Food System Development


As the regional urban center, Evansville is well-positioned to serve as the hub for multi- county local food commerce in Southwest Indiana. Economy, public health, food access, and quality-of-place benefit from a vibrant local food system.

Food value chains are key elements to a vibrant local food system. Food value chains differ from typical food supply chains in that they are intentionally structured to produce both business success and social benefit.

Central to the collaborative efforts required to create and sustain a local foods system is a Value Chain Professional (VCP). The VCP serves an instrumental role, creating strategic relationships between producer and buyer – such as a school or healthcare system, restaurant, or household.

Beautiful Edibles Grow, Roger & Mary Winstead
Phot by: Katherine Frances Jacobson, Purdue University

Economic Development

Local food systems support growers in our own community. Dollars spent directly with a neighboring grower increase the money kept in the local economy. Institutions – particularly schools, hospital systems and restaurants – provide an opportunity to create sizable demand, contributing to the potential of growers achieving economies of scale. 5,17

If Southwest Indiana residents purchased $5 of food each week directly from farmers in the region, this would generate $98M of gross farm income for the region. In 2013, a study estimated that 90% of the food eaten in Southwest Indiana was sourced outside the region (that’s an estimate of $1.2 billion of food eaten is sourced outside the region.) 17

Quality of Life | Quality of Place Talent Retention | Recruitment and Tourism

Countryside Orchard, Kristi Schulz

A vibrant local foods system strongly aligns with quality urban and rural life experiences, as citizens enjoy and benefit from food options cultivated by their own community. 19

Recent trends point to local foods and culinary tourism being an attraction for visitors, which contributes to a larger community economic development strategy.7 Food trails attract tourists to experience the local food and drink culture of a state or region. Several states boast rich, distinctive food trails for their visitors. Examples: Indiana, Oregon, Kentucky, Wisconsin

Public Health and Equitable Food Access

The nutrient density in produce can be affected by the time of consumption after harvest and the way produce is handled/stored during transportation. Shortening the time between farm and table decreases the variables that can affect nutritional quality. 5

Linkages exist between community health emphasis and health outcomes, particularly those that include a local food system.21 A local food focus may also lead supporting organizations to provide nutrition education. 7

Equitable access can be achieved through several avenues of a local food system, including farmers markets that accept SNAP-EBT and Farm to School practices that provide fruit and vegetables to students equitably. 5,21

Resiliency and stability in being prepared for food chain disruptions is supported by relying on local growers. 23 Experts recommend an integrated nutrition security system that reaches people where they are, be that in schools, health care facilities, hospitals, etc. designed to serve communities from rural to urban. 22

Darnell School Farm, Kathy Yearwood


Local food systems contribute to community engagement among citizens.21 Growers also benefit from an increase in socio-cultural connection. When relationships between grower and buyer flourish, growers can better understand preferences of the consumer and can base planting decisions on this, filling a desired demand of which they may have not otherwise been aware.

Michael D. Wilcox, Jr., PhD Assistant Director and Program Leader for Community Development / Purdue Extension

Local Growers of Southern Indiana

Local Growers of Southern Indiana Farm to Table

Mission: To serve as a network where local growers/producers can distribute throughout Southwest Indiana


  • Achieve volume consistency and availability
  • Everything sold before we put it in the ground

5-Year Goals:

  • Enhance and facilitate direct marketing opportunities for local growers
  • Buyer’s ease of access to local products while educating consumers on the benefits of supporting and consuming locally grown food

10-Year Goals:

  • Consumers see us as a local grocery store
  • Buyers plan to buy local in their purchases
  • Local seasonal nature of eating – what is great at different times of the year


Eating locally supports the Greater Evansville economy in a meaningful way. Supporting tristate farmers builds our regional economy; and, locally-grown foods get moved on a smaller scale, which means less hands involved in the process. A locally sustainable food system also encourages local production and distribution infrastructures, making nutritious food available, accessible and affordable to all. By contributing to a Greater Evansville business, we help to preserve existing local jobs and create new skilled jobs as local businesses are also the most ardent supporters of local parks, libraries, events, and the great area amenities that make communities unique.

