Openlands Helps Create New FARM Illinois Plan

May 21, 2015

Openlands staff helped to create the new FARM Illinois Plan to enable Illinois and the Chicago region to become the leading global hub for food and agriculture system innovation. The plan, which was released May 18, is the first coordinated, system-wide effort to bring together business, food, and agriculture networks to make the state a leader in agriculture and food systems. Openlands President & CEO Jerry Adelmann served on the project's Leadership Council, and Openlands Policy Director Lenore Beyer-Clow consulted on sustainability and community/workforce development.

"Openlands connects people to nature through the food we eat and the farmland that grows it," said Openlands Planning and Policy Analyst Andrew Szwak. "FARM Illinois has convened Illinois’ business, food, and farming communities to develop and advance broad-reaching policy objectives around agriculture. Openlands’ participation in this partnership continues to elevate local food production and farmland protection as high-level goals of this ongoing effort."

Among other recommendations, FARM Illinois calls for the establishment of the Illinois Council for Food and Agriculture to spearhead ongoing strategic development and implementation of FARM Illinois in the future. The council will develop performance measures to track and evaluate progress. An annual report will demonstrate achievements as well as indicate where additional effort is needed, ensuring the plan remains updated, vital, and relevant.

Since September 2014, more than 150 stakeholders and experts representing different aspects of the food and agriculture system—from policy to advocacy, research to industry, and production to consumption—contributed to a rigorous analysis of the region’s strengths and weaknesses and developed 23 strategic recommendations in 6 key areas:

  • Leadership for innovation: Develop an integrated, statewide, long-term, public-private strategy to increase coordination among agriculture and food system stakeholders, particularly between Chicago and statewide food and agriculture interests, and maximize existing resources in the industry.
  • Business development and entrepreneurship: Spur business growth and investment by making Illinois the preferred destination for food and agriculture companies of all sizes.
  • Workforce and education: Develop a high-quality workforce for food and agriculture and educate Illinois policy makers and the general public on sector innovation.
  • Resource management: Ensure Illinois sustainably protects and manages its natural resources.
  • Infrastructure: Ensure Illinois’ infrastructure is capable of supporting the state’s ability to sustainably meet its own needs while being a global leader in food and agriculture.
  • Branding and market development: Develop larger and more diverse local, regional, national, and international markets for Illinois’ agriculture and food products by raising Illinois’ profile.
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