Local foods, local farmers, local

7 simple ways to support local farmers in 2020

With many of us busy making (and breaking) New Year’s resolutions, it’s a good time to encourage supporting your local farmers in 2020 – and to share a few examples of some of the state’s best. With 76,000+ local farmers we’ve got you covered. And that means this list is by no means exhaustive.


1) Buy your beef from local farmers or your local store

If you’re in northern Illinois, check out Pasture Grazed Beef in Clare. It’s owned and operated by a local farm family committed to farming sustainably. They sell smaller bundles in addition to custom-cut bulk beef on a preorder basis each year (first come, first served). You can order individual cuts or half a cow, and you can work with the butcher to customize your cuts.

If you’re farther downstate, look up A.R. Lowlines Pasture Raised Beef in Waynesville, Illinois. Their Angus Lowline cattle are pasture-raised and 100% grass-fed. You can order directly or find them at local farmers markets in Bloomington and Kankakee. No need to wait until springtime, as the Bloomington market is held inside during winter months.

Not near a farmer who sells direct? No problem. The quality of beef at your local store has improved greatly in recent years, with more cuts of prime beef available overall. Check out these tips from beef farmer Mike Martz to pick the right steak for the best flavor.

2) Support local farmers markets – and markets on local farms

Here’s a handy map from the Illinois Farmers Market Association. The map includes farmers markets and markets that are literally on farms, like the one on Kristin Srail’s Windy Acres Farm in Geneva. Kristin and her family grow and sell fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, pumpkins and Christmas trees. On the map you can also find Ruth Zeldenrust and her Zeldenrust Farm Market in Glenwood. Ruth and her family grow and sell fresh vegetables.

3) Use the E15 ethanol blend in your vehicle

Way back in 2012, the EPA approved E15 for use in model year 2001 and newer cars, light-duty trucks, SUVs and flex-fuel vehicles. In all, 90% of the cars, trucks and SUVs on the road today are approved by their manufacturer to run on E15. We know that ethanol reduces toxic emissions and improves air quality. And recent university research shows that air quality can be significantly improved by adding more ethanol to gasoline. So it won’t hurt your engine, it will help air quality – and unlike gasoline, it’s a renewable resource. Another bonus: Using more ethanol supports local Illinois corn farmers.

4) Buy fresh pork from a national brand or local farmers

Farmers in Illinois raise a lot of pigs. Many pig farmers work with national brands such as Smithfield or Hormel to raise healthy pigs and high-quality pork with specific standards for animal care and sustainability. You can feel good that there are local farmers behind the national brands you see in the grocery store.

Still want to buy direct? The Slagel Family Farm in Fairbury is well known for their fresh, high-quality pork. They will direct ship to your home. Their products are also available at Fresh Marketplace, Publican Quality Meats and Homestead Meats.

5) Run biodiesel in your diesel engine

Biodiesel – unlike petroleum-based diesel – is another renewable fuel that’s easier on the environment. Like ethanol, it burns cleaner and can reduce harmful emissions by up to 47%. When you consider that somewhere between 40 and 70% of Illinois’ air pollution comes from mobile transportation sources, using biodiesel lets us all breathe easier. And the icing on the cake: Running biodiesel made from soybeans helps support Illinois soybean farmers.

6) Buy dairy products from local farmers

Ludwig Farms Creamery in Fithian is a fifth-generation family dairy farm known for breeding high-pedigree purebred Holstein dairy cattle. They use the morning-fresh milk from the cows to handcraft traditional artisan cheeses right on the farm. You can buy their cheese online or visit their Farm and Creamery Store.

If you’re near St. Louis, there’s also the Marcoot Jersey Creamery in Greenville, a seventh-generation family-owned Jersey dairy farm. Their family is passionate about the quality of their farm, their milk and their products. They handcraft quality artisan and farmstead cheeses, and many other products like fruit and whey ices, primarily grass-fed beef, clover honey and more. You can order online or visit their Country Store.

Not ready to travel to get your ice cream or dairy fix? We’ve got you. Prairie Farms is a cooperative of family farmers of all sizes who market their dairy products throughout Illinois. Families like Mary Faber’s are the faces behind these great sources of nutrition.

7) Get involved with Community Supported Agriculture

Here’s a list of Illinois farms participating in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA provides economic support and predictability to farmers so they can continue farming. Consumers buy “shares” in the farm early in the season, which provides the farmer with a stable income. In return, consumers receive a weekly supply of fresh local farm products.


In 2020, we hope you’ll share our vision and shop locally when you can, and continue to support all local Illinois farmers!