Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jack

Jack is our youngest, but is quite easily the most enthusiastic about farming. A couple of months ago he told me: "Dad, when I retire from being a pro soccer player, I want to be a farmer just like you."

 Whether it's helping pick eggs, feeding the pigs or moving the cows to a new pasture, Jack wants to help. If I have tractor work to do, he rides along. When I go to pick up feed or farm supplies, Jack rides with. The whole time is filled with questions about what, why, and how we do things. In his nearly six years, Jack has absorbed an incredible amount of knowledge about our sustainable farm.

Last year, at the end of a long day in Springfield for the Local Food Lobby Day, Jack and his brothers insisted that they come along to our meeting with Lieutenant Governor Simon.

All our boys are emeshed in our farming enterprise with Jack most of all.

I is for Illinois Local, Food, Farms, and Jobs Council

Local Food Lobby Day in Springfield

Awareness and demand for local foods continues to grow across America. However, as is often the case with new trends, peoples' longing to know more about the "where?" and "by whom" of their food began on the coasts with the mid-western states lagging behind.

This Illinois' local food movement picked up the pace in the late nineties as Angelic Organics farm grew into one of the largest and most iconic CSA's in the country and nationally know chefs like Rick Bayless committed to sourcing from local farmers.

Things really took off in 2006, when Debbie Hillman of the Evanston Food Policy Council, approached then State Representative Julie Hamos (now IL director of Health Care and Family Services) about the concerns her urban constituents had about food and farming issues. From this initial discussion, legislation was drafted (titled the Illinois Local and Organic Food Farms and Jobs Act), and a statewide coalition formed to press for it's passage.

I joined the effort at the behest of Kendall Thu an anthropology professor at Northern Illinois University who had joined our CSA the previous year. I joined conference calls with local food proponents from throughout the state, called my representatives, and spread the word to all our farm contacts to support the effort. In 2007, the act passed and the Illinois Local Foods Farm and Jobs Task Force was formed.

The task force spent a year working on a comprehensive document to present to the legislature that detailed the state of local food in Illinois and recommendations for building the local food economy in Illinois. In 2009, the report generated follow-on legislation establishing the Illinois Local, Food, Farms, and Jobs Council.

I have served as a council director since 2010.