December 8, 2016

Call for “Beginning” Farmer of the Year Submissions – Cash prize! Public recognition!


Beginning Farmer of the Year Award

Angelic Organics Learning Center and the Upper Midwest CRAFT farmer alliance launched the Beginning Farmer of the Year award in 2013 in order to celebrate and promote new farmers growing for our local and sustainable food and farm economy. The winner of this award selects the Mentor Farmer of the Year, honoring an experienced farmer who generously provided mentoring at some time during their first ten years of startup.  Beginning in 2016, these awards have been sponsored by the collaborating Farmer Alliances in Routes to Farm, serving beginning farmers across the greater Chicago foodshed. Each nominee must be a member of at least one of the Farmer Alliances on  The winner of the Beginning Farmer of the Year Award and the Mentor Farmer of the Year are announced each year in the morning plenary on Friday at the Good Food Festival in Chicago.

2017 Beginning Farmer of the Year

  1. Beginning Farmer of the Year receives a $1,000 honorarium, award at public ceremony, a free pass to the Industry Day at the Good Food Festival (Friday) in Chicago, and partial travel support to the event.
  2. Finalists will receive honorable mention, a $100 honorarium, and a free pass to Industry Day at the Good Food Festival (Friday). Farmers/Farms will also receive widely distributed press coverage from Routes to Farm, Angelic Organics Learning Center and Good Food Festival – an estimated 15,000-20,000 person viewership!
  3. Finalists are selected by their farmer alliance by January 13th, 2017.
  4. Beginning Farmer of the Year is selected by representatives of the farmer alliances in Routes to Farm by January 30th, 2017.
  5. Mentor Farmer of the Year receives a $200 honorarium, a free pass to Industry Day at the Good Food Festival (Friday), and partial travel support to the event. (The Beginning Farmer of the Year selects a Mentor Farmer of the Year to be honored.)
  6. Winners are presented awards in a public ceremony along with the video of the recognized Beginning Farmer of the Year at FamilyFarmed‘s Good Food Festival in Chicago on March 17, 2017. The Good Food Festival & Conference is the leading event of its type in the country, and will be celebrating its 13th Anniversary in 2017. FamilyFarmed is delighted to offer Industry Day and special Industry Networking Reception passes (Friday) to the two winners and the finalists.
  7. The Beginning Farmer of the Year and the Mentor Farmer of the Year must be present at the award ceremony to receive the award, will be featured in a press release, and need to be available for various media interviews.
  8. The beginning farmer honorable mentions will be featured in a press release and will need to be available for various media interviews as requested.
  9. The submitted videos will become property of Routes to Farm and may be used solely by Routes to Farm and its program partners for publicity and in online marketing materials to promote beginning farmer training.
  10. Deadline to submit videos is December 31, 2016

Each video must answer these ten questions to be eligible:

  1. What is your name and what is your farm’s name?
  2. How long has your farm been in operation?
  3. What farmer alliance in Routes to Farm ( are you a member of and for how many years have you been a member?
  4. How has your farmer alliance helped you launch or grow your farm?
  5. Where is your farm?
  6. How much land do you farm and what is it like?  Is it urban, peri-urban or rural?
  7. What does your farm produce/sell and to whom?
  8. What is the biggest obstacle you face or have overcome as a beginning farmer?
  9. What is new on your farm next season? How are you innovating or growing?
  10. Why do you farm?

 Criteria for Selection:

  1. Video is less than 3 minutes and all questions are addressed
  2. Video shares a compelling, creative, humorous, or inspiring story
  3. Video demonstrates how farmer has been a leader, innovator, or community-builder
  4. Video features footage of the farm and the farmer
  5. The farmer is a member of at least one farmer alliance in Routes to Farm (
  6. The farmer is in the first 10 years of farm business operation
  7. The awardee agrees to attend and participate in the award ceremony at the Good Food Festival in Chicago.
  8. The video raises the public profile of beginning farmers, mentor farmers and the farmer alliances that support them.
December 8, 2016

Register now! Routes to Farm: Emerging Challenges for Direct-Market Farms, Starved Rock Lodge, January 18-19, 2017


How can we ensure the continued success of local farms in our foodshed?

