Kane County, Illinois is an agricultural leader in the region and has a strong history of farmland protection. In keeping with their agricultural heritage, the County has begun to develop and strengthen its local food system, which brings a number of environmental, economic, and quality-of-life benefits. In Kane County and across the Chicago region, there is increasing demand for fresh, locally grown food. However, barriers to developing local food systems exist, such as a lack of access to affordable and right-sized land for farmers to raise food. To address this need for a greater supply of locally grown food, Kane County decided to examine their publicly owned land for potential conversion to food production.
With support from CMAP's Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program, Kane County completed a project to evaluate public land for local food production. This project drew from the expertise of local and regional partners to create a methodology and apply it to chosen public land sites in Kane County. The evaluation spanned issues related to land use, physical and environmental characteristics, and the availability of agricultural infrastructure. The criteria were devised to be general enough that they could be adapted by other counties or municipalities for similar analyses.
The planning process consisted of three main phases. During the first phase, research and analysis helped to determine the existing conditions of local food production and available public land throughout Kane County. Next, the second phase included a recommended methodology for evaluating public lands. The third phase consisted of applying the evaluation methods and creating a report about the process, resulting in resources that can be used and adapted by other local governments in the Chicago region.