Jacquelyn Evers: Executive Director
Jacquelyn joined The Land Connection team in May 2018 from her previous position as Executive Director for Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony, a non-profit based in Springfield. It was in this position that Jacquelyn found her path in nonprofit management. During her tenure with Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony (SVYS), the organization underwent substantial change with operations to improve efficiency and productivity; experienced increased enrollment in ensembles; acquired stronger, more secure funding sources; and developed an engaged Board of Directors working to expand the organization’s footprint in Springfield. Jacquelyn holds both a Bachelor and Master degree in Music Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In addition to her role as Executive Director at The Land Connection, Jacquelyn maintains an active piano studio in the Champaign-Urbana community. When she’s not working, Jacquelyn enjoys spending time with her pets, cooking, and all things outdoors.
Dana Vollmer: Development Director
Dana left public media in pursuit of an opportunity to more directly help people and the planet.
Originally from South Elgin, Dana has been traversing Illinois reporting for local NPR stations for nearly five years. Dana got their start in radio while studying Communication at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. They went on to cover state government and politics at the Illinois State Capitol and earned a master’s in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield. Most recently, Dana covered local news in Peoria and Bloomington-Normal.
Dana is passionate about telling stories that help people get to know their community, understand complex issues and get involved. They hope to use those skills to share the joy of local food and the people that bring it to harvest.
An enthusiastic home cook, Dana is never too far from the kitchen—feeding friends and dreaming up new fermentation projects. Dana is happiest outdoors hiking, camping and canoeing with their partner and pup. Dana also loves books, board games and homebrewing.
Kelly Lay: Local Foods Program Manager
Kelly’s earliest memories are of fresh garden strawberries and the smell of her great grandparent’s iris and peony. With deep family roots in the north-central Illinois area, Kelly remembers helping to weed family gardens and the joy of pitting cherries with all her cousins on her grandmother’s front porch. Learning to grow and cook for her community was an intricate part of growing up, no matter where her family moved. Kelly is passionate about growing joy in local food and fostering deep community connections with the folks she meets.
Kelly comes to The Land Connection after a year growing with PrairiErth Farm and a decade in the garden and farm industry. She is in her third year serving as an Alderwoman for the City of Le Roy, IL. Kelly helped with the creation of the new Home to Market Law and led the team that wrote the Illinois Cottage Food Guide, providing a resource for local home based food businesses across the state. She teaches cake and cookie decorating occasionally, will happily bust out her canning and dehydrating equipment to share food preserving to anyone who wants to learn, and is slowly turning her half-acre property into a food forest and micro farm growing fruits, flowers, herbs, specialty peppers, and unique heirlooms. In her spare time, she moderates an online heirloom seed swapping community with 16,200 members and creates unique jams, syrups, sauces, and pickles to share with friends
Crystal Siltman: Farmer Training Coordinator
Crystal is a fourth generation tenant farmer and the first woman in her family to farm. Born in La Villita/Little Village Chicago, she has long been exposed to traditional folk medicine. She is a 3rd generation forager who really wishes she would’ve had the opportunity to mushroom hunt with her maternal granny, and that passion for medicinal/native plants led her to receive a certificate in Curanderismo-Traditional Healing Using Plants from the University of New Mexico. While farming is in her dna and growing her own food/herbs was always a way of life for her, farming didn’t become a career until 2019.
Crystal started out at Columbia College in Chicago in pursuit of an education degree and eventually came home to acquire a Dual Associates in Human Services and Early Childhood Education from Illinois Central College. She worked at two preschools and for District 150 in Peoria and Pekin Community High School after graduation. In 2007, she began selling her photography and hand crafted goods at Peoria Riverfront Market. When her family relocated to Portland, Oregon a few years later, she opened and operated a licensed preschool where she designed curriculum around growing food. This is where Crystal’s love and knowledge of medicinal/native herbs/foraging blossomed. In the summer of 2019, her family came home to central Illinois and she got her start organic farming at PrairiErth Farm in Atlanta, Illinois. There she met the current owner of Fox Path Farm, where she has farmed regeneratively since July 2020. She currently operates a micro medicinal herb farm on property she rents and creates value added holistic goods for herself, family, & friends in collaboration with Fox Path Farm for their CSW (Community Shared Wellness). Nowadays, you can find Crystal in her yarden, her kitchen, or spending time in nature with her family, pointing out important native medicinals to her kiddo.
Lilly grew up in Urbana, IL, eating green beans off the vine in her mom’s garden and helping regional farmers sell at local markets. She left Illinois to attend Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, graduating in 2020 with a B.A. in mathematics and astrophysics. After coming home to Urbana-Champaign, prior farmers’ market experience brought Lilly to The Land Connection, where assisting with market operations led her to develop specialized interests in food accessibility and nutrition benefit programs. Now she’s working to expand the reach of LINK Match programming and put more local, healthy food on tables across central IL.
