Grace for the Holidays

 

Thanks to you, there is no limit on Grace Bandy’s dreams for her home bakery.

A dramatic change in state law paves the way for Illinois home bakers like Grace and family farmers to turn their talent in the kitchen or in the field into a profitable small business.

Your generous support this year — backed by hundreds of calls, emails, meetings and educating state leaders — made it happen!

Will you make a tax-deductible contribution, or a gift that feels good for you, to Illinois Stewardship Alliance before the end of the year to add fuel to our fire in 2018.

Grace, third from left, with her mother and two sisters at the Old Capitol Farmers Market in downtown Springfield

With her mom and sister by her side, Grace bakes doughnuts, pies, cinnamon rolls, and pizza crust in her home kitchen in Athens. She dishes up specialty baked goods for paleo, vegan and gluten-free diets at the Old Capitol Farmers Markets in Springfield. She sources the freshest ingredients from farmers at the market – apples from Cloyd’s Apples n’ Honey, nuts from Voss Pecans, and berries from her neighbors, Dale and Becky Conrady, at Backwoods Berry Farm.

Since she was a kid, Grace loved baking for friends and family. Her cakes were so good they encouraged her to open a bakery. But she wasn’t quite ready for the risk and expense.

Five years ago, the Alliance helped pass the state’s first “cottage food” law, giving food entrepreneurs like Grace a platform to launch a home-based food business.

Simply Grace Dessert House & Bakery was the first registered cottage food business in Menard County. Without this law, Grace would have to compete for rental time in an expensive commercial kitchen or borrow to open a storefront.

The cottage food law was a huge win for entrepreneurs and farmers but it came with some drawbacks. A cap in earnings limited producers to poverty wages for a full-time job. And it excluded many of Illinois’ best locally-grown fruits and vegetables– limiting cottage food to mostly baked goods.

This year, with your support, the Alliance passed the Illinois Food Freedom Act!

The Food Freedom Act paves the way for new local food businesses and products. It removes the cap on how much food entrepreneurs can earn– so Grace can make a living wage from her home food business– and it allows for the processing of new fruits and vegetables.

It opens a world of possibilities for Illinois family farmers. Growers now can turn a bumper crop of cucumbers into pickles, zucchini into bread, sweet corn and peppers into soup mixes, right in their home kitchen. They can now preserve the harvest and sell it during the tight winter months between farmers markets,

You, too, have a new world of possibilities to enjoy: local sweet potato chips, dried fruit, pickles, relish, and easy-to-make crock pot meals from your favorite local grower. Now you can enjoy the kind of variety at the farmers market that you experience at a grocery store.

In our industrialized food system where we don’t often know where our food comes from, cottage food is the ultimate local connection. When you purchase a rhubarb pie from Grace, you’re supporting real people in your community – Grace, her mom and sister; Dale and Becky Conrady and their three sons; Ralph Voss and his family. You’re keeping your money local and your eating the best rhubarb pie of your life.

Rhubarb, blackberry, cherry, and peach pies featuring local fruit by Grace Dessert House and Bakery.

When we introduced the Food Freedom Act, we anticipated a long, uphill battle.

But you inspired us to reach farther and dig deeper in our commitment to build a more just, sustainable local food system. Your generosity fueled a robust campaign. This fall, the Illinois Times’ named the Food Freedom Act runner-up for “Best Law of 2017.”

We are profoundly grateful for your support.

You helped pass an incredible six bills in two years. Together, we made local food more accessible, created job opportunities, kept family farmers on the land and helped protect our water. Best of all, regular folks like you and I experienced the power and satisfaction of speaking up for a more just, sustainable food system.

In 2018, we have more work to do.

Can we count on your support to keep our momentum in overdrive with a tax-deductible contribution before the end of the year?

Right now, three of our state’s Members of Congress are helping draft the new federal Farm Bill. They serve on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, responsible for writing one of the most important pieces of legislation in our country. The Farm Bill shapes everything we eat and grow. It only comes up every five years and it’s up for debate in 2018.

Most Americans don’t have a member of Congress with a say in what will go into the Farm Bill. You and I have three!

Together, we can be sure Representatives Rodney Davis, Mike Bost, and Cheri Bustos hear from farmers and eaters across Illinois who want a more just, sustainable food system.

With your support, federal funds to support your local farmer and farmers market will remain a priority in the Farm Bill:

  • Beginning farmer training programs will prosper and new farmers will have access to affordable credit for land and machinery.
  • Family farmers will have access to training and technical assistance to try out conservation practices that protect soil and drinking water.
  • Families who need it most will have assistance to buy fresh food in tough times.

Your gift right now will mean handwritten letters, calls, emails and postcards will make their way to three Illinois Members of Congress writing the Farm Bill.

We know your support will make an impact on the 2018 Farm Bill because it already has.

This spring, Alliance members helped passed a resolution in the state legislature calling on Congress to support local food in the 2018 Farm Bill. In August, we organized a dozen members to testify at a Congressional Farm Bill listening session in Decatur. We brought Rep. Davis to see Farm Bill programs in action at the Old Capitol Farmers Market.

Representative Davis speaks with Illinois Stewardship Alliance board member and farmer Chase Sanert of Sugar Grove Family Farms, and market manager Lindsay Keeney at the Old Capitol Farmers Market in Springfield.

While Alliance members jump at the chance to impact our nation’s food and farm priorities right now, you can count on our presence at the state legislature in Springfield as well.

Together, we will make sure that state agencies follow the rules in the new Food Freedom Act so that cottage food producers like Grace can run a profitable food business from home.

With your support, we are lining up what we hope will be our next two state legislative victories: a state fund to match sales of fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets to low income families, and a bill to expand the types of crops Illinois farmers can grow.

As the Farm Bill debate launches and legislators return to Springfield, it’s the perfect time to give.

Can we count on you to make a tax-deductible contribution, or an amount that feels good to you, by the end of the year?

We wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday season filled with joy and the freshest foods from family farmers.

Sincerely,

 

Liz Moran Stelk

Executive Director

P.S. Your gift to Illinois Stewardship Alliance by the end of the year will go to work immediately to make fresh, local food and sustainable agriculture a priority in the coming Farm Bill.