UPDATE: Northeast Illinois FarmLink Becoming Illinois FarmLink!

We have big news to share! And it’s good news for farmland access.

Liberty Prairie Foundation’s Northeast Illinois FarmLink program is transitioning into The Land Connection’s new Illinois FarmLink program. 

And as part of that transition, both of us - Nathan and Jeanne - will be joining The Land Connection’s team this Friday.

Here are some of the reasons this is very good news for farmers and farmland owners facing land access challenges.

There will now be one farmland access site for the whole state. The Illinois FarmLink program will have the capacity and resources to to help farmers and farmland owners with an even higher degree of expertise and knowledge. We also expect to build partnerships around the state with other organizations and agencies to provide more services and address some of the underlying issues of land access challenges. And Illinois FarmLink will help attract farm families to our state to pursue their dreams.

We want you all - the people we serve and our partners who help us do this work - to be the first to know how we got here. 

Liberty Prairie Foundation launched Northeast Illinois FarmLink in 2019 (with generous funding support from Food:Land:Opportunity) because we saw pressing land access needs that needed to be addressed

Local farmers, especially conservation-minded farmers, were having a hard time finding land. Conservation-minded landowners were having a hard time finding conservation-minded farmers. And both farmers and landowners often needed help figuring out how to work out mutually beneficial arrangements once they did find a potentially good match. 

Inspired by farmlink programs springing up around the country, Liberty Prairie Foundation launched the Northeast Illinois FarmLink website paired with advising and educational programming activities. 

But even then we saw the need for a statewide program and hoped that one day Northeast Illinois would grow into such a program. This is why we used the domain name www.illinoisfarmlink.org.

Since 2019 the program has grown tremendously. We now have 78 farmer profiles and 21 farmland owner profiles on the website and have provided over 200 advising sessions to farmers and farmland owners. More than 600 people have taken part in our events and education offerings.

Over time, we’ve received a growing number of requests for land access help from farmers outside of Northeast Illinois and landowners with land outside of the region as well

One of the groups most interested in meeting this need has been The Land Connection, a non-profit based in Champaign. Founded in 2001 in Evanston, The Land Connection started with a vision of preserving farmland with a particular concern for helping farmland-owning families keep their land in farming. Over time, The Land Connection transitioned to central Illinois and expanded their programs to serve farmers, food businesses, and eaters with resources to grow our local food economy. But they always kept their classifieds section on their website as a way to help farmers and farmland owners connect around land access.

Over the last four years, our organizations have been increasingly partnering together and our conversations with The Land Connection and The Conservation Fund sparked excitement about the creation of a statewide land access program. It soon became clear that such a program best fit The Land Connection’s mission and vision. In the spirit of generosity and mutual commitment to community-friendly, land-conserving agriculture in Illinois, Liberty Prairie Foundation is transferring the Northeast Illinois FarmLink website to The Land Connection. 

We will have more details in the next email newsletter on what all of this means practically for you, but here are some key points:

  1. The domain address - www.illinoisfarmlink.org - will remain unchanged.
  2. If you have a profile currently on our site, it will carry over to the new Illinois FarmLink site once that is launched in 2023 (unless you don’t want it to).
  3. We will continue to offer advising services. Under the Illinois FarmLink program, each region of Illinois will have its own Land Access Navigator. Jeanne will remain as the Navigator for northern Illinois.
  4. You can still contact us at our normal emails during the transition process if you have questions, etc. We will both continue to work for the Foundation into 2023 to ensure a smooth transition process. Nathan is also excited about working on other strategic projects that help people and nature thrive together.

The Foundation is proud to have helped lay the groundwork for Illinois FarmLink. There is obviously a lot of work to do, but through it all, we will both do our best to continue to be available to you for personal help and support. 

Onwards,

Nathan Aaberg (nathan@libertyprairie.org) and Jeanne Janson (jeanne@libertyprairie.org)