Chicago Market Owner #615 Terri Reardon is a passionate advocate for urban agriculture and the local food movement. Last month, she was part of a group who headed to Springfield for "Local Food Lobby Day," meeting with our Illinois state legislators and making them aware of how their vote impacts Chicago communities.
Here's her terrific summary of the day and her experience.
Last year a friend told me that if I ever had an opportunity to participate in a state lobby day, I should jump at the chance. So, on Thursday, April 6, I did just that. I joined a fantastic Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA)-Chicago contingent and headed to Springfield to lobby state legislators on issues of great importance to our local food movement.
Between the ages of 10-18, I spent time every summer in Springfield. However, in those days I was twirling a baton and tumbling in a baton-acrobatic marching unit competing at the Illinois State Fair. I had never before set foot in the State Capital much less had any experience that would prepare me for what to expect. To say the least, it was rather daunting. Thanks to AUA, I was in very good company and we were able to articulate the reasons to support issues which affect local food and urban agriculture.
The Local Food Lobby Day event was organized by Illinois Stewardship Alliance., an organization dedicated to local food and food justice. They were well prepared to assist individuals of various levels of experience, and provided us with all the materials we needed to help understand the bills on the floor and in committee, and navigate the gorgeous grounds where our local laws come to fruition.
There were five bills dealing with local food issues currently in different stages of progress in the legislature. Our primary goal was to meet with the representatives of our own districts. Additionally, we were given a list of representatives to approach for whom there were no constituents present that day.
We were fortunate to receive an audience with several of our representatives who were extremely encouraging and expressed strong support on almost every issue we discussed with them. When we were unable to speak face-to-face with a legislator, we provided professional and comprehensive materials from the Illinois Stewardship Alliance to their staff, to pass along and enlighten our elected officials about how their vote impacts our communities.
I'll admit that the highlight of the day for me was crossing paths with Senator Koehler from Peoria. Not only is he a sponsor or co-sponsor of several of the bills, but I recognized him -- having heard him speak at the Good Food Festival here in Chicago, several years ago. At that time, he moderated a panel about GMO labeling, which is extremely important to me. Needless to say, I had difficulty containing myself and gave him the rockstar treatment. I think he may have been a little startled, but that's what he gets for being such a champion! It was a real treat to have the opportunity to express my gratitude for all he's done and continues to do.
So I'll pass along the advice my friend gave me: If ever you have the opportunity to participate in a lobby day … GO! You won’t regret it. Participate. It will be an amazing day.
We're so grateful to Terri for sharing her thoughts with us, and for her wise advice to "participate!" Thoughtful engagement in local food systems and food justice issues, and active participation in decision-making are also core values for Chicago Market's co-op Owners. Terri's also a frequent volunteer at Chicago Market events - look for her next time you attend one, and say hello!