Illinois Harvest Dinner Connects the People in the Food Chain

The third Illinois Harvest Dinner held Wed., Sept. 6 at Grand Prairie Farms (Dixon) brought healthcare professionals, food service directors, food manufacturers, university administration, professors, legislators, bloggers, and farmers together for an exchange of ideas about food, farming and Illinois agriculture.

The IHD was created as one more outlet at which consumers can network with Illinois farmers and learn more about farming and food production.  The event is chaired by Illinois farm women Mary Mackinson Faber (Pontiac) and Katie Pratt (Dixon). Pratt’s family hosted this year’s event.

“Hosting the dinner was an honor,” said Pratt. “Our family enjoys opportunities to share the farm with others and this event gave us and other Illinois farmers a platform to connect with other people in the food chain.”

She said the event goals are to foster trusted relationships between consumers and farmers and to highlight Illinois' number one industry, agriculture.

Guests toured the Pratt farm and learned more about growing corn and soybeans in northern Illinois. A combine and tractor and planter were on hand to illustrate the importance of technology on the farm.  Some guests even spent time inside one of the farm’s grain bins.

“Being in that bin was the coolest part of this night,” said Luke Graham, a student from Northern Illinois University.

Several Illinois farmers were also in attendance to talk to guests about pork and beef production, dairy farming, specialty crops, animal nutrition and the diversity and strength of Illinois agriculture.

The dinner was prepared by Executive Chef Vince Swanson of Cracked Pepper Catering & Bakery (Peoria).  Chef Swanson met with dinner guests to discuss his menu selection and thoughts about food and farming.

During a strolling cocktail hour, appetizers were available and included: various cheeses donated by Swiss Valley Farms, smoked “honey milk grove” chicken salad w/ “calico gardens” ground cherries on focaccia, and an antipasto platter that included: heirloom tomato bruschetta, picked snap beans, charred shishito peppers, sliced beets, caponata, moonglo & magia negra chese, dried cherry and blackberry chutney sous vide beef chuck tender. 

Dinner was served following brief remarks by Pratt and Chef Swanson.  Greens and seasonal vegetable salad with fresh buttermilk ranch & herb sherry vinaigrette was served family style. The main course was whole smoked hog with caramelized tomato jus on a wheat berry pilaf with corn, squash, carrots and green beans. Zucchini bread with honey cinnamon whipped cream was served on the side.  Culvers from Dixon provided a sundae bar for dessert.  

"This event could not happen without the businesses, organizations and individuals who gave us their support," said co-chair Faber. 

Sponsors contributed at one of three levels of contributions – Illinois Agriculture Builder, Conversation Cultivator and Sprout Starter.  Contributing at the top level of sponsorship as Illinois Agriculture Builders was Compeer Financial. Conversation Cultivator sponsors included COUNTRY Financial, GROWMARK, Inc. & Illinois Farm Bureau, Lee County Farm Bureau, Illinois Agri-Women, Illinois Farm Families, Wyffels Hybrids, Crop Production Services (Amboy), Illinois Pork Producers Association, Illinois Beef Association, Midwest Dairy and Prairie Farms. Sprout Starters sponsors included Livingston County Farm Bureau, LaSalle County Farm Bureau, Winnebago-Boone County Farm Bureau, Michelle Avang of Willow Lea Stock Farm, St. Louis District Dairy Council, Illinois Milk Producers’ Association, Casey’s General Stores Dan Erickson of Triple E Farms and Illinois State University Agriculture Department.

Faber said the group plans to follow-up with the IHD guests to learn if they met their goals for the event.  “We are hearing good things from our guests; that they were able to learn and connect with others. That is our goal.”

Grace Crowe is a Community Wellness Advocate for KSB Hospital in Dixon and was one of several guests from the hospital.
Crowe said she was impressed with the evening and learned a lot. “[I’m] thinking on how KSB and our various events can deliver this farm message to the community.”

For additional information and to see the event video, visit the Illinois Harvest Dinner facebook page.


Medical students looking for help with recommendations or financial support are encouraged to apply to the Rural Illinois Medical Student Assistance Program (RIMSAP). Established by the Illinois State Medical Society and the Illinois Farm Bureau, RIMSAP aims to increase the number of rural primary care physicians in Illinois.

“There’s an uneven distribution of doctors in rural areas versus urban areas,” said Donna Gallivan, manager, RIMSAP. “And that’s really why Illinois Farm Bureau began partnering with the Illinois State Medical Society – to get doctors in the places needed most. Since the program began in 1948, RIMSAP has helped more than 800 medical students obtain a medical degree while placing qualified doctors in Illinois’ rural communities.”

Interested students must have a grade point average no lower than 3.5 on a 5-point scale and may apply for recommendations for entry to the University of Illinois College of Medicine. Additionally, nontraditional students who have competed their undergraduate degree also are welcome to apply. Once accepted into medical school, RIMSAP students are eligible for educational loans up to $50,000 at a 4 percent interest rate for the four years of medical school.

In exchange for recommendation or financial assistance provided by RIMSAP, students agree to specialize in family practice or another primary health care field such as internal medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics, OB-GYN, psychiatry, general surgery, emergency medicine, orthopedic surgery, pediatrics, or anesthesiology, and agree to establish a practice in an approved rural Illinois community for at least five years.

“This program works to meet needs of interested students who may not be able to find assistance following more traditional paths,” Gallivan said. “In the end, it’s a win-win for everyone involved. Talented medical students get the help they need to complete school, and rural Illinois communities are able to attract the general practice doctors necessary to care for and grow the community.”

RIMSAP applicants must be Illinois residents and must file their application by Nov. 1, 2017 to be considered for the 2018 freshman class. Applicants also must complete the required American Medical College Admission Service forms, and mail them by Oct. 1, 2017 to be on record with the University of Illinois College of Medicine.

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