Through our innovative programs and grant funding, the non-profit Liberty Prairie Foundation works with many partners to improve the health of land, water, and communities in northeastern Illinois.  

Promoting sustainable food farming has long been one of our key strategies. We do so through farm-based education programs, farm enterprise incubation, food policy reforms, community food justice initiatives, and our farmland access project. Learn more about the impact we're making.
The 2017 Food & Farming Film Series

The Liberty Prairie Foundation's Food & Farming Film Series in early 2017 will feature the showing of two critically-acclaimed documentary films at the Byron Colby Barn in Grayslake, Illinois.  A panel discussion will be held after each film to provide further insight.  Don't miss this chance to learn more about the movement to build to a better food system.
 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 7:00 p.m.

This award-winning film brings together the story of seventh-generation farmer Marty Travis, who is working to create a sustainable future for his central Illinois community, with a compelling case for why our current food system is failing us.
 
Panelists: 
- Marty Travis, Spence Farm
- Matt Wechsler, Creative Director of the film
- Jeff Miller, Prairie Wind Family Farm




M onday, February 20, 2017, 7:00 p.m.

Filmmaker and omnivore John Papola, together with his vegetarian wife, Lisa, go on a personal odyssey to ask tough questions about how animals are raised for our consumption. This
is a nuanced, meaningful, and intelligent conversation about the ethics of eating meat and dairy products. Sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States.
 
Panelists: 
- Cliff McConville, All Grass Farms
- Marc Ayers, Illinois State Director of the Humane Society of the U.S.
- Mike Sands, Bean Hollow Grassfed & Liberty Prairie Foundation


Both films will be shown at the Byron Colby Barn at 1561 Jones Point Road in Grayslake in Prairie Crossing. Suggested donation is $5/person to support the Foundation's sustainable farming programs. Learn more about these films and register in advance to secure your seat (space is limited).  Please join us!
Knocking on Doors for the Prairie Farm Corps


By Sneha Akurati

Sneha Akurati served Prairie Farm Corps as a crew member in 2016.  This fall, wanting to give back to the program, Sneha and her mother, Bharathi Pragada, raised over $5000 for Prairie Farm Corps.  She shares her experiences on these efforts below.  Sneha is currently a sophomore at Vernon Hills High School, but was just accepted into Conserve School for Fall 2017.

"The experience of raising money for one more student to attend  Prairie Farm Corps started with a seedling of hope and an inkling of uncertainty. The task at hand posed as overwhelming and at times seemed discouraging. However, with the ding of each doorbell to doorbell showed me more and more about persistence. As a recent alumni of Prairie Farm Corps, I wanted another high school student to have the amazing experience I had at the farm during the summer. The idea was to raise enough money to employ one more student with extra money for the program itself.

Asking for free money is a contradicting statement itself, so with the help of my mom, we came up with the idea of offering at-home deliveries of produce that would originally sell for $15 but instead for $30. The money made would also be matched dollar for dollar with my Mom's work company resulting in a total that is double the funds collected. The work ahead seemed to be tedious but I knew the goal would be rewarding in the end.

The first week was by far the easiest and most fruitful. I immediately found solace in all of our close family friends to buy my box of vegetables and they replied with a gratifying yes. These donations quickly gave me a head start and boosted my confidence which I needed before I would start to persuade complete strangers to buy our veggies.
 
Then I began my learning expedition. With each doorbell, I learned what to do better with the next. As the first doorbell I rang my sentences came out quite choppy and my nervousness showed as I tried to persuade the stranger behind the door. As I moved along, my sentences came out naturally and I wasn't as nervous talking to new people. The challenge was to convince them to buy our produce, but also provide a brief, attention-catching description of the program. In fact, this was difficult for me because I can talk hours and hours about Prairie Farm Corps, but getting to the central idea was essential when convincing a stranger who has dedicated only five to ten minutes at the door. It was important to notice when the person's subtle body gestures: when he or she was drifting off and becoming uninterested. I learned that if quickly tell them with something exciting, it will draw attention. With the final sale of 10 total boxes, my first week was a big accomplishment and gave me a taste of what was coming in the next few weeks.

The second week was increasingly harder than the first week. My mom and I decided that we should advance to other neighborhoods, perhaps more extravagant houses, in hopes that we will get more of a rewarding result. To my surprise, we were wrong. I learned that it was essential for me to mention I'm from the neighborhood in my own neighborhood because some people just wanted to support the local neighborhood kid out of pure kindness. That really warmed my heart.

