by Bob Benenson, FamilyFarmed
There are so many elements to the Good Food movement that it would be hard for any one event to capture its breadth. But the second day of FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Festival & Conference — Friday, March 20 — comes as close as can be to a comprehensive overview of this sweeping effort to change the way we eat for the better.
This middle day of the three-day, 11th annual Festival & Conference at Chicago’s UIC Forum, known as Trade Day, has several programs and features. Each of them would be considered significant as a stand-alone event. [For more information about the Good Food Festival & Conference or to buy tickets, please visit the event website.]
The centerpiece of Trade Day is the nation’s oldest and biggest trade show focused on local and sustainably produced food. Building markets for local and sustainable food is a central theme of the Good Food Festival & Conference, so it’s no mystery why the trade show is smack in the overall event. An exhibit hall packed with around 100 Good Food farmers, artisans, and other businesses presents a golden opportunity for networking, relationship-building, and deal-making.
The day’s program also includes a long lineup of panels featuring leaders and experts who will enlighten about the issues affecting a movement that has expanded rapidly in recent years, but has plenty of room for further growth.
The Opening Symposium includes an all-star roster that includes:
• Mari Gallagher of Mari Gallagher Research & Consulting Group, a FamilyFarmed board member whose research raised consciousness of the problem of “food deserts,” areas where residents lack convenient access to healthful food options.
• Jim Slama, founder and president of FamilyFarmed
• Dr. Gail Christopher of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, an organization that is a major supporter of Good Food projects
• Michael O’Gorman, founder and director of the Farmer Veteran Coalition
• Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
• Shaniece Alexander of Growing Home, a nonprofit organization that provides job training and skills in urban agriculture to individuals with criminal records and other personal challenges.
• Lori Healey of FARM Illinois, a partnership for competitiveness and sustainable growth in food, agriculture and agribusiness in Illinois
• John-Mark Hack of the Local Food Association, a national trade association for those involved in local food
• Fred Kirschenmann of Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, a leading center for sustainable farming and education located near New York City
• Jody Osmund, owner of Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm in Ottawa, Illinois, and a founder of Band of Farmers, the Chicagoland CSA Coalition (To read more about the CSA movement and Band of Farmers, please click here.)
The Opening Symposium also includes a ceremony led by Angelic Organics Learning Center of Caledonia, Illinois and its CRAFT affiliate at which Jessica Rinks of Chicago’s Purple Leaf Farms, an urban farming operation, will receive the Beginning Farmer of the Year Award, and Chris and Marcy Prchal of Trogg’s Hollow in Elgin and Poplar Grove, Illinois will receive the Mentor Farmer of the Year Award.
The formal program then divides into four tracks with multiple panels:
Trade: Panel topics include Branding 2.0 Social Media and Design; Scaling Up Local Meat; Local Foods Pricing: Making it Win-Win; and Getting on the Shelves
School Food: Panel topics include Farm to School 101: Introducing Farm to School Programs and Priorities; School Meals & Nutrition Standards: How Farm to School Programs Promote Healthy Eating; School Gardens: Planning, Design, & Curriculum; and Farm to School Procurement & Supply Chain
Food Policy: Panel topics include A Prescription for Change: Health Impacts of Antibiotic Overuse in Meat Production; Got Land? Tackling the Land Access Challenge; Chemical Trespass: A New Generation of Genetically Engineered Seeds and Local Food Systems; Charting Regional/National Approaches to Food Policy; Collaborate, Educate, Create Place: A Working Urban Farm in Skokie; and Scaling Up Local Greens Production
Producer: Panel topics include Small Grain and Bean Production for Local Growers; Farm Hack: Farmer Innovations; Maximizing Farm Profits Through Diversification; Acquiring Farmland and Funding; A Larger Share of the Food Dollar through Value Added Products
Two excellent special features cap this information-packed day. One is a showing of the 2014 documentary GMO OMG, which takes a bold and insightful look at one of the most important and controversial food issues: The impact of scientifically engineered plants (GMOs, for genetically modified organisms) on farm and food systems in the U.S. and around the world. The showing of GMO OMG is presented by Chipotle Mexican Grill and moderated by Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute.
There is also is a Meet The Buyers reception for attendees who want to unwind while availing themselves of still more networking opportunities.
And if you already are at the UIC Forum for Trade Day, why not stay for Localicious that evening? After all, this separately ticketed event is one of Chicago’s best annual food and drink tasting events.
It features top chefs who seek the finest in local and sustainably produced ingredients — and the farmers from whom they purchase. Delicious bites can be paired with some of the region’s finest craft beer, spirits, hard cider, and wine. As though that isn’t enough enticement, a great bluegrass band provides entertainment.
For more information about the Good Food Festival & Conference and to buy tickets, please visit the event website.