Past Event

Seeding Change? The Future of our Farms and Communities - Shelbyville

In recent decades, farming across Illinois has evolved dramatically in the face of technological, environmental, and economic change. Join us for an evening of food, music, and conversation as we discuss possible future developments in agriculture and their potential impacts upon rural communities in Illinois, featuring perspectives from within and beyond the region. We’ll consider such questions as…

  • What are some of the most significant opportunities and challenges facing small farms and industrial agriculture in our state at present?
  • How might ongoing technological innovation benefit small farmers as well as industrial agriculture?
  • How can agricultural producers achieve a healthy combination of profitability and ecological stewardship? How might that combination contribute toward the long-term economic and cultural viability of local communities?

Simon King grew up on a farm in rural Michigan and is now the director of the Carnegie Mellon University Design Center. Drawing on his first-hand experience with both farming and design, he’ll talk about how technological innovation might shape the future of small farms and industrial agriculture alike and perhaps combine some of the positive attributes of different approaches to farming.

We’ll then hear from Steve John of the Agricultural Watershed Institute in Decatur and from Diane Roberts, president of the Shelbyville Farmers Market Association, who will respond to Simon’s presentation from a regional perspective and share thoughts about how potential agricultural shifts could affect area communities in the coming years.

Afterward, a free meal highlighting locally grown and prepared food will provide an opportunity for conversation in which all are welcome to participate. We’ll cap off the evening with a performance by members of the Illinois Old Time Fiddlers Association.

We hope you’ll join us to discuss these critical issues and to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Illinois’s farming communities.


Simon KingSimon King grew up on a farm in rural Michigan and is now the director of the Carnegie Mellon University Design Center, a new interdisciplinary space that connects students and faculty from across campus through design.

Prior to Carnegie Mellon, Simon was a Design Director and Business Lead at IDEO in Chicago, where he led the studio’s Interaction Design discipline. During 8 years at IDEO, his work spanned diverse mediums and audiences including medical imaging equipment, vehicle HMI platforms, personal health apps, and financial planning tools.

His book Understanding Industrial Design: Principles for UX and Interaction Design, is published by O’Reilly Media. He holds an MDes in Interaction Design from Carnegie Mellon University and a BFA in Graphic Design from Western Michigan University.

Steve JohnSteve John is the co-founder and executive director of the Agricultural Watershed Institute, a nonprofit research and educational organization based in Decatur, Illinois. AWI’s mission is to conduct research and educational programs on practices and policies to improve water quality, maintain or restore ecosystem health, and conserve and manage land and water resources in agricultural watersheds.

Prior to AWI’s formation in 2003, Mr. John was an environmental planning consultant specializing in watershed management, decentralized wastewater systems, and the links between land use and water quality. From 1987 to 1995, he served on the Decatur City Council where he first became involved in watershed approaches to reduce nonpoint source pollution in Lake Decatur. As a council member, he helped to form the Lake Decatur Watershed Committee and served as co-chairman. He serves on the steering committees of the Green Land Blue Waters Consortium and the Illinois Biomass Working Group. He has a BA in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame.

Shelbyville farmers marketDiane Roberts, president of the Shelbyville Farmers Market Association, was raised on her family’s farm near Windsor in Shelby County. After working in business-to-business sales and marketing in the telecommunications and medical equipment industries for 27 years, she purchased a 22-acre parcel of her family’s land and founded Sandcreek Garden Farms. She sells produce and garden starts at the Shelbyville Farmers Market and several other local venues, including the annual Herb Fest in Mattoon. Also a woodworker, Diane sells wooden benches and garden-related items at local farmers markets, as well.

This event is free and open to the public, but capacity is limited and advance RSVP is required. Walk-ins will be accepted only if space is available.

If you require a sign interpreter or any other arrangements to fully participate in this program, please contact at least 72 hours in advance of the event. For more information, please call 312.422.5580.