Lake County Sustainable Local Food Systems

The Liberty Prairie Foundation has been working for several years to create opportunities for farm businesses to buy or lease long-term farmland suitable for sustainable local food farming. In 2011, we joined together with a group of Lake County stakeholders and co-authored a study, the Lake County Sustainable Local Food Systems Report . This report was released in 2013, and identified land access as the primary barrier to a sustainable local food system in Lake County. The report recommended that farmland owned by public agencies, which amounts of over 3,000 acres in Lake County, be utilized for sustainable local food farming.

Project Context

FOOD SYSTEMS SCREENSHOTSustainable local food systems balance economic prosperity, environmental preservation, and public health while moving agricultural products from farmer to consumer. National, regional, and local trends indicate a shift in farming practices and consumer demand, as well as present an opportunity for Lake County to capitalize on this growing economic sector.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) GO TO 2040 regional plan identified Sustainable Local Food as one of 12 regional priority areas within the theme of Livable Communities. CMAP is the official comprehensive planning organization for the entire Chicago region, encompassing 7 counties and 284 communities. This external and research-based validation of the multi-dimensional value of sustainable local food created momentum for diverse organizations to partner to advance local food initiatives in Lake County.

The Liberty Prairie Foundation, Conserve Lake County, CMAP, Lake County, Openlands, Lake County Forest Preserve District, Libertyville Township, College of Lake County, and others partnered to advance the Sustainable Local Food priority in Lake County. Initially lead by Conserve, the partnering Lake County stakeholders received a CMAP Local Technical Assistance grant to conduct research and analysis on existing barriers in Lake County, and recommendations for advancing the Sustainable Local Food priority. The result of this study was the Lake County Sustainable Local Food Systems Report.

Working Group

After the Lake County Sustainable Local Food Systems Report was published, project partners moved forward to create a Local Food Working Group to implement the Report’s recommendations. The Liberty Prairie Foundation is convening the Local Food Working Group and has formed Land Use, Policy, and Communications subcommittees. The Local Food Working Group is co-chaired by Brad Leibov, President & CEO of the Liberty Prairie Foundation, and Pat Carey, Lake County Board Commissioner for District 6.

The Land Use Subcommittee is tasked with advancing the following recommendations:

  • Recognize agriculture and food production as a positive, legitimate, and economically valuable land use.
  • Investigate the potential to provide access to public land for food production.
  • Consider farming infrastructure in land use planning, and explore economic development strategies for supporting infrastructure needs.
  • Integrate best practices and standards into farm lease terms.

The Policy Working Subcommittee is tasked with advancing the following recommendations:

  • Expand accessory and temporary uses.
  • Expand definitions and allowable uses to support local food activities.
  • Enable composting for local food production.
  • Ensure that processing regulations suit the local scale.
  • Align water management goals with local food production activities.

The Communications Subcommittee is tasked with advancing the following recommendations:

  • Strengthen connections with the food system.
  • Support the local food system through information and coordination.
  • Support and participate in the Lake County Local Food Working Group.

Click here to download a flyer about the Lake County Local Food Group.

Additional Resources

For additional information about this collaborative effort to built local food capacity in Lake County, visit the following partner resources: