Illinois has some of the most fertile soils in the country. While Illinois farmers grow only six percent of the produce consumed in the state, we could grow much more. If local food production were increased in the seven counties of metropolitan Chicago, it could create over 5,000 jobs and generate $6.5 billion a year in economic activity. The demand is there. Over the last ten years, regional demand for local food has grown 260 percent, and recent surveys show that three-quarters of Americans care that their food is grown locally. Fresh local produce isn’t just for farmers’ markets anymore — Meijer, Wal-Mart, and other major retailers and restaurant chains are also committing to sell locally grown food. Despite the significant increase in demand, however, we continue to import food from other states and countries, and $26 billion in food revenue leaves our region every year.
Metropolitan Chicago’s GO TO 2040 plan calls for us to strengthen our region’s food systems.
By producing more of the food we consume locally, we keep money in the region, support local businesses, and have delicious, fresh produce to eat. This microsite provides a number of resources to help local governments support our local food systems.
I’m really excited to see policy makers and planners thinking about where our food comes from and supporting the shift to a more local food system. This video could easily be a template for anyone trying to describe “Why local?” and gives a simple overview from the perspective of a farmer, distributor, restaurant owner, and mother. Check it out!