It’s funny how life sometimes has a way of coming full circle. 10 years ago this summer I began working at Illinois Stewardship Alliance as an intern and since that time I have worked in nearly every role here. In 2007, I became the Local Food Program Coordinator, I moved up to the Executive Director position in late 2008 and in 2012, I stepped down to work part time as Program Director and raise my family. At that time Wes King, our talented Policy Director, stepped up. Now with Wes moving on to do great things for local food and farm advocacy in Washington D.C. and my youngest child entering into kindergarten, the timing is perfect for me to once again take up the Executive Director position.
Having worked at the Alliance for nearly 10 years, I have had the pleasure of watching the organization change and grow. Perhaps one of the best aspects of working for Illinois Stewardship Alliance is that each day brings a new challenge and new work. As our society and economy change, so does our work. This year we have some amazing projects on our plate, from partnering on an incubator kitchen project to working on a capital bill that supports local food infrastructure. If you didn’t see our year-end appeal, you can learn more about all our upcoming projects here:
The most exciting part about returning to the E.D. position this January though, is being able to work with such an amazing staff. When I first began work at the Alliance there were just 3 employees. Now, happily, our numbers have more than doubled. In the past three years we have hired an incredible Conservation Associate, Woody Woodruff, who not only speaks knowledgeably on the topic of soil health and water conservation to farmers around the state, but lives out his words on his own sustainable farm. We also hired Molly Gleason who began as the Alliance’s Outreach Coordinator and has moved up to become our new Communications Director this year. Her creativity and writing skills have given a new voice to our work and allowed us to share compelling stories that further our causes. Moving into the Outreach Coordinator position this January as well as taking the role as coordinator for the Illinois Organic Growers Association is Lindsay Miller. Graduating with a master’s degree in large river ecology, not only is Lindsay capable and dedicated, but her vibrant disposition makes us all feel like we can accomplish anything. Rebecca Osland has been working closely with Wes for the past three months in order to take over the Alliance’s policy work as our new Policy Associate. Rebecca, a licensed attorney with a passion for healthy living, brings a new level of commitment to the organization. She has been working tirelessly on everything from raw milk to farmer’s market regulations these past few months and I know she will be a formidable asset on all future legislation that we tackle. Robin Schirmer heads up one of our newest projects which has been the creation of the Band of Farmers Chicagoland CSA Coalition. She brings years of experience managing markets and marketing for farms to Illinois Stewardship Alliance and has accomplished a lot in a short time. We are also very fortunate to welcome a new intern, Linda Yoon, to the staff this winter. Born in South Korea and completing her master’s degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield, Linda brings a fresh perspective and passion for ugly food (check out future newsletter to learn more about what she is talking about) to the Alliance. Lastly, I can’t forget to mention our office manager, Dee Carlson. Cancer survivor, grandmother, number-crunching magician, and one of our biggest cheerleaders, Dee has been working at the Alliance for the past 6 years. Always ready to appropriately chastise us for not putting receipts in the right place or offer words of encouragement when we need an extra boost, Dee makes sure that everything keeps running smoothly.
It is the people of Illinois Stewardship Alliance that make up the heart and soul of this organization and I couldn’t be more proud to be guiding such an amazing team. And it is you too! None of our work would be made possible without thoughtful and caring supporters like yourself. Your commitment to supporting local farmers, protecting our natural resources, and living holistically, are the reason we can continue to create change in Illinois. Thank you. I am looking forward to what we will accomplish together in 2016!
Illinois Stewardship Alliance Executive Director