning Center in Caledonia. “Many realized for the first time that local farmers are more than a novelty — indeed, they’re the backbone of our food system.”
De Bastista is among 11 agriculture and food specialists from across the state who will review grant proposals from farmers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for robust infrastructure to get food from farm to table,” said Liz Moran Stelk, Illinois Stewardship Alliance executive director. “With the right investments, farmers can leverage this moment to expand the supply and diversity of local food and make our communities more resilient.”
“Farmers tend to be adept at anticipating, managing and adapting to risk, and in our current pandemic, these folks have been pushed to the limit to innovate all while managing the daily challenges of farming,” said Cassidy Dellorto-Blackwell, Farmer Training Program manager at The Land Connection in Champaign. “This fund will provide much needed capital to catalyze and accelerate innovation that will support the long-term viability of farm businesses.”
“COVID-19 is offering the best opportunity I’ve seen in my 40 years of farming to grow diversified farms and local food systems. This fund will help community-based food systems keep healthy food on your table and your money circulating in your community — in good times and bad,” added Dave Bishop, owner of PrairiErth Farm in Atlanta.
“Silver linings are hard to come by in a pandemic. But the Resilience Fund offers two: farmers will get a rare chance to apply for grant funding, while consumers — that’s all of us — get new opportunities to connect with their local food system,” said Casey Cora, director of Rick Bayless’ Frontera Farmer Foundation.
“The regional food economy centered in and around Chicago is a vital market for rural farmers, food aggregators and local food businesses across four surrounding states in the Upper Midwest,” said Daniel Doyle, program officer at the Lumpkin Family Foundation in Mattoon and adviser to the Chicago Region Food System Fund.
“The alliance is positioned well to leverage strong relationships with growers throughout Illinois to prioritize support for what we have in order to build toward a more resilient local food supply chain coming out of this crisis.”
Farmers can submit proposals to increase scale and efficiency of the operation, capital investments and purchases such as refrigeration units, grain storage, online sales development, or in collaborative efforts with other farms.
All applications will be reviewed by Bishop, Cora, de Batista, Dellorto-Blackwell and Doyle, as well as:
• Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, retired University of Illinois Extension specialist.
• Jon Cherniss, owner of Blue Moon Farm.
• Zach Grant, U of I Extension educator.
• Jay McGhee, FamilyFarmed.
• Richard Ritter, Flanagan State Bank senior vice president agricultural lending.
• Patty Ruback, Eat Local DeKalb community organizer and founder.
Farms owned, led, or founded by Latinx, Black, Indigenous and People of Color, women, beginning farmers, immigrants, persons who identify as LGBTQ+, veterans and persons living with a disability are encouraged to apply for the fund.
The deadline to apply for the Resilience Fund is 5 p.m. CST July 28.