Funded projects

Grants • Learning and Evaluation Investments

Food to Market Challenge

$500,000 award to the multidisciplinary team that designs the most innovative solution to re-conceive supply chain practices that today limit scale of the local food market.

Team Leverage: Bringing it Home

Access to local, sustainably produced food is limited by the many inefficiencies that exist in the current supply chain. Food producers are particularly challenged to reach populations in underserved communities, where access to grocery stores and healthy food markets is limited. The result: farmers and their consumers never connect. Team Leverage looks to solve this problem by connecting a local farm network with two Chicago companies that currently move local food into schools. The solution leverages existing customers, partners, a distribution system, and a technology platform to create a lasting, sustainable supply chain between those who produce local, healthy foods and the consumers who want to purchase them.

Artisan Grain Collaborative

The Artisan Grain Collaborative (AGC) is developing a grain hub system to bring new, artisan, food-grade crop varieties into Chicago markets. If a sufficient market can be created for these new grains, the region will see increased land in sustainable food production and an increase in the supply of high quality, nutritious grains. The crops being targeted by the Collaborative will result in more regenerative agriculture practices that will protect soil and water health, lead to stronger local food businesses and farms, and generate a model that can be adapted for use by other regions.

Farm On Ogden Development

The Farm on Ogden Development (F.O.O.D) project increases the supply of sustainably produced food in Chicago by linking a leading urban agriculture training program, a food distributor, an urban developer, health care providers and small farm businesses. In June 2018, F.O.O.D. opened the Farm on Ogden, an 18,000 square foot urban food hub and training center located on Chicago’s west side. The hub aggregates the harvests from small farmers, providing refrigerated storage, processing and transportation, as well as support services for business development. F.O.O.D’s distribution through a health service partnership supports a VeggieRx program, which provides low-income patients with prescription produce grown by local farmers.

Grant funding enables F.O.O.D to enhance its services through continued infrastructure improvements, comprehensive training on urban agriculture, including short courses and workshops for aquaponic farmers, and programs to support farmers as they transition from incubation to independent operation. Funding will also help to establish a new half-acre farm site several blocks east of the Farm on Ogden, increasing land access for farmers who participate in the programs.

Fresh Picks Farmer Alliance

The Fresh Picks Farmer Alliance (FPFA) connects small, local farmers through a network of farm-based hubs to distribute and market their products. The hubs use an innovative approach to aggregate crops from neighboring farms and leverage existing structures to store and stage crops for regular truck pickups, reducing shipping costs. The Alliance of farmers, businesses and nonprofits is anchored by a distribution and marketing partner who is contributing an existing warehouse, refrigeration facilities, information technology, marketing, and a delivery fleet.

Dream Distributors

Dream Distributors is developing a local food aggregation and processing hub in Kane County with the support of Kane County Planning and Development and Seven Generations Ahead. The privately operated food hub will aggregate produce for wholesale purchasers; process produce for schools and other institutions; expand a farm-to-institution program to educate young people about nutrition; and work directly with the region’s farmers to coordinate crop planning and harvesting. Initial funding provided support for planning and launch activities, including the purchase of food processing machinery. More recent funding will support several readiness programs: training for farmers on food safety and organic certification so that they may sell to wholesale and institutional buyers; training for institutional buyers on how to purchase from local food farmers through the Dream Hub, including kitchen equipment audits and a “farm-to-cafeteria” workshop on scratch cooking and local sourcing; and technical guidance and professional consulting services for food hub operators to develop financially sound and actionable business plans. Dream Hub is expected to produce over $2 million in revenue for local farmers, maintain up to 850 acres of agricultural land and have a total economic benefit of $5.9 million.

Farm 2 Neighbor Program

As part of the winning team of the 2016 Food to Market Challenge, Top Box Foods and This Old Farm partnered on a food distribution program to bring locally-sourced protein into Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods by tapping into an existing supply chain that delivers food to Chicago schools.