Lilly is driven by her passions for teaching, communication, and directly helping people and the world around her. She’s the most herself when she’s outdoors—whether that be slinging peaches at market, hiking up mountainsides, or pointing out comets and constellations to anyone who will listen. She’s also a big fan of reading, running, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul soccer scene.
Jesse Schaffer: Farmer Training Coordinator
Over the past 10+ years Jesse has worked in a variety of capacities within the food system, from community building around food justice and education, to researching food insecurity and building educational and culturally-rooted farms. After graduating from The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) in 2015, Jesse managed Birmingham’s largest urban teaching farm and went on to facilitate the production of seven teaching farms across the city. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, Jesse moved to western North Carolina to build the Jewish Farmer Network’s first farm, donating the produce to local mutual aid projects. After managing 14+ rooftop farms across the city of Chicago, he returned to the ground level managing production at The Talking Farm. Currently completing his Master’s in Sustainable Urban Development at DePaul, he seeks co-conspirators to build a just food system and long term soil health for the state of Illinois. When he’s not farming, he’s most likely gardening, cooking with pals, playing board games, saving seeds, and schemin’ and dreamin’ about a better future.
Joe Wetzel: President
Joe is an Attorney at Livingston, Barger, Brandt & Schroder, LLP in Champaign. Joe grew up in Mt. Zion, Illinois, attended Richland Community College, Millikin University, and law school at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. In 2004, Joe began his law practice in Decatur, Illinois at a general practice law firm. In 2009, Joe transitioned to a specialized area of the law focusing on banking, real estate, and financial litigation, which took him throughout the State of Illinois. In 2014, his wife’s job brought their family to Champaign-Urbana. Upon moving to the area, Joe immediately set out to become an owner of Common Ground, take advantage of the Champaign and Urbana Farmer’s Markets, and discover locally owned establishments to patronize.
Joe’s aim is to give back to the community in which we live and work to make the community better for the whole. Everyone can make a difference in his or her own way. For Joe he plans to utilize his legal experience as a resource for individuals and entities as they navigate the legal landscape. Joe is excited for the opportunity to lead The Land Connection as their Board President and looks forward to being able to further their mission.
Lisa Bralts-Kelly: Vice President
Lisa Bralts-Kelly grew up in Florida and Minnesota, graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul in 1990 before moving to Chicago in 1991, and arrived in Urbana-Champaign in 1996 to work for an independent record label. She is currently Illinois Public Media’s Director of Content and Strategic Communications, overseeing the stations’ marketing, TV/video content creation, and FM services. Area food folks might know her from her previous work – she worked for almost 5 full seasons as the Director of Urbana’s Market at the Square and has also worked for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, as well as her role as a board member for four years at Common Ground Food Co-Op in Urbana. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Urbana, Illinois.
Jacob Taylor: Treasurer
Growing up on a farm gave Jacob a passion for agriculture, home cooked meals, and economic decision making. After earning a degree in Agriculture and Consumer Economics from the University of Illinois’s College of ACES, Jacob started working for Busey Wealth Management to hone his finance and planning skills. Now it’s his pleasure to use those skills to help further The Land Connection’s mission of a healthy and sustainable local food economy.
Dave Bishop and his family own and operate PrairiErth Farm, a 450-acre diversified farm in central Illinois. They produce corn, soybeans, wheat, vegetables, beef, pork, eggs, and honey. The farm has been certified organic since 2004.
Dave is president of the Illinois Local Food, Farms, and Jobs Council, and serves on the Sustainable Ag Advisory Committee for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. He teaches regenerative agriculture at Heartland College in Bloomington.
The farm’s mix of livestock and crops is the foundation of its sustainable system. Dave’s extended crop rotation includes grazing time for livestock on row crop fields to build organic matter in the soil, provide balanced fertility for future crops, and increase the income- producing capacity of each acre.
The Bishops’ farming practices have garnered numerous awards: They are the 2017 Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Organic Farmers of the Year, and recipients of the 2018 RJ Vollmer Award for Sustainable Agriculture from the Illinois Department of Agriculture. In 2019, PrairiErth Farm was one of seven US farms recognized by “Good Food 100” Restaurants and the James Beard Foundation for their dedication to sustainability, transparancy, and advancing good food.