Throughout the experience, I met different people with different interests within the short three minutes I talked to them. Some people wanted to support because I was just a high school kid trying her best. Some people were super enthusiastic about the idea of local and organic food movement. Some people wanted to genuinely help with donations, but were helpless when tackling the veggies in their diet. Some people wouldn't even open the door, trying to manage talking through the small window beside the door. All in all, it was important for me to be grateful for people who dedicated even three minutes of their time regardless of the outcome. This was something that was hard to learn especially after consecutive rejections, however each rejection only taught me how to persevere.

After four weeks filled endless doorbells, conversations with complete strangers, the resulting outcome was more than I had expected. With over 40 boxes of veggies sold, the dollar to dollar match through my Mom's company and personal income from the summer, we totaled over $5,000! The money was a rewarding aspect but the experience was even more rewarding. With each doorbell came a small, new life lesson."        


If you are inspired by Sneha's story and would like to help, please contact Eric Carlberg at eric@libertyprairie.org.   You can also donate to directly sponsor Prairie Farm Corp fellowships here:

Donate via Public Good
From the Fields: Green Lands and Quail Song
By Nathan Aaberg
Director, Conservation and Working Lands

I want to tell you a story about a farmer hearing the songs of quail in his harvested fields in Minnesota and why that's both an unusual and hopeful bit of news.
 
But before I get to that, I need to give you some context. I had the good fortune to attend the Green Land Blue Waters conference back in December at the University of Missouri.  The conference brought together scientists, policy experts, farmers, and community organizers who are united in the goal of having continuous living cover become the norm across the Midwest.
 
What's continuous living cover and what's the big deal about it? It's easier to start with the opposite condition - bare ground - which is what you normally see in corn and soybean fields for many months of the year between growing seasons. Think of having bare ground as being the same as having the windows open on your house for months on the end. You are going to be having big problems after awhile. Bare ground, especially ground that has been tilled over, will erode with rains and winds and leak excess nutrients. It provides no cover or habitat for birds, insects, and animals. And it results in degraded, deteriorated soils and dead waterways.
 
What soil science is telling us today is that plants not only use nutrients in the soil to grow but they also feed the soil's menagerie of bacteria and fungi and other organisms what they need - sugars, proteins, and carbon. Plants feed soil. Not having plants on the ground starves the soil. Healthy, well-fed soil holds water and makes more nutrients available to plants.
 
Speakers at the conference shared techniques for keeping plants on soil as much as possible throughout the year - cover crops, using  perennial plants (like trees), and grazing techniques that maintain lush, healthy pasture.  All of these techniques go against the grain of conventional corn and soybean farming. Making these techniques more the norm is a huge challenge.
 
Which brings us back to the quail.  One of the most innovative ideas out there, and one long championed by Wes Jackson of the Land Institute, is to find a way to replace annual plants (corn, soybeans, regular wheat, etc.) with perennial plants that don't have to be planted every year and which have much more extensive root systems.  The Land Institute has been promoting and breeding variations of intermediate wheatgrass that could be a major step in that direction. The Land Institute's breed of this intermediate wheatgrass is called Kernza. It's already being used in the making of Patagonia's Long Root Beer.
 
One of the first farmers to grow Kernza in Minnesota is able to harvest the wheat berries in the fall from the tall Kernza plants and still leave two to three feet of the plants standing. On a large field, that's a lot of cover that wouldn't be there if you had been growing corn or soybeans and taken all it off when you harvested it. For quail, this field is pretty good habitat in the fall and winter.  And this is why the farmer heard quail song in his fields for the first time in a very long time. For me and for the farmer, there's hope in that song.

The Mississippi River Connection
At the conference, we were also shown a good video from a gathering of Louisiana fisherman and their families with Wisconsin farmers who are trying to farm in ways that hold soil and nutrients in place so that the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico doesn't get any bigger. Please enjoy to learn more about continuous cover as well.
About the Prairie Crossing Farm      

The Prairie Crossing Farm is a working organic farm nestled inside the Prairie Crossing community in Grayslake, Illinois. The Prairie Crossing Farm is owned by the Liberty Prairie Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
32400 North Harris Road
Grayslake, IL 60030