For Part 3, Ecosystems Services research, the team hired Delta Institute to develop a strategy to measure the ecosystem services provided by on-farm practices in the local food system. Ecosystem services are the non-monetary values provided by agricultural systems that work with nature. They include soil health building; nitrogen fixation and nutrient cycling; water infiltration and water holding capacity; pest and disease suppression; pollination; healthy food provision; water quality provision; climate regulation; and biodiversity. While ecosystem services are not intrinsic to local food systems, the higher prices local foods command allow for greater implementation of practices that promote improved land, water and human health.
“Creating a Resilient Food System for the Metropolitan Chicago Region” presents a framework to manage local food and farming systems for improved delivery of ecosystem services. The framework also identifies a set of indicators that can be used to track changes in ecosystem services at the field, farm and landscape scale. The framework provides the tools and the systems to collect data to inform changes in land management to provide greater ecosystem benefits.