Young Illinois farmers set up fund for unexpected crises



(The Center Square) – The creators of an emergency fund for farmers hopes small amounts of money can go a long way.

It’s an old-fashioned idea that brings the farming community together to help in a crisis. The Central Illinois Disaster and Emergency Fund fund provides quick turnaround cash to farmers who experience a disaster.

The Central Illinois chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition got the idea when one of their members recovered from a flood with the help of neighbors. In 2019, Dylan Cook’s field of staked tomato plants in Bloomington was completely submerged in a flood.

“They lost their whole crop for the year,” said Jeff Hake, president of the Central Illinois National Young Farmers Coalition chapter. “All their tomato plants were under six feet of water.”

Neighbors on social media stepped up and raised money to help the Cook farm out. The grateful Cooks handed $3,000 in leftover dollars over to the Young Farmers Coalition as seed money to set up an emergency disaster relief fund to help others who get hit with an acute, unexpected crisis.

“The farmer fills out a very simple form to tell us what happened and to make sure that they qualify. We give them $500,” Hake told The Center Square. “It’s a small amount of money but it can help buy groceries or pay utilities while the farmer tries to figure out how to get going again.”

The idea is to give quick cash without burdensome paperwork.

“The aspect of community and sharing has been lost to some degree in modern agriculture,” Hake said. “This is an attempt to put that back, having your insurance be your neighbors.”

One recipient of the fund is a young woman farmer who got a surprise cancer diagnosis.

“Farmers don’t always have health insurance, or they don’t have very good health insurance,” Hake said. “She had to spend a lot of time getting tested and things like that, so we gave her $500.”

The woman is now in recovery, he said.

Another beneficiary had a barn burn down. They lost a lot of inventory, Hake said.

The committee that worked to set up and structure the fund deserves a lot of credit, he said.

“They created the application with rules around it and made sure it was legal,” Hake said.

Chelsea Meiss of Cook Farm came up with the name Central Illinois Disaster and Emergency Relief Fund, or CIDER.

In February at the Rose Bowl Bar in Urbana, the Central Illinois Young Farmers chapter had a launch party for the fund. They sold cider-themed drinks and made $3,000.

To connect with Central Illinois Young Farmers and to learn how to donate to the fund, visit their Facebook page.

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