Citizens promote healthier living
Holly Kim (left) and Jennifer Kehrer are two of the founders of Village Homesteading Mundelein, an organization that promotes self-sufficiency. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
MUNDELEIN – A community-focused nonprofit was born in the wake of a July Village Board meeting that featured a discussion on backyard hens and honeybee keeping.
Now known as Village Homesteading Mundelein, the group has grown enough to hold regular events – one of which helped Emmy Award winning director Jeff Spitz fundraise enough money to promote his documentary, “Food Patriots.”
Spitz is a writer, producer and director on an independent level, as well as for PBS and various cable stations. Some of his work includes “The Return of Navajo Boy” and “The Roosevelt Experiment.”
While showing “Food Patriots” at Maverick’s Country Bar & Grill in Mundelein, an anonymous $2,500 donation, coupled with dozens of smaller contributions, helped Spitz surpass his $15,000 fundraising goal and allowed him to enter the movie in film festivals.
The documentary explores ways to improve American diets through eating more fruits and vegetables, eating more organic foods, buying locally, and growing your own food – all concepts that Village Homesteading Mundelein supports.
“We try to tell people that we’re not only about chickens,” said Holly Kim, Village Homesteading Mundelein board member. “We’re an educational nonprofit that promotes sustainability and self sufficiency.”
The group’s formation did come from a chicken coop discussion.
With Mundelein’s downtown redevelopment moving forward, rezoning was required and an outside consultant made mention of hens and bees in regard to other eco-friendly changes that could be made when rezoning.
The Village Board was voting on various zoning changes during its July 23 meeting. At the time, Mundelein prohibited such homesteading activities. That ordinance was upheld when the board indefinitely postponed any changes.
“Trustees said they believe Mundelein is now an urban community,” Village Administrator John Lobaito said. “They were worried about problems that come with properly caring for the animals.”
About 15 people spoke on the topic; some saying the smell and sounds would disturb neighborhoods, while others said the movement is backed by well-educated residents who knew what they were doing.
“We’re not trying to get thousands of chickens in our back yard,” said Jennifer Kehrer, a board member with Village Homesteading Mundelein. “I personally would like two. Its fresh food for a small family and teaches our kids about animals.”
Some of those speakers kept in touch and now a group of four lead the nonprofit. Along with Kim and Kehrer, James Manfredi and Alex Kvasnicka help plan events.
“We’d like to eventually change the trustees’ minds, starting from the ground up and educating the public,” Kehrer said. “But that’s just one part of what our organization does.”
The group has a Facebook page that Kim said is meant to be a forum. Since being created in August, the page now has more than 200 friends.
“If someone is working on ‘Project Y’ and needs help or is willing to let other people come and watch, they can post on our page,” Kim said. “There’s a younger generation that wants to know where their food comes from and get back to some of our traditional roots. So let’s unite and help each other.”
Village Homesteading Mundelein claims to not have any motive aside from public education.
“It’s so unusual for an organization to not have a hidden agenda, but we don’t,” Kim said. “Becoming more responsible makes you more valuable to your family and community. Who doesn’t want better, smarter neighbors?”
In addition to helping with the farmer’s market and organizing how-to events, Kim said the group also goes door-to-door in the Mundelein business community promoting other locally owned businesses.