The Windy City is about to roll out a new local food label designed to support the city’s burgeoning urban farming movement. "Chicago Grown" will soon appear on signs around the city and on stickers on fruit, veggies, herbs, and honey, and eventually on processed items in which they’re included, such as salsa, jams, and even kombucha.
Backers believe Chicago Grown will be the first label issued by a major city specifically to promote its urban ag culture. "We really want the label to both increase demand for foods grown through urban agriculture and celebrate that so many people are growing food within Chicago," says Megan Klein with the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council (CFPAC), who is spearheading the effort with input from growers around the city. "We want people to be able to identify who is growing the food around them and to let them know where they can get it."
Chicago Grown and efforts like it are a natural next step for the “buy local” campaigns started in the ’90s. The early movement helped usher in the era of farmers markets, launch community supported agriculture operations (CSAs), and convince the nation’s gonzo chain grocery stores to stock their shelves with “local” products -- but the definition of “local” varies. Now, a flurry of branding and rebranding efforts around the country is giving the eating public an easy way to tell exactly where its food comes from and who grew it.
These local branding efforts are “reweaving a community tapestry undone by industrial America,” says Phil Korman, executive director of the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture (CISA), which in 1999 founded the groundbreaking “Local Hero” marketing campaign, with the trademarked “Be A Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown” label. “We are giving back respect to farmers and changing the culture of where we are as people.”