Illinois Organizations receive 2019 Farm Aid Grants
by: Marilyn Halstead

CARBONDALE — On Sept. 12, 1985, three musicians and their musical colleagues took to the stage in a 12-hour concert at Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus for a purpose dear to their hearts — to help family farms.

Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and their organization, Farm Aid, have raised $57 million since that first concert to support family farms. As John Mellencamp said in “Pink Houses,” “ain’t that America?”

Last week, five Illinois organizations, including Food Works in Southern Illinois, received grants from Farm Aid totaling $27,000.

Food Works, based in Carbondale, received $5,000 to increase the viability of beginning, sustainable family farms through Southern Illinois Farming Alliance of sustainable farmers. The alliance hosts field days, workshops and gatherings to give farmers an opportunity to share knowledge on a variety of sustainable farming topics.

“The Farm Aid grant will be funding SI Farming Alliance and the work they do,” Food Works Executive Director Jennifer Paulson said. “Each year we host a Farm Beginnings program. As part of that program, we bring those young people into SI Farming Alliance, connecting beginning farmers with established farmers who are looking to give back and steward the next generation of farmers.” 

Other Illinois grantees include:

Illinois Stewardship Alliance in Springfield received $7,000 to advocate for state legislative priorities in 2020 and expand capacity to engage members and develop leaders.

The Land Connection in Champaign received $5,000 to support the Farmer Training Program, which provides farmers with the support, tools and networking to begin farming and increase the longevity and success of their operations.

Angelic Organics Learning Center in Caledonia received $5,000 to support holistic training for beginning farmers, provide opportunities for socially disadvantaged individuals, and develop the next generation of consumers who create demand for sustainable agriculture.

Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water in Vermont received $5,000 to assist small farmers and rural residents fighting against the siting of factory farms in their communities, while organizing and galvanizing them to campaign for legislative reform.

“Farm Aid started right here in central Illinois at the height of the 80’s farm crisis,” Liz Moran Stelk, executive director of Illinois Stewardship Alliance, said. “This year’s devastating losses from extreme weather, low commodity prices and a trade war combined to create a new crisis for farmers and Illinois rural communities. Support from Farm Aid will help farmers and eaters educate policymakers on the urgent need to support local food, address the climate crisis and make a just transition to regenerative agriculture.”

Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews host an annual festival to raise funds to support Farm Aid’s work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family farm food.

Farm Aid issues grants to nonprofits that serve family farmers in one of three areas: growing the good food movement, helping farmers thrive and taking action to change the food and farm system, according to a news release from the organization.

“Our goal is to create real change in our farm and food system, from the ground up,” Farm Aid President Willie Nelson said. “Farm Aid grantees strengthen family farmers, they build communities that can support each other in hard times, and they organize people to stand up and challenge corporate power in our food system. These are essential activities that benefit everyone — eaters and farmers.”

For a complete list of Farm Aid’s 2019 grant recipients, visit

Learn more about Food Works and Southern Illinois Farming Alliance at or by calling 618-370-3287.

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