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Local food economy earthquake!

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University released a multi-state economic impact study on increases in fruit and vegetableimage production in a six-state area (including Illinois and Wisconsin) that was released this past week. Fresh Taste and the Illinois Local Food, Farms and Jobs Council, partners to the project, released the report in Illinois with a press conference on April 28th. As a co-chair of the Council that released the report in Illinois, I see it as a timely study that underscores the import of the Council's purpose -- to facilitate the development of a local food and farm economy in Illinois.  For local farmers, it shows that there is room for many more growers and only a fraction of Il farmland would be needed to meet IL needs.  For more information on the Council, go to  For more information about the study, go to Full Study.

A few highlights about Illinois from the Leopold Center study:

1. Illinois has only 1.4 acres per 1,000 persons in the state dedicated to fruit and vegetable production, the lowest of the six states studied.

"Illinois has almost 1400 farms producing vegetables, melons, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.  Over 600 farms produce fruits, tree nuts, and berries.  However, Illinois has the lowest current level of fresh vegetable acres per 1,000 persons in the Upper Midwest (only 1.4 acres in 2007). "

2. The potential economic impact of more fruit and vegetables farms in our region is great.  If we grew it all locally, we would generate millions of dollars in state, support hundreds of farms, and employ 4 times as many farmers and farm jobs.

"Expanding the fruit and vegetable industry in the upper Midwest could have a huge economic impact in the region, particularly in Illinois....  An estimated increase in fruit and vegetable production in Illinois would mean:

  • $988.6 million in retail sales for farmers from 28 crops.
  • $263.9 million generated in farm-level sales.
  • 2,600 farm-level jobs and $120.53 million in labor incomes (as compared to 635 jobs currently generated under corn and soybean production). The net job trade off per converted acre from fruit and vegetable production to corn and soybean production is 4 to 1.
  • Estimated labor income per job would be $46,320 in Illinois.
  • 420 fruit and vegetable establishments would be needed, requiring 2,887 jobs, if 50% of this production were marketed directly in-state.
  • Jobs related to sales of 50% of the locally produced crops would produce a total of $91.1 million in labor income and $130.9 million in value-added. "

3. We don't need much land to make it happen!  In Illinois, we'd need less than 0.3% of the state's farmland to meet the population's demand for 28 major fruit and vegetables.

"A major finding was that the equivalent of cropland in one of Iowa’s 99 counties (270,025 acres) would be needed to produce the partial-year demands of 28 fresh fruits and vegetables in the six-state region.  Though some conversion may be necessary, the production of these 28 fruit and vegetable crops would not require extensive conversion of many acres currently dedicated to commodity production.   The amount of Illinois acres for Scenario 1 is 69,387, which is just 0.3% of the state’s 23.7 million acres of cropland. "