FamilyFarmed is a non-profit organization committed to expanding the production, marketing and distribution of locally grown and responsibly produced food, in order to enhance the social, economic, and environmental health of our communities.
FamilyFarmed has been a leader, for more than two decades, in the effort to build a better food system, one that urges everyone to eat food produced as locally as possible using sustainable, humane and fair practices. Our enduring goals are a healthier, more environmentally sustainable and more economically dynamic food system. Our vision is Good Food On Every Table, with delicious, healthy, local and sustainable food available to all regardless of demographics, geography and economic circumstances.
This passion for expanding the markets for Good Food is reflected in FamilyFarmed’s network of established programs. These include the two-day Good Food EXPO at Chicago’s UIC Forum, held most recently on March 23 and 24, 2018; the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference, a business-and-investment-focused gathering held on June 19, 2018 at Morgan Manufacturing in Chicago as a stand-alone event for the first time, after formerly being part of the Good Food EXPO; the Good Food Accelerator, with its fourth cohort of competitively selected entrepreneur Fellows graduating on April 23, 2018 after receiving intensive instruction and connections to business leaders and investors; and our Farmer Training program, which has provided more than 14,500 farmers in 43 states with best-practices instruction in topics such as Wholesale Success, Direct Market Success and On-Farm Food Safety.
This lineup is being supplemented with new, developing programs that include Good Food Is Good Medicine, which aims to take the collective knowledge of FamilyFarmed, medical experts, nutritionists, chefs, farmers and others about the powerful connections between food and health, and make that information more readily available to members of the general public; and the Organic Grain Promotion Initiative, which seeks to advance the fast-growing interest in better, more sustainably produced heirloom grains among retailers, consumers, bakers, distilleries, breweries and others while providing farmers with high-value-crop alternatives to the commodity farming system.
FamilyFarmed also has staged successful one-off events, the biggest of which took place on April 30, 2017. A philanthropic partnership between FamilyFarmed and Chef Rick Bayless’ Frontera Farmer Foundation produced the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration, a fundraiser at the Art Institute of Chicago … and it was a dazzling success, raising $140,000 shared evenly between the nonprofit organizations, while delighting more than 700 attendees with an engaging Good Food Forum, followed by the Good Food Party of the Year featuring delicious treats prepared by more than a dozen world-class chefs.
FamilyFarmed succeeds in its efforts by bringing together farmers, food producers, trade buyers, investors, individuals, families and other key stakeholders. We have helped grow the sales of Good Food, facilitated financing for food and farm businesses, and inspired entrepreneurs and NGOs toward greater innovation.
The Good Food EXPO, held annually in Chicago, has been the centerpiece of FamilyFarmed’s calendar and its highest-profile program. Launched in 2004 as the nation’s first trade show focused on local and sustainably produced food, the Good Food EXPO is the biggest regional event of its type in America. Its features include the traditional trade show and marketplace, in which many of the types of operations that benefit from our training programs participate, and a CSA Pavilion that enables community supported agriculture farms from the Chicago foodshed to promote their businesses and attract new customers.
As the Good Food EXPO grew, FamilyFarmed recognized the need to facilitate connections between food and farm entrepreneurs who are seeking to start up or scale up, and investors and lenders who have shown increasing interest in the Good Food sector. This spawned the creation, in 2011, of the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference, which includes a Financing Fair and, for the first time in 2018, a competitive, juried Pitch Slam in which nine businesses competed.
In turn, the Financing & Innovation Conference spun off the Good Food Business Accelerator (GFBA). Launched in fall 2014, the Accelerator program provides competitively selected Fellows with an intensive six-month curriculum, mentorship, networking opportunities and connections with investors. Over those four years, 35 businesses have successfully completed the program, and most have enjoyed significant growth in which the entrepreneurs say the Accelerator has played a role. About half percent of the businesses have been woman-owned and minority-owned, underscoring FamilyFarmed’s dedication to diversity. Recruiting for the fifth cohort began in July 2018.
Between the Financing & Innovation Conference and the GFBA, FamilyFarmed has helped facilitate more than $50 million in equity and debt funding for Good Food businesses in recent years. And currently under development is a new extension program that will provide technical assistance to businesses that do not require or have the time for the broad spectrum of programming in GFBA.
Farmer training is another vital aspect of FamilyFarmed’s agenda. Our program initially was built around our Wholesale Success: A Farmers’ Guide to Food Safety, Selling, Postharvest Handling, and Packing Produce manual, aimed to providing instruction in best practices for farmers seeking to sell to retail, wholesale, restaurant and institutional buyers. This was followed in 2017 by publication of Direct Market Success: A Farmer’s Guide to Farmers Market, CSA, Farmstand, Online and Restaurant Sales, with a strong focus on the needs of young and beginning farmers — the new generation needed by this nation, where the average age of farmers is roughly 60. A third set of workshops was created around an updatable On-Farm Food Safety binder aimed at farmers whose greatest concern is ensuring the safety of the food they produce, both to protect consumers and ensure both buyers and government regulators that they are employing best practices.
FamilyFarmed began as part of Sustain, a 501(c)(3) non-profit launched on the heels of a successful campaign to shut down an incinerator releasing 150,000 pounds of lead into the air annually. Sustain developed the “Keep Organic Organic” campaign, partnering with the Organic Trade Association and other organizations, that blocked proposed USDA rules that would have diluted the National Organic Program’s standards.
Sustain then developed a “Buy Local” campaign, encouraging consumers to purchase local food, and in 2004 launched the first Local Organic Trade Show. The organization soon transitioned to become FamilyFarmed.