If you know me, you know that I’m all about sharing what’s happening on our farm and I enjoy connecting people with little or no agriculture background to those directly involved in growing or raising our food, fuel and fiber. Illinois Farm Bureau helps run a program that makes this happen, it’s called “Illinois Farm Families“. This program facilitates conversations between farmers and consumers, provides opportunities for non-farm folks to have their questions answered about food, farmers and farming, and also shares the reality of what actually happens on today’s Illinois family farms.

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I was fortunate to be asked to accompany the current group of the Illinois Farm Families’ “Field Moms” on an outing a couple of weeks ago. This was the final tour for this group of Chicago-area mothers that has been meeting periodically for the past year. We met in the morning at a large grocery store in Wheaton for a back-of-the-house tour, and an enlightening discussion about retail food marketing with store management.

We then spent the afternoon at the Northern Illinois Food Bank in St. Charles, volunteering our time to sort and package food for the hungry. Last year, The Food Bank fed 500,000 people in 13 counties by distributing 50 million pounds of food. Our group was assigned to the meat department. My task was to inspect the donated packages to make sure that there were no rips, holes, or tears in the packaging, then send the meat on to other volunteers for labeling and sorting. Pallet after pallet of beef, pork, poultry, lamb and fish products were brought from the freezer warehouse, reassembled into 20 lb. boxes, to be distributed to food pantries, schools, and shelters. At the end of the day, our group was responsible for getting about 8,000 lbs. of meat ready to go. The Food Bank is a huge structure and on this particular Saturday was bustling with volunteers working to help those less fortunate. It was great to be a part of such a worthwhile group effort. I really enjoyed meeting the “Field Moms”, too, and having a chance to get to know a few of them as we worked side by side.

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The Field Moms have visited a variety of Illinois family farms over the past year. The farm tours are planned for Saturdays in March, May, October and November; timed to show the cycle from planting to harvest. They have seen farms of all types and sizes, and have met farmers who raise crops like corn and soybeans, as well as those who make a living raising livestock such as dairy cows, beef cattle and hogs. The Field Moms share their firsthand accounts by submitting photos and a short blog about their experiences.

As the 2013 Field Moms wrap up their year of interaction and learning, plans are being made for 2014. A new group will be selected soon. If the program sounds interesting, I’d encourage you to apply at http://www.WatchUsGrow.org – applications are due by December 15. Let me know if you have any questions.

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog challenge or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmer to find out!

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