Present at the meeting were:
Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, UI Extension; Leslie Duram, Southern Illinois University; Carol Elder, IOGA; Jane Heim, producer; Ellen Phillips, UI Extension; Lindsay Record, Illinois Stewardship Alliance; Sarah Shike, Western Illinois University, Michelle Wander, University of Illinois.
First, the group reviewed the history and rationale behind the movement to create the Illinois Organic Growers Association. A major goal is to secure the financial future of the organic track at the annual Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, and Organic Conference (ISCAOC). The ability of the universities, Extension, and other nonprofits to secure grant funding for the conference is diminishing. Thus, although staff at these institutions can continue to provide time to gather input from producers and organize the conference sessions, producers will need to assist with funding to pay for speakers and other conference costs starting with the 2013 conference.
To help producers develop an organization to support the conference, three institutions partnered on a grant from the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Grant Program: the University of Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, UI Extension, and the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. This grant provided funds to develop an Illinois Organic Growers Association, as well as support one year of conference activities and field days.
Plans are underway for several field days in late summer and early fall, and planning for the organic track at the 2012 ISCAOC conference will begin in earnest in early June. Committees making these plans are facilitated by university and UI Extension staff, with input on content and activities provided by producers. With only one producer in attendance at today’s meeting of the organizing board, the group decided to propose an organization structure for consideration by the producers.
Three organizational structures were considered: an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, an association under the umbrella of the Illinois Specialty Growers Association, and an association with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA) serving as the fiscal agent. The consensus of the group at this meeting was that an association with ISA as the fiscal agent is the most feasible structure to create at this time. Such an organization can be in place with sufficient lead time to create a financial plan to support the organic track at the 2013 ISCAOC conference. The other two organizational options can be considered as appropriate to the future size of the association’s membership and the development of the association’s scope of activities.
Actions to be taken following this meeting are:
- Continue planning for summer/fall 2011 field days, and providing news and information to producers via email newsletters and the web site.
- Submit for review by producers a proposal for creating an association with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance as its fiscal agent.
- If feedback from producers shows a consensus in support of the proposal, then develop a memorandum of understanding with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance.
- Survey producers regarding details of membership structure, topics desired at the 2012 conference, and other issues for which feedback is desired.
- Determine 2012 conference topics, speakers, and session titles by the September 1 deadline set by the Illinois Specialty Growers Association.