Illinois Annual State Report

Progress report for NCIL17-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $110,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: University of Illinois
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
State Coordinators:
Dr. Laura Christianson
University of Illinois
Dr. Bruce Branham
University of Illinois
Doug Gucker
University of Illinois
Expand All

Project Information


The three professional development initiatives in the 2017-2018 Illinois SARE PDP State Plan of Work are: (1) Addressing New Water Quality Challenges; (2) Growing Local Food Systems and Value-Added Agriculture; and (3) Building Soil Health. The first initiative incorporates a new focus area of recent state relevance, while the latter two these initiatives continue areas of concentration from previous plans of work. Programs will focus on providing professional development opportunities for a wide range of educators – University of Illinois Extension staff, USDA employees, related agricultural agency employees, nonprofit organizations committed to sustainable agriculture programming, high school and community college agriculture teachers, and up-and-coming sustainable agriculture educators.

University of Illinois Extension educators are located in 27 multi-county units, with most units comprised of 3 to 5 counties. Currently there are 12 Extension Educators for Local Food Systems and Small Farms, 17 Extension Educators for Horticulture, 5 Extension Educators in Commercial Agriculture, and 5 Extension Educators for Energy and Environmental Stewardship. These and other Extension Educators in Community and Economic

Development, as well as several County Directors, are primary clients for our SARE initiatives. In addition, we recruit participation in professional development programs by staff from nonprofit groups such as the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, the Land Connection, and others, as well as USDA personnel.

Project Objectives:

The three professional development initiatives in the 2017-2018 Illinois SARE PDP State Plan of Work are: (1) Addressing New Water Quality Challenges; (2) Growing Local Food Systems and Value-Added Agriculture; and (3) Building Soil Health.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Dr. Ashley Belle (Educator)
  • Talon Becker (Educator)
  • Katie Bishop (Educator)
  • Laura Calvert (Educator)
  • Andrew Larson (Educator)
  • Samantha Smith (Educator)
  • Mariah Dale-Anderson (Educator)
  • Jamie Jones (Educator)
  • Tyler Strom (Educator)
  • Ann Swanson (Educator)


Educational approach:

The Illinois SARE page is used to communicate with stakeholders.  The most active section of the site is the calendar which lists events of interest in Illinois and surrounding states.  We average about 1,300 visits per month.

The Illinois SARE Facebook page has 825 "likes" and 793 followers.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Outreach via Website, Facebook and You Tube channel



The Illinois SARE page is used to communicate with stakeholders.  The most active section of the site is the calendar which lists events of interest in Illinois and surrounding states.  We average about 1,300 visits per month.

The Illinois SARE Facebook page has 825 “likes” and 793 followers.

Educational & Outreach Activities

20 Consultations
8 Minigrants
11 Online trainings
11 Webinars / talks / presentations

Learning Outcomes

50 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
30 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

30 Grants received that built upon this project
5 New working collaborations
30 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
Additional Outcomes:

We awarded 45 travel scholarships in 2017 and 2018 .

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

Specialty Crops Conferences:  January 2017 & 2018

The annual Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, and Organic Conference (ISCAOC) was held on January 11-13, 2017, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield. The conference provided opportunities for specialty crop growers and small farm owners to learn best management practices, marketing techniques, pest management, food safety and production practices. The program features nearly 100 speakers and 60 trade show exhibitors,and will again host four concurrent preconference workshops on January 11, 2017.

The pre-conference workshops offer intensive learning opportunities in four areas, including Cover Crops, Nutrient Management, and Soil Health; Digital Marketing Strategies; Growing and Marketing Tomatoes and Peppers; and Designing and Operating Irrigation Systems for Vegetable and Fruit Crops. In addition, a special opportunity for farmers is scheduled as part of the Wednesday agenda.

As part of the pre-conference, the ISCAOC hosted the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) Farmers Forum program. This traveling annual event gives farmers, ranchers, and others funded by NCR-SARE grants the chance to share information about their sustainable agriculture research, demonstration, and education projects. The projects highlighted in these presentations and the Farmers Forum were funded by grants from North Central Region-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE), a USDA-funded program that supports and promotes sustainable farming and ranching by offering competitive grants and educational opportunities.

2018 Specialty Crops Conference

The conference was also held on January 10-12, 2018. An all-day, preconference workshop was held on production of specialty crops in high tunnels, a topic which supports our initiative on growing local food systems. Illinois SARE also participated in an all-day workshop on Food Safety Training where Mary Hosier, Illinois SARE program associate led a session on developing a food safety plan.  Doug Gucker, SARE co-coordinator moderated a session on Social Media and Marketing that was again aimed at Local food systems.  Mariah Dale-Anderson, owner-operator of Mariah’s Mums and More in Clinton, IL presented three talks in this workshop. Mariah is also a SARE Advisory Board Member.  Other pre-conference workshops focused on Growing and Marketing Pumpkins and Legal and Labor Issues for Specialty Crop Growers.  Katie Bishop, PrairieErth Farm in Atlanta, IL. took part in a panel discussion on Agritourism and Marketing. Katie is a member of the SARE Advisory Board.

