Country Club Gets into the Hyperlocal Food Game

Country Club Gets into the Hyperlocal Food Game

The potager at Skokie Country Club is visible from the dining room.

Away from the fairways and closer to the clubhouse, golf grounds crews around Chicago are tending a different sort of green—greens in lovingly planted gardens, meant for use in clubs’ kitchens and served in dining rooms.

At Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, an elegant potager, or ornamental kitchen garden, flanks the dining patio. “We chose Tuscan kale, rainbow chard, bronze fennel, along with herbs and flowers for good looks from start to finish,” says Jeanne Nolan of Glencoe-based Organic Gardener, who created the gardens for the club.

Larger production gardens in raised beds are tucked near the paddle courts, with vegetables, fruits, herbs and edible flowers planted in tidy rows. Chef Richard Stanton helps select produce for his dishes, including purple cauliflower, watermelon radishes, striped heirloom tomatoes and more than 50 other crops and varieties. Along with the gardens, the club has bee boxes and a flock of hens. Members are eating it up, and other local clubs are following suit.

Skokie Country Club members visit the club's hens

Skokie Country Club members take a tour. Eggs from 20 hens soon will be served in the club’s restaurant.

A recent menu special at the clubhouse featured multicolored beets and honey goat cheese topped with hazelnut “soil” and sorrel. The bar also offers garden-inspired cocktails, such as a mojito infused with honey harvested on-site.

“The club has become our go-to place to eat,” member Amy Boehm says. “Why go somewhere else that can’t match this quality?”

The trend toward gardens on golf club grounds is beginning to spread across the country, and Chicago-area clubs are on the leading edge, says Melissa Low, spokeswoman for the Club Managers Association of America. The gardens, along with beer brewing and rooftop gardens, are among the modern amenities clubs are trying as they strive to stay competitive.

The number of golfers has dropped from 30 million in 2005 to nearly 25 million in 2014, according to the National Golf Foundation. Since the economic downturn in 2008, golf rounds have waned and course closings have been on the rise. “Diversification has become a primary interest of golf clubs,” Low says. “In order to attract and retain members, clubs have been adding distinct amenities.” The focus has become more family-oriented and relevant to today’s lifestyles. New facilities and experiences designed to entice younger members include fitness centers, spas, junior programs and modern dining.


Skokie tees up for the kale craze.

“Despite some skeptical golfers, guess what, (the kitchen gardens) work,” says Chuck Scupham, general manager of Skokie Country Club, which has 600 members and a waiting list. “Golf clubs are uniquely positioned to grow food on-site with idle acreage, landscape staff and members’ high dining expectations.”

Skokie ranks in the 98th percentile for club food and beverage sales, according to Club Benchmarking, an online management tool for clubs across the nation. “It’s about adding value and building our brand,” Scupham says. “We’re appealing to our diverse membership now and a few years out.” Clubgoers have embraced local food and sustainability, the hottest restaurant trends.

North Shore Country Club in Glenview grows organic produce in a greenhouse and a converted half-acre garden. From asparagus to zucchini blossoms, vegetables are harvested by the club’s chef and woven into the menu. “Members get a kick out of the garden; you can’t get any fresher,” says Golf Superintendent Dan Dinelli, who spearheads tending of the garden. “It’s not much more effort for us and we’re having fun. Plus it fits in with our wider environmental initiatives.” Going full circle, food waste (excluding meat) is collected daily from the kitchen and fed to thousands of worms in outdoor bins. The resulting vermicompost is used as an organic fertilizer.

Course Superintendent Don Cross explains the honey extraction process

Course Superintendent Don Cross explains the honey extraction process.

Butterfield Country Club in Oak Brook and Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest have culinary gardens as well. Meanwhile, Nolan of Organic Gardener, known for creating attractive edible gardens at homes, schools and businesses in the Chicago area, including Lincoln Park Zoo, is planning gardens for other clubs, including Sunset Ridge Country Club in Northfield.

Back at Skokie, a third garden was added this spring. A custom-built chicken coop, fashioned with interior calico curtains, houses 11 breeds of heritage hens. Scupham points out that, unlike roosters, hens make little noise. The grounds crew feeds kitchen and garden scraps to the flock of 20, keeps the quarters clean and collects the coveted pale green and brown eggs (soon to be served by the kitchen, pending certification).

