SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — When two energetic Illinois Stewardship Alliance staff members wanted to whet the appetites of their farmer and eater members about farm policy, they cooked up “What’s Cooking at the Capitol” — a blog combining lively discussion about small farm and food policy and local food and recipes.
Whether the issues concern cottage food laws, nutrient loss, soil health or climate change, they find local foods and producers to illustrate the topic.
“The majority of our eater members might not want to nerd out on policy issues as much as we do,” said Liz Rupel, a policy organizer for the Alliance. “We want to make the information fun and digestible.”
She and Molly Gleason, the Alliance’s communication director, found a way of combining bite-size information with recipes.
They feature local products in their What’s Cooking at the Capitol blog posts. This week, taking on a July 4 theme, they sourced local ingredients for the Alliance Burger: Red, White and Beef.
They bought their local beef from Shaun and Kim Tyson, first-generation farmers specializing in grass-fed, grain-finished beef. The Tysons started Fifty Four Farms in 2015 in Chestnut, in Logan County, Illinois.
Gleason is dressing up the burger with Strawberry BBQ Sauce featuring strawberry jam from Natural Artistry in Sherman in Sangamon County. This business benefited from the change in cottage laws which allow them more marketing opportunities for their products, Gleason said.
The butter lettuce is from Fox Path Farm of Mt. Pulaski. The melty white cheddar cheese for the burger comes from Ropp Jersey Cheese in Normal, Illinois. And, the homemade buns feature flour from Janie’s Mill in Ashkum, Illinois.
The eggs came from Bland Family Farms near Jacksonville. There’s nothing bland about the about the eggs, chicken, cattle and produce they grow on their farm, Gleason joked.
The Alliance aims to connect with and educate policymakers about issues which affect farmers like these and to give farmers a seat at every table where decisions are made.
Gleason and Rupel and their team is taking to the road this summer with “Victory Parties” celebrating the five policy wins they achieved with Illinois legislators this year. They are inviting federal members of Congress to attend.
The victories they are celebrating include:
- Changes to the Home Market Act which will no longer restrict cottage food producers to only selling at farmers markets in Illinois.
- The creation of the Good Food Task Force to help shift how the state sources food for institutions, to favor local foods rather just based on price.
- Expanded appropriations to the Healthy Foods Incentive Funds that will allow SNAP cards to be used at farmers markets.