Building Community Health & Wealth through Food

Heartland Community College and the Edible Economy Project are working with several groups of farmers and buyers to start marketing and transporting products through the food hub network this coming growing season.

With support from Dave Bishop of PrairiErth Farm in Atlanta, IL, farmers in the Arthur area are in the process of forming a producer cooperative to aggregate and market a variety of products, including milk, meat, and eggs.  Legacy of the Land farmers are evaluating participation in the online ordering and transportation system.

Chef Alisa DeMarco of Prairie Fruits Farm and Hendrick House is working with a number of restaurant and retail buyers interested in buying more locally produced foods.  These buyers include 30 kitchens serving fraternity/sorority houses and private dormitories at University of Illinois.  Other prospective buyers include Common Ground Food Co-op and Illinois State University Dining Services.

Logistics expert Darl Leman is working with farmers and trucking companies currently involved in transportation of local farm products, exploring how routes can be expanded to additional farms, while improving coordination and efficiency.

Local Food Marketplace, which was developed by food hub entrepreneurs, is being considered as the technology platform for the online ordering system. Idaho’s Bounty is one of 70 food hubs already using this software.

If you are a Central Illinois farmer producing food for our local community, Edible Economy and Heartland Community College would like to invite you to be part of an important Farmer Community Organizing Meeting for the Central Illinois Food Hub Network:

Thursday, February 7, 2013
4:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Heartland Community College

A light supper featuring local food will be served, so please let us know if you can join us by January 31.

Here is the key questionthat we will be exploring in this meeting:

As a community of local food producers and consumers, are we ready to tackle the gaps in our local food infrastructure and work together to get an efficient food hub network in place for the 2014 growing season?

Here is a preliminary outline of plans for this meeting:

  • We will explore opportunities for building the aggregation, marketing, and distribution infrastructure needed to expand the market for local food in our region.
  • The Edible Economy Project and Heartland Community College will share information about some initial concepts and resources, along with details about a USDA RBEG grant awarded to Heartland Community College for technical assistance (consulting services and training).
  • We will work together to identify other resources available to help in building the infrastructure for local food–and we will brainstorm ideas for getting much-needed infrastructure in place by the 2014 growing season.
  • Finally, and most importantly, we will make a community decision whether to move ahead with this work.

If you know other farmers who might want to be part of this conversation, please pass this invitation along–and ask them to RSVP, if they can join us. All of your voices and experiences will be essential to the success of this meeting.

If you have questions or thoughts you would like to share before this meeting, please let us know. You can call Catherine Dunlap at 309-268-8443 or send us an email at

We very much hope you can join us at Heartland Community College on February 7. RSVP now to reserve your place. We need to hear from you no later than February 3 so we know how much food to prepare.  We will provide additional details after receiving your RSVP.

Map of Central Illinois Farmers

Take a look at this map showing farms currently on our invitation list. Feel free to forward this invitation to farmers not on this list and ask them to send us an RSVP.

Map of Food Hub Network Farmers

Heartland Community College, in partnership with the Edible Economy Project, has received USDA funding to help establish a distribution and marketing network for local farmers in 28 central Illinois counties. Read more below–and keep checking back for updates on our progress!

HCC’s $99K USDA Grant Will Assist Local Farmers

Heartland Community College, in partnership with the Edible Economy Project, will receive a $99,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business Enterprise Grant to assist small farmers and producers in Central Illinois.

“Our team has worked hard to position Heartland as a local leader and national model for sustainability initiatives,” said Dr. Allen Goben, president of Heartland Community College. “This grant will provide exciting opportunities for enhancing our collaborative relationships with several outstanding agricultural and institutional partners in the region.”

Responding to a growing demand for locally sourced food, the grant will aid in developing at least three on-farm food hubs to expand local markets for specialty crops and products. These hubs will allow small farmers to aggregate, market and distribute their products to large local buyers including schools, universities, hospitals and other institutions. The hubs also will serve to promote the growth and vitality of small farms and rural enterprise in Central Illinois, complementing a nationwide movement to support agricultural sustainability and a growing interest in local food production.

