The year-long Central Illinois Farm Beginnings education program has added another component to further cultivate relationships between farmers who are interested in sustainability and to provide opportunities to share information and develop mentorships - The Central Illinois Sustainable Farming Network (CISFN).

"We felt there was a need to provide Farm Beginnings graduates with access to hands-on training and the opportunity to learn skills to help them advance from being a farming novice to running their own farm successfully," said Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, University of Illinois Extension small farm and sustainable agriculture specialist.

"This network offers field day workshops hosted by member farms and access to a wide variety of resources, from experienced farmers. Network members will be exposed to a wide range of farming practices and join a supportive network of farmers and farmers-in-training," Cavanaugh-Grant said.

The network is facilitated by The Land Connection and U of I Extension with direction provided by an advisory group of central Illinois farmers.

"CISFN provides continuing education for anyone interested in sustainable farming," Cathe Capel of The Land Connection said. According to Capel, people can join as individual members or as a farm at an annual membership of just $30. "Attending one event virtually pays for the membership," she said.

All network members receive free admission to all 2010 CISFN events, including field days. Other benefits include a directory listing all farm and individual members, monthly newsletters and event reminders, job opportunities, and alerts relevant to those who support expanding sustainable food systems in Illinois.

Those with farm member status as individuals, families, or businesses with a farm name that are currently marketing at least one farm product to the public, will also receive free admission to all 2010 network events for interns and employees working on the farm. In addition, a description of the farm operations will be posted on the network's Web site.

For complete information and how to join, visit and click on "Join the Network."

For more information, contact Colleen Bohlin with The Land Connection (847-570-0701; or Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant (217-968-5512;

Source: Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, University of Illinois