Greater Peoria Farm Forums

GP Farm Forums is a new series from the Greater Peoria EDC to facilitate discussions among farmers and other ag-based businesses, researchers, and resource organizations to encourage diversification and innovation on farms and to foster the creation of new agriculture markets and supply chains throughout Central Illinois.

Down to Earth Systems Workshop Scholarship

Spence Farm, one of Central Illinois’ foremost diversified farm operations, is hosting Down to Earth Systems, a two-day intensive on July 19 & 20 to share their best practices and business planning resources for diversified, regenerative farming systems. This is an opportunity to learn from one of Illinois’ leading specialty farms!

Greater Peoria EDC, with the support of one of our investor members, is making two scholarships available for this workshop to encourage the exploration and adoption of more diversified farming operations in Greater Peoria to support the growth of the regional food economy.

Complete the application to demonstrate your interest in attending the workshop and how this scholarship will help you take the next steps with your current farming operation or steps toward starting a new farm.

Application Deadline: June 1, 2019


Past Events

January 18 - Industrial Hemp

Join a room full of farmers and other agriculture industry stakeholders as we discuss the potential of hemp crops in Greater Peoria. With the legalization of industrial hemp at the state and federal level, what are the market opportunities for farmers in our region interested in adding hemp—for oil, seed, or fiber production—to their farm diversification plan?

12-3pm • Zeller Banquet Hall • Pekin, IL

Building Our Region's Specialty Crops Value Chain

March 15 • 2-5 p.m.Fergie's Pub & Banquet Center, Manito, IL

Join us to build new partnerships for piloting regional value chain projects to get more local/regional foods into Greater Peoria.

In Greater Peoria, farms large and small are taking advantage of opportunities with specialty crops. But much of the economic activity beyond production happens outside of our region. Specialty crops grown at a smaller scale in our region (such as organic vegetables and specialty grains) are sold in larger markets such as Chicago and St. Louis. Large-scale crops, such as Mason County’s green beans, go to processing facilities outside of our region.

How can we work together to establish meaningful, scalable market opportunities for specialty crops? How can we build a regional values-based supply chain that captures a greater share of the economic return by diversifying more farms, generating new business activity in aggregation, processing and distribution, increasing consumer access to these products, and building mutually-beneficial partnerships throughout the supply chain?

To honor Mason County’s nickname “The Imperial Valley of the Midwest”—due to its high volume of specialty crop production—we are hosting this next Farm Forum in Manito to explore the possibilities of developing a viable, scalable regional value chain for specialty crops. We are inviting guests that represent the numerous links in that chain—from production and aggregation, to processing, distribution, institutional purchasing, and retail.

Regenerative Agriculture Systems

April 26 • 1:45-2:45 p.m., Marriott Pere Marquette, Peoria, IL

The next GP Farm Forum takes place during the 2019 Mindshare Midwest: Innovating the Food Chain of the Future, a FREE two-day event in Peoria, IL.

During this Farm Forum we will discuss regenerative agriculture systems and how they can increase on-farm ecosystem services, diversify farm revenue, and how it all ties to the big picture goals of innovating our farm and food systems and improving rural communities.

Panelists include:

Bill Davison, University of Illinois Extension

Bill Davison is a Local Food System Educator with University of Illinois Extension. He manages the Refuge Food Forest, Grand Prairie Grain Guild and breeds corn, small grains, and vegetables for local markets. He is a founding member of Regenerate Illinois and the Artisan Grain Collaborative and he works with a diverse group of partners on the innovative Middle Mackinaw Project. This project integrates diverse crops, livestock, and agroforestry to show that food production and conservation can be mutually beneficial.

Carol Hays, ReGenerate Illinois

ReGenerate IL is a coordinating space that brings together and facilitates a diverse group of champions and thought leaders. We support regenerative farming and ranching practices that produce a variety of food crops that work with nature. We support teams that are seeking to bring regenerative practices to a variety of organic cropping systems--grains, livestock, nuts, berries and legumes, vegetables, and others.

Michelle Wander, University of Illinois

Michelle Wander is Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and the Director of the Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture Program at the University of Illinois where she has studied ecological soil management and soil quality for over 20 years. She presently serves on advisory councils for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research’s Soil Health Council, the Soil Health Partnership’s Science Advisory Council, and the National Soil and Water Conservation Societies’ Policy Committee.

Harold Wilken, Janie's Farm

When Harold Wilken was about two years old, his father put him in a wooden box he'd made to fit next to him so he could take his son on the tractor as he cultivated his fields. For this and many other reasons, farming was Harold's destiny -- although it wasn't until many years later that Harold, together with his wife Sandy and son Ross, became the proprietors of Janie’s Farm Organics which has grown to include over 2,400 acres of USDA Certified Organic grains.

At last count, Janie’s Farm Organics was growing wheat, oats, rye, emmer, einkorn, buckwheat, corn, soybeans (for soy milk and tofu), black turtle beans, alfalfa, popcorn, and seed corn. Harold is also growing Kernza, a perennial grain developed by The Land Institute.

Q&A to follow the panel discussion. Join us for the other Mindshare events to network and build new partnerships toward innovating our region's food and farm economy!

Farm Forums are organized by the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council in collaboration with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance and the Illinois Farm Bureau.