Interest in bee and wildlife conservation led Don Cross, superintendent of the course, which is ranked by Golf Digest as a top 10 Illinois venue, to become the master gardener/beekeeper/poulterer as well. Over the past 24 years, he has naturalized the grounds with native grasses, flowers and trees, along with nesting boxes for birds and bats. His extensive environmental stewardship practices have earned the club designation as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program since 2001. Caring for bees, which are ideal garden companions, was a natural next step. Around 450,000 honeybees, sheltered in nine bee boxes, reside at the club. Cross points out that “honeybees are peaceful and interested in gathering nectar and pollen, not golfers.” He harvested 140 pounds of honey last year.

A crew member tends to the gardens

Cross tends to the gardens; three bee boxes can be seen in the background.

Cross, his crew and the culinary team tend to the gardens, assisted by Organic Gardener’s maintenance service. The club’s growing season begins with an April planting and can extend until December for hardy produce. The first year’s cost for installation of beds, irrigation, fencing and maintenance was $25,000, Scupham says. The second year, installation of the new bed, the chicken coop and maintenance came to $15,000. As the gardens become more self-sufficient, he estimates that maintenance will range from $4,000 to $5,000 annually.

In keeping with the club’s family-friendly business model, garden experiences have been integrated with programs. Members are invited to garden tours and talks; kids in the summer junior sports camp visit the vegetable plot for lunch; and beekeeping members have helped harvest honey at an extraction party. Cross says tending the gardens, bees and chickens has become a nice break in the day.

“It might seem cutting-edge for a country club, but actually the gardens are consistent with everything we do,” member Brian O’Toole notes. “It’s become a point of pride.”


. . .


Originally printed in Crain’s Chicago Business on September 28, 2015

Time to Ditch, Not Double Down

Time to Ditch, Not Double Down

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At the April 28 meeting, the Winnetka Council unveiled shocking new details on the proposed Willow tunnel. Cost projections have skyrocketed to $58.5 million from $34.5 million, a 70% increase, with the potential for costs to climb much higher. This project does not guarantee our basements won’t flood and will only clean up to 70% of the stormwater piped into Lake Michigan. This precedent setting project still needs to overcome difficult permitting hurdles and will inevitably face a vigorous legal challenge if the permits are approved. The project is also based on the hope that water pollution regulations will remain weak over the decades ahead.

We have been down a similar road before – let’s bear in mind the onerous lump of coal we have as a result. Back in 2007, Winnetka entered a long-term contract with IMEA, hitching us to the new Prairie State coal plant. While residents voiced concerns about coal pollution impacts, regulatory risks, high costs and rate increases – trustees assured we’d have cheap, clean and reliable power. As it turns out, Winnetka has been and will be paying one of the highest electricity rates for the dirtiest energy because of this bad deal – we are on the hook for a heavy coal mix until 2035. Prairie State may be one of the last coal plants to be built in the U.S. The cost to build it ballooned to $5 billion. Since opening, the electric industry has turned away from coal power because it is no longer competitive in today’s market. Now the EPA is setting new rules to cut carbon pollution from power plants, making coal power even more obsolete and expensive. Contrary to the overwhelming, bi-partisan American support, IMEA has been trying to blunt these critical environmental rules to protect its risky carbon asset.

Yes, we need effective stormwater solutions. But this time around, let’s not get locked into mega-priced, outdated, polluting infrastructure. The super tunnel and narrow focused fix is not in our community’s best interests. We need a modern, holistic approach the Village has yet to embrace. For example, although we have been assessed a new stormwater fee, one of the highest in the country, where are the incentives for best practices and green infrastructure? Why do the updated zoning rules now allow 100% impermeable lot coverage for new commercial developments, such as the Fell property?

On Tuesday, May 12 at 7:00 p.m., a council study session will be held to discuss next steps. Please attend and urge our elected officials to listen to the majority of residents that voted NO TUNNEL and seriously explore a full range of economically and environmentally sound alternatives.aracerprivate parties caricature???????????? ????????????????? ?? ????????? ???????????????? ??????? ? ???????????? ? ???????? ?? ???????

