Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
By Mike Roegge, University of Illinois Extension, Adams/Brown/Hancock/Pike/Schuyler
You may notice that there is a new title to my article. There is also another author. Kari Houle, our Horticulture Educator, and I will alternate writing each week. We will be writing to you on the subject of growing- both food crops and ornamental crops. My title is Local Foods/Small Farms so I'll concentrate on food crops while Kari will focus on the ornamental side. We hope you enjoy and will contact us with questions or suggestions.
We often don't think of local food during the winter months, as the growing season has ended, but that may not be quite the problem that we think it might be. There are several vegetable crops that are still being harvested and there are stored crops that can be sold (potatoes, squash, etc.) and we still have the meats and eggs. The biggest problem might be finding them to purchase.
There are also producers who market products directly to consumers. One of the goals of the Tri State Local Foods Network (TSLFN) is to strengthen the relationship between producers and consumers. There are numerous benefits for purchasing locally raised product. By purchasing local, you keep dollars within the community. How important is this? A recent study in one community found that if consumers purchased five dollars of food per week directly from farmers, it would have the same effect as a $1.6 billion manufacturing or business investment, based on 2012 Fortune 500 averages ($191million in new farm income).
Locally purchased products are also fresher and tastier. The vegetable or fruit you purchased locally was most likely just picked that day or the day before. Compare that to the average produce item which will travel over 1500 miles to get to the grocery store. You just can't beat the taste of local.
Where can you find local products available for sale? A couple of web sites can provide some contacts. www.tslfn.com is the Tri State Local Foods Network site. Our office also has a listing of producers from the region that sell food off the farm. web.extension.illinois.edu/abhps click on the Locally Grown link on the right side of the page. Also included in this listing is restaurants that feature local foods. Both these links have producer contact information and what they sell.
Additionally, there is a store front in Quincy that offers locally sourced products. Grown N Gathered is located at 729 Hampshire. www.grownngathered.com
Take the time to enjoy the freshness of local products, and help support your local community at the same time. And while the offerings aren't as extensive during the winter months, there are still a number of opportunities to support local.