Our brains are still buzzing after our legislative farm tour at Zumwalt Acres with special guest, Representative Tom Bennett.
We were thrilled to see this farm in action with Rep. Bennett. Not only are these tours learning experiences for all involved (and a great chance to get out of the office!) but they are key in building foundational relationships between farmers and their legislators.
The tour occurred during the beginning of multiple consecutive days of rainfall events, but a little rain didn’t get in the way of learning! The young farmers at Zumwalt Acres are regeneratively restoring the land once conventionally farmed with corn and soy rotations, and they’re focusing their efforts on planting perennial crops and trees that grow food — AKA agroforestry.
Their land is located in Sheldon, Illinois, and has been in the family for 150 years. Though the farm has been around for nearly two centuries, Zumwalt Acres name and concept are quite new. Zumwalt Acres is an agroforestry farm practicing methods of agriculture that are regenerative, draw down carbon, and align with Jewish values. The farm was founded by the youngest generation of the Zumwalt Family, Gavi and Remi, and their peers in 2020 (Zumwalt Acres:Our Story)
One unique aspect of Zumwalt is that the farm welcomes apprentices from all across the country to take part in building a better food and farm system in Sheldon. Apprentice positions range from outreach and agroforestry, to managing grants for the farm. We were able to meet some of the newest members of the team that were in their second week at Zumwalt. It was really terrific to see how organized and functional this farm is with the constant rotation of apprentices– they are not skipping a beat!
On top of the day-to-day upkeep of the farm, managing the website, and overseeing the budget and grants, Zumwalt is currently collaborating with Yale University to conduct climate change mitigation research. Research focuses on two specific projects using biochar (made right on the farm using fallen trees) and field trials using silicate rock weathering (basalt rock), which we learned improves soil quality and sequesters carbon.
This farm is only in its first season, but to be where they are right now is impressive. Rep. Bennett asked Gavi one more time before he left “so you’re 21, right?”
This is a young generation taking control and drawing a new course for the land, and policymakers can help make sure that beginning farmers– especially ones that are caring for the land– have what they need to succeed by ensuring policy is geared towards supporting beginning farmers and sustainable production methods.
We were grateful for the opportunity to see the far in action and look forward to continuing the conversation on regenerative farm policy with farmers and policymakers across the state.
What is Agroforestry?
Agroforestry is the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems to create environmental, economic, and social benefits.
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