Locally grown food creates important economic opportunities, provides health benefits and helps to reduce environmental impact. It also helps bring the community together and gives people the opportunity to make a difference. Additionally, many people feel local food tastes better and lasts longer. That is why the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership supports Urban Seeds and it’s effort to build a strong, locally grown and sustainable food network.

Greg Wathen, APR President & CEO of Evansville Regional Economic Partnership

Models to consider for Evansville, as the regional urban center for local food:

 Rose Hill Farm Stop – Bloomington, IN | Findlay Market – Cincinnati, OH | Market Cities Initiative

Impact Statement Contributors: Local Growers of Southern Indiana, Urban Seeds, Market on Main, Welborn Baptist Foundation

References and Resources


  1. Santa Ana/, C. (2021, March 12). 5 benefits of eating seasonal produce. Fairfax County Times. seasonal-produce/article_a8259978-8288-11eb-82a2-ebe07725a9ce.html.


  1. About the Real-World Cost of a Nutritious Diet. UNC Gillings School of Public Health . (2019, March 5).


  1. The Benefits of Farm to School. Farm to School. (n.d.).


  1. Bishop, T. (2019, May 19). Health Benefits of Eating Local Produce. Down to Earth Organic and Natural.


  1. Bloom, D., Lelekacs, J., & Dunning, R. (n.d.). Local Food Systems: Clarifying Current Research: NC State Extension Publications. Local Food Systems: Clarifying Current Research | NC State Extension Publications.


  1. Briefs & Fact Sheets. Center for Regional Food Systems. (n.d.).
  2. Brown, L. (2010, November). Creating a Local Food and Culinary Tourism Niche in Your Downtown. Downtown Economics: Ideas for Increasing Vitality in Community Business Districts .


  1. Cater, R. (2017, January 26). The True Cost of Local Food. UVM Food Feed.


  1. Chen Northeastern, N. (2016, March 2). Why You Should Eat Local Even Though It Can Be More Expensive. Spoon University.


  1. Eating with the Seasons. Healthy Planet USA. (n.d.). and-curriculum/project-based-lessons/eating-with-the-seasons-2/


  1. The Economic Impact of Locally Produced Food. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. (2020, August 4). economy/2017/december/economic-impact-locally-produced-food


  1. Economic Impacts of Farm to School. National Farm to School Network . (2017, September).


  1. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Oxidation-Chemical Reaction. Encyclopædia Britannica.


  1. Indiana Districts. Indiana | The Farm to School Census. (n.d.).


  1. Klavinski, R. (2018, September 20). 7 benefits of eating local foods. Michigan State University Extension.


  1. Local Governments See Health, Economic Benefits of Local Foods. Center for Environmental Farming Systems. (2012, August 16). governments-see-health-economic-benefits-of-local-foods/


  1. Meter, K. (2013, March 28). Southwest Indiana Local Farm & Food Economy. Crossroads Resource Center.


  1. Mink, N., & Schnoes, H. (2014). (rep.). Food Policy Council Development & Urban Food Access Report : Preliminary Findings & Recommendations for Welborn Baptist Foundation. Evansville, IN.


  1. Pirog, Richard S.; Zdorkowski, Gretchen A.; Enshayan, Kamyar; Pardee, Christine; Meter, Ken; Beidler, Kory; Chase, Craig; Futrell,Susan; and Hug, Andrew, “Developing a Vibrant and Sustainable Regional Food System: Suggestions for Community-Based Groups”(2006). Leopold Center Pubs and Papers. 155.


  1. Nyquist, K. (2020, September 22). The Role of Food Hubs in Food Access. New Venture Advisors LLC. hubs-in-food-access/


  1. Research-Based Support and Extension Outreach for Local Food Systems. Center for Environmental Farming Systems . (n.d.). content/uploads/research-based-support-for-local-food-systems.pdf


  1. Reset the Table: Meeting the Moment to Transform the U.S. Food System. The Rockefeller Foundation. (2020, July 28).


  1. Resilience through disruption: The impact of the pandemic on Indiana and the future of food and agriculture. AgriNovus Indiana. (2021, January).


  1. Warkentin , S. (n.d.). Teaching Kids Sustainable Food Practices. Tom’s of Maine. sustainable-food-practices


  1. Promise Zone. (2019). (rep.). Evansville Promise Zone: Food Access and Availability Report. Evansville, IN.