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.
Over the past 15 years, FamilyFarmed has established itself as a lead innovator in promoting what we call Good Food: delicious, healthy, accessible food, grown as close to home as possible, by family farmers and producers using sustainable, humane and fair practices.
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 Festival & Conference, a three-day event held annually in Chicago, is 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 Festival & Conference is the biggest regional event of its type in America, drawing more than 5,000 attendees in 2015. 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 — some of them located in east central Illinois — to promote their businesses and attract new customers.
As the Good Food Festival & Conference 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 takes up the first day of the Good Food Festival & Conference and includes pitches by selected businesses and a financing fair. This event, to date, has resulted in more than $17 million in new funding for innovative businesses.
In turn, the Financing & Innovation Conference spun off the Good Food Business Accelerator. Launched in fall 2014, the Accelerator program provides competitively selected fellows with an intensive six-month curriculum, mentorship, networking opportunities and connections with investors. The program graduated all nine of the businesses that participated in its first cohort, two of which — Living Water Farms and Mint Creek Farm — are located in east central Illinois.
Yet these programs are just parts of a FamilyFarmed agenda that includes extensive farmer training. Our program built around our Wholesale Success: A Farmers’ Guide to Food Safety, Selling, Postharvest Handling, and Packing Produce manual has been used to directly train more than 7,000 farmers in 35 states to succeed at selling to retail, wholesale, restaurant and institutional buyers. We convened a 22-member national advisory board to oversee the development of Wholesale Success.
In addition, FamilyFarmed created and manages the OnFarmFoodSafety.org website, which provides user-friendly templates that enable farmers to create their own on-farm food safety plans. This program was created with the counsel of a 15-member national stakeholder advisory board and 15-member technical team.
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.