Winter has descended upon Illinois. The southern hills and valleys are dusted in frost. The central plains lie wrapped in a sparkling white quilt.
Further north on the outermost edges of Chicago suburbs, Katie and Carlos Palomares grab their muck boots and head out the back door of their farmhouse, their two sons in tow.
Henry, 9, and George, 6, lightly brush the dark greens and watch the snow slide from the leaves as they frolic down snow-dappled rows of winter-hearty kale and chard after their parents.
As they enter the hot house (tunnel), their frosty breaths dissipate, and the youngsters remove their hats and coats. Lying before them is a lush expanse of green whose contents belie the winter weather outside: a sea of microgreens pushing up through organic soil.
The Palomares’ founded their Elburn-based farm, Mighty Greens, in 2014 to serve the local community – mainly residents and businesses in Batavia, Geneva, and St. Charles. Theirs is a regenerative farm, using sustainable practices to grow not only their namesake greens, but also favorites like tomatoes and peppers and much more.
Every Tuesday, they open a small white door on the front of their barn and customers flock in, all participants in the farm’s Greens Program. The innovative subscription program allows participants to purchase monthly shares of greens and other items the family grows – even through winter.
Each Tuesday without fail, Laura Miller Hill shows up. The St. Charles resident is a subscriber and looks forward to each week’s farm bounty.
“I’m a big proponent of local foods and supporting small farmers like Katie and Carlos. It creates a smaller carbon footprint, increases sustainable farming, and drives a strong local economy. Plus having healthy, fresh, locally grown greens throughout winter is great!”
Whenever Laura comes by for her shares of greens and other produce, Katie always tries to find the time to chat with her. The two have become strong advocates for expanding sustainable farming in Illinois, and a common tie binding them to this mutual passion is the Illinois Stewardship Alliance.
“We joined the Alliance’s Local Food Farmer’s Caucus in 2020 amid the pandemic,” recalls Katie. “We wanted to get more involved in efforts to improve policy in the Illinois around the lack of infrastructure and support for our type of farming.”
What they found in the Caucus, she says, was an important movement that welcomed them like family. “We got to know other farmers like us with similar struggles. They understood. We felt surrounded by support,” says Carlos.
Her passion for change ignited, Katie took to the farm Instagram account to encourage others to join her in advocating for sustainable agriculture at our April 2020 Lobby Day.
Laura saw Katie’s post and accepted the invitation to join our virtual event. No stranger to advocacy for environmental issues, Laura was already deeply involved in sustainable energy and natural areas preservation issues.
“Advocating for local foods was a natural for me,” Laura says. “COVID really opened my eyes to our broken food system – how unstable it is. I knew it needed to change and that the time was right for more people to really understand and appreciate the power of local foods.”
Her Lobby Day experience connected her formally with the Alliance and its efforts. “There are lots of things I can do to create change. And working together through the Alliance we can have so much more impact.”
Since April, Laura witnessed first-hand the power and importance legislative action has to creating change. “In the last year, I really felt change happen with the work we did.”
Katie and Carlos agree. “Being a part of the Alliance is empowering.” Every day, the Alliance is helping farmers like them fight and pave the road for better opportunities.
Laura’s in it for the long-haul, she says. “I realized that the Alliance is my local foods family. Whatever needs to be done to support local farmers and producers, to grow this movement, and to diversify local foods and make them more accessible to all, I’ll do it.”
“The time is ripe for change,” she says. “And the Alliance is what can make this happen.”
Creating the type of change that Laura, Katie, and Carlos are working so hard for is what the Illinois Stewardship Alliance is all about. We’re out there every day alongside them fighting to expand sustainable agriculture and local foods opportunities.
As we look at all we accomplished together in 2021 and the possibilities that lie before us throughout 2022, we hope you’ll join us to fight even harder for family farmers and producers and making local food available for all.