Making the Case for Local Food Systems as Economic Development

2006 Annual Report for GNC05-046

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2005: $9,900.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Grant Recipient: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Mary Edwards
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Making the Case for Local Food Systems as Economic Development


Local food systems in Central Illinois were studied to document their potential as a strategy for community and economic development in rural communities. The project analyzed five key components of local food systems in Illinois: direct-market producers, institutional and commercial food buyers, farmers’ markets, alternatives to farmers’ markets, and individual consumers. Data analysis of contrasts between rural and urban local food markets, consumer shopping preferences for locally grown food, and techniques for working with community leaders to develop public infrastructure and awareness for local food are used to create strategies for building successful local food projects in rural communities.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Short-term outcomes of the project include increased understanding of effective strategies that promote the development of local food systems. As we document this information, we will provide feedback to case study participants to help them understand the needs of the food system in their communities, and methods to increase awareness of the economic impacts of local food markets among economic development leaders, local food business owners, and consumers. With this increased understanding and some practical examples in mind, producers will have additional tools to develop local market opportunities.

Intermediate outcomes of the project focus upon using the lessons learned through our case studies, with the expectation that more producers will use the strategies we advocate as a way to engage new audiences in their promotion of local foods. This information will help producers to understand consumers’ and institutional food buyers’ purchasing behaviors, policy needs for developing local food systems, and other issues to facilitate involvement of the community in developing local food systems.

Long term, we would like to develop a manual that would help create economically viable foodsheds in rural Illinois. By providing producers with guidelines and practical examples of two successful rural marketing ventures, we anticipate that producers will have the tools to develop viable markets closer to home while contributing to the economic stability of their communities. Among consumers, local elected officials, and economic development directors, we hope to increase the acceptance and support of local food systems.


Short-Term Outcomes:

Hosted results presentation and focus group meeting in February 2006 for farmers’ market vendors and managers to share results from consumer intercept surveys at six Central Illinois farmers’ markets.

Project Presentations:

“The Fairbury Local Food Project” Presentation in Fairbury, IL for the 2005 FarmAid pre-event week, September 2005, Sarah Hultine, presenter

Lecture on food systems for undergraduate course UP260 (Social Inequality & Planning), Urbana IL, October 2005, Sarah Hultine, presenter

“Local Food Systems as Community and Economic Development” at 2nd Annual Illinois Organic Agriculture Production conference, Bloomington IL, January 2006, Dr. Leslie Cooperband and Sarah Hultine, presenters

“Community Food Conventions and Alternative Agriculture in Illinois” at University of Illinois Department of Human & Community Development Brown Bag Series, April 2006, Dr. Stephen Gasteyer and Sarah Hultine, presenters

“Local Food Systems as Community and Economic Development” at 2006 International Community Development Society annual conference, St. Louis, MO, June 2006, Sarah Hultine, presenter

Invited Paper Presentation, “Produce Sections, Town Squares, and Farm Stands: Comparing Local Food in Community Context.” Southern Rural Sociological Association/Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists Joint Meeting, February 2007, Dr. Stephen Gasteyer and Sarah Hultine, presenters


Hultine, S., S. Gasteyer, L.Cooperband, and P.Curry. “Produce Sections, Town Squares, and Farm Stands: Comparing Local Food in Community Context” for Southern Rural Sociology Journal. (Invited, January 2007)

Hultine, S., L. Cooperband, P. Curry, and S. Gasteyer. “Linking Small Farms to Communities with Local Food: A Case Study of the Local Food Project in Fairbury, Illinois.” Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society, Special Issue on Sustainable Agriculture and Communities. (Invited, October 2006)

Larson, D. “Making More with Less: Local Food Strengthens Local Economy.” Agro-Ecology News and Perspectives: A publication of the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, Agroecology/Sustainable Agriculture Program. Vol. 15, No.3. Winter 2006.

Doran, T. “Local food system development study under way.” Illinois Agri-News. December 15, 2006.

Intermediate Outcomes:

Beginning development of how-to manual for building successful local food systems in rural communities. Anticipated completion in April 2007.

Initial planning for development of a professional development program and materials for University Extension Educators to promote local food systems in their communities.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Research team has received phone calls and emails from community members, farmers, and local government leaders expressing interest in local food system development, and requesting information.

The research project has garnered additional publicity for the Fairbury local food project participants through University press releases and articles.


Leslie Cooperband
Extension Specialist
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
222 Bevier Hall, 905 S. Goodwin Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801
Office Phone: 2172442743
Marty & Kris Travis

Spence Farm
Terra Brockman

Executive Director
The Land Connection