Perhaps you have seen photos or heard about the produce rotting in the fields. The COVID-19 outbreak has drawn attention to the food distribution problems in our country.

We rely on food being grown in certain areas of the country. Much is processed for large markets, including institutions and restaurants which are now unable to use it. So, it sits in the field because our system is not set up for distribution to grocery stores.

Some items are now in short supply locally. This situation demonstrates the importance of growing and purchasing as much food as possible in our local region. One way to do this is visiting our farmers markets in our area. Locally grown produce is fresh, tasty, better for the environment by eliminating long transport, and supports the local economy.

The month of May generally marks the start of Farmers’ Markets in our area. This is a great source of local produce, meat and other goods for purchase. As of this writing, the outlook for this year’s markets is still uncertain. Some markets are going forward (with proper social distancing and hygiene) and others are going online.

Two years ago, a group of enterprising Jo Daviess producers created a local food hub for customers to shop via an online farmers’ market. The idea began when a couple from Hanover experienced this concept while vacationing. They enlisted a small group of local producers to offer this online market.

Customers would order online and pick up their orders once a week at one of several sites in the county. Erin Keyser of the original group began by getting a website up and running, using Lulus Local Food, a Virginia-based company specializing in web design for local food hubs. Erin then volunteered to administer the website. By summer 2018 the Jo Daviess Local Food (JDLF) began filling online orders, starting with seven producers that offered a variety of products.

The JDLF online ordering system is easy, similar to other online shopping sites. At present, 17 producers participate. The website is active all winter, so it’s a great way to support local producers all year long! Tuesday is delivery day to several sites in Jo Daviess County.

Items and producers change with the seasons; the variety of products available throughout the year includes meat, eggs, many types of produce, baked goods, jams/jellies, natural health, beauty and cleaning products, hummus, salad jars, grains, and more. For more information about Jo Daviess Local Food visit or look for them on Facebook.This is a unique way to buy local!

Another avenue to obtain information about local products is by using the Local Foods Directory put out by the Northwest Illinois Audubon Society and the University of Illinois Extension Service Stephenson County.

This directory lists 31 producers in Stephenson and nearby counties and their products, including garden produce, meat, fruit, baked items, flowers, grain, honey, maple syrup, and many others. Contact information for the producers is listed in the publication. These brochures may be picked up at the Stephenson Farm Bureau, Stephenson County Visitors Center, Freeport Public Library, Illinois Extension Service and online at: and

There are many options to find locally produced items in our area. Find the best way that works for you and support our area producers. Let’s keep our food distribution local and keep our local food economy alive!

Laura Dufford ( is a member of the Environmental Study Group which can be found on Facebook @esgroup32