Stop Superbugs: (M)eating Antibiotic-Free in Chicagoland

Stop Superbugs: (M)eating Antibiotic-Free in Chicagoland

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My friend Jennifer is a Supermom Against Superbugs. In 2006, her son Sam was training for football season and thought eating a chicken Caesar salad was a healthy choice. However, he became terribly sick from an antibiotic-resistant superbug and lost over 30 pounds. Sam made a full recovery, and the experience inspired Jennifer’s family to take part in creating a safer food system, showcased in the film she produced with her husband, Food Patriots. She’s become a national advocate to keep life-saving antibiotics effective for good reason. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s estimated more than two million Americans become ill each year because of antibiotic-resistant infections, which kill at least 23,000 people annually.

Health experts are warning that the overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and food animal production is leading to antibiotic resistance and serious public health risks. A majority of all antibiotics sold in the United States is used to help healthy livestock grow faster and prevent disease in dirty, crowded factory farms—not to treat sick people. When animals are given antibiotics over time, weak bacteria die off but strong bacteria may endure and become resistant to drugs. The danger is, if people ingest the resistant bacteria through improperly cooked meat and become ill, they may not respond to antibiotic treatment.

It’s estimated only 5% of meat sold today is raised without antibiotics. However, consumers and public interest groups are pressuring livestock producers to end unnecessary treatment as a means to improve public health, the environment, animal welfare and food quality. Markets are becoming more responsive to a growing demand for alternatives. Most notably, McDonald’s, America’s largest food chain, made waves last month when they announced they will stop purchasing chicken raised with medically important antibiotics – a game changer in the poultry industry. 

To learn more about this issue, I spoke with Sasha Stashwick from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) about what more we can do to address this problem. For the past few years, she has been involved in a major campaign to end the routine use of antibiotics in animal feed  –  that spurred McDonald’s big shift. Here are some ways you can help stop superbugs and support meat without drugs.

Keep in mind this is not just a chicken issue

Although “antibiotic-free” is typically associated with chicken, antibiotics are also overused in beef, pork and turkey production. Chicken is low hanging fruit, since Americans eat more chicken and changing practices in this industry is easier done. While antibiotic free chicken is increasingly available, we must also push to remove unnecessary antibiotics from all livestock production.

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Reward mindful markets and producers 

Check for the above labels. Be weary of  No Antibiotic Residues, Antibiotic Free, Drug Free, Natural – these labels may be meaningless.

Access to buying meat raised without antibiotics is better than ever, often at a competitive price. However, read labels carefully. The FDA acknowledges USDA Organic and No Antibiotics Administered/No Antibiotics Added accompanied by USDA Process Verified or a private certifier such as the Global Animal Partnership. The list below includes some supermarket brands of meat raised without antibiotics. A few grocers are taking the lead in offering these products. Currently, Whole Foods sells only antibiotic-free chicken. Costco has announced they will sell only antibiotic-free chicken by 2017. Trader Joes also carries it’s own All Natural and Organic lines. Better butcher shops also feature a variety of non-treated meats, including Butcher & Larder, Chop Shop, Publican Meats, Eataly, Artisanal in Wilmette and Homestead Meats in Evanston.  If your grocer doesn’t offer a good selection, ask them too. You can also purchase directly from local farmers through meat CSAs and farmers markets, which are listed with Local Beet/Family FarmedEat Wild/Illinois and Local Harvest.

prod list

Seek out eateries that are leading the way

When eating out, it’s hard to distinguish how meat was raised.  Often, companies that source antibiotic-free choices are quick to promote it on their menus. The list below includes 25 restaurant chains in Chicagoland that are known to offer chicken, pork and/or beef raised without antibiotics, partially derived from the Pew Charitable Trust’s wider list, Top Food Companies Moving Away From Overuse of Antibiotics on Industrial Farms, March 2015.

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Antibiotic-free meat can also be found at the Shedd Aquarium, McCormick Place, O’Hare Airport and Midway Airport as well. Also check out eco-minded restaurants that likely source cleaner meat from local farms, including guaranteed green locations associated with the Chicago Green Restaurant Coalition and others featured here: Chicago Green Eateries and North Shore Green Eateries. You might be wondering, what about Subway, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Dominos, Olive Garden, Potbelly’s, Portillos, PF Changs, Corner Bakery, etc. – as well as your favorite dining spots?  Be sure to ask if their meat was raised with antibiotics and let them know your preferences.

