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.
Jim Slama founded FamilyFarmed at a time when few people recognized the term “Good Food movement,” and demand for locally, sustainably, humanely, and fairly produced food was still a tiny sliver of the overall consumer market. Under Slama’s leadership during more than 15 years since, FamilyFarmed has become an important catalyst in the booming, consumer-driven rise of the movement, helping to build a robust Good Food cluster in its home base of Chicago while expanding the national scope and impact of its work.
In 2004, Slama created FamilyFarmed’s highest-profile event, the Good Food Trade Show. Held each March in Chicago, the event — the nation’s oldest and biggest trade show focused on local and sustainable food — has evolved into the three-day Good Food Festival and Conference.
It includes tracks on financing, food policy, school food, producer issues, and food trade issues — plus a Festival that is a public celebration of the growing Good Food movement, with chef demos, DIY workshops, and more. In the event’s 11-year history, more than 700 unique speakers have participated. More than 5,000 people participated in the 2015 Good Food Festival & Conference.
The Good Food Financing and Innovation Conference was launched in 2009 in partnership with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Since then more than 50 businesses have pitched investors at the conference and more than a dozen have successfully raised more than $14.5 million in debt and equity financing. More than 80 angel investors, venture capitalists, banks, and other investors are now seeking to put capital into Good Food companies in the region.
To build on this momentum, Slama created the Good Food Business Accelerator in 2014. It is based at 1871, Chicago’s center for innovation and business incubation. The Accelerator program provides competitively selected entrepreneurs with a six-month program that includes a curriculum, mentorship, technical assistance, and networking opportunities with potential investors.
Slama has spoken nationally and internationally about the significance of Good Food. As a writer and editor, Slama has sought to expand FamilyFarmed’s efforts to inform the public about the Good Food movement through initiatives such as the organization’s website, Good Food on Every Table. He is also the co-editor of Wholesale Success, the leading manual for training farmers to utilize best practices in post-harvest handling, food safety, and packing. More than 8,500 farmers in 35 states have been trained in programs associated with the manual.
Earlier in his career, Slama was the founding publisher and editor of Conscious Choice magazine, which was named by Utne Reader as one of the Best of the Alternative Press nine times over his 14-year tenure. His work also has been featured in Crain’s Chicago Business, The New York Times, Huffington Post, Ode Magazine, Chicago Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Slama’s commitment to environmental sustainability ultimately led directly to the establishment of FamilyFarmed. In 1996, he launched Sustain — a public affairs group — on the heels of creating a successful multimedia campaign to shut down an incinerator that released 150,000 pounds of lead into the air annually. Sustain went on to become one of the country’s leading environmental communication groups and had many regional and national victories.
These included the Keep “Organic” Organic campaign, developed in partnership with the Organic Trade Association. The effort helped generate 275,000 comments to the USDA opposing standards that would have allowed food that was genetically engineered, irradiated, and grown in sewage sludge to be called organic. Other victories included stopping the state of Michigan from drilling for oil on the shores of Lake Michigan and forcing Congress to adopt a real recycling program when it was exposed that they were only pretending.
Slama and his companies have received a great deal of recognition. FamilyFarmed’s work earned the Yahoo! for Good Green Award. Slama was named by Crain’s Chicago Business to its “Forty Under Forty” annual list of leading young business and civic leaders. He also received the Chicago Tribune Good Eating Award for his contributions to the Chicago food and beverage world.