The Alliance’s Annual Gathering of Stewards!

Register today for the Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s Annual Gathering of Stewards, featuring tale-telling, lively debate, general merrymaking, and the sweet organized chaos of democracy in motion. Your voice and your choice matter. Let’s use them together!

All Virtual
Annual Gathering of Stewards
Thursday, Feb. 18th, 2021 at 4- 5:30pm
Optional Happy Half-Hour to Follow
Free Registration for Members
$25 for New Members
Dig Deep Training Sessions
At the Chicago Food Justice Summit 
Feb 25, 26 & March 5,6

Every year, for over 40 years, stewards of land and community from across the state have come together for a shared purpose at Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s Annual Meeting.

Together we share stories, lived experiences, fresh ideas, and age-old wisdom. We celebrate with each other our victories, mourn our losses, and share our dreams for a just and regenerative future. And then we get to work– strategizing, building skills, and laying the groundwork to make those dreams manifest.

We’re building a powerful alliance of farmers and eaters that have a seat at every table where decisions are made. Will you join us?

This year at the Alliance’s Annual Gathering of Stewards you will:

  • Meet folks like yourself from across the state that share your passion for a just and regenerative food system.
  • Celebrate all we’ve accomplished together in 2020.
  • Get the down-and-dirty scoop on food and farm policy that impacts you and your community.
  • Plug in to opportunities to build your relationship with key decision-makers and build your skills as a leader in the local food movement.

We are farmers and foresters, advocates and activists, placemakers and politicians, artists, scientists, and social butterflies– and we are stewards, members of Illinois Stewardship Alliance.

Attend for a chance to win a new Alliance T-shirt!

You could win a sweet new Alliance t-shirt just for showing up at the Alliance’s Annual Gathering of Stewards!

We’ll have door prize drawings throughout the gathering for those in attendance. And one lucky winner who completes the meeting survey will win a $50 gift card from a local farm-to-table restaurant of their choice!

What’s in Store: Preview the Meeting Agenda

At the Annual Gathering of Stewards you’ll learn about some of the barriers to building a just and regenerative food system and the policy solutions that will help change that.

  • 4:00pm: Welcome:
    Our Executive Director Liz Stelk will kick off the meeting!
  • 4:15pm: The Lay of the Land
    In order to create change, we must start by understanding the landscape we’re working in. We’ll review the impacts of 2020, the biggest issues facing food and agriculture in the next 2-3 years on both the state and federal level, and how we can navigate this landscape together.
  • 4:25pm: Breakout: Farmers + Eaters Unite! Building Connections, and Building Power
    Network with farmers and eaters across the state, share your challenges and successes from 2020, and build connections with your neighbors in the food system.
  • 4:50: Our 2021 Policy Agenda and how it will impact YOU
    Hear from the Alliance’s new member led “caucuses” about the work they are doing together, their proposed 2021 policy agenda, and how these policies will impact you. As a member, you’ll have the opportunity to vote to approve this agenda and learn about how you can get the issues you care about on future agendas.
  • 5:10: Get Inspired, Get Involved: Our Strategy for Building Power in 2021– and your place in it.
    We’re building people power across the state– and that starts with you. Get insider intel on our legislative strategy for 2021, key legislative districts, and how you can plug in to build power and build your leadership skills as a steward no matter where you are.
  • 5:25: Announcing the Woody Award
  • 5:30: Happy Hour:
    Join us for your preferred happy hour format; talk farm and Ag shop, structured fun with some online games, or unstructured conversation with your beverage of choice!

