The Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture Program serves the citizens and students in Illinois.

ASAP’s mission is to build and sustain an organization that empowers the on- and off-campus community working to advance sustainable and organic food and farming systems in Illinois by:

  • increasing program visibility as well as community awareness of relevant issues, activities and resources,
  • supporting networking, educational efforts, and information exchange, and
  • helping groups and individuals take advantage of emerging opportunities or respond to immediate need.

Here is a bit of our history

1988 — A coordinator for sustainable agriculture, Dr. Harvey J. Schweitzer is named within Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) with the support of the Cooperative Extension Service (CES) and the Dean of the UIUC College of Agriculture. An Ad Hoc Committee on Sustainable Agriculture is formed, included 17 individuals from the UIUC College of Agriculture and faculty from several other units on campus.

1989 — The Ad Hoc Committee grows to over 100 members within 12 months. Dr. John M. Gerber is named coordinator of the Agro-Ecology Program (for both AES and CES) following the retirement of Schweitzer. Quarterly publication of Agro-Ecology News and Perspectives starts in the fall of 1989. An agro-ecology seminar series begins during the 1989-90 academic year.

1992 — Dr. Richard Warner is appointed to head the Agro-Ecology Program on behalf of the Office of Research in the College of Agriculture. At the same time, Dan Anderson is hired to coordinate on-farm research for farmer members of the various sustainable agriculture organizations that have formed around the state.

1994 — Dan Anderson and Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant both working as Academic Professionals out of the Office of Research, take over full coordination of the Agro-Ecology Program conducting extension activities related to sustainable/organic agriculture, under the supervision of Dr. Warner. The name of the program was changed to Agroecology/Sustainable Agriculture Program (ASAP). During this phase the ASAP was primarily focused outward, working with farmers, sustainable ag organizations and programs, and conservation agencies in Illinois and the region. Some of the most visible activities included publication of the Agro-Ecology News and Perspectives, support of training programs, field days and the facilitation of USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) programs.

2003 — ASAP is moved to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and placed under the direct supervision of newly hired Department Head, Wes Jarrell.  This move is accompanied by a request to make the program self-supporting within three years and to address the requests of the Organic Task Force, which was an Extension-led effort that noted an expanding need for service to this sector as a result of passage of the National Organic Standards in fall 2002.

2004 — Michelle Wander is appointed as faculty director of ASAP and at that point develops a board and faculty leadership team.  Dan Anderson and Crystal Bartanen lead efforts to develop the Illinois Organic Producers Conference which is held from 2004-2008 and offered in partnership with Purdue, in 2009. ASAP retains leadership of the Organic Track of the Illinois Specialty Crops, Organic and Agritourism Conference in 2010. Continuing efforts aim to support this event and the organic and sustainable agriculture communities.  Deborah leaves the Program in 2006 to join Extension and initiate the Illinois Small Farm Program.

2010 — ASAP joins the newly founded Inter-institutional Network for Food and Agricultural Systems funded by the Kellogg Foundation to respond to emerging needs and opportunities to reduce human and environmental vulnerability across the food system. ASAP organizes the Organic Track of the Illinois Specialty Crops, Organic and Agritourism Conference in 2010 and continues to support this event. ASAP leads the effort to establish the Illinois Organic Growers Association and continues to support networking among students, researchers, educators and public-interests groups interested in promoting sustainable agriculture.

2018- ASAP received a 2.5K endowment to support graduate students, host visiting scholars, and spark innovation.  ASAP project funds have helped establish campus field studies including the Woody Perennial Polyculture (WPP) site at the Student Sustainable Farm, the larger Multifunctional WPP in Urbana and, a recovered mature trial in Dixon Springs IL (southern IL). Funds have helped establish the Illinois Organic Systems Trial and Maize Nursery which were certified organic in 2021.