Nathan Aaberg: Illinois FarmLink Director
217.840.2128 ext. 90
Nathan Aaberg joined The Land Connection in December 2022 after nine years of full-time service with Liberty Prairie Foundation in Grayslake. As the Foundation’s Director of Conservation and Working Lands, he led the launch and growth of the Northeast Illinois FarmLink program, while also helping conservation-oriented institutional farmland owners enhance agricultural practices carried out on their land. Prior to joining the Foundation, Nathan served as the Director of Development and later as the Associate Director for Conserve Lake County. During his 10-year career there, Nathan contributed to its transformation from a local conservancy into a county-wide land trust. His conservation career began with a grant writing and communication position with Friends of the Chicago River.
After living in Japan for a year, he worked for Mitsubishi International and managed the export of Winnebago motorhomes to Japan. A native of Chicago, Nathan enjoys running, reading, native plant gardening (including pawpaws), blogging, and spending time with his family, preferably outside.
217.840.2128 ext. 41
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.
Jacquelyn Evers: Executive Director
217.840.2128 ext. 10
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.
Jason Greenly: Finance and Operations Director
217.840.2128 ext. 11
Jason Greenly comes to The Land Connection following a 20-year career in social work including mental health, homelessness, and violence prevention. His local bona-fides include a brief stint with the City of Champaign and a lengthy stint at WEFT 90.1 as a host and with programming administration. Other previous lives include CPR/1st Aid instruction, non-violent crisis intervention instruction, and consulting work.
When not enjoying math or systems development with The Land Connection, you can find him at the movies or with a book in hand.
Blake Hackler: Farmers Market Manager
217.840.2128 ext. 40
Blake joined The Land Connection after a little over a year at Common Ground Food Co-Op, where he worked as the front of house manager. During that time, a deep passion for our local food movement was cultivated. Before CGFC, he had an 8 year long career in EMS as a paramedic, working in and serving multiple communities throughout central Illinois. Blake brings the same passion for local foods and community service to his role as the Farmers Market Manager.
When he is not working at TLC, Blake spends as much time as possible outdoors. Blake grew up on a small horse farm and was active in scouting and continues to carry the love for the outdoors that was fostered as a young child. He also serves on the board of directors at CGFC, and loves to cook great food and spend time with his family.
Jeanne Janson: Illinois FarmLink Coordinator & Navigator
217.840.2128 ext. 91
After working with Northeast Illinois FarmLink through Liberty Prairie Foundation, Jeanne transitioned to the Land Connection to implement the statewide site. Prior to working in land access, Jeanne spent five seasons farming at various small-scale operations around the country. Most recently she worked at a full-diet CSA farm in upstate New York and a pasture-raised livestock farm in Kankakee. Since moving back to the Midwest, she helped launch the Northern Illinois Young Farmers (NIYF) chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition, which aims to connect and charge the community of farmers and food advocates that currently exist throughout the urban, suburban, and rural landscape of northern Illinois. As FarmLink Coordinator, her vision is to see more farmers and more landowners working together to ensure farming remains a viable profession for future generations. Jeanne dreams of the day where she grazes a herd of dairy gals on natural prairie and enjoys espresso and toast with fresh butter after morning milkings. For now, she enjoys the Chicago city life by swimming in the lake and hanging with her grandparents.
Kelly Lay: Local Foods Program Manager
217.840.2128 ext. 20
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.
Erica Peters: Illinois FarmLink Navigator
217-840-2128 ext: 94
Erica grew up on her family farm in Heyworth, IL where there was always a barn full of animals and a garden full of produce. She continued her education at the University of Illinois studying Animal Science in the College of ACES. After graduation, she started her career at Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery where she was the herd manager for eight years. She supervised the Animal Welfare Approved herd of 100 milking goats and the dairy staff team. She created Erica Peters Photography in 2020 focusing her lens on farm documentary photography to advocate family farmers. Capturing the heart of each farm has given her a unique perspective that only continues to grow her love for agriculture and the people who represent it.
Erica and her husband have owned a farm in Broadlands, Illinois since 2021 where they manage a herd of fallow deer, along with other animals, an orchard, and a garden. She enjoys being outside working on their farm, music, baking, and getting together with family. Erica joined The Land Connection because she has a passion for helping farmers achieve their goals which is very much rooted in her life experiences in agriculture and her work with photography.
Noah Scalero: Illinois FarmLink Navigator
217.840.2128 ext. 93
Noah’s exposure to agriculture began in the classroom as he researched nitrogen cycling dynamics in the Mississippi River floodplain. However, after completing his master’s degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, he soon realized that his hands preferred the soil to the keyboard and so he began work on a local vegetable farm. He now has worked several seasons on different farms across the country and is passionate about bringing his knowledge to the local food community in Illinois. Noah recently started BeetRoot Farm in Carbondale, Illinois in 2022 and is excited to use this experience in his role at The Land Connection to help equip other beginning farmers. Outside of his working hours, you can find Noah out rock climbing, reading a book, or playing a board game with his friends.
Jesse Schaffer: Farmer Training Coordinator
217.840.2128 ext. 90
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.
Crystal Siltman: Farmer Training Coordinator
217.840.2128 ext. 50
Crystal is 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, she is the creator and curator of this offering). 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.
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.
Lisa Bralts: Interim Board President & Vice President
Lisa Bralts 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. Area food folks might know her from her food system work – she worked for Illinois Public Media for 7 years and created a multimedia series, Backyard Industry, while there. She also spent almost 5 full seasons as the Director of Urbana’s Market at the Square, has also worked in marketing and development for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, and served as a board member for four years at Common Ground Food Co-Op in Urbana. She is currently the Assistant Dean for Marketing and Communications in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, has two grown children, and lives with her husband and two handsome cats in Urbana, Illinois.
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.
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 First Mid 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 is now back with First Mid Ag Services, providing agricultural management and consultation as well as farm real property appraisal and brokerage services. He is a licensed Illinois Real Estate Broker and Appraiser Trainee, 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.
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.
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.