2020 Highlight Reel– Yes, there were some highlights

In honor of the last day of the year, we’ve put together a 2020 Highlight Reel. Hard to believe it, but YES, there were some highlights. 

Cheers to the end of 2020 and wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and sane new year.

In January, we started building an Alliance of storytellers. In January, two dozen farmers participated in a three-day workshop on storytelling with Public Narrative in Chicago to learn how to best tell their soil health stories and shift the dominant narrative from one where agriculture is the cause of climate change, to one where it’s a solution. The final day of the workshop was all about pitching stories to journalists and the room was abuzz with amazing stories from farmers across the state working to build soil health and climate resilience. Many of the farmers in the training went on to share their stories at our Annual Meetings, legislator roundtables, and other events throughout the year. 

The training was organized by the Alliance and the team at Liberty Prairie Foundation and funded by the Food and Farm Communications Fund.

In February, we gathered with more members than ever before during our Annual Meetings. 125 Alliance members gathered in four annual member meetings in four corners of the state (in the BC days– Before Covid of course) to celebrate our wins, share stories, and hone in on the big plans we’re making to shift the organization from one of advocacy to one of organizing. From giving a man a fish, to teaching a man to fish. We treasure the moments we get to spend in person with our members!

In March, we put more power into the hands of farmers to build soil health. Over 40 farmers and soil health advocates gathered at Rolling Meadows Brewery for the launch of our Soil Health Farmer Caucus— our very first members-only caucus! The launch of this program is part of the Alliance’s new strategic plan to shift power and leadership to our members. Farmers in the Soil Health Caucus work together to discuss issues, unearth solutions, and champion a farmer-driven state policy agenda to build soil health and climate resilience. 

We brought together a coalition of organizations to launch the first, searchable online statewide directory of local food in Illinois in April

The Buy Fresh Buy Local Illinois Directory— making it easier for YOU to find and support local food near you.

In May, we celebrated the life and work of our dearly departed friend and colleague. We miss our friend, Woody Woodruff, who’s battle with cancer came to an end in April. Woody’s true passion was the soil.

In May we were able to host a virtual memorial, bringing together farmers across the state who were touched by Woody’s work. We laughed and cried at the stories they regaled, and sang to his memory. Woody helped lay the groundwork for our Soil Health Farmer Caucus, and we honor him by carrying on his work to bring farmers together to protect soil and water by farming with nature.

In July, we built stronger relationships with federal policymakers. Throughout the month, we arranged virtual roundtables, bringing together 6 Members of Congress and their farmer constituents to share their experiences.

In August, we funded farmers’ dreams to grow their farms and make our food system more resilient. Through our Resilience Fund, financially supported by the Chicago Region Food System Fund, we were able to provide $250,000 in grants to 25 local food farms in Illinois to build or purchase infrastructure that would enable them to grow more food and feed their communities.

Around the same time, we also provided emergency aid to farmers impacted by the pandemic to afford household expenses through a partnership with Farm Aid that allowed us to distribute $40,000 to 80 Midwestern family farms in need.

In September we made food and farm issues part of the election conversation.
From September through Election Day, we hosted a weekly web series called Eat, Drink, Vote, bringing Illinois farmers and food system leaders together to talk about the 9 most pressing issues facing our food system today, and what federal legislators can do to help.

In October, we published the first ever Illinois Food & Farm Voter Guide.This year, we published the first ever Illinois Food and Farm Voter Guide featuring responses from candidates running for U.S. congress about how they would address the 9 most pressing issues facing farmers and eaters. We worked with local and national organizations to develop the questionnaire and hounded all 50 candidates running for office for their responses over the course of several months.

We then published and promoted the Illinois Food & Farm Voter Guide far and wide.  The Voter Guide put food and farm issues on the radar of many legislators and their challengers in a real way for the first time.

In December, we put more power into the hands of farmers to grow the local food economy. In December, over 60 fruit, vegetable, and livestock farmers gathered virtually for the launch of our Local Food Farmer Caucus. This new caucus brings farmers together to discuss issues, solve problems, and put forward farmer-driven legislation to grow the local food economy. Farmers in the caucus believe that Illinois can feed Illinois and that farmers are the heart of the local food movement.

If you haven’t done so yet, there’s still time to make a tax-deductible end of year contribution to end the year right!