Located one hour south of Chicago, the Pembroke Township in Illinois was once home to the largest Black farming community north of the Mason-Dixon line. Today, less than 50% of this land is owned by descendants of the farming families. Iroquois Valley, in partnership with Black Oaks Center, Savanna Institute, Conservation Fund, Food Finance Institute, and Fresh Taste, was awarded a Conservation Collaboration Grant in 2020 to support this farming community with the financial and technical resources necessary to expand and diversify the region’s agroforestry production.
As part of this grant, Black Oaks Center recently hosted an Open House for all Pembroke landowners to attend and learn more about federal funding opportunities. Present at the event were Conservation Fund, Savanna Institute, Iroquois Valley, and Renewable Pembroke. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) was also available to sign up landowners for FSA programs – their first step in accessing National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) services. John Steven Bianucci, Iroquois Valley’s Director of Conservation, reported that over 25 landowners registered with the FSA.
Overall, the event was a big success, increasing the momentum for Pembroke farming.