In the Farm 2 Neighbor program, they will build upon this model, bringing local and sustainable food to the employees of large corporate and institutional workplaces (500-plus employees) at retail prices. Top Box Foods will work closely with companies to promote and market This Old Farm meat products to their employees, and then help distribute the food boxes at company sites. Focusing on corporations allows Farm 2 Neighbor to expand the market for local meat products and reach large numbers of customers at each location. The corporate delivery program will drive demand and increase the amount of locally-sourced protein in the food system which, in turn, increases revenue for farmers.

Funding will allow This Old Farm to engage, train and recruit farmers and provide technical support such as Food Safety Training. This Old Farm will also improve its infrastructure and develop new products to meet the increased demand. In addition, Top Box Foods will use the profit from the Farm 2 Neighbor program to subsidize its program to provide healthy food to low-income communities and food deserts.

Englewood Village Farms

This project supports the creation of a food and farm business model for Englewood Village Farms, a for-profit farming enterprise in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, led by Grow Greater Englewood (GGE). The project looks to create a plaza in Englewood that will host a demonstration farm and a food market that connects to the Englewood trail (an innovative linear park)—an endeavor that will build the local economy and connect residents to healthy green space. Funding supports GGE in their efforts to repurpose and remediate vacant land for farming, assist farmer businesses to create business plans as well as other business development trainings. In collaboration with NeighborSpace, GGE will continue efforts to secure and develop land for Englewood Village Farms, and develop remediation practices and training for farmers and large lot owners. GGE will also work with partners to re-establish a local land trust to conduct and finalize land access for newly-acquired sites.

GGE will partner with DuSable City Ancestral Winery and Your Bountiful Harvest to lead the demonstration farm at the Plaza. Support and training services will be provided by partners, including Urban Growers Collective and Windy City Harvest, so that farms will meet the standards for growing practices and food safety. GGE will also explore partnerships with micro-lenders to attract capital to the food system.

Since 2014, GGE has been the core community partner in FLO’s Urban Pathways project, which was designed to increase the number of Englewood community members who are eligible and qualified to access and farm on land within the Englewood Urban Agriculture District.

Englewood Land Access Project

In Englewood, Food:Land:Opportunity is supporting projects designed to increase the number of Englewood community members who are eligible and qualified to access and farm on land within the Englewood Urban Agriculture Zone. Specific strategies to support urban agriculture enterprises include investigating cooperative business models that facilitate land tenure agreements, and identifying appropriate parcels for farming. In 2019, NeighborSpace will collaborate with Grow Greater Englewood to develop a demonstration farm site along the Englewood Trail and four other sites in the area, leasing land from the City of Chicago to provide access for these farm enterprises.

Eat to Live Incubator Farm

This is one of three projects in Englewood designed to increase the number of Englewood community members who are eligible and qualified to access and farm on land within the Englewood Urban Agriculture Zone by supporting capacity-building of Grow Greater Englewood and programming for the Eat to Live Incubator Farm.

Land Access Project

In 2014, Liberty Prairie Foundation (LPF) and its partners began to identify strategies to overcome the policy barriers to land access, test land tenure leasing agreements with public and private landholders, and further build a pipeline of beginning and second-career farmers. Phase 1 of the Land Access Project culminated in 2016 with the release of Breaking Ground: A Guide to Growing Land Access for Local Food Farming in Northeast Illinois.

Phase 2 of this project continues to advance strategic land access opportunities in focused, collaborative and practical ways, creating models that can be replicated throughout the region. LPF will facilitate a Land Access connections program through the launch of a resource-rich, farm-linking website to connect sustainable famers with conservation-minded landowners. And through its continued work with the McHenry County Conservation District, LPF and its partners, Delta and Foresight Design, will create a model for managing farmland on conservation land. LPF and Openlands will continue to engage decision makers to foster policies and programs that offer more favorable conditions and land access options for local food farmers.

Land Trusts, Land Access and Local Food

The Land Conservancy of McHenry County (TLC) will work to promote land access and sustainable practices for food farming operations in McHenry County. Through the Land Access Project, Liberty Prairie Foundation and Openlands explored broad land access issues. Their analysis identified areas of work at the local level with specific tools and relationships unique to successful local land trusts. In this project, TLC will take that work forward by exploring agricultural easements to secure land for farming; advocate for change to address barriers in land access policy; and share the lessons learned for supporting local food farming with other land trusts in Illinois.

