TLC Receives $90,000 Grant to Develop Local, Sustainable Food System in McHenry County
The Land Conservancy was awarded a $90,000 grant from Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust through the Food:Land:Opportunity program.
The grant will fund an effort to develop the local, sustainable food system in McHenry County. With this grant, TLC will work to promote land access, sustainable practices on existing farms and increased local support for food farms.
All living things need three things to live: air, water and food. All three are linked to healthy land, and therefore all three are connected to the work of local land trusts that preserve land and keep it healthy for the benefit of all living beings – people included. For that reason, TLC has a strong interest in preserving farmland and farming in McHenry County.
--Lisa Haderlein, TLC executive director
Working farms are an essential part of McHenry County’s rural landscape. In addition to providing fresh food to local and regional markets, farms provide wildlife habitat, buffer important bodies of water, and contribute to the overall scenic and rural character that helps define a community. Protecting farms safeguards natural resources and prime agricultural soils, and also helps support the local economy by maintaining a viable agricultural base.
Over the 15-month grant period, TLC will work to develop and strengthen the local food system by promoting land access to improve conditions for food farming operations, advocating for local regulatory changes to address challenges to food farming and creating opportunities for local farmers to connect with each other.
The grant will enable TLC to launch several new projects too, all with the goal of helping to create a strong, sustainable food system for the people of McHenry County. TLC envisions a future that includes a vibrant agricultural landscape that incorporates farming practices that will regenerate the soil, clean the water, provide healthy food and support our family farms.
The grant will help us continue some of the projects TLC has already begun, such as:
• Hold Learning Circles for women farmland owners (See more about Learning Circles below)
• Present film screenings/discussions, like Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry, co-sponsored by the Sustainability Center at McHenry County College
• Preserve farms through the federal ACE (Agricultural Conservation Easement) program
• Sponsor social/learning gatherings for local farmers, like the Common Ground Gatherings at Soulful Prairies Farm
• Assist beginning farmers with securing land on which to farm
As well as launch new projects, like:
• Draft a Local Food Farming Guide in conjunction with county agencies and local farmers to help beginning farm businesses get started
• Hold a non-operator farm owner learning event on ways to incorporate conservation on the farm
• Hold a farmer-consumer-business networking event
• Share TLC’s experience on how land trusts can play a role in local food systems and conveying this information to other land trusts at the state and national levels
Learning Circles for women farmland owners
Learning Circle attendees visit a local farm.
More than 80 percent of farmland is not owned by the person who farms it. Increasingly, women are inheriting family farmland and often they have limited knowledge of farming practices. Learning Circles help equip women with the knowledge and confidence needed to make informed decisions on how their land is farmed. Women are encouraged to share their stories in an open, relaxed setting. The morning is spent learning about topics like soil health, adding pollinator plants and cost-sharing programs available through federal, state and local programs. The afternoon consists of a visit to a local farm to see first-hand how landowners are incorporating conservation into their farms. TLC has held three Learning Circles so far, and will be offering more in the future.