Direct-market business models such as farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) have fueled much of the growth of the local food movement in the last two decades.  However, a growing number of farmers in our region now report declining farmers market sales and increased difficulty attracting and retaining CSA members. Through a process of open dialogue among farmers and local food advocates, we will (1) gain an understanding of current challenges for direct market farms, (2) identify critical issues and barriers to their continued success and (3) develop a farmer-led agenda for action that will guide follow-up activity after the conference concludes.

Important questions we hope to address include:

  • What obstacles do farmers selling to local markets face?
  • How are consumer behaviors and preferences changing?
  • How will CSA farms attract and retain new members in a changing marketplace?
  • What’s behind declining sales at farmers markets?
  • How can farmers work together to reach new markets?
  • What can food and farm organizations do to help farmers overcome obstacles?

Since the real ‘experts’ at the conference are the participants, the bulk of our time will be spent in small working groups. The conference will use an “Open Space” meeting format that allows for broad and democratic input and is used by diverse organizations, businesses, and communities to deal with complex and systemic problems. For more information on Open Space meeting facilitation, please visit

Registration is free. Meals will be provided at no cost. Lunch and dinner will be served on Wednesday. Breakfast and lunch will be served on Thursday.


– Wednesday, January 18th from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Dinner begins at 6:00 PM
– Thursday, January 19th from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM (Depart at 3:30 PM)

Register online at Lodging will be available at no cost for farmers. We encourage you to spread the word within your networks so that farmers from all the Routes to Farm alliances will be represented. Space will be limited. Please email with any questions.

November 3, 2016

AUA Fall Gathering Tues, Nov. 15th!


fall-2016-aua-gatheringYou’re invited to our Autumn Gathering! Join old and new friends and colleagues for:

  • 6-6:45PM: Potluck and urban agriculture community networking: please bring a dish!
  • 6:45-6:50PM: Welcome and AUA overview
  • 6:50-7:10PM: Community slideshow — gardeners and farmers are invited to send 1-4 photos to by noon on 11/14 to showcase your work, as well as opportunities to get involved
  • 7:10-8:05PM: Presentations on two current urban agriculture-related policy initiatives:
    • Good Food Purchasing Policy: Proposed city ordinance directing city departments and agencies to purchase food in accordance with environmental, nutritional, local, fair trade, and animal welfare standards.
    • Urban farm business licensing: Campaign to establish a clear and reasonable business licensing process for new urban farming businesses.
  • 8:05-9PM: AUA “Ward Ambassador” Project workshop: develop the skills and knowledge to effectively promote these kinds of policy proposals by becoming an urban agriculture “ambassador” to your alderman. The project seeks to train advocates in each of Chicago’s 50 wards to become knowledgeable representatives supporting sustainable urban agriculture in their community.

Help us spread the word about this free and fun event: share this message with your network, visit our Facebook event page and invite your friends! See you there!

October 28, 2016

Save the date: AUA Urban Farm Field Day: Chicago FarmWorks

Support one of East Garfield Park’s most exciting urban agriculture projects by getting your hands dirty and learning about composting benefits and best practices in action!

AUA Urban Farm Field Day
Saturday, November 12
Chicago FarmWorks
Meet at 400 N Albany Ave, Chicago

10-10:15: Intro and overview of Chicago FarmWorks‘ history and program with Heartland Alliance Urban Agriculture Coordinator Jessica Surma
10:15-10:25: Compost walk and talk, delegate volunteer tasks, round up tools
10:25-11:40: Volunteer work turning and moving compost (and maybe planting some garlic!)
11:40-12:00: Break with hot cider and snacks!
12:00-1:00: Volunteer work

Be sure to dress in layers (something you can get dirty in) and bring water bottle!

Children 10 and up are invited to join.


You also might be interested in Slow Food Chicago‘s upcoming Crop Mob at Growing Home on Saturday, November 5! Click here for details. AUA is excited to be teaming up with Slow Food Chicago on field days and crop mobs next year – keep an eye out for announcements!