Springfield, IL was host to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) summer meeting 2019. NSAC is an alliance of grassroots organizations across America that advocate for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. NSAC is reliant on its member organizations to gather federal policy needs and difficulties faced by their constituents. NSAC organizes sub-committees lead by the member organizations, which meet regularly via phone to discuss and distill policy priorities. In addition, the NSAC organizes both a summer and winter meeting to bring the organizations together face-to-face for continued dialogue and grass-roots community building. These bi-annual meetings provide additional training and networking to build more meaningful partnerships and alliances.
This year, Illinois Stewardship Alliance was proud to welcome fellow NSAC member organizations from all across the United States to Springfield, IL. The Lincoln Presidential Hotel by Doubletree hosted the four day event. Catering was in house but sourced from local central Illinois farmers at the Old Capitol Farmers Market with help from the Illinois Stewardship Alliance
The event was kicked off by a moving presentation by Ricardo Salvador on the history of racial inequality in agriculture. The presentation set the stage for mindful examination of not just the history, but also the future of agriculture in the United States. After a full day of racial equity programming and trainings the groups broke into their specialty issue groups to discuss strategy. With the Farm Bill cycle (every 5 years) ending last winter, NSAC’s policy focus has been on the implementation and appropriation process of the new (and existing) Farm Bill programs they and their member organizations helped secure.
To show NSAC staff and members the impact that their federal policy advocacy has had on the local food economy in Illinois, the Alliance partnered with NSAC to arrange a farm tour at PrairiEarth Farms in Atlanta, a diversified family farming operation with organic fruits and vegetables, organic grains, beef, and pork. The farm tour also included a brief presentation by the Peoria Economic Development Committee, which is working to build the Peoria economy around locla food and shorten the supply chain of the food system in central Illinois, as well as a presentation by the Market on the Hill, a new community-owned grocery store launching in Mt. Pulaski. A fascinating demo of a new robotic field hand from the innovators at EarthSense from U of I Champagin-Urbana was also included. To cap the tour we walked down to PrairEarth’s orgainic, solar powered corn and soy bean field.
Our final stop for the NSAC staff was Rolling Meadows Brewery right outside of Springfield in Cantrall, IL. Slightly off the beaten path, the brewery is a great example of the diverse uses of land available here in Illinois and across the country. After an incredible meal and some hand crafted beers we loaded the busses and headed back to conclude the conference, many nonlocals commenting on how impressed and expressing interest in returning to visit.
The Alliance is proud to be on of over 100 organizational members of NSAC. We were thrilled to host those organizations in Springfield this summer and look forward to continued partnership in strengthening the local food movement and building a vibrant, equitable local food system.