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Local antibiotic-free meats: (clockwise) Shake Shack cheeseburger, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Panera turkey & bacon panini, Chipolte chicken burrito bowl, Hannah’s Bretzel organic grass-fed sirloin, Xoco pork belly vermicelli caldo

Look into your kids’ lunch

More and more school cafeterias are shunning antibiotic-treated meat. Since 2011, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) began serving local chicken raised without antibiotics to students in 473 schools. In 2014, CPS joined a coalition of the largest U.S. school districts, including New York City, Los Angeles, Miami-Dade, Dallas and Orlando, and adopted a standard to serve only antibiotic-free chicken to students. In total, the Urban School Food Alliance’s new standard will reach over 4,500 schools and nearly 2.9 million students nationally – 400,000 students here in Chicago. Evanston/Skokie District 65 and Evanston Township High School source antibiotic-free chicken from FarmLogix as well. Hand Cut Foods currently serves only antibiotic-free proteins at Gems World Academy, Catherine Cook, Lycée Français de Chicago and (next fall) North Shore Country Day. Organic Life and Gourmet Gorilla also provide untreated meat. Tell your PTA/PTO and school board you want cleaner sources for your kids’ lunches as well.


Open up to awesome vegetarian options 

Meateaters can also enjoy plant-based meals, naturally sans antibiotics. Skipping meat can be tasty, healthy and more earth-friendly, requiring less land, water, and energy to produce and creating fewer greenhouse gases from farm to fork.

Clockwise: Antique Taco’s market mushroom taco, BurgerFi’s quinoa burger, Karyn's raw lasagna, Mana’s Bi Bim Bop, Eataly’s Neapolitan style Margherita pizza, Vermillion’s vegetarian tasting menu

Local vegetarian favorites: (clockwise) Antique Taco market mushroom taco, BurgerFi quinoa burger, Karyn’s raw “lasagna”, Mana Food Bar Bi Bim Bop, Eataly Neapolitan-style Margherita pizza, Vermillion vegetarian tasting menu

Keep fighting for better food policy

Due to the Food and Drug Administration’s voluntary guidelines and loopholes, livestock producers are free to feed antibiotics to healthy animals. Furthermore, animal farms are not required to report drugs used to raise animals, and there’s an overriding lack of transparency with consumers on how food is produced. NRDC and other public interest groups are working to clean up animal agriculture. If you want to stop the spread of superbugs, and ensure that meat is produced without antibiotics, please lend your support and sign this petition.

Much of the antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe” – The Centers for Disease C0ntrol and Prevention

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Books & Films On My Mind

Books & Films On My Mind




For inspiration in 2015, my New Year’s pledge was to read a book each month on issues I care about.  As luck would have it, some compelling thought leaders came out with exceptional books in 2014. Topics ranging from the good food movement and climate stability to creative entrepreneurs and social empowerment especially caught my eye.  Three months in, my book selections have informed and moved me beyond expectation, along with a few documentaries that came my way.  Since I love sharing a good read and film, I heartily recommend the following:


Booklist so far (January – March): 


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Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind by Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter. From GQ‘s “Nerd of the Year” to one of Time‘s most influential people in the world, Stone walks us through his whirlwind path less traveled. As Stephen Colbert says, “Biz gives away all his secrets to success. I advised him against it. If you’re not inspired an informed by this book, then you haven’t read it.”


The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber, famed chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, James Beard award winner and one of Time’s most influential people in the world. Similar to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Barber’s seminal book suggests a revolutionary way to approach food. After spending more than a decade of investigation with farmers, seed breeders and chefs, he concludes that we must transform our food system to protect our food, our health and our natural resources. This is a must read for foodies interested in local, sustainable and delicious food.

This past February, I had the pleasure of touring Stone Barns in New York. On a wintery day, we were inside the vast greenhouse with farm Jack here. Of course, an amazing meal at the renowned Blue Hill followed. Highly recommended!

This past February, I had the pleasure of touring Stone Barns in New York. On a wintery day, inside the vast greenhouse farmer Jack schooled us on seed breeding. Of course, an amazing meal at the renowned Blue Hill followed. Highly recommended!


This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by award winning journalist and social activist Naomi Klein. This NY Times Bestseller has been called “the most momentous and contentious environmental book since “Silent Spring.” Although not always easy to confront the hard truths, this fierce, compelling, jam-packed book on the most sweeping crisis of our lifetime is a must read. Although active on climate issues, I walked away with new insight and hope to tackle this epic challenge.