Sneak Peak of our 2021 Policy Agenda

Growing Home-Based Food Businesses:
Cottage Food Reform Bill

This bill would expand sales avenues for cottage food producers, beyond just farmers market sales, to include a wide variety of direct-to-end user avenues, such as fairs and festivals, home sales, pick-up, drop-off, delivery, and online sales. The bill also clarifies language around labeling requirements and adds buttercream frostings to the list of products that can be made in a home kitchen. This bill enables farmers and food entrepreneurs to reach new customers and grow their business. With disruptions to farmers market sales due to Covid, as well as more entrepreneurs looking for opportunities to earn income from home,  this bill has become even more critical for farms and low-income entrepreneurs. Furthermore, expanding sales avenues will enable cottage food businesses to offer low or no-contact delivery and pick-up options to serve their community.

Protecting clean water & climate resilience:
Defending Conservation Funding

With state budget cuts on the horizon, defending conservation programs from the chopping block is a major priority. These conservation programs provide cost-share and technical assistance to help farmers build climate resilience, protect natural resources and wildlife, prevent the destruction and erosion of our soils, and  prevent the devastating nutrient run-off and waterway pollution that is responsible for the algae-blooms in waters across Illinois as well as the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Illinois is THE leading state in nutrient pollution that flows into the Mississippi River, and we are already two centuries away from reaching our Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Goals. The loss of conservation funding will put Illinois even further behind. In order to fight climate change and restore waterways, Illinois must center farmers as champions of climate solutions. Cutting funding at this time would reverse decades of work to move Illinois agriculture towards climate resilience.

Shift millions of dollars in annual state food procurement toward Local, Fair,Healthy, Humane, and Sustainable farms and food businesses:
Good Food Purchasing Policy Resolution

In 2017, the City of Chicago passed a resolution to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Policy (GFPP) that transforms the ways agencies purchase food by encouraging agencies and institutions to purchase food that meets 5 key criteria: local, fair, healthy, humane, and sustainable. Agencies report their purchasing practices annually and are provided with support to help make improvements. In 2020, Illinois Stewardship Alliance worked with a coalition of organizations to pursue a first in the nation statewide GFPP, which could shift millions in state procurement to local producers and businesses. As a first step, the Coalition, including Chicago Food Policy Action Council, IEC, and Food Chain Workers Alliance will introduce a resolution to form a GFPP Task Force. The Task Force will assess the current state of procurement and market opportunities by Illinois state agencies and lay the groundwork for legislation that will focus on implementation of a statewide GFPP.

Support Healthy Food Access at Farmers Markets while keeping SNAP Dollars Local:
SNAP Match for Farmers Market Bill

Calls for a $500,000 state investment to match Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) sales at farmers markets through the “Double Value Coupon Program.” The program doubles the purchasing power of our most vulnerable populations to afford healthy local produce, while also incentivizing them to spend their SNAP dollars with Illinois farms, keeping federal SNAP dollars in our state, supporting local farms and growing the local economy. In 2019 we worked with partners in the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity to protect the Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund. Now to make this program a reality, we need the state to appropriate $500,000 to the Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund. The program has existed as a line item in the budget since 2016, but no funds have ever been appropriated.

Address racial equity in agriculture:
Farmer Equity Act

The Farmer Equity Act directs the Illinois Department of Agriculture to conduct a disparity study report on farm ownership in Illinois. The study shall focus primarily on identifying and comparing economic, land ownership, education, access to grants and loans, and other related differences between African American farmers and white
farmers, but may include data collected in regards to farmers from other socially disadvantaged groups. The report is to be submitted in January of 2022.

Solving the Livestock Processing Bottleneck:
Policy solutions in development

Finding quality small-scale livestock processing and securing processing dates has always been an issue for small-scale farmers selling direct-to-consumer, but when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, these issues were suddenly exacerbated. When large-scale processors like Tyson and Smithfield closed their operations to handle outbreaks, the farmers that normally sold to these processors suddenly flooded small-scale operations with their businesses causing an enormous back-log in processing. Many farmers could not get processing dates for months, some not even until well into 2021. This has caused a loss in business and sales, as well as increased prices for feeding the animals until new processing dates can be acquired. The Alliance will explore grant programs and regulatory changes that could facilitate more processing capacity.

Are you a steward? Join us today.