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New Illinois Extension educator returns home to support local food growers

Alexis Barnes

ST. CHARLES, Ill. — From raising animals and bees to fruit and vegetable production, University of Illinois Extension strives to help small farms thrive. This summer, a new Extension educator joins the team to specifically support local food production in Kane, DuPage, and Kendall counties. 

Alexis Barnes is the first Local Food Systems and Small Farms educator serving the tri-county area. A native of Bartlett, Barnes is no stranger to the Chicagoland area.

“After six years of being away, I am very excited to be serving the area I was born and raised in,” says Barnes. “I became part of Extension because I love helping the community. In South Dakota, I was able to help farmers and gardeners with concerns about their systems, build lasting connections and trust with them, and positively influence their operations. I look forward to doing the same here in Illinois.”

Barnes, who recently completed a master’s in plant science at South Dakota State University, plans to start this new role with a focus on specialty crops, farmer training, tillage reduction, cover crop and living mulch integration, and food accessibility. She also plans to integrate new programs as community needs arise.

“It is key to create new farmer programming and make strong connections with continuing growers,” she says. “I enjoy collaboration and outreach, and my goal is to educate and bring people together.”

The Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms team provides education, resources, and programming to help residents safely produce, grow, and consume locally produced agricultural products. A grant from the USDA Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production program helped make the new position possible.

“We are grateful for the addition of this position, as there is a definite need in our area,” said Deanna Roby-Vorgias, University of Illinois Extension county director. “In Alexis, we found a knowledgeable, skilled professional who is eager to connect and share with our communities, and we now are poised to better serve local food needs — from growers to consumers.”

Barnes is based in the Kane County Extension office and joins a tri-county team of 20-plus staff members providing programs in food production, horticulture, natural resources, nutrition, and youth development.

Her thesis focused on integrating early-season cover crops as living mulch in vegetable production. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in geography and sustainability from Indiana State University, with minors in business administration and human capital management. She can be reached at or 630-584-6166.

SOURCEAlexis Barnes, Illinois Extension educator serving DuPage, Kane, and Kendall Counties,, 630-584-6166

MEDIA CONTACT: Rosie Ralston, Illinois Extension of DuPage, Kane, and Kendall Counties,, 630-553-5823

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.