Agricultural markets -- Supply chain -- Illinois -- Case studies
Gibbs Family Farms reached out to the Farm to Food Bank team in the Fall of 2021 to inquire as to how they could get involved in the Farm to Food Bank Program. Gibbs is a row crop operation and at the time was not growing any specialty crops. After several discussions, Gibbs decided that they would transfer two acres to specialty crops grown specifically for Feeding Illinois food banks and food pantries. Prior to the growing season, Gibbs and the Farm to Food Bank team, including Feeding Illinois, Eastern Illinois Food Bank (EIF), and the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, discussed the types of produce most in need at the food bank and local food pantries. The team also consulted with a University of Illinois Local Foods and Small Farms Educator to determine pairings of vegetables to grow (early vs. late season vegetables), as well as farming techniques and equipment needed. In the end, it was decided that Gibbs would grow tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, banana peppers, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, and sweet corn. Gibbs launched a fundraising campaign, and along with support from the Woodford County Farm Bureau and COUNTRY Financial, they were able to raise the funds for irrigation, weed control, seed starts, plants, cages, and more. Rather than only receiving surplus or off-grade produce, the food bank and food pantries would receive all products coming off this two-acre farm. Gibbs utilized both community volunteers as well as a part-time employee for harvesting. When Gibbs had a produce load ready, they would reach out to EIF to coordinate pick-up from the farm. Due to the size of the harvests, it was determined that food pantries would be primarily responsible for the pick-ups. It was not economically viable to add a cold storage unit at the farm, which meant that timely pickups were very important to avoid spoilage. By the end of the 2022 growing season, Feeding Illinois reimbursed Gibbs Family Farms the Picking and Pack-Out (PPO) costs to aid in the donation of 3,567 pounds of fresh produce.
Publications from ISTC TAP's Farm to Food Bank project. The project aims to connect food banks with farms to purchase products like fruits, vegetables, cheese, milk, meat, and eggs directly from farmers. The overall goal of the project is to identify and build a long-term market and infrastructure for Illinois farmers and Illinois food banks.