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Nikki Keltner
Program Coordinator - Stephenson County
University of Illinois Extension
Highland Community College, Bldg R
2998 W Pearl City Rd
Freeport, IL 61032
Phone: 815-235-4125
FAX: 815-232-9006
nkeltner@illinois.edu

Stephenson Local Foods Initiative

Stephenson Local Foods Initiative

Local Foods Task Force History and Information

Northwest Illinois Local Foods Task Force

History and Background Information

U of I Master Gardener and local wine grower Pam Rosmann started this effort in the Spring of 2005, when she approached Margaret Larson, County Extension Director, about organizing a Farmers Market in downtown Freeport. Mary Blackmore, from the Northwest Illinois Audubon Society's Sustainable Agriculture Committee, met with Pam and Margaret to outline the related efforts of the Northwest Illinois Audubon Society Sustainable Ag Committee and offer their support. Bruce Johnson, Manager of the Stephenson County Farm Bureau joined the group, which then became known as the Northwest Illinois Local Foods Task Force. That summer, efforts were made to identify producers and plan a one day Farmers Market. The market was held on August 5, 2005, in the municipal lot with seven vendors participating. Local response was very positive.

The Farmers Market group met throughout the next eight months to plan a weekly Farmers Market in downtown Freeport. The Farm Bureau graciously offered to host the market in their parking lot on the corner of Spring and Galena Streets. Pam was hired by U of I Extension –Stephenson County to work on this project as well as other related programs. She facilitated the recruitment of potential vendors, developed policies and guidelines for the market, promoted the market and managed many operational details. Extension received a $1,000 grant from the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) agency, which helped fund the hiring of Marjorie Lewis as market manager; purchase books, videos and other resources; and the development of promotional materials. The Downtown Freeport Farmers Market opened May 6, 2006. Throughout the season, which ended October 21, more than 4,000 people visited the market.

The Freeport Farmers Market is now a stand-alone entity, operating with the continued support of University of Illinois Extension – Stephenson County and the Farm Bureau. Generous donations from the Northwest Illinois Audubon Society and the Downtown Freeport Development Foundation have supported the creation of a logo and development of promotional materials, such as a street banner. The market operates each Saturday morning from 8:00 – 11:00 am at the corner of Spring and Galena Streets (Farm Bureau parking lot). Activities such as a bluegrass band, a massage therapist, and cooking demonstrations were added in 2007.

In the Spring of 2007, U of I Extension received another $1,000 SARE Grant to promote local foods in the area. These funds were matched by the Director of Extension, Denny Campion, showing his support of efforts in the area of Local Foods. New members joined the Task Force, and it began meeting regularly to plan a campaign to increase awareness of Local Foods in Stephenson County and Northwest Illinois.

PROJECTS AND PROGRAMS

2005 Planning and preparation for downtown Farmers Market; one market conducted

2006 Farmers Market conducted weekly from May to October; hosted at Farm Bureau

2007

§ Farmers Market continues to grow

§ Awareness campaign launched at Ag Breakfast, June 23

§ New symbol developed to promote and identify locally grown/raised foods

§ Local retailers, Alber's Ice Cream Parlor, Miller's Country Cheese, and Farmers Market vendors begin use of symbol on point-of-sale and packaging

§ Plans developed for Harvest Expo at Visitor's Center, August 10 – September 21

§ Plans developed to conduct educational workshops for producers, retailers, and consumers in September and October


2010 MEMBERSHIP

Lisa Bardell: Freeport Farmers Market, Freeport School District

Barb Curry: U of I Extension - Stephenson County Family and Nutrition Program Coordinator

Ardath DeWall: Stephenson County Ag Breakfast Organizer, Dairy Producer

Laura Duffard: Northwest Illinois Audubon Society Sustainable Agriculture Committee

Lynne Howe: Illinois Agri-Women, Lena Farmers Market

Bruce Johnson: Stephenson County Farm Bureau Director

Marjorie Lewis: Freeport Community Gardening Project, U of I Extension Master Gardener

Angela Larson: U of I Extension - Stephenson County Master Gardener, Farm Wife

Margaret Larson: U of I Extension - Stephenson County Director

Pam Rosmann: Owner of Famous Fossil Winery, Audubon Society Ag Committee

Cheryl Wolffe Pitts: Hulbert Hollow Farm, U of I Extension Food Preserver