Thanks to the generosity and support of nearly 200 attendees from Carbondale to Dekalb, the 12th Annual Harvest Celebration raised over $30,000 to support local food and family farms, and build local food systems across the state.
This year’s event featured 6 of Central Illinois finest farm-to-table chefs, seasonal cocktails by Engrained Restaurant & Brewery, live music, a keynote presentation by local farmer Jeff Hake, and both a live and silent auction. The theme of this year’s event was “herbs” and was incorporated in the cocktails, throughout the courses prepared by the chefs, and in the centerpieces created by Harvest & Blooms Farm. Throughout the evening, the Alliance and guests celebrated their 2018 victories and shared their vision for the future of local food and farms in Illinois.
Executive Director Liz Stelk kicked off the evening with a story about the Alliance’s policy efforts on the federal front. She relayed how members across the state had organized to host letter-writing parties, make phone calls, and attend listening sessions with our Illinois legislators all in an effort to gain support for local food and conservation programs in the Farm Bill– culminating in a key statement of support by one of the Illinois representatives. Stelk reminded the audience that this key statement was gained not through campaign contributions, but because of grass-roots efforts to organize and make our voices heard, and that it is these efforts that will continue to drive change.
Keynote Farmer Jeff Hake of Funks Grove Heritage Fruits and Grains shared his vision for his farm and the surrounding farms, including a farm-to-table roadside diner or Route 66 and greater availability of local food through a subscription service featuring shelf-stable items from area farms. He also spoke about the Alliance’s 2017 and 2018 policy victories that are helping farmers like himself achieve their long-term visions, including the Food Freedom Act which supports cottage food production, Local Food Business Opportunities Act which streamlines burdensome farmers market regulations, and the Industrial Hemp Bill which gives farmers further economic and environmental opportunity. The speech was peppered with tree metaphors, but the final and most poignant one was this:
“Our roots are strong, but we are nothing without those other organisms around us. The Alliance, in this tired but I swear illustrative metaphor, is oxygen. The Alliance and the work that it does to advocate on our behalf, lets us breathe. It gives us the freedom to branch out, to find new opportunities, to become intertwined and to collaborate and to be more prosperous together.”
Finally, Communications Director Molly Gleason, who has been managing the Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Illinois chapter for the past 5 years, shared the Alliance’s vision for creating a statewide Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign and directory in 2020. She relayed how a statewide campaign would pave a path forward for local food systems in the state by uniting farms and local food businesses under a unified brand and message, providing the data needed to create the first ever local food impact report, and building a powerful audience of informed farmers and eaters across the state who care about local food and farms.
In total, over $30,000 was raised and contributions will go directly to building a statewide Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign and supporting grass-roots policy organizing on the food and farm issues you care about.
To all of our guests, sponsors, chefs, and host committee, thank you. We look forward to the Harvest Celebration each year because we are able to gather together, see old and new faces, and celebrate all that we have accomplished together. We are so grateful for all you have done, and continue to do, to support our mission of building vibrant , sustainable, and just local food and farm systems.
Thank you to our chefs!