South Cook County Land Access

NeighborSpace will identify ways to transition underutilized land in south Cook County for sustainable urban agriculture. Working directly with the Chicago Food Policy Action Council, they will create plans and actions to develop urban agriculture through clearly defined steps, legal agreements, funding mechanisms and stakeholder engagement. Key public land-holding institutions include the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The partners will also develop a model for sustainable funding to address costs of acquisition, remediation, site preparation and development. A portion of this grant will allow NeighborSpace to continue its work on the Englewood Land Access Project.

Illinois Farmland Conservation Initiative

This project will bring new financial resources to address the challenge of land access in the peri-urban areas of the Chicago regional food system. The initiative, led by The Conservation Fund (The Fund), will build upon the efforts of the Land Access project, which identified the potential for land trusts to use agricultural conservation easements as a tool to connect farmland owners with local food farmers.

The Fund will identify and align potential project partners and farmland protection projects among land conservation organizations to add agricultural land easements to the suite of supports for Chicago’s regional food system, local farm economies, and farmland access. The project will secure funding for land trusts from the USDA's Agricultural Land Easement program (ALE) and develop analyses to target key agricultural lands of long-term commercial significance. The Fund will also set up a collaborative plan to use USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCCP) to support high-capacity partnerships and generate farmland protection projects that provide habitat and water quality benefits and farmland access. Longer term goals include supporting an enhanced community of practice among the wider land conservation community on ways to accomplish conservation objectives through programmatic support for farm viability.

Good Food Business Accelerator

The Good Food Business Acclerator (GFA), developed by FamilyFarmed, supports food businesses in the Chicago foodshed through mentoring, business planning and access to capital. The goal of this entrepreneurial training model is to support food entrepreneurs to develop business skills and facilitate access to resources that allow them to successfully launch or expand profitable businesses, resulting in the expanded production, marketing and distribution of locally grown and responsibly produced food.

Urban Growers Certification Program

Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA) is a membership organization that joins individuals, organizations and businesses to support and expand urban growing in Chicago, including home and community-based gardens and small farms. AUA’s work centers on increasing the number and capacity of urban growers and consequently expanding access to fresh, healthy produce. AUA will establish a voluntary certification program to support urban growers, helping them develop professionally and scale their operations. The program will focus on best practices for soil remediation, food safety and sustainable growing and will be recognized by the City of Chicago, local farmers markets and restaurant/beverage businesses. Establishing a technical assistance program addresses a specific need among farmers who require consistent business training to effectively grow and sustain their businesses. AUA’s certification program will help growers move to the next level of production and ultimately establish an increased number of investment-ready farm businesses in the urban area.

Developing Capacity for Regenerative Farming

ReGenerate IL is a coordinating space and coalition that brings together a diverse group of people who believe in the power of regeneration to restore soil health, store carbon, protect water quality and enhance biodiversity in the state of Illinois. Through their IDEA Farm Network, ReGenerate IL brings together a learning community for farmers, scientists, advocates, food entrepreneurs, and consumers to share diverse experiences, information, and views in order to advance regenerative agriculture.

Funding will help ReGenerate IL expand farming that integrates regenerative practices through IDEA Farm Network's outreach and training. ReGenerate IL will connect farmers in specific geographies that will both reap environmental benefits from the adoption of regenerative practices but also provide critical market connections. Training events will include peer-to-peer outreach and specific education about diverse cropping systems, pollinator habitat/holistic pest management, and grazing management plans.

Reaching Climate Resilience

This initiative looks to accelerate climate resilience strategies by promoting regenerative practices for agriculture. Supporting and leveraging projects which integrate practices that create healthy soils, clean water and good food can lead to comprehensive strategies and climate impacts.  The initiative will engage funders, practitioners, and investors to promote consistent and effective policies and practices. Activities include establishing an Accelerator Platform to connect and amplify landscape-scale climate solutions, and facilitating alliances between the conservation community and the local food sector, resulting in innovative initiatives and projects for achieving climate resilience.

