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Illinois Farmers Receive Grants to Expand Local Food Capacity

Eight farms producing local food for the Chicagoland region are receiving grants to scale up their production to meet skyrocketing demand for local food spurred by the pandemic. Illinois Stewardship Alliance, a nonprofit statewide alliance of farmers and eaters, distributed the grants through their Resilience Fund (RF).

Alliance Executive Director Liz Moran Stelk says, “When the stay-at-home order was issued, people were looking for safe, reliable sources of food they can trust. Farmers selling local food, especially those with a CSA subscription, online ordering and touchless pickup told us they could produce even more, but needed resources to scale up.” The RF is supporting farmers’ projects to build walk-in coolers and packing sheds, construct hoop houses, install irrigation and upgrade transportation.

Dan Lobbes, at Green Earth Harvest Farm, in Naperville, will receive a $10,000 grant for a refrigeration unit. He says, “As we’ve had the third-warmest summer on record, every day brings a worry about the patched-together cooling system we have on the farm. We are grateful for this opportunity to upgrade to something more dependable.”

Jen and Jeff Miller, at Prairie Wind Family Farm, will install a walk-in freezer to diversify the offerings in their farm store in Grayslake.

Danielle Smits-Han and her brother David, at Smits Organics, in Darien, will install five used greenhouse structures they purchased from a former plant nursery to expand their organic production. Their goal is to produce a wide enough variety so that customers will not need to rely on the grocery store.

Other farms in the region receiving support include Broadview Farm and Gardens, in Marengo; Iyabo Farms, in Pembroke Township; Middleton Preserves, in Wadsworth, and Catatumbo Cooperative Farm, Closed Loop Farms and Star Farm, all in Chicago.

With support from the Chicago Region Food System Fund, the Alliance distributed $250,000 in grants to 27 farmers. “It’s clear there is need for small and diverse farms to access resources,” Stelk notes. “Investing in local food producers makes our communities more resilient and food secure in the face of future pandemics and climate crises.”


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