Local Foods & Small Farms

Urban farming and food production is experiencing a reemergence in popularity across the United States. Many benefits exist to growing food in cities including a decrease in transportation costs, neighborhood beautification, job creation, and providing fresh food in places where grocery stores are scarce. We believe Cook County, the second most populous county in the nation, can lead in the effort to increase local food production and consumption for all our residents.   

Cook County residents are producing food on balcony's, in backyards and community gardens, and on urban farms. These efforts produce tons of food each year. We estimate a typical urban farm can produce about 1/2 pound of food per square foot of land depending on what crops are grown and the existence of farm infrastructure such as high tunnels and irrigation. We fully expect production levels to steadily increase as our urban farmers gain experience. Food produced in urban areas is typically donated to provide healthy, nutritious food for those in need, sold at market rates thus stimulating the local economy, or grown exclusively for home consumption.  

At Illinois Extension we provide workshops, technical assistance consultations, and referrals to resources for urban and peri-urban food system projects and commercial farmers in Cook County, IL. Our flagship educational program, Master Urban Farmer Training Program, is offered once a year in the fall.

Our specialties include: 

  • Business planning and evaluation
  • Creating vision and mission statements
  • Developing marketing strategies and plans
  • Farm finances and recordkeeping
  • Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) education
  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
  • Irrigation
  • Season extension and infrastructure
  • Soil fertility and health management
  • Urban agriculture production systems

To stay updated about our latest urban agricultural programming sign up for our mailing list and quarterly newsletter, The Urban Ag Connect.  

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