I can’t believe we’re winding down another year, can you? Time just flies when you’re eating lots of amazing local food and artisan goods throughout the year.
This year, in many ways, was a year of building for The Land Connection – building on the organization’s legacy and past success, building new programs and opportunities for farmers, and building our capacity as an organization. This was my first year (well, nine months) at The Land Connection, and I’m thrilled to reflect back on all of the things I’ve learned this year, in photos! Some or many of you might know a lot of what I reference, but I came to this job with a resource ecology degree from the College of ACES at U of Illinois (go ACES!), a few agriculture courses under my belt and backyard farming experience….. so I’ve learned a LOT and am continuing to learn more about the world of sustainable agriculture 🙂
First things first, I’ve learned a lot about goats, since our major partner for workshops and programming is Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery. I’ve learned that goats love ripping cottonwood leaves off trees and eating them (Rotational Grazing – June 2016).
I also learned Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband are master hearders 🙂 (Rotational Grazing – June 2016)
One of the coolest thing I learned this year was how to work on small machinery – I ended up cleaning my carburator on my lawn mower this year! (Small Engines + Tractors Course – May 2016 – Lakeland Community College)
At Blue Yonder Organic Farm in Indiana, I learned about shiitake mushroom growing at Sara Creech’s farm – I will most definitely be starting logs in the spring! (Farm Dreams Indiana – August 2016)
I continually enjoy hearing farmers’ real life experiences – I gain more and more respect for farmers and the work they put in to feed all of us! (Farm Dreams Indiana – August 2016)
I am continually inspired working in sustainable agriculture and marvel at the different nuggest of knowledge I learn each year – from leaves and plants livestock should not eat, to fencing, to risk management, to budget and finance, marketing strategies and more, we teach Central Illinois Farm Beginnings students so much to prepare them to launch their farm dreams. We’re so fortunate to have so many speakers and farmers willing to teach our students too! (Shea Belahi of Blue Moon Farm speaking at Central Illinois Farm Beginnings – October 2016)
Now I’m learning a lot of agricultural knowledge, but also a lot of knowledge about local food preparation, purchase and eating! I learned that locally and sustainably raised turkeys are amazing – SO MUCH BETTER than store bought turkeys! (Triple S Farms Turkey, Thanksgiving 2016)
Romanesco and purple cauliflower roasted is absolutely divine!
Alisa DeMarco’s butternut squash dip is what I will be taking to any holiday potluck until the end of time….
THIS is possible – to get a loaf of challah from Pekara Bakehouse that is THIS BIG….
and finally, even horses know how to keep it cool 🙂
As you can see, I’ve had a TON of fun this year at The Land Connection, but we are excited to continue thinking critically about how we can continually provide support for farmers of all types interested in sustainable, resilient agriculture – and we haven’t been just thinking, but actually implementing some incredible training opportunities in our region. Here’s a little bit of what we’ve accomplished:
- Launched our 12th year of Central Illinois Farm Beginnings
- Collaboratively facilitated important training on organic grains transition risk management
- Partnered with USDA Farm Service Agency to help beginning, specialty crop and livestock farmers
- Received 2 years of support for the Champaign Farmers Market through the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program
- Launched a planning team to investigate an aggregation/distribution facility in Champaign
- Explored new ways to assist beginning farmers beyond Central Illinois Farm Beginnings
And these are only just the highlights – there are many great opportunities to expand and grow our work in 2017, and I can’t wait to report on our plans as they unfold.
I’m proud to say I work for The Land Connection and tell our story to so many that haven’t heard of us before. We’re continuing to help farmers, address food insecurity, and increase access to local, healthy and delicious local food and we. Thanks for your support this last year, and if you feel so inclined, we ask you continue to support our mission into 2017!
Happy holidays and a happy new year to all!