Ice caps are melting, our population is growing, and our winters are getting longer. So, what does that mean for our farm-dependent state? In Illinois, our farmers depend on the land and climate to work together so that they, as growers, can yield bountiful crops.
Often, we are left overwhelmed as to what we can do to help the earth. From recycling, eating and shopping local, to turning the lights off when you leave a room, sustainability starts small and at the heart. Downtown Springfield, Inc. interviewed three of our business owners regarding their efforts to make Springfield sustainable, delving deep to showcase what makes them unique.
Michael Higgins, owner and chef of Maldaner’s Restaurant, says that buying from small farmers and eating organic is the way to go. Coming from California, one thing Higgins wanted to do when he arrived in Central Illinois was to bring more variety to Springfield. He noticed that the Midwest grew really great tomatoes, but unfortunately only one species seemed to exist. By working with local farmers and by providing them with seed, Higgins was able to add to the Midwest variety. Then in the late ’80’s, Higgins began offering organic chicken to his customers by working with farmers he met at the Illinois Product Show. One can see the pride in Higgins’ eyes as he speaks of the bond between the consumer and farmer. “It’s 100% trust,” he states. Small Farmers, away from agri-business, “ARE small businesses and we need to remember that,” Higgins says.
We are trusting these farmers to feed us with incredible food that provide us with the nutrients we need and at the same time, they are trusting us to understand that where we buy from is important. Buying from farmers markets and your local or small farm not only helps them but helps our community, and helps our planet. We asked Higgins what he thought was the best solution to feeding our growing population while sustaining our planet and he had the best answer: “Do the best you can.”
How does buying organic help the planet?
Organic farming is less intensive on our landscapes causing less erosion to our soil compositions. While it does often require more land in general, the amount of pesticides and herbicides are far less than conventional commodity farming — meaning less chemical run-off to our water systems and airways. While too much demand on small farms can do harm by exploiting them, the good news it that more and more “big business” farmers are transitioning to organic due to the consumer demand!
Like Chef Higgins says, all we can do is try our best. Try our best to educate ourselves as to what is harmful to ourselves, others, and the planet. While remembering that even the smallest act is helping and that if we all did one small act, like buying local, those many small acts add up to a pretty big one!
Stay tuned for next weeks’ sustainable highlight when we meet with new Director Leah Wilson and founding Board President Rachael Thomson of the Kidzeum Health and Science Children’s Museum.
*This sustainability blog post is the first of a three part series about how Downtown Springfield organizations contribute to sustainability initiatives.*