Accelerating Regenerative Livestock Production and Value Chains in Illinois

This project will analyze and define the current state of the Illinois grass-fed beef and dairy sector to better understand the complex value chains and current supply and demand, with the end goal of creating scenarios to develop a stronger grass-based livestock economy. Delta Institute will collaborate with the Wallace Center at Winrock International, bringing expertise from their Pasture Project initiative, to gather comprehensive baseline data critical to understanding the economic and conservation opportunity for this essential component of the local Illinois food system.

Coalition Building to Remove Policy Barriers to Local Food Economy Growth

The local food movement in Illinois is fragmented across cultural, economic and geographic lines. This project, led by the Illinois Environmental Council Education Fund (IECEF), aims to unite local food and farm stakeholders across all lines to create a unified vision for a resilient local food economy in Illinois. IECEF has a long history of educating policymakers in the state, putting them in a unique position to join the critical players to enact policies that will increase the amount of land available for sustainable agriculture and local food. Funding will support IECEF in their efforts to build a coalition, develop policy, educate lawmakers, and produce educational materials on local food policy and infrastructure needs.

Routes to Farm

Routes to Farm is a consortium of farmer alliances dedicated to providing support and training to local food farmers in the Chicago foodshed. The work is coordinated through a centralized, online platform that helps farmers find farmer-led services and programs to meet the needs of their growing farm businesses. The forum helps farmer alliances discuss and address the changing needs and challenges facing local farmers. Initial funding supported the creation of the alliance and the online platform. Routes to Farm has grown to include 14 farmer alliances serving over 600 farmers.

Regional Marketing Campaign
At a Routes to Farm summit held in early 2017, local farmers and organizations identified the need for a marketing campaign to enhance consumer awareness of the benefits of buying local, sustainable foods and where to buy them. Market data and consumer surveys are critical for direct market farmers— those who sell directly to consumers through farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Funding will allow Routes to Farm to launch the resulting outreach campaign, which includes establishing a shared brand, a website and other marketing materials, and helping farmers implement the recommendations from the market research study.

Food Scrap Compost Market-building

This project’s long term goal is to protect natural resources and drive economic development through a viable food scrap composting industry. Compost provides soil with valuable nutrients, conserves water, sequesters carbon and protects water quality.

To demonstrate the viability of food scrap systems in large institutions and municipalities, Seven Generations Ahead (SGA) is creating composting programs within Chicago Public Schools and schools in Lake County. SGA will provide trainings and consulting services to institutions, utilizing resources produced in previous FLO funded projects, such as the guide to residential food scrap composting. Funding supports SGA in their efforts to build advocacy, to develop initiatives through cross-sector partnerships, and deliver education aimed at state, county and municipal level decision makers who support a food scrap composting industry that will reduce food waste and provide a valuable soil amendment.

Catalyzing Conservation Grazing in the Chicago Foodshed

This project explores converting a 200-plus acre, private property site in McHenry County, Illinois into a large-scale, sustainable grazing operation and a hub for grazing education and networking. If the land proves suitable for grazing, Openlands will pursue a creative land acquisition strategy to assist an experienced grazier to establish an environmentally sustainable and profitable livestock operation. Data will be collected on land and water health to illustrate the conservation value of rotational grazing practices.

UPDATE - September 2018: Soil sampling conducted during the initial due diligence process revealed contamination that rendered the property unfit for grazing. Download the full report.

Strategic Learning and Evaluation Framework

Rooted in the initiative’s Theory of Change, Food:Land:Opportunity will pursue ongoing learning, evaluation, and research activities to adapt to the changing needs of the field, measure the effectiveness of the initiative’s interventions, and broadly distribute findings in order to contribute to positive systemic change.

Chicago Local Food System Study

The Chicago Local Food System Study: An Analysis of Opportunity for Local Foods intends to advance the field of local food systems research and point to promising approaches to increase the supply of local food, while identifying ongoing challenges in local foods research. The study encompasses five parts: an economic analysis, a policy and program scan, ecosystem services research, a literature review, and a set of conclusions and recommendations.

Contact

Contact program staff or sign up to receive email updates.

Kinship Foundation

Lenore Beyer
Director of Conservation Programs

The Chicago Community Trust

Michael Davidson
Senior Program Officer

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