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. Its annual Good Food Festival & Conference — America’s longest-running sustainable and local food trade show — brings together key stakeholders to be inspired and do business.
FamilyFarmed has been instrumental in the launch and growth of numerous Good Food businesses, and its 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.
The Good Food movement has grown exponentially. Since FamilyFarmed began 20 years ago, the Chicago-based nonprofit likewise has grown. It is now in its second year of operating the Good Food Business Accelerator, which was created to stimulate entrepreneurship. And to better engage businesses, producers, and the public in the Good Food conversation, it launched goodfoodoneverytable.com. Organizational achievements include the following:
Good Food Festival & Conference
FamilyFarmed launched the first sustainable local food trade show in America 12 years ago. The Good Food Festival & Conference, held annually in Chicago, includes the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference, Good Food Financing Fair, Good Food Industry Conference, a Food Policy Conference, a consumer-focused Festival, and networking opportunities in the evenings.
Nearly 5,000 people attend to meet, learn, get inspired, and do business — including farmers, policy makers, food hub operators, artisan food businesses, retailers, individuals and families, restaurateurs, and distributors. The 2017 festival and conference will be held March 16-18 at the UIC Forum in Chicago.
Good Food Financing Fair
Good Food businesses can grow quickly, and entrepreneurs often need financing to help them succeed. Recognizing this, FamilyFarmed created the Good Food Financing Fair as part of its Good Food Financial & Innovation Conference. This conference, which makes up the first day of the annual three-day Good Food Festival & Conference, brings together national and regional leaders in farming, food production and finance to create channels for small farms and food businesses to access capital and finance growth.
SLoFIG, a Chicago-based angel investment group focusing on sustainable food businesses, debuted at this event, and the Angel Food Network has also participated for the past two years. Together, these groups have 40 angel investors. Businesses that participated in recent conferences have raised nearly $23 million in debt and equity capital.
Growing Sales for Good Food Farms and Businesses
More than 99 percent of the agricultural products consumed in America are purchased through wholesale channels. So, creating new wholesale markets for family farmers and artisan food producers is key to building Good Food systems.
FamilyFarmed works to build the overall supply chain of local food by providing technical assistance to farmers, connecting wholesale buyers with producers, and helping to create infrastructure that supports the growth of these systems. FamilyFarmed works with many leading buyers of local food, including Whole Foods Market, Chipotle, Treasure Island, Local Foods, Goodness Greeness, Sysco, Compass Group, Chicago Public Schools, McCormick Place Convention Center, Testa Produce, Aramark, FarmLogix, Midway Airport, Lettuce Entertain You, and Natural Direct, plus many other supermarkets and restaurants, to connect them with local food sources. FamilyFarmed also partners with the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition to work with restaurants to increase local food sourcing. McCormick Place, the largest convention center in America, announced its intention to buy Good Food at our trade show and now buys more than 40 percent of its food from local and or sustainable sources.
Food Hubs—Aggregators and Processors of Local Food
Food hubs are essential economic stimulators in the Good Food movement. They provide infrastructure to get local food from farms to wholesale buyers and give smaller producers greater market power.
FamilyFarmed is a leader in food hub development and has done extensive work researching and developing facilities that aggregate and/or process food. FamilyFarmed has helped launch Blue Ridge Produce in Virginia and the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative. Additionally, FamilyFarmed published Building Successful Food Hubs: A Business Planning Guide for Aggregating and Processing Local Food in Illinois, a “how to” guide for entrepreneurs. Currently in the works is Food Safety for Food Hubs and Their Farmers, a technical assistance publication being produced in partnership with the USDA.
Farmer Training and Development
Wholesale buyers have strict quality and food safety guidelines that can be formidable obstacles for small- and mid-acreage producers. Recognizing a need for comprehensive information and training, FamilyFarmed published Wholesale Success: A Farmer’s Guide to Selling, Postharvest Handling and Packing Produce. The 315-page manual, now in its fourth edition, includes sections on issues such as Building Relationships with Buyers, On-Farm Food Safety, and Calculating Return on Investment. It also includes more than 100 crop profiles that give specific harvesting, cooling, storage and packing information on most of the fruits and vegetables grown in the United States. FamilyFarmed has trained more than 9,000 farmers from more than 40 states through Wholesale Success.
In the coming year we will publish a new manual, Direct Market Success, to help farmers scale up their businesses. This latest expansion of the FamilyFarmed resources will act as a reference guide for farms selling in direct market venues such as farmers markets, CSAs and farm stands.
Farm to School
Through strategic partnerships with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and its foodservice providers, FamilyFarmed has helped develop local food procurement programs that provide healthy lunches to urban children. In the past five years, CPS has purchased more than $13 million in food from local farmers. CPS is now sourcing antibiotic-free chicken from an Indiana Amish farmer, the largest purchase of its type in the U.S. CPS has worked with school districts in New York City, Los Angeles, Houston and Miami to encourage them to source antibiotic-free chicken. FamilyFarmed also partnered with CPS on “Eat What You Grow,” a school garden food safety project. Together, we created a school garden manual and training materials that allow CPS cafeterias to source produce from their own school gardens.
Good Food Business Accelerator
FamilyFarmed is now in its second year of the Good Food Business Accelerator. The Accelerator provides a mentor and support network for Good Food entrepreneurs, helping them to launch, stabilize and grow their Good Food businesses. By the end of the program, Fellows are better equipped to run their businesses, and those needing funding are better prepared to meet with investors to obtain initial or follow-on investments. This strategic, operating, and financial support enables Fellows to launch or scale their business more rapidly, allows other participants in the supply chain to stand on their shoulders, and spurs the development of Good Food business clusters. Fellows are showcased at the annual Good Food Financing Fair.
The immediate impacts of the Good Food Business Accelerator are evident in the first year’s program metrics reported by FamilyFarmed last August. Within three months of the graduation of the first cohort of Fellows, businesses that participated in the Accelerator’s first year averaged a 62 percent increase in sales, a 107 percent increase in the number of customers and a 68 percent increase in the number of employees.
In real numbers, the Accelerator businesses had increased their market sales by 45 percent; created a total of nearly 33 full-time and part-time jobs while retaining nearly 48 positions; and established 360 new markets for their products.
FamilyFarmed’s On-Farm Food Safety Project gives small- to mid-acreage fruit and vegetable farmers the tools to comply with national best practices in food safety. With the Food Safety Modernization Act regulations published and being implemented by the federal government, farmers will face increasing requirements. This program provides technical assistance to help them adopt best practices in food safety.
This project was developed in partnership with the USDA, FDA and a wide range of national partners, giving growers access to a free, easy-to-use online tool that guides them through the steps necessary to create a personalized food safety plan. With this plan, farmers have the capacity to get Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certified for food safety, a key requirement of most wholesale buyers. This tool is available in English and Spanish at onfarmfoodsafety.org. Nearly 500 farmers have created food safety plans to date, and more than 30,000 people have used the site. Food safety is also a major component of FamilyFarmed’s Wholesale Success publication and forthcoming Food Safety for Food Hubs and Their Farmers report.