Archive for May, 2013

The Hanna City Work Camp continues to be discussed among local farmers, city/county officials and food advocates.  Read the complete Hanna City Food Hub Charette developed following meetings in late 2012.  Additional ideas outlined in the proposal include a small farm incubator and farm to school learning lab.  This is truly exciting stuff for Central Illinois.  The group identified the land as the most important component of the project with existing buildings and infrastructure a secondary asset.  They felt that the small farm incubator and farm to school programs were of utmost importance, even beyond the establishment of a food hub.  The group did not believe the infrastructure on site was readily viable for a food hub nor did they feel the current number of producers in the area could sustain a hub.  It will remain a long-term strategy for the site.

The Army Corps of Engineers held public hearings in May discussing three options for necessary remediation – clean up of the site.  Issues with soil composition seem to be the main concern which would be important if the Hanna City proposal were to be approved.  Read more

Read more about the proposed transformation of the vacant Hanna City Work Camp

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Interesting article in the New York Times “The Food Truck Business Stinks” on food trucks in NYC who are being strangled by obscure regulations and the “food truck” police who hand out tickets like free samples at the grocery store.  I still don’t understand the issue – is it competition or health or money?  Maybe all three.  This still doesn’t get Peoria off the hook for voting down food trucks.

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How do you get more people and/or restaurants to serve more locally grown food?  Some argue there is a huge demand for local food and others say that people don’t want to pay the higher prices and they want strawberries every day of the year, not just in May.  I’ve heard local farmers say that people can’t even identify vegetables at their farm stand, let alone figure out how to cook with them.  Even slashing prices on their heirloom tomatoes doesn’t seem to make a difference to your average farmers market customer.  If more restaurants were using locally sourced food would that encourage home cooks to seek out and use the same ingredients?  Or perhaps develop a taste for tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes?  It still seems very much like there are two camps – those that are happy purchasing everything from the grocery store at the lowest price available AND those that will seek out and find local foods even if it requires multiple stops and more money.

But there is so much more to this very complicated equation.  What if 3 new farm-to-table restaurants opened in Peoria (wishful thinking) and Schnuck’s decided to sell only locally grown produce?  There is still the major logistical problem of finding the farmer’s who want to sell; who are farming enough to meet demand; and the number one challenge of getting product from the farm to point-of-sale.

Even in Chicago with so many more consumers and restaurants demanding local food, the logistics are stifling.  Here’s a great article “Locavorism Inc.” in the Chicago Reader about a couple guys trying to figure it all out.  It gives you a good reality check if you know nothing about the myriad issues surrounding aggregation centers, or Food Hubs, the one-stop shop for both farmers and consumers.

“…you have a beef guy, you have a lamb guy, you have a chicken guy, you have a greens guy, an arugula dude, a turnip guy, and a tomato dude. It just gets to be crazy after a while.”  One Chicago chef discussing how he sources his local food (which is pretty much what consumers are doing too if they care about what they eat).

Central Illinois continues to debate the fate of the deserted Hanna City Work Camp and if it can be turned into not only a food hub but also an incubator and training facility for small farmers.  More on that later.

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