Labelling Chicago’s Locally Grown Food

How to make sure you’re being the best possible locavore? In Chicago, now you just have to look at the label.


For proof that the city-grown food movement is truly hitting the mainstream, look no further than Chicago. The city is set to launch a new initiative that will see labels emblazoned with the phrase “Chicago Grown” stuck on foodstuffs grown within city limits (all fresh foods and processed foods containing at least 50% local ingredients).


A product of the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council, the Chicago Grown label will be the first label from a local city intended to boost local agriculture, according to Grist. Other regions are also getting into the act–in Marin County, California, for example, local producers now have the option of using a “Grown Local Marin County” on their goods–if they pay a $65 fee. In Asheville, North Carolina, residents can look for the Appalachian Grown label, which denotes items that have been produced within 100 miles of the city.

Like Marin, Chicago will implement a nominal annual fee for participants: $25 for farmers and $50 for processors. Once more producers sign on, the advisory council will start profiling them on a yet-to-be-created website. Grist talked to Chicago locals to learn more:

Nathan Wyse, owner of a small, Chicago-based kombucha manufacturer called Arize that uses locally grown herbs such as mint, says the label will help make an “ethical connection” between grower and consumer.

“Think community gardens, victory gardens,” says Erika Allen, head of CFPAC and national projects director for the Milwaukee-based group Growing Power. “The goal is to support urban ag, and attract more farmers, giving the farmers another tool they can have in their arsenal for their business.”

All too often, the term “local food” is thrown around with abandon–as many dwellers of California’s Central Valley like to point out, San Francisco residents who play up the “local” produce from their farmers markets are actually eating fruit and vegetables that come from over 100 miles outside the city.

There is no confusion with the Chicago Grown label: Everything comes from within city limits. And it’s so simple that there’s no reason other cities can’t get on board. Now that even city grocery stores are growing food on their rooftops, there are plenty of eligible foods.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more