2020 Was Tough, Our Community Proved Tougher

You rolled up your sleeves, we’re proud of you!

It’s been a hard year. You’ve weathered a pandemic, a tumultuous political landscape, and an uncertain economic one. You’ve made sacrifices and hard decisions.

But you have so much to be proud of.

When your community needed you, you rolled up your sleeves and showed the world what you’re made of.

Throughout the year, you used your choices and your voice to highlight the cracks in our food system, made more visible by the pandemic, and to call for change. 

You made an extra effort to buy local and support area farms.

You took action whenever and wherever there was action to take.

You made a difference!

We know it wasn’t easy. We see you out there hustling. And you don’t have to do it alone.

Together we can do more!

When you make a year-end contribution to the Alliance, you’ll join a powerful Alliance of farmers and eaters across the state working side-by-side with you to create change.

With your membership or renewal, you can count on:

  • Resources you need to make buying local food easy.
  • Quick and effective opportunities to use your voice to shape a just and regenerative food system.
  • Confidence that when life is hard and you can’t be part of all the action, your contribution will be working on your behalf.

This year, because of our members, our Alliance was able to spring into action to address the most immediate needs of our statewide community. 

Livestock farmers like Brenda Davies have hope to solve the meat processing bottleneck

When meat processing bottlenecks threatened the livelihoods of livestock farmers Brenda Davies of Naturally Special Farms in Buckingham, the Alliance helped make sure she wasn’t alone. We brought farmers like her from across the state together to understand the challenges livestock producers face and come up with workable solutions.

Cottage food entrepreneurs like Kelly Lay can grow their businesses

When cottage food entrepreneur Kelly Lay of Rantoul, who makes hot sauces and baked goods from local farm ingredients, couldn’t sell her products this year because of regulatory barriers and farmers market closures– the Alliance helped put forward legislation solutions. We brought together stakeholders and state agencies to negotiate a bill that will grow small businesses like hers.

Farmers like Traci Barkley have a voice, and lawmakers are listening

When farmer Traci Barkley of Urbana couldn’t get fresh food to her most vulnerable customers because federal policy prevented them from purchasing food online using SNAP benefits, we arranged virtual roundtables with six Members of Congress. After our meeting, Traci’s Congressman, Rep. Rodney Davis, became the first Republican to sponsor a House bill to allow more retailers and farmers markets to access SNAP payments online.

Alliance members have already touched so many lives in 2020.  We can do so much more with you on the team.

Will you join the Alliance with a year-end gift of $25 or more?

It was a hard year for us too.

Like you, we witnessed the devastating consequences of our fragile food system. We despaired at empty grocery shelves, unsafe working conditions for essential food chain workers, and the destruction of livestock and dumping of milk while people waited in miles-long food bank lines.

In April, we lost our beloved colleague, Woody Woodruff, to cancer. Like so many others who lost loved ones this year, we were not able to gather in-person to mourn his passing.

We miss our friend and colleague Woody Woodruff who lost his battle with cancer in April. Woody’s true passion was the soil. He 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.

But amidst the chaos and loss of 2020, we worked harder than ever to lay the foundation for real, impactful change.

We’re more optimistic than ever been about the future – and the future of the Alliance.

We adapted to virtual organizing and used new technology, and we shifted the entire structure of our organization from speaking for farmers and communities, to giving them the power to speak for themselves. From giving a man a fish, to teaching a man to fish.

Because of everyday folks like you who joined the Alliance, we were able to:

  • Put more power into the hands of farmers through our newly launched Local Food Farmer Caucus and Soil Health Famer Caucus. These two new programs bring farmers together to discuss issues, solve problems, and build farmer-led state policy agendas to grow the local food economy and protect our soil and water.
  • Brought together a coalition of organizations to launch the first, searchable statewide directory of local food in Illinois, the Buy Fresh Buy Local Illinois Directory— making it easier for YOU to find and support local food near you.
  • Made food and farm issues part of the election conversation this year, with the production of our first ever Food & Farm Voter Guide, and corresponding weekly web series: Eat, Drink, Vote. The guide gave voters across the state the opportunity to learn how their candidates would respond to the nine most pressing issues facing farmers and eaters, and the web series brought farmers and leaders together from across the nation to discuss these issues.
  • 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.
  • Funded farmers to invest in on-farm infrastructure that will build local supply chains and make our food system more resilient to future disruptions. 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.
Star Farm Chicago was one of 25 farms to receive a grant through our Resilience Fund. With their $10,000 grant, Star Farm will purchase a freezer, materials for value-added processing, and equipment to establish a year-round microgreen growing operation and manage a community kitchen. They will help support other growers and provide a stable supply of fresh produce to Chicago’s Southwest side

We accomplished so much in 2020– a dumpster fire of a year– just imagine what we can do together in 2021!

This year, the Alliance emerged as a leading voice for local and regenerative agriculture in Illinois – and we’re receiving more support than ever before. Our staff size has doubled and our reputation and influence continues to grow around the state.

With you by our side, we will continue to foster state and federal champions for local food and regenerative agriculture, challenge corporate power and inequity, build leadership among farmers and eaters, provide you with resources that make it easy to take action, and hold decision-makers accountable for the changes our communities deserve.

It’s a long game– but the Alliance has never been a better position to achieve real change for Illinois.

Will you make a tax-deductible $25, $50 or $100 contribution, or a gift that feels good to you, to Illinois Stewardship Alliance before the end of the year to make 2021 a year of change? 

Your year-end gift makes the Alliance’s work possible. An added bonus this year: The CARES Act offers a $300 above-the-line income tax deduction for charitable donations in 2020.

This year, Andy Hazzard of Hazzard Free Farms in Pecatonica, along with a dozen other local food farmers, helped launch the new Local Food Farmer Caucus to bring farmers together to solve problems. Andy told us, “I joined Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s Local Food Farmer Caucus because I believe that farmers need to make their voices heard in this pivotal time, and I want to be at the table shaping the reality of my future, our collective movement and humanity as a whole. This pandemic and the push for food sovereignty and justice for the farmer, consumers, animals and the earth is the highest priority of our time.”