The Green Institute comprises a wide range of activities and initiatives related to sustainability, energy conservation and community-based food systems, including:
- A resource center that includes a collection of publications and online resources dedicated to environmental education for students, faculty, businesses, residents, K-12 schools, higher education institutions and environmental organizations
- Educational programs for homeowners and building industry professionals on sustainability topics such as green construction practices, efficient energy use, biodiversity, and alternative energy sources
- Occupational programs that prepare students for jobs in the "green industry" (sustainable design, renewable energies technologies, etc.)
- The Pregracke Center that presents the environmental reclamation work of Heartland alum Chad Pregracke through Living Lands & Waters
- A showcase of the design, construction and operation of the WDC as a model energy-efficient and environmentally friendly building
- College participation in the Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN)
GREEN ECONOMY INITIATIVE
Through IGEN support, Heartland was named a regional Green Economy Initiative for the central Illinois region with a focus on sustainable agriculture and community-based food systems. This effort was active between May 2012-June 2014. The Green Economy Initiative is partnered with the Edible Economy Project to strengthen the food economy in Central Illinois.
The overall purposed of this effort was to create an environment where a community-based food system can develop and thrive. Stakeholders/participants in this food system included, individually or collectively, farmers/producers, processors, distributors, buyers, and consumer. The Edible Economy Project, the Green Institute at Heartland Community College, and their partners initiated/supported area farmers with the help of a Rural Development USDA-RBEG grant.
The project resulted in:
- A group of Amish farmers is actively working to form a producer cooperative and develop a food hub in the Arthur/Arcola area.
- A free online transportation bulletin board called Freight Friend has been identified and is being promoted to help farmers and transportation providers coordinate deliveries.
- After evaluating several commercially available online ordering systems, two customized online ordering systems were developed for:
- A group of farmers cooperatively marketing their products to private residence halls in Champaign
- A farm selling to multiple wholesale buyers across Central Illinois
- A collaborative effort has been initiated to supply local meats to area institutions through their food distributor. This effort involves farmers, processors, and a national food service distributor, as well as representatives from the Illinois Farm Bureau and University of Illinois Extension.
- Documentation has been developed to share information about groups engaged in food system work across the state and region.
The Project Leadership Team identified several opportunities listed below to continue the work begun through the USDA –RBEG project.
- Farmer/hub organization – Work with U of I Extension’s Bill Davison to identify farmers who might be willing to scale up or sell directly to buyers, share what we’ve learned through this project, and see if they want to self-organize as an aggregation hub.
- Raise awareness of the need for food hubs among local food entrepreneurs who may want to step up and run the hub as a business.
- Work with distributors such as US Foods to engage producers and buyers in the nuts and bolts discussions needed to get more local food to institutional buyers that are locked in to particular distributors
- Support the efforts of the Illinois Food Farm Job Council to secure funding for hub development in Illinois
- Work toward a food processing facility appropriate for fruits and vegetable preservation
- Work toward more poultry processing facilities throughout the state, including ones that are organically certified.
- As a result of the College’s involvement in the Edible Economy Project, the College is exploring offering training opportunities that fill in gaps in the local food system and provide training for potential jobs in the local food industry. In May 2014, staff facilitated a discussion with local experts to identify these needs. They discovered that there are currently several groups providing training for prospective farmers, and the opportunity for the College would be in developing training around the processing and distribution side of the food system.
- Work with U of I Extension to conduct Good Agricultural Practice training for area farmers and also assist farmers in completing the third-party certification process.
- Follow up on the work that was done with the Food Innovation District concept for McLean County. A Food Innovation District defined as a “geographic concentration of food oriented businesses, services, and community activities that local governments support through planning and economic development initiatives in order to promote a positive business environment, spur regional food system development and increase access to local food,” Northwest Michigan Council of Governments. www.nwm.org/food-innovation-districts McLean County has many of the assets needed for a Food Innovation District. The next steps would include working with the Town of Normal, City of Bloomington and McLean County to put together a council that would further local food efforts in the area.
For more information about the local food effort, contact Larissa Armstrong, Associate Director of the Green Institute, (309) 268-8225.