Now that it is once again the season of farmer’s markets, I’ve been buying more local produce than I do when it’s cold out. Farmer’s markets often feature produce and prepared foods from multiple nearby states, but you can also find produce grown within the city. Individuals aren’t the only ones who benefit from having access to local and urban farms; it is also a great sustainable choice for restaurants and food producers. Using local produce can reduce carbon footprints, since it takes fewer emissions to transport ingredients from nearby than from across the country or the world.
One farm pioneering sustainable practices in Chicago is City Farm. City Farm covers vacant lots with clay and compost so that they can grow food. Then, they sell the crops to restaurants and community members, with a portion going directly to food pantries as well. City Farm also provides education about sustainability and farming.
Another exciting urban farm is Plant Chicago. Plant Chicago’s main focus is on functioning in a circular economy, meaning that they attempt to repurpose as much waste as possible with the goal of operating entirely without using new or limited resources. Right now, they are renovating an abandoned firehouse into a hydroponic farm. This revolutionary way of growing produce without soil creates a hyper-local fresh food supply for the surrounding community. Plant Chicago also offers classes and workshops, helping people in Chicago learn about aquaponics, composting, circular economies, and more.
Restaurants and food producers can contact urban farms in their area to benefit from fresh and sustainable produce. They can use hydroponic farmed ingredients, or partner with vendors from farmers markets to provide a green farm-to-table experience. The 2018 Food Insight survey found that 59% of consumers think sustainability is important when considering what foods to eat. In deciding what restaurants to go to, consumers listed knowing that the food is natural and knowing where the food comes from as the two most significant factors. So, by partnering with local and sustainable farms, restaurants and food producers can reach more customers.
As long as it’s still warm out, I know I will be searching for urban farm produce at the farmer’s market, but restaurants and food producers can reach out to benefit from city-grown foods all year long.