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Northern Illinois Agriculture

University of Illinois Extension

A trip to Bloomington

Posted by Russel Higgins -

Today I attended the Local Food Connections & Technical Summit hosted by the Illinois Farm Bureau at their state office in Bloomington. Why would a commercial ag educator attend a local foods meeting? In the near future I plan on presenting programs with my peers who serve as Small Farm/Local Foods educators in northern Illinois. It is important for me to gain a little knowledge on the topic and I readily agreed to attend upon recieving an invitation to the summit.

And what did an admitted corn and soybean guy learn?

From Illinois Director of Agriculture Robert Flider

  • 50 billion dollars are spent annually on fresh and processed food in Illinois
  • 4 % is grown in Illinois
  • There are currently 300+ Farmers Markets functioning in Illinois (placing it 3rd or 6th among other states, depending upon which count is used)
  • Illinois leads the nation in processed food sales

A number of other speakers shared information on food hubs, addressing food deserts, food safety, federal and state programs. Based upon the attendance and enthusiasm at the meeting (the 2013 summit will be held at a larger venue), and articles generated by the press, local foods is certainly a topic of great interest.

I'll close by sharing an ending comment made by Colleen Callahan, USDA Director of Illinois Rural Development. When referencing the activity surrounding local foods; "If weeds can do it, we can do it, who adapts, adopts and survives better".

For now I'm sticking to Illinois two major crops, corn and soybeans, but I'll be watching with interest as some growers diversify and enter the local foods arena!

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