March 14, 2004 - Journal Standard: New Executive Director Marc Strobbe spent two years as a Peace Corps agriculture educator in Ecuador

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ecuador: Peace Corps Ecuador : The Peace Corps in Ecuador: March 14, 2004 - Journal Standard: New Executive Director Marc Strobbe spent two years as a Peace Corps agriculture educator in Ecuador

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Sunday, March 14, 2004 - 7:48 pm: Edit Post

New Executive Director Marc Strobbe spent two years as a Peace Corps agriculture educator in Ecuador

New Executive Director Marc Strobbe spent two years as a Peace Corps agriculture educator in Ecuador

Ag regionalism comes to northwest Illinois

New coalition looks to seize new agriculture opportunities

By Pam Eggemeier, The Journal-Standard

Agricultural regionalism groups have existed downstate for many years but had never quite made their way to northwest Illinois - until now.

The Northwest Illinois Ag Coalition kicked off its membership drive on March 10 near Rock Falls, unveiling its name, logo and offerings. The coalition has evolved gradually over the past year and now includes representatives from 10 counties.

New Executive Director Marc Strobbe said the formation of the group has been a grassroots effort.

"People kept bringing up the point that ag was still important in this region and it was terribly underutilized for community development purposes," Strobbe said.

Producers, agribusiness, financial institutions, tourism councils, economic development leaders, government agencies, and farm membership groups all started exchanging ideas in a series of visioning meetings.

After a few months, a 14-member interim board was formed, an office was set up in Rock Falls, and in January, Strobbe was hired.

Strobbe grew up on a farm in the Quad Cities area and recently spent two years as a Peace Corps agriculture educator in Ecuador. He said the membership drive is key in maintaining the coalition's regional flavor.

"This group is unique with its focus on job growth and regional development, alongside better returns for farmers," Strobbe said. "We need involvement and members from all sectors and each county in northwest Illinois."

Bruce Johnson, Stephenson County Farm Bureau manager, has been involved with the group at the ground level. He is serving on the interim board and is excited about the potential that is already being unleashed in the coalition's infancy.

"There are some really interesting projects starting to surface," Johnson said. "This isn't so much about politics, it's about identifying value-added opportunities in the region and seizing them."

Johnson said he will talk to his Farm Bureau Board on Monday about offering its support to the group.

"Adkins Energy is probably the closest thing to a collective ag project that really brings people together in this area," Johnson said. "Ag regionalism is still new to northwest Illinois."

Strobbe says the group has voted on five major areas that will be its primary focus at the present time.

"We have an incubation group that continually looks at new ideas and assesses whether it's something they want to get involved in," Strobbe said.

He said the first two areas - agritourism and retail - have warranted combined efforts. An agritourism session was held in January in Carroll County and that area has become an active one. Retail efforts include the possibility of establishing a northwest Illinois ag retail center, complete with online shopping opportunities.

"Finding our way into the Chicago market would be a key to unlocking retail possibilities," Strobbe said.

Another area of focus is marketing - and it would be global in scale. The key is uniting production assets and sending items in demand, such as specialty soybean crops, to Japan and other interested nations.

Processing and resource development are also high on the current agenda.

"We'd basically be cutting out the middleman and handling those services for farmers so their profits aren't sucked up," Strobbe said. "We want to keep the profits here."

Johnson said they have even kicked around the idea of a retail outlet in Freeport.

"There are many specialty grains opportunities," Johnson said. "Proprietary contracts for vegetable production, ethanol opportunities in adjacent communities, soy processing initiatives, and retail outlets for locally grown crops. It's better to bring all those efforts together rather than have them competing."

Strobbe said that charter memberships are now $200, half of what full memberships will cost later. Annual renewals are $100 and basic memberships are $50 for those who don't wish to be a full voting member. They are also looking for corporate sponsorships.

"We'll be getting our brochure out there and let people know what the membership benefits are," Strobbe said. "We're looking to boost ag profits, and in the process increase jobs and spending, for overall economic development."

For more information, call Strobbe at (815) 626-7851.

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Story Source: Journal Standard

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ecuador; Agriculture



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