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‘Where Fresh Is’

State program promotes locally grown produce

CHANNAHON — Every summer Thursday, the Channahon Farmer’s Market comes to Eames Street with a bevy of locally produced fruits and vegetables, as well as other foods and crafts.

And every summer Thursday, Channahon resident Diane Cook turns up to do some shopping.

“It’s just kind of quaint,” Cook said. “There’s fresh produce, a lot of variety. It’s better quality.”

On June 15, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn launched a campaign to promote Illinois-grown produce by encouraging residents to shop grocery stores and, like Channahon’s Cook, farmers’ markets.

“More than 90 percent of the food consumed in Illinois is imported,” Quinn said in a statement. “Changing these habits and buying more food produced right here in our state will help support the 75,000 farms and 75,000 food processing jobs in Illinois, while also ensuring fresher, more nutritious foods are being sold.”

“Where Fresh Is,” run by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, is a promotional campaign that provides grocery stores and farmers’ markets in several counties with banners and stickers to raise awareness of locally grown food.

Residents can participate by taking the “Buy Illinois Challenge” -- that is, to spend $10 of their current grocery bills on Illinois products.

In Grundy County, Berkot’s Super Foods in Coal City is participating in the campaign.

Derrick Cannon, general manager of Berkot’s, said the store is taking part in the campaign because of the importance it puts on locally produced goods.

“Being a locally owned and operated company, we feel it’s important to source as many products as we can locally,” Cannon said in a statement. “Consumers like to know that these products are produced or grown right here in Illinois.”

Bob Flider, director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, echoed Cannon in a statement.

“When given a choice, consumers prefer to buy homegrown food, especially fruits and vegetables,” Flider said.

At the Channahon Farmers’ Market Thursday, that proved true.

Customers Linda Offerman and Phyllis Etheridge were shopping, looking through a bushel of bright red tomatoes at the Bothwell Farms stand.

“It seems like everything’s so much fresher,” Offerman said.

Karen Bothwell, of Bothwell Farms, said that is the primary appeal of farmers’ markets for many people.

“It’s bringing fresh produce into the marketplace,” Bothwell said. “We grow it ourselves.”

And with the campaign, the Illinois Department of Agriculture hopes to generate support for buying local produce — and the local farmers who grow it.

“The ‘Where Fresh Is’ logo will raise awareness about the diversity of our agricultural production and enable consumers to easily find and fill their shopping carts with fresh, wholesome, Illinois produce,” Flider said.

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