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 www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer/.
For more information about the grant, contact Catherine Dunlap, associate director of HCC’s Green Economy Initiative, at (309) 268-8443 or firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com.