Illinois Specialty Crops

Illinois is home to specialty crops. 
Illinois agriculture goes far beyond corn and soybeans. Illinois has good soil and a favorable climate, among other factors, making the state a top grower of several specialty crops as well. Many people don’t realize that foods like pumpkins, peaches, apples, grapes, horseradish and melons are grown on Illinois farmland. In fact, more than 64 vegetables and 15 fruit and nut crops are grown in Illinois and produce nearly $500 million in sales for farmers. 

What are specialty crops? 

Specialty crops are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.” To really see the distinct variations, check out this complete list of specialty crops from the USDA.

Specialty crops are diverse and can vary in the type of market in which they are sold. In fact, specialty growers and their crops are gaining in popularity and in consumer demand. Specialty growers’ market through a variety of ways, and are often featured in their communities. Growers can sell their fresh products at pick-your own farms, roadside markets, farm stands, farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, or directly to wholesale stores.  

Farmers markets are also growing in popularity. Farmers markets serve as links between urban, suburban, and rural communities, affording farmers and give consumers the opportunity to come together. Consumers enjoy shopping for unique ingredients sold directly from the farm, and the pleasure of buying familiar products in their freshest possible state.  

Illinois is 3rd in the Nation for the number of farmers markets. More than 8,000 farmers markets across the country offer consumers farm-fresh, affordable, convenient, and healthy products. Visit the Illinois Farmers Market Association to find farmers markets near you. Make sure to download the what’s in season app to find produce that's in season. 

View the Specialty Crop Fact Sheet

Watch the Top 8 Pumpkin Facts


Why are Specialty Growers so important?  

CultivatingTogether, we can help support the Illinois specialty crop industry and our local communities. 

When purchasing locally grown produce, an additional 32 cents per dollar stays in the community. So, next time you visit the grocery store or your local farmers market you can be proud to support your local grower and local businesses. 

Illinois Farm Bureau and Illinois Specialty Growers Association (ISGA) work together to promote and develop the Illinois specialty crop industry. Through their leadership and with the support of specialty farmers, they establish a united voice that ensures the success of the industry and creates a more sustainable market for specialty crops. ISGA also strives to improve market opportunities and production quality for specialty crops grown in Illinois. Visit Illinois Specialty Growers Association to learn more.

Visit our Shop Local portal to help you shop and support your local community. 

For more uplifting stories from our specialty farmers and their unique journeys visit our #CultivatingOurCommunties website.