IL local food system gets a boost

The state of Illinois is investing two million dollars into small farms and co-ops that will increase access to local food.   

Jeff Hake, a small grains farmer in McLean County will receive around $72,000 to expand their grain processing facility, says the Local Food Infrastructure Grant is life changing…

“It changes everything on our farm.”  He says, “We were just whooping and hollering. I mean it. It’s our chance to finally take our farm as a legitimate business. This is the change in our farm and our food system that I feel like we’ve been waiting for.”

Hake also serves on the board of the Central Illinois FarmFed food cooperative based in Logan County.  He says the co-op’s grant award of $148,000 means they’ll be closer to serving both customers and farmers this summer…

Our whole concept was to create a facility where we could bring in fresh produce from local farms and then do the work of distributing it to local institutional buyers, so schools and hospitals and things.”  He says, “We can buy our building on the square in Mount Pulaski and buy equipment that we need to do food safe handling and things like that. I mean these are huge, profound investments.”

Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton says the first year of the program benefits 19 specialty growers across the state…

“We want to support our specialty growers, which are often women, often diverse farmers and growers and producers who aren’t always in that supply chain or that pipeline, and we’re trying to create opportunities for them,” she says.

Josh Snedden, with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, tells Brownfield the funds are going to projects that will have a regional impact…

Infrastructure that isn’t just going to help one business but is going to help change the landscape of the food system in Illinois by building relationships with other farmers.”  He says, “Such that many farmers will be able to share these facilities to get their produce into the communities.”

Snedden notes tremendous need was shown for the program as over 250 applicants requested nearly 23 million dollars in funding. 

A full list of the grant winners can be found HERE.

An effort to make the grants permanent continues in the Illinois General Assembly.  For an update on that process click HERE.

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