8th annual WCFA event March 10, 2017 U of I Campus

The conference provided young women opportunities to network and explore careers in the agriculture industry.

At the conference, more than 300 professionals, volunteers and college students shared their agriculture experiences with the young women in attendance. Through a networking career fair, 550 students were able to receive information on career opportunities, agriculture courses, student-to-student advice, and much more.

 Elzandi Oosthuizen, vice president of global strategy at Monsanto, spoke to young women at the 2017 Women Changing the Face of Agriculture (WCFA) Conference on March 10, 2017, at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Oosthuizen presented the keynote address while sharing her passion for promoting diversity and inclusion.

Oosthuzien's 12-year career with Monsanto began in South Africa and includes global and regional roles in the Seed and Traits, Crop Protection, and Vegetable operations. She leads several teams in analyzing current and future trends and technology advances in food and agriculture. Her team implements integrated strategies to create value in categories like data science, plant health and fertility in developing world regions.

She demonstrated her passion for promoting diversity and empowering women through involvement in several initiatives, including Monsanto's Supplier Diversity Mentoring Program, United Way, Kingdom House St. Louis and Global Give Back Circle Mentors. Oosthuizen was recognized by Next Gen Fortune MPW in 2014 and she was named a YWCA Leader in the Workplace in 2012.

Women Changing the Face of Agriculture provides career advice and direction for young women in high school and college who are thinking about a career in agriculture. At the conference, women learn more about careers in the industry, network with women from across the country and interact with others interested in similar careers. To learn more about the conference, visit

2017 Growing Together Illinois Farmers Market Annual Conference

March 29, 2017 | 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Kendall College – 900 N. North Branch Street, Chicago, Illinois

Growing Together”, hand-in- hand, we can make change happen locally, regionally, and nationally. As this bountiful crop of local food advocates, producers, farmers, and farmers market leaders join in many fresh and fertile ways, we’ll be sowing seeds of innovation, planting new ideas, germinating possibilities, and nurturing fields of potential. The fruit of our success will be our collective voice, as we share, learn, and work together to bring about new, healthy, and sustainable food systems. Individually, your new-found knowledge and skills will not only benefit your market or business but your hometown community, as it improves the quality of life for all connected.

The ILFMA full-day conference will be packed with informative and inspiring speakers, 4 diverse educational tracks (Market Managers, Market Vendors, SNAP, and Presentations) targeted break-out sessions at all experience levels, networking opportunities, a fabulous winter market, locally sourced food prepared by the talented chefs at Kendall College, and a few surprises.

Farmer-Veteran Coalition


In Illinois, the Farmer Veteran Program, a statewide collaborative made up of over 40 organizations, are identifying education programs, farming resources and mentorships to veterans interested in food production. Fraase notes junior colleges, universities and commodity organizations are coming together to provide resources to farmer veterans; such as how to start a small garden for produce, a bee colony for honey or more.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Farm Bureau lead program efforts with support from more than 40 Illinois organizations and companies including: Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn Growers Country Financial, Farm Credit Illinois, 1st Farm Credit, Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs and the USDA Farm Service Agency, and others. For more information, visit the IDOA’s Illinois Farmer Veteran Coalition page.


Address Master Urban Garden 2017 Cohort

July 12, 2017:  Explain SARE grants and resources to 30 students in Cook County.

Illinois State Fair

August 11 - 18, 2017 and August 9-19, 2018 Distribute literature and explain SARE grants and resources to fair-goers in Illinois Agriculture Area

Illinois Forage Institute 

This meeting on March 14, 2018 was at Rend Lake College and featured SARE co-coordinator Doug Gucker speaking to about 50 farmers on forage crop management. 

University of Illinois Agronomy Day 

Mary Hosier and Doug Gucker represented SARE at the University of Illinois Agronomy Day on August 16th. Mary and Doug handed SARE informational material and spoke with a number of farmers, including several who applied for SARE grants.


Illinois Organic Corn Field Day

Doug Gucker spoke at the Organic Corn Field Day near Sullivan, IL on August 30th.  This field day was attended by approximately 25 organic growers who were given information about SARE programs and opportunities. 

1,500 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
250 Ag professionals received information about SARE grant programs and information resources

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.