Wednesday, January 2, 2013

From Prison to Farm

Over in Illinois, residents spend $48 billion a year on food, 90 percent of which comes from elsewhere. But those who don't think food security will play in Peoria should think again. Peoria received a kind-of gift of an old prison and radar site that comes with some significant restrictions on the land.
Matt Dayhoff / Journal Star
The Hanna City correctional institution was converted into a radar site for the FAA to track aircraft. The state signed the whole place over to Peoria, but because it was still an active radar site, it came with restrictions on what could be done to it.
But now a local resident, Mary Ardapple, a Peoria County board member who owns a local bakery, has taken a look at the place--including the greenhouse. And it's given her the idea to turn the ex-prison into a a food hub and farm incubator site.
Grist has covered the story quite nicely, including how the Illinois Food, Farms and Jobs Act is requiring state institutions like universities and government agencies to source 20% of their food requirements from local sources. I can't even imagine what that would do to local food production; the University of Victoria is now sourcing a lot of its food locally and that alone is changing the face of south island agriculture.
But it's also interesting to note how Illinois is thinking of converting a former prison into a farm and farmer training centre, while here in Canada a proven positive program, that of having prisoners growing a significant part of their own food, has been cancelled because it's not punitive enough.

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