Booklist up next (April – June):


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A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and business executive Sheryl WuDunn.  This Pulitzer Prize-winning team showcases people that are making the world a better place and offers a roadmap to becoming an effective global citizen. It’s a follows up to one of the most important books I’ve ever read, their NY Times #1 bestseller Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.


The Secret History of Wonder Woman by New Yorker writer Jill Lepore.  This New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2015 American History Book Prize book first came to my attention on NPR’s Fresh Air.  I was intrigued by the peculiar backstory of the superheroine’s creator, Dr. William Marston.  He also happened to be the inventor of a lie detector, a suffragist and a secret polygamist. What most interests me is Wonder Woman’s ascent and the interwoven history of the struggle for women’s rights.


The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert. Selected as The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2014, Kolbert writes how there have been five mass extinctions throughout history, and scientists are now monitoring the sixth extinction, considered the most devastating since the asteroid wiped out dinosaurs. Yet this time around, the cataclysm is humans. As bleak as this sounds, the Boston Globe calls this book “surprisingly breezy, entirely engrossing and frequently entertaining.”



Watch list:


ARISE  Narrated by actress and environmental activist, Daryl Hannah, this film captures the stories of extraordinary women around the world dedicated to protecting the earth and mankind. Last month, North Shore Green Women held a screening and we were lucky to to have Molly Ross, the executive producer, share her thoughts with us. As we full know, women have taken a leading role in making positive change for our environment.





The Mask You Live In This film essentially asks if we are failing our boys due to America’s narrow definition of masculinity. It follows up Miss Representation, a film that examines how sexism in the media is sending our girls the wrong message. In February, I attended the Chicago premier and joined a coffee discussion with Director/Producer/Writer Jennifer Siebel Newsom. As a leading advocate for women and girls, she founded The Representation Project to inspire individuals and communities to challenge and overcome limiting stereotypes. This non-profit is behind #askhermore to improve the dialogue with women on the red carpet and #notbuyingit to call out sexist Superbowl ads. She’s also a producer of the new acclaimed film about sexual assault on college campuses, The Hunting Ground








The Burden  It’s about time people discovered one of the biggest supporters of clean energy – the U.S. military! This film examines why America needs to break free of its dangerous fossil fuel addiction from a national security perspective, including directives from Defense leadership. This film will likely premiere in Chicago this spring, sorry no details yet. Can’t wait to see it.





Please pass along any of your favorites!

10 Chicagoland Good Food Shifts to Savor

10 Chicagoland Good Food Shifts to Savor

white bite with crumbs


The local food movement sure is cooking in Chicagoland. While we live in one of the most plentiful food generating regions, it’s estimated a paltry 6% of our produce is grown in Illinois. Soured by food that travels over 1,000 miles to plate and is questionably produced to begin with, consumers are demanding locally sourced, organic food big time. Lagging supply has created tremendous opportunities for rebooting our local food system. This means choosing better ways to grow, process, deliver, distribute, serve and sell our food. A win-win for healthier people, communities, the environment and the economy. Here’s a taste of the Big Onion’s good food strides so far: 


Cultivating Markets

Every neighborhood needs access to fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables. Fortunately, Chicagoland has a growing list of grocers, CSAs and farmers markets available to buy local sustainable food

Last August, the popular 16-year-old Green City Market in Lincoln Park  opened a second outpost in the Fulton Market District. Photo from

Last August, the popular 17-year-old Green City Market in Lincoln Park opened a second outpost in the Fulton Market District. Photo from

In 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the number of low-income Chicago residents living in food deserts had declined by 21% since 2011 and he is committed to eliminating food deserts in the city by 2020. Fertile efforts have included the expansion of markets in food insecure areas, coupled with education outreach. This summer, Walgreens finished installing fresh produce “food oasis” in 50 food desert stores.  Another gamechanger is Whole Food’s upcoming location in Englewood.


Efforts are underway to eliminate Chicago’s food deserts (shown in red), where access to fresh, healthy food is limited. Illustration from First lady Michelle Obama visits a Chicago Walgreens that was expanded to carry fresh produce in 2011. Newscom photo from

Efforts are underway to eliminate Chicago’s food deserts (shown above in red), where access to fresh, healthy food is limited. Illustration from In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama visited a Chicago Walgreens that was expanded to carry fresh produce. Newscom photo from




Farms and Farmers Plowing Forward

City Farms has been converting vacant city lots into productive farmland for over 40 years in Chicago. More recently, an influx of many other urban farms has sprouted citywide.


