Moving Illinois and its agriculture to the forefront

    By Denise Faris

    FARM Illinois is the state’s food and agriculture industry’s greatest cheerleader. An acronym for Food and Agriculture RoadMap for Illinois, FARM Illinois is a major initiative designed to secure Chicago and Illinois as a global hub and agriculture in Illinois as a global leader, according to Lee Strom, project director of FARM Illinois and guest speaker at the Farmers’ January meeting. Strom works with his son, Tyler, project manager of FARM Illinois, to help FARM Illinois achieve its objectives.

    Strom related that FARM Illinois is the first coordinated effort system to bring together agriculture, food, major food companies, business, universities, and Chicago. “There never has been an effort to bring all of these groups together,” said Strom. “We want our state to be a regional, national and global hub. We have a world class asset in Chicago and in Illinois agriculture.”

    FARM Illinois represents thinking forward and making the country and the world aware of what Illinois has to offer, said Strom. The state is centrally located, is a transportation hub, and boasts some 27 million acres of prime farmland, he noted. Additionally, it has Chicago, a global magnate for business; witness ConAgra Foods’ recent decision to move to Chicago from Omaha.

    While Illinois and its food and agriculture sector have much to offer, they face challenges:

    • The world population of 7.3 billion is increasing. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack predicted that in 35 years, the United States will need as much innovation as has occurred in the last 10,000 years to feed this growing population, related Strom.
    • Consumers’ preferences are changing. Will food and agriculture be able to give the knowledge new generations want about their food?
    • The agriculture sector in Illinois has never fully recognized Chicago and its contributions to agriculture and the global food economy. This has to change.

    “FARM Illinois is working to bring all of the necessary parties together so there is greater collaboration, coordination and discussion,” said Strom. “Illinois does a lot of good things, but it does not get recognized. We have to be identified as a global leader. That is the goal of FARM Illinois. FARM connects groups and helps them move forward. It champions Illinois.”

    Strom said that FARM Illinois is dedicated to “ensuring that we get it right for the future.” He added, “We want to create the right environment for job opportunities. We want our young people to know that agriculture offers a viable future.”

    Strom related that FARM Illinois is funded through the private sector and it wants to remain that way. Its benefactors include the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust, 1st Farm Credit Services, Archer Daniels Midland Company, CME Group, Farm Credit Illinois, Fresh Taste, GROWMARK, Inc., Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization-iBIO, Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Soybean Association, Ingredion, Renew Moline, Inc., and United Airlines.

    For more information, go to