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 were used to create strategies for building successful local food projects in rural communities.
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 see the manual 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:
“Produce Sections, Town Squares, and Farm Stands: Comparing Local Food in Community Context.” Paper presentation at Southern Rural Sociological Association/Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists Joint Meeting, February 2007, Dr. Stephen Gasteyer and Sarah Hultine, presenters.
“Beyond the Farmers’ Market: Making Local Food Systems Work for Your Community.” Poster presentation at Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference, La Crosse WI, February 2007, Sarah Hultine, presenter.
“Beyond the Farmers’ Market: Planning for Local Food Systems in Illinois.” Brownbag discussion for Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, April 2007, Sarah Hultine, presenter.
“Beyond the Farmers’ Market: Making Local Food Systems Work for Your Community.” Poster presentation at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Environmental Council Conference, April 2007, Sarah Hultine, presenter.
“Beyond the Farmers’ Market: Making Local Food Systems Work for Your Community.” Presentation at 2007 International Community Development Society annual conference, Appleton WI, June 2007, Anne Heinze Silvis, presenter.
Gasteyer, S., S. Hultine, L. Cooperband, and P. Curry. “Produce Sections, Town Squares, and Farm Stands: Comparing Local Food in Community Context.” Southern Rural Sociology Journal. (In review, December 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. 38/3:61-76.
Hultine, Sarah. “Contributing More than Calories: The Fairbury Local Food Project.” Small Farmers’ Journal. (Accepted, December 2007).
Development of how-to manual for building successful local food systems in rural communities. “Beyond the Farmers’ Market: Planning for Local Food Systems in Illinois.” In press, January 2008.
Initial planning for development of a professional development program and materials for University Extension Educators to promote local food systems in their communities. Professional development trainings will be held in February 2008 for University of Illinois Extension educators, community leaders, and interested producers.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Research team has received phone calls and emails from community members, farmers, and local government leaders from Illinois and other states, expressing interest in the research and information to local food system development in their own communities.
The research project has garnered additional publicity for the Fairbury local food project participants through University press releases and articles.
From June through August, 2007, graduate student Sarah Hultine conducted a similar study of farmers’ markets in the town of Albi, in southwestern France, as part of a study-abroad research experience. The research questions used in the Illinois farmers’ market project were applied to the French farmers’ markets to understand differences in marketing strategies, consumer preferences, and product availability between a rural community in France, and the rural areas studied in Central Illinois.
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