University of Illinois Extension is excited to announce a challenge to the residents of Montgomery, Macoupin, Christian, and Jersey County to grow, purchase, and eat locally May through September. Throughout the summer and early fall, University of Illinois Extension will offer programs about growing, cooking, and preservation throughout Montgomery, Macoupin, Christian, and Jersey Counties, which will focus on locally grown foods. The goal of the challenge is to make the public more aware of local growers, increase confidence in growing, caring for, and preparing local foods, and for the citizens in the Montgomery, Macoupin, Christian, and Jersey County to support each other in making healthy lifestyle choices.

What is local? For the purpose of this challenge, local food is food produced in the Montgomery, Macoupin, Christian, and Jersey County region; whether, directly from a local grower, purchased at a farmers market, or food produced in a home garden.

Why eat and buy local? Food purchased locally has a positive effect on the community, health, and the environment. Most of the food sold in the grocery store travels 1,500 miles to reach the store; burning fossil fuel, which can have a harmful effect on the environment. Not only will eating local help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but keeps the food dollar in the community aiding the local economy.

Going to a farmers market and purchasing food from a local grower is an opportunity to discover how local foods are grown, processed, and garner additional suggestions for preparation directly from the producer. Purchasing local food may also have a positive impact on health. Lisa Peterson, Nutrition and Wellness Educator for University of Illinois Extension explains, “By purchasing food locally, you can talk to the grower and know exactly what’s in the food you and your family are eating. Eating fresh food from a farmers market or local producers can also replace foods that require more preservatives that can be high in added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat.” 

The longer fresh produce sits after harvest, the greater the decrease in nutritional value. After fresh produce is harvested, vitamins such as A, C, and, E begin to deteriorate. “When preparing fresh produce from a local farmer, the food is closer to its optimal nutritional state compared to produce that required processing and shipping,” Peterson clarifies. Purchasing locally reduces the distance and time food travels from farm to fork cutting down on the risk of contamination. 

Join the conversation by following the Unit 18 Eat Local Challenge on Facebook. Exchange seasonal recipes, share your finds at local farmers' markets, discuss challenges in growing and eating locally, learn about upcoming classes, and find additional information about growing and caring for a garden. The public is also invited to ask growing, cooking, and preservation questions. For more information, contact your local Extension office.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact our office. Universidad de Illinois ofrece igualdad de oportunidades en programas y empleo. Si usted necesita un ajuste razonable para participar en este programa, por favor póngase en contacto con nuestra oficina.

What's in season? Learn when produce is in season in Illinois.

List of Local Farmers' Markets