I’m coming up fast on one year since I first moved down to Champaign to work for The Land Connection. One year ago, I had recently graduated, and didn’t know what path I wanted to take. I had interned for The Land Connection during my undergrad, and had had some faint hopes for living in Champaign. I didn’t think I was quite ready for a life in the big city, but I knew I wanted to live somewhere new, away from the comfort of Bloomington, which I had called home for four years. I couldn’t have been happier when I got the call offering me a position in the only other city I had considered living.
The transition was tough for a while; I had never lived on my own, I had never lived so far from friends that I could call up anytime just to hang out. Yet, as I have acclimated, I realize more and more how lucky I am to have been drawn here. Champaign is amazing. Honestly. The more I explore, the more I uncover, the more I find a uniqueness in this college town. Everyone who lives here knows that there is always something going on around Champaign and Urbana. Yoga, tango, poker, foodies, you can find it all. There is a strong, vital green and local food movement, of course, but there is also a vigorous support of local businesses. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so many unique restaurants and shops every time I go for a walk. Even the movie theaters are one of a kind!What has really inspired me though, as I have looked closer and become more a part of this local scene, is something that many take for granted. Something that just a few years ago would have been nearly unheard of: the presence of an abundance of strong female leadership. I look at our market, and a majority of our vendors are women farmers. As I meet more business owners, executive directors, and industry leaders, I find more and more women at the helm. Hell, our new mayor is a woman. And although this was something that went over my head for much of the time I have been here, as I have come to realize it, I have never felt more grateful. Grateful to be surrounded by such positive role models. Grateful that a plethora of female leaders is the norm, so much so that I barely noticed it. Grateful to live in a city where progress is always the goal and progress is actually well underway. And I am proud, and hopeful, and inspired to do my part to continue to move Champaign forward.