Wednesday, October 22, 2008
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Farmers market grant program for next year

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[October 22, 2008]  SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced Tuesday that grant money is available to help Illinois farmers markets pay the cost of advertising next year. The funds will help Illinois farmers markets promote themselves while increasing the demand for fresh, locally grown produce.

"The number of farmers markets in Illinois has increased exponentially over the past decade," Blagojevich said. "Consumers today are much more aware of the high quality of Illinois-grown products. This can be attributed in part to more advertising of Illinois farmers markets. This grant money will assist in continuing promotion and increasing public education about Illinois-grown produce."

DonutsThe Illinois Farmers Market Advertising Grant program provides individual farmers markets with up to $7,500 to help with advertising and promotional expenses during the 2009 season. The funds were awarded to the Illinois Department of Agriculture through the Federal Specialty Crop Block Grant program and will be distributed as part of Opportunity Returns, the governor's economic development program. This year, $132,565 in grant money is available.

More than 250 farmers markets currently operate in the state of Illinois. That number is up from 97 in 1999. Nationally, Illinois ranks first in the nation for its pumpkin production and in the top 10 in the production of many other specialty crops, such as asparagus, cauliflower, peas and lima beans.

According to a 2003 Illinois Specialty Crop Survey, more than 117,000 acres of farmland is devoted to growing specialty crops, producing nearly $137 million in sales for Illinois farmers.

"Illinois is a leader in agriculture, both here in the United States and abroad. We have seen a huge increase in the number of consumers demanding quality Illinois-grown produce," said Agriculture Director Tom Jennings. "Each year, more and more consumers shop at local farmers markets for their fresh fruits and vegetables. This grant money will continue to enhance the competitiveness of these specialty crops, both here in Illinois and across the nation."

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The Illinois Department of Agriculture will accept applications through Dec. 1. Grant money will be awarded in early 2009. Application forms can be obtained at or by calling 217-524-9129.

Blagojevich's Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois' history. Because a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn't work, the governor has divided the state into 10 regions, each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges.

Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses. It is about upgrading the skills of the local work force, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.

[Text from file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]


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