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Meet Meg Augustine, New Farm Finance Program Coordinator

Farm Beginnings Farm Finance Program Coordinator Meg Augustine Angelic OrganicsSunshine (well, intermittent sunshine at least-- oh, the joys of an Illinois spring), fresh air, happy goats, proud, industrious farmers, and a welcoming, knowledgeable staff. In a phrase, this has been my experience since the beginning of May when I took on the role of Farm Finance Program Coordinator at Angelic Organics Learning Center. What a fantastic, dedicated group of people! The enthusiasm is contagious, and the proximity of my office to the vegetable fields has given me an unexpected, yet welcomed round-the-clock craving for vegetables.

Despite my new vegetable addiction, I have had plenty of time to meet with all of the great departments at AOLC and participate in some intense training. I have been lucky to share some of my training with the brand new Director of Development and Communications, Denise Stennis, and we have shared in a whirlwind of informational sessions about all of the important aspects of the Learning Center. Whether it be farmer training, urban partnerships, or food and farm advocacy, the Learning Center is on the front lines of sustainable farming and is innovating every step of the way. Denise and I are quite excited to dig in.

Much of my time at the Learning Center has focused on the CRAFT program. CRAFT is the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training and provides a wealth of farmer-led networking and educational opportunities for sustainable farmers located in northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, and western Michigan. The Farmer Training department is finalizing the CRAFT handbook, and you MUST make sure you get a copy. For farmers, it's great go-to guide for discovering all CRAFT has to offer and for finding local farmer contact information. Suppliers too have an opportunity to take advantage of the CRAFT handbook audience by advertising to a targeted market of farmers who use advertised products everyday. Farmers: make sure you sign up for CRAFT to get this year's handbook and the great networking opportunities CRAFT provides. Suppliers: I'd love to talk with you about placing an ad in the handbook (hurry, the deadline is June 3rd). We are quite excited about the finished product this year, and I am sure CRAFT farmers are as well.

To get better acclimated with the wealth of resources available through CRAFT, I had the pleasure of meeting steering committee member John Hendrickson. John is a wealth of information for new and experienced farmers alike. John shared some great suggestions regarding our Farm Asset Builder Program, which is currently in its pilot year. Look for more information about next year's program in the fall. I also visited Bob Vierow of Bob's Fresh and Local this month. We walked his fields and discussed all of the great crops he has started for his CSA program. If you live in the western Chicago suburbs, you really should not miss signing up for Bob's CSA this year. My meeting with Bob certainly encouraged my burgeoning vegetable habit.

Throughout this exciting first month Justin Farr, the outgoing Farm Finance Program Coordinator, has been extremely supportive and patient in my training. Justin is a wealth of knowledge, and if I can serve the AOLC community half as well as Justin has, it will be an accomplishment. Like Justin, I have a business background. I have spent most of the past ten years working with small businesses and helping those businesses obtain financing and overcome financial difficulties. I welcome the opportunity to chat with our farmers about their business challenges and financing strategies and I'd love to hear about your financial and farming successes.

So let's get in touch. Invite me to come out for a visit, or call for a chat. It's going to be a great summer.

By Meg Augustine, Farm Finance Program Coordinator