The Land Connection is sharing a series of blog posts introducing the members of our staff to you, our readers and supporters! Come take a closer look at the heart of our organization: the staff members who work hard to keep TLC thriving. Over the next few weeks, be prepared to see a series of individual profiles of our staff members and get to know The Land Connection a little better! This week meet Emma, our farmer training facilitator for Central Illinois Farm Beginnings!
I am a farmer. I never would have guessed that those words would come out of my mouth, but here I am, living in rural Central Illinois, running a 10-acre farm with my husband. I spend my days tending to my chickens, ducks, pigs, sheep and cattle, weeding my vegetables, and helping to train other aspiring farmers through my work at The Land Connection. I used to be a librarian, specializing in the preservation of books, paper, and audiovisual media. While I loved the work, I didn’t love the bureaucratic nature of the enormous libraries that employed me. As I started to think about alternative careers, I happened to be reading more and more about the way most of our food is produced.
I was horrified. I wanted to be part of a solution to this problem, and not just by voting with my consumer dollars. Farming appealed to me as a way to live a healthier life, work side-by-side with my husband every day, become a productive member of the local food system, and make a positive impact on the environment. There were just two problems: we didn’t know how to farm, and we didn’t have any land. We solved the first problem by attending a year-long intensive training program in Massachusetts where we lived and worked on a diversified, organic farm and received instruction in all manner of practical skills. We solved the second problem by stumbling across a post on this very blog. The Land Connection introduced us to a land-owning family that was seeking tenants who would farm their land organically. It was a perfect match, and we ended up with an affordable, long-term lease that gives us the security to really invest in our soil without the massive debt we would have incurred by buying a comparable property.
We call ourselves Lucky Duck Farm, and we sell sustainably raised eggs, Asian vegetables, beef, pork, chicken, and lamb to customers in Chicago and Champaign-Urbana. This is our second full growing season. In the classroom, I often draw on my experiences as a new farmer and the challenges we’ve faced to illustrate the learning objectives for the Central Illinois Farm Beginnings course. I love my job at The Land Connection because it allows me to make an impact on the food system that is exponentially bigger than what I can accomplish on my own farm.
I grew up on the East Coast in a family that no longer had any connection to agriculture. My great-grandfather was a dairy farmer, but by the time I was born that farm was long gone. The loss of agricultural skills and knowledge in my own family over the course of just a few generations is staggering. This loss is what motivates me to work for an organization that is actively training new farmers, creating connections, and fostering the sense of community that is essential for small farmers to thrive.