Andrea grew up in a household where getting together with family and friends always meant there was going to be good food and lots of laughter shared. Those memories have molded her into being passionate about people understanding where their food comes from and having access to fresh and healthy foods. She understands that we need all Farmers/Farms and the sweet spot is where we can all come together to provide economical and healthy options for everyone.
As a District Sales Manager across Central & Northern Illinois, Andrea spends her days mostly working with row crop Farmers, advising them, and making plans that are economical and environmentally sound. She received her degree in Agronomy Management & Agribusiness from Illinois State University. She believes that the Agriculture Community truly is the best there is.
She is looking forward to the opportunity to be on The Land Connection Board, and to learn from her peers how to better support locally grown and sourced foods!
Alisa DeMarco grew up in McHenry County, graduated from the University of Illinois in 1995, and went on to earn her degree in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America in 2001. After several years working as a chef in various kitchens in Austin, Texas, Alisa returned to Champaign-Urbana and landed a position as Cheesemaker and Executive Chef at Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery. In this role, Alisa forged deep relationships with the local farmers and food artisans and worked alongside others to grow and promote local, seasonal and sustainable food.
Alisa is currently working as Realtor with Coldwell Banker Real Estate Group and is excited to help our vibrant, local farmers flourish and become more accessible to all. She lives with her husband and son in Savoy, Illinois and enjoys gardening, reading cookbooks, music, and gathering with friends and family for good food and conversation.
Having lived in California and Illinois, two of the largest agricultural states in the US, Irene has come to believe in the importance of regenerative farming practices in shaping our future. She received her M.S. in Agriculture from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in May 2017. Irene and her husband moved to the Champaign-Urbana community in 2016, where she first got involved with assisting at the Champaign Farmers Market.
Irene hopes to make a difference in the food system, starting at the local level. She plans to use her research background and passion for community involvement to further engage farmers and the local community.
Michael J. Lauher
Michael grew up on a small grain and livestock farm in east central Illinois where raising hogs & rabbits for 4-H, and driving tractors were a part of his childhood experience. He served with distinction as a Crew Chief mechanic in the United States Air Force and holds a Bachelor of Science, Magna cum Laude in Agribusiness from Illinois State University.
Michael started his career in agriculture in 1993 in Decatur, Illinois working for what is now FirstMid Agricultural Services for fourteen years, managing, brokering, and appraising farm properties. In 2008, he joined Hancock Farmland Services to manage farms and assisted with property acquisitions, and sales in the Midwest and the Delta. While there, he was promoted to oversee the management of all Row Crop property investments in the US for Hancock Agricultural Investment Group. More recently he was National Director of Land Management and Appraisals for Peoples Company out of Clive Iowa. Michael now owns and operates his own company, Rolling Acres Ag Solutions, providing agricultural consultation and real property appraisal services. He is a licensed Illinois Real Estate Broker, an Accredited Farm Manager of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, and Accredited Land Consultant with the Realtors Land Institute.
Michael’s interest in conservation and sustainability began when he worked with his 4-H club, the Grandview Pioneers, on conservation projects to win the Mary Frances Fruin Conservation Award in Edgar County. That legacy continued as he helped in the development of the conservation standard for Row Crops for the Leading Harvest organization while at Hancock. Michael looks forward to continuing his work making agriculture sustainable for future generations.
Michael lives in Savoy with his wife, father-in-law, and chocolate lab/Australian shepherd mix puppy, Scooby. They enjoy traveling and spending time with their 5 kids and 4 grandchildren.
Terra Brockman: Founder
Terra was born in Florida but raised in Central Illinois, where four generations of her family has farmed. Of course she couldn’t wait to leave what seemed a capital B Backwater, so she “lit out for the territories.”
After spending time at the University of Oregon and the University of California at Berkeley, and then finishing up an undergraduate and graduate degree in English literature and biology at Illinois State University, she went to Japan and worked as a teacher, writer, and editor for five years, and then to New York City where she worked as a writer and editor for almost a decade. During those years, she traveled extensively, from Nepal to Eritrea to Morocco to the Baltics. While visiting “third world” countries she found she often ate better foods than in the US because their foods were fresh, local, and unprocessed.
As she gradually returned to her roots in Central Illinois, Terra realized that the best food in the world could and should be grown by small, diverse farms that mimic nature, and that communities should be able to feed themselves independent of fossil-fuel based agri-chemicals. In 2001, she founded The Land Connection to save farmland, train new farmers, and connect consumers with fresh local foods.
Terra is the author of The Seasons on Henry’s Farm, which was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2010. She has been honored with a Green Award from Chicago Magazine, a Good Eating Award from the Chicago Tribune, and a rural achievement award from Lt. Governor Sheila Simon.
Terra’s favorite food is a lightly fried duck egg on toast.