Related “Farmers call for investment in environmental justice” (February 1): I was pleased to see Adriana Perez’s story about Illinois farmers traveling to Washington to support various initiatives in the Farm Bill, particularly on equity and environmental justice issues.
Everyone needs to pay attention to the Farm Bill because it is a huge federal expenditure and includes agriculture as well as nutrition and food security programs.
As the co-leader of Edible Evanston and an urban grower myself, I know we need programs to support local urban farmers, especially those working in food security. It is possible to grow food in and around the city of Chicago, and the Farm Bill can help. I am part of the effort to grow food here and deliver it to those in need through food pantries. We are experiencing a shortage of nutritious food grown in healthy soil.
Past Farm Bills have directed too few resources to small farmers, diverse operations, racially diverse farmers, and ranchers who use organic and regenerative practices to protect our soil and water. It’s crucial that we change where our dollars go, from subsidies to the largest farmers and operations unconcerned with protecting the planet and communities, to programs that can deliver a resilient, equitable food system.
Black farmers have been discriminated against by the federal government and lenders for decades, leading to a dwindling number of black-owned farms today. The Illinois Stewardship Alliance and others are leading the charge in asking the federal government and the state of Illinois to change policy and help Black farmers with land, economic support and education. We will also need to collect data to see whether the changes support racial equality.
Small farms and diverse operations (the farms that actually provide our food) need support, including opening up farmers’ access to land and capital. To grow food successfully in Illinois, we also need long-term federal infrastructure support for the processing and distribution to get food from farms to markets, especially markets in economically disadvantaged areas.
To continue growing food on this planet, we need to protect the soil where food grows and, by doing so, the water we all depend on. We need to protect biodiversity, including our native insects and pollinators. To do this, we will need money and incentives in the Farm Bill for conservation programs, cover crops and other “climate-smart” practices.
We will once again need to fund research and education to ensure farmers know best practices.
— Tim Sonder, co-leader, Edible Evanston
Our local food supply has dwindled over the last 40 years as big agribusinesses have taken over farmland and the supply chain has become a highly exploitative, opaque, consolidated giant. To be more fair, we need to support small local farmers. Support for existing small local farmers and beginning farmers is an important part of building a resilient local food supply. Support for local farmers using regenerative agricultural practices promotes environmental health and sustainability.
Regenerative agriculture uses practices such as tillage, various cover crops, and animal integration to remove carbon from the air and return it to the soil where it belongs; It does all of this without the use of chemicals or genetically modified organisms. This reduces climate change and creates healthier and more productive soils. Regenerative farmers, ranchers, and ocean farmers who practice holistic management are key not only to our food security, but also to the future of our planet.
The economic and environmental instability of America’s food system is directly linked to the agricultural challenges we face—soil loss, water depletion, climate change, and pesticide use.
I am grateful to the Illinois small farmers and members of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance who traveled to Washington to address these issues that are central and important to the new Farm Bill.
The future of our food system determines the future of humanity.
— Kim Nolen, Redbird Cafe, Homewood
Our friends, fellow farmers, and Illinois citizens recently traveled to Washington to represent us—Illinois farmers, eaters, and local food champions—and advocate for the upcoming Farm Bill. Considering our busy winter farm schedule, we couldn’t be more grateful for their representation.
Wait, are farmers busy in the winter?
Yes, you’ll be amazed at the tenacity of local regenerative farmers, nonprofits, and local school districts who work together to improve our food system year-round.
For example, our farmers are harvesting winter spinach, expecting their first batch of chicks, and hiring staff for our newly opened Liberty Prairie Farm Store.
Located less than a mile from our 94-acre organic farm, our Liberty Prairie Farm Store features 30 local producers, with plans to expand the store to include more farm and local food products, all producing food within 250 miles of Grayslake.
We imagine a future where people, plants and animals thrive together; Communities have access to local, high-quality food and nature, regardless of where people live; People can pursue the opportunities they desire by choosing holistic lifestyles and sustainable solutions to modern problems.
Regenerative farmers are an important part of this vision, and they need policies and resources to support land stewardship that will benefit the long-term health of our precious Illinois lands and climate. But regenerative farmers cannot be the only answer to improving health. We also need a supportive health and education system that promotes land stewardship for long-term climate resilience.
Our goal is for Midwestern families to have access to Midwestern foods year-round. We need support for local farming and regenerative agriculture in Illinois.
—Karen Wilkes, general manager; Jen Miller, general manager; and Jeff Miller, Liberty Prairie NFP executive director
Thank you for your timely article about the value of Illinois farmers visiting Capitol Hill to speak with legislators about the 2024 Farm Bill. While it is important that farmers’ needs are represented in the bill, few people realize how widespread and effective the bill is beyond rural areas.
From food aid programs to subsidizing some crops over others (like corn for ethanol instead of nutrient-rich food for humans), the Farm Bill helps inform our choices at the grocery store.
Thank you to the Tribune for highlighting farmers advocating for policies that help make farmland a cause for hope and a source of solutions.
In my 15 years of experience with food and agriculture, I have never been more excited about the possibilities, especially as they relate to providing farmers with the “carrot” to help replenish nature while also providing food options to eaters. Better policies can lead to cleaner water, lower health care costs, and stronger and more resilient rural economies.
As someone who works with eaters, I love the idea of making better food choices more accessible to everyone, especially kids. Thank you for helping connect rural and urban communities!
— Tim Magner, director, Nature’s Farm Camp, Caledonia, Illinois
My strong hope is that Congress takes seriously the changing face of farming across this country and passes a farm bill that empowers first-generation farmers, farmers of color, and especially Black farmers who have been denied the wealth that agriculture has created for centuries. in this country.
I’ve been farming in Chicagoland for nearly 10 years and I know firsthand that this work can change your life, even more so when it’s possible to make a good living from it.
I am deeply grateful to the Illinois Stewardship Alliance and the Chicago Food Policy Action Council for their work to advance a Farm Bill that can accelerate the economic engine of agriculture in this region and this state. I strongly urge members of the Illinois House of Representatives to sponsor House Resolution 3955, a bipartisan bill that will support targeted land access across the state and further advance our state’s status as the top agricultural state in the union.
—Jason Halm, Oak Park