On November 30, the McHenry County Conservation District issued a bid packet (found here) for a six-year lease for transitioning an 80-acre farmland parcel west of Marengo to certified organic production. Bids must be submitted by January 4th.
This is big news. The District owns and manages ~5,000 acres of farmland, which have largely been farmed conventionally. This is the first time the District is taking one of its properties organic.
“The organic lease,” says Brenna Ness, the District’s agroecologist, “is a pilot project that will allow us to assess how these practices impact soil health and to support alternative agriculture.”
“The District is dedicated to protecting and conserving natural resources, first and foremost,” Ness adds, “so soil conservation, water quality, and wildlife habitat are priorities for our Farm Program. We are exploring new ways to enhance ecological health and restore ecosystem function through regenerative ag practices.”
When the District issued the bid packet, the staff wondered if there would be grain farmers interested in bidding. While there are clusters of organic grain farming around DeKalb County and around Champaign, the greater Chicago area has relatively few organic grain farmers.
“Since we put out the bid, I’ve been surprised and excited to learn that a number of the District’s current tenants are farming organically at other sites,” says Ness. “To me, that means there could be opportunity to grow the District’s Farm Program into a more diverse farm management system.”
If you know of any farmers who would be interested in farming this land organically, please let them know of the bid packet’s availability.