After 4 months of instruction, Windy City Harvest apprentices participate in a 14-week paid internship. Image from

Organizations such as Growing PowerWindy City Harvest, Growing Home and Angelic Organics Learning Center are not only producing local, organic food, but providing intensive training for a crop of new urban farmers as well. Alternatives to conventional agriculture are also occurring outside of Cook County. The Liberty Prairie Foundation’s Farm Business Development Center supports new farmers by providing affordable access to certified organic land near Chicago and introducing experienced mentor farmers. Wilmette-based Iroquois Valley is nation’s first private equity firm to connect investors with organic farmland transitioned by local family farmers.


Growing Power's hoop houses extend food production year round.

Growing Power’s hoop houses extend food production year round.



Indoor Harvests

Farms are moving indoors thanks to technology. Farmed Here, in Bedford Park, is considered one of the nation’s largest indoor vertical farms. Using aquaponics, organic greens are grown soil-free under LED lights, fed with water in tanks enriched by hormone-free tilapia. The Plant, a net-zero energy vertical farm and business incubator also houses aquaponic growing systems. O’Hare features the first aeroponic garden at an airport in the world. Vegetables and herbs produced in 26 root-misting towers are consumed at airport restaurants. These facilities reap the benefits of year-round production, water efficiency, insect-free crops, and the avoidance of droughts and floods.


FarmedHere's organic greens and herbs are available at many grocery chains throughout Chicagoland. Photo from www.

FarmedHere’s organic arugula, kale, basil, mint, and salad greens are available at many grocery chains throughout Chicagoland. Photo from



Propagating Planters 

During wartime in the 1940s, citizens planted 20 million Victory Gardens, which produced 40% of the vegetables consumed in the US. After many unproductive years, growing food is back in

A student at the  Academy for Global Citizenship proudly displays the bounty of organic ???.

An Academy for Global Citizenship student proudly displays a bumper crop of organic tomatillos.

style. At homes, schools, congregations, neighborhood plots, corporate campuses and even golf clubs, folks are transforming outdoor spaces into edible havens. Everything under the sun – including garden patches, living walls, fruit trees and even chicken coops and beekeeping –  is back on the table. Chicagoans are enjoying all the homegrown benefits – better freshness, taste, health, economics, nature connection, community building and fun!

The locally-produced film Food Patriots highlights a family’s journey to healthy, homegrown food along with many other leaders in local food production.

The locally-produced film Food Patriots highlights a family’s journey to healthy, homegrown food along with many other leaders in local food production.



Appetizing Enterprises

Local and organic food is a hot, fast growing, multi-billion dollar industry. And Chicagoland entrepreneurs are hungry to meet the growing demand. Notice the rise of farm-to-table restaurants, microbreweries and distilleries, coffee roasters, artisanal food producers, composters, urban ag, aquaponics, etc. Watch out for Local Foods‘ fab new Lincoln Park space coming soon. It will be Chicago’s first wholesale distributor and retailer of strictly local food from the Midwest’s finest farmers. Many more good food innovations and businesses to come.


Farmers Fridge is a new way to get a fresh, handcrafted organic salad and snacks from vending machines, 7 kiosks now sprinkled throughout the city and more to come.

Farmers Fridge is a gamechanging vending concept that offers fresh, organic gourmet salads and snacks, 9 kiosks are currently sprinkled throughout the city.



Nurturing Mentors and Investors

For over a decade, Family Farmed has been bringing together farmers, food businesses, investors, policymakers, and others engaged in expanding a robust Midwest Good Food cluster. Last fall, they launched the Good Food Business Accelerator at the 1871 tech incubator to prepare food and farm start-ups for primetime. As a recipe for success, selected fellows are provided with mentoring, resources. To bridge financing barriers, the Good Food Financing and Innovation Conference offers a forum for businesses to pitch their idea, and investors to learn about new businesses. Since 2011, the Sustainable Local Food Investment Group (SLoFIG), an angel network with 27 members, has focused on businesses along the food supply chain. So far they have invested $1.2 million in multiple projects. Venture funds and private equity investors have also become increasingly active in Chicago’s sustainable food space. On a smaller scale, Seed Chicago curates a Kickstarter page to crowdfund food projects.