The Edible Economy Project was initiated in 2010 to create a community-based food system that connects farmers and consumers in a 32-county region of Central Illinois. A primary goal of the project is to foster healthier, more self-sufficient communities where money spent on food can remain in the local economy.

The grant will be administered by Heartland Community College’s Green Institute as funded in part by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity through the Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN). The Institute’s Green Economy Initiative seeks to spur the emerging green economy with a particular focus on community-based food systems as drivers of economic growth.

This project aligns with the USDA’s strategic plan that includes expanding markets for agricultural products, developing alternative markets for agricultural products, and working cooperatively with public, private and government entities to provide leadership on food, agriculture, and a variety of other natural resources.

USDA Rural Development’s Rural Business Enterprise Grant program is designed to help public bodies and private non-profit corporations finance and facilitate the development of small and emerging private business enterprises in rural areas. The agency has eight additional programs that help to bridge the gap between the production of locally and regionally produced agricultural food products and the processing and distribution of those products. More information is available at

For more information about the grant, contact Catherine Dunlap, associate director of HCC’s Green Economy Initiative, at (309) 268-8443 or For additional information about Heartland Community College’s sustainability initiatives, contact Adrienne Tucker, associate director of the HCC’s Green Institute, at (309) 268-8238 or

Starting a Cooperative

January 14th, 2012 | Posted by Edible Economy Admin in General - (1 Comments)

Would you like to know more about what it takes to start a cooperative? You might be interested in taking a look at this presentation developed by the non-profit Cooperative Development Services (CDS) on steps for starting a cooperative. The Edible Economy Steering Group has also drafted a proposed timeline for a producer cooperative in Central Illinois. A sample survey for gathering input from potential cooperative members has also been posted to our website.  Additional information is available on our Links page under “Cooperatives.”

Here is a quick overview of the steps involved in starting a cooperative:

  1. Create a steering committee: the “dream team. “  Responsibility: To create the vision for the project and to hold it in trust for its future owners.
  2. Complete pre-feasibility analysis to increase the knowledge of the steering committee about the potential venture. This might involve internet research, visits to other similar businesses, gathering of other industry information and so forth.
  3. Incorporate to provide a “corporate shield,” providing the steering committee with legal protection from personal liability for reasonable business decisions.
  4. Perform business development to assess the viability of the business concept
    • Feasibility Study to determine if there is at least one set of conditions under which the goal can be achieved. Includes Market Feasibility: Market analysis, competitive analysis; Operational Feasibility: Management, labor, site suitability, materials supply, and other aspects of operations; Technical Feasibility: Proprietary technology, “tried and true”, intellectual property; Financial Feasibility: Pro Forma statements, including projected balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements, sources and uses of funds, financial assumptions, and Return on Investment/payback.
    • Business Plan to describe the business and “the way” that the organization is intended to operate, including: A description of the company, business structure, owners and management; Assessment of the market, market entry strategy and competitors; Description of products/services, their attributes, and the value proposition to customers; Description of operations and systems; Financial projections, including sources and uses of funds, balance sheets, income statements, cash flows and ROI/payback.

    • Update Articles & Bylaws to ensure congruity between the organization’s base documents and its approved business plan.

  5. Perform education and outreach to support the business development process by increasing the knowledge and awareness of potential members.
    • Capital development to raise resources to support the business development process.
    • Co-op education to provide initialunderstanding of the co-op business model, and help potential members determine if this model appeals to them.
    • Awareness building to grow the potential, knowledgeable membership basefor the organization.
  6. Equity Drive to raise required equity (as described in the business plan) to capitalize the business. A “Go/Stop” Step: Insufficient equity is a “Stop” and requires the return of escrowed equity contributions. Sufficient equity allows the organization to break escrow, take on debt, and move to implementation.

  7. Cooperative formed!

Angie Ackerman by Gemma BillingsNew EDIBLE ECONOMY Website Coming Soon!

The EDIBLE ECONOMY PROJECT has made great progress in the 18 months since we first started working to build a modern local food infrastructure in Central Illinois.  We are working on a new website to better share our vision and progress with local food advocates like you.   Thanks for visiting . . . and come back soon!

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