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.
A Good Food Movement Leader and Innovator
FamilyFarmed is a national leader in building the Good Food movement and developing regional, sustainable food systems. Our annual Good Food EXPO — America’s longest-running sustainable and local food trade show — brings together key stakeholders to be inspired, do business, and learn the many ways in which producers, entrepreneurs, industry leaders, investors, advocates and members of the general public can work, individually or in concert, to build a better food system. The EXPO was first staged in 2004, and the 15th annual EXPO will be held March 22-23 at Chicago’s IUC Forum.
The Good Food Financing & Innovation is the Midwest’s premier annual event focused on business and investment in the local and sustainable food sector. A part of the Good Food EXPO from its launch in 2011 through 2017, the Financing & Innovation Conference was converted into a highly successful stand-alone event that took place on June 19, 2018 at Chicago’s Morgan Manufacturing event space.
FamilyFarmed has been instrumental in the launch and growth of numerous Good Food businesses. The Good Food movement has grown exponentially over the 20 years since FamilyFarmed began, and our Chicago-based nonprofit likewise has grown. It is now in its fifth year of operating the Good Food Accelerator, which is designed to stimulate entrepreneurship. Combined, the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference and the Good Food Accelerator have helped facilitate more than $50 million in financing deals.
FamilyFarmed’s Farmer Training programs present workshops that have provided practical information for more than 14,500 farmers in 43 states. Our Wholesale Success technical assistance manual has been used to train thousands of farmers in the economics and food safety imperatives of today’s Good Food market.
Direct Market Success, a training manual and workshop series modeled after Wholesale Success, was launched in January 2017 and is aimed primarily at the young and beginning farmers — most of whom sell direct to consumers — who are much needed in a nation where the current average age of farmers is around 60. And FamilyFarmed provides specialized training to increase the use of best practices in food safety in order to meet the needs of trade buyers and the requirements of government regulators.
Even with its track record of successes, FamilyFarmed never stops innovating. We are currently developing two more important programs: Good Food Is Good Medicine, which will illuminate the connections between Good Food and good health by reaching out to communities and consumers, and the Organic Grain Promotion Initiative, which is designed to help stimulate expanding demand and supply of locally and sustainable produced grains and flours.
And to better engage businesses, producers, and the public in the Good Food conversation, it launched its goodfoodoneverytable.org news blog, which will soon be upgraded to become Good Food News, a more dynamic platform for telling the stories of FamilyFarmed’s programs, the farms and food businesses in our network, and the Good Food movement in general. Organizational achievements include the following:
Good Food EXPO
FamilyFarmed’s annual Good Food EXPO began in 2004 as the Local Organic Trade Show, the first event of its kind. The event has been foundational in building local food infrastructure and creating lasting relationships that have helped push the Good Food Movement forward. Nearly decade and a half later, the demand for local food is greater than the supply, everyone is more conscious of where our food comes from, and large buyers — including grocery stores, distributors and institutions — are rushing to keep up with the rapidly changing marketplace.
This impactful event connects all parts of Good Food movement, from farmers and producers to buyers, sellers, investors, consumers and advocates. It provides in-depth programming that helps grow local food procurement capacity; educates the public about the importance and impact of Good Food; engages local school districts; and illuminates local, statewide and national food policy . The EXPO’s increasing impact and importance has been underscored by the participation of major officeholders, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, and Cook County (Chicago) Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
With all of these stakeholders networking through our sessions and trade show, unique opportunities arise for growing the Good Food movement. Over the past 14 years, multiple local procurement relationships were begun at our big annual event, new products have been launched, businesses have gained access to financing, and major local food procurement achievements by Midway Airport, McCormick Place and Chicago Public Schools have been announced. In addition, the entire Good Food community has been inspired by more than 700 leaders who have spoken at the event.
The Good Food EXPO is not simply a farmer- and industry-focused event, though. It’s a celebration of sustainable agriculture and Good Food.
Members of the public who attend the full-day Good Food Festival programming have the opportunity to learn directly from experienced farmers and gardeners through long-form DIY workshops and “Good Food Commons” mini-sessions; hear from thought leader panelists about the future of our agricultural system; watch cooking demos, emphasizing local food, by culinary leaders such as Frontera’s Rick Bayless and One Off Hospitality’s Paul Kahan (both past recipients of FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Chef of the Year Award); and engage with more than 150 farmer, food business, and nonprofit exhibitors. Speakers have included urban and rural sustainable agriculture pioneers such as Will Allen and Fred Kirschenmann.
The Good Food Festival educates the public about sustainable agriculture and Good Food systems, fosters lasting connections between farmers, food producers and consumers, and inspires everyone to incorporate Good Food into their lives!
Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference
This annual event in Chicago has had a major impact in helping food and farm entrepreneurs grow their revenues, profits and jobs by introducing and connecting them with investors, lenders, venture capitalists, potential business partners and trade buyers. The event begins with a keynote speaker — John Foraker, former CEO of Annie’s Homegrown and current CEO of Once Upon a Farm organic, fresh baby food —filled that role in 2018. Panels on key current issues affecting Good Food financing and innovation feature leading experts in business and finance. The Financing Fair provides rising entrepreneurs the opportunity present their businesses and products to potential financiers, and a pitch session — in which selected entrepreneurs do business plan presentations — was converted in 2018 into a competitive, juried Pitch Slam.
Good Food Accelerator
At its launch in 2014, this was the first business accelerator focused on local and sustainable food companies. Four cohorts of competitively selected early-stage businesses have graduated from the program, which provides an intensive six-month curriculum, mentorship, assistance with business plans and pitches, major networking opportunities and connections to investors. In all, 35 businesses in the first four cohorts graduated, and all report that they benefited from their participation. The Accelerator is also currently developing a Extension program that will provide more targeted service for businesses that either do not need the full-scale Accelerator program or cannot afford the time commitment.
There would be no Good Food without great, productive farmers. And growing young farmers is a critical national need, as the USDA reports the average age of farmers in the United States is nearly 60.
FamilyFarmed has helped producers improve their skills with workshops that have trained more than 14,700 farmers in 43 states. Our farmer training program was built around our Wholesale Success manual, a farmer’s guide to food safety, selling, postharvest handling and packing produce. In 2017, FamilyFarmed expanded the program to include Direct Market Success, a farmer’s guide to selling at farmers markets, farmstands, through CSAs or online marketplaces and to restaurants, and a series of Food Safety Training workshops designed to give small to mid-scale produce growers the tools to comply with best practices in food safety and to introduce writing on-farm food safety plans.
Good Food Is Good Medicine
Medical training in the United States typically focuses on treating symptoms of illness, and has been lacking in a crucial element: the impact of food on health. But there is rising interest in integrative medicine and other approaches that factor food into efforts to prevent illness. FamilyFarmed has produced several informative programs around this theme — including a standing-room-only panel discussion at the 2017 Good Food EXPO — and is developing a Good Food Is Good Medicine program that will take this crucial message out into communities. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois has emerged as a leading partner in the Good Food Is Good Medicine program.
Organic Grain Promotion Initiative
The demand for locally and sustainably produced grains for baking, cooking, brewing, distilling and other needs is rising fast. FamilyFarmed is developing a coalition of growers, buyers and sellers to help expand this market and to persuade more farmers to transition land to growing grain sustainably. This initiative will also provide important insights into the application of regenerative agriculture principles to a particular product sector for which consumer and industry demand is on a fast growth curve.