Fellows of the Good Foods Business Accelerator participate in an intensive 6-month mentorship and can pitch at the Good Foods Finance and Innovation Conference. Phoenix Bean offered tasty artisanal tofu samples at last year’s event.

Fellows of the Good Foods Business Accelerator can pitch at the Good Foods Finance and Innovation Conference. Phoenix Bean offered tasty artisanal tofu samples at last year’s event.



Palate-pleasing Chefs and Restaurateurs

For years, Chicago chefs have influenced our culture’s appetite with local, sustainable food. In the early ‘90s, icon Charlie Trotter brought notoriety to organically grown, city-sourced Cabrini Greens, lauding it’s superior flavor.

A sign at Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless at O'Hare identifies where its food originates.

A sign at the popular Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless at O’Hare Airport identifies food source partners and origins.

Pioneer Rick Bayless has long served locally grown food at his restaurants, awarded grants to small Midwestern farmers, and served as a Chefs Collaborative change agent. Michael and Helen Cameron harvest food on-site at Uncommon Ground, named “the greenest restaurant in America” and recently opened Illinois’ first organic brewery, Greenstar.The Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition, Green City MarketEdible Chicago, The Local Beet and Slow Foods showcase our sustainable chefs and restaurants.


Breaking new ground, Uncommon Ground, the first certified organic rooftop farm in the country, at it's Devon location.

Uncommon Ground (on Devon) brings farm-to-table to a new level with the first certified organic rooftop farm in the country.



Taste for Transparency

The more we know about our food, the healthier it tends to be. However, it is not always easy for consumers to understandably digest the genetic modifications, pesticides, antibiotics, processing chemicals, synthetic ingredients or origin of our food. We have a right to know what we are eating. One positive step would be passing the GMO labeling bill in the Illinois legislature. Sustainable food producers go to great effort to inform consumers of their production profile. And many grocers, restaurants and producers now commonly share how and where food was grown.


Baker Miller in Lincoln Square

Baker Miller, a new bakery and local grain miller in Lincoln Square, identifies the actual farms where grains are grown and the specific varieties.



Feeding the Ecosystem

A cornucopia of public, private and non-profit partners have been working to improve the way we eat and strengthen the Chicago foodshed. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s GOTO 2040 regional plan, echoed by the City of Chicago’s A Recipe For Healthy Places, calls for facilitating local food production, increasing access to healthy food and raising awareness. In parallel, Fresh Taste was formed by Chicago-region foundations to catalyze change. This noteworthy funder collaborative works to strategically address systematic gaps in the local, sustainable food system. To date, members have collectively awarded over $14 million in grants to support good food initiatives.


In 2014, the Chicago Community Trust and The Searle Funds/Kinship Foundation, members of Fresh Taste, launched the Food:Land:Opportunity, a groundbreaking intiative to fund $2 million annually to local for projects for the next 2 years.

In 2014, The Chicago Community Trust and the Kinship Foundation, members of Fresh Taste, announced Food:Land:Opportunity, a groundbreaking initiative to fund $2 million annually to local projects for the next 2 years.



Scrumptious Celebration

Starting 11 years ago, folks throughout our local food system have been uniting at the annual Good Food Festival & Conference, this year coming on March 19-21 at the UIC Forum. Organized by Family Farmed, the event includes the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference, Good Food Trade Show, School Food Summit, Food Policy Conference, Localicious tasting party and consumer-focused Festival with an impressive lineup of exhibitors, speakers, DIY workshops and chef demos. Nearly 5,000 people attend including farmers, food businesses, restaurateurs, policy makers, and consumers. For networking, learning, changemaking or sampling, this foodie fest takes the cake!  





Now go explore these good food transformers and show them some love!  And let’s keep pushing for a vibrant, sustainable food system in Chicagoland. 

People’s Climate March Signs Speak Volumes

People’s Climate March Signs Speak Volumes



Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of joining around 400,000 people in New York to express the urgent need for meaningful climate action. From my vantage point with the NRDC contingent, the incredibly diverse and festive group had a great deal to say. Since a picture speaks a thousand words, check out this fun slideshow featuring some of my favorite protest signs. Thanks everyone who jammed the streets as part of the LARGEST CLIMATE MARCH EVER! Let’s keep up the pressure, especially in the upcoming election cycle and leading up to Paris 2015.  Enjoy the slideshow here.


people's climate march