CHAMPAIGN — United Way CEO Sue Grey isn’t a farmer, but she has been paying attention to crop prices.
Each year, local farmers harvest the field between Olympian and Interstate drives for United Way, which distributes the proceeds to local nonprofits working in hunger or nutrition.
“Grain prices are all over the place,” Grey said. “Soybeans are not where they could be or should be.”
In recent years, she said, the event called Farmers Feeding Families has raised around $26,000.
“One of the beautiful things is that yields always tend to be very good,” Grey said.
After paying for rent and crop insurance, Grey estimated about half goes to the nonprofits, a contribution on top of United Way’s regular grants.
“This is a way to be able to add to programs we know are tried and true, are doing a great job, and that we can get closer to the amount requested from us,” Grey said.
Recipients this year include the Community Service Center of Northern Champaign County food pantry, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank food fund program, the Family Service of Champaign County Meals on Wheels program, the Greater Community AIDS Project food pantry and the Sarah Bush Lincoln Peace Meal home-delivered meals program, which serves rural Champaign County.
The corn and soybeans on the field owned by the Champaign school district “looks pretty good,” Grey said, though “it’s a little wet right now.”
Local farmers were planning to harvest the fields this Monday or Tuesday, but because of all the rain (and snow), that’s been pushed back to this coming Thursday or Friday to make sure farmers are done with their harvest.
When it actually does happen, farmers donate their time and equipment to quickly clear the field.
“It’s like a choreographed dance out there,” Grey said, with combines and trucks lined up to take the crop to the Andersons grain elevator.
In addition to Unit 4’s field, the farmers will also harvest nine acres of soybeans on nearby land owned by Litania Sports Group, off of Mercury Drive, that the company isn’t currently using.
Litania’s owner, David Hodge, was invited to attend last year’s Farmers Feeding Families harvest, Grey said.
“David then graciously donated the land,” Grey said.
The field had been weeds, said Mary McGrew, Litania’s vice president of human resources.
“It’s really nice to look out there and see the uniformity and not weeds,” she said.