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Illinois Ag News Headlines
New Fund Helps Beginning Central Illinois Farmers in Crisis
Illinois Ag Connection - 05/30/2023

When Dylan Cook saw his vegetable crop wash away in a 2021 flood, he reached out for help, finding support from his social media friends.

The overwhelming response brought in so much money, he sought help from the Central Illinois Young Farmers Coalition to distribute the surplus — ultimately leading to the creation of a new organization to help small and beginning farmers during a crisis.

“It’s a safety net for farmers who often don’t have one otherwise,” said grain and fruit farmer Jeff Hake of the new Central Illinois Disaster and Emergency Fund, or CIDER for short.

Hake, who co-owns Funks Grove Heritage Fruits and Grains, described seeing Cook’s photos after the flood that wiped out his vegetable crop in rural Bloomington. “Their farm was flooded with water up to 7 feet high on the tomato stakes,” he recalled.

Hake understands how quickly a crop disaster can happen.

“We lost a popcorn crop from another flood,” he said.

Hake, his wife Katie Funk and her brother Jonathan started started their business in 2016 with products that include baking mixes made with wheat, maize and barley they grow and fruit leathers made with maple sugar from the farm.

Other small farm advocates say CIDER is truly needed.

“Direct cash assistance is imperative to small and beginning farmers, especially if facing a crisis,” said Crystal Siltman, farmer training coordinator for The Land Connection. “While there are many resources out there for small and beginning farmers, hardly any are rooted in monetary assistance.”

Hake and others poured their efforts into what has become CIDER “to give small but meaningful funding to farmers in Central Illinois who experience a crisis on their farms.”

The young farmers' coalition formed a committee to decide how to distribute the $3,000 Cook donated. “They put meat on the bones of the whole thing about how to legally and thoughtfully manage the funds,” Hake said.


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