FamilyFarmed.org works directly with family farmers as well as with local and national organizations that serve farmers and are working to build local food systems. We also work through our website, annual Good Food Festival & Conference, and Chicagoland CSA Guide to educate the public about eating locally grown food, supporting farm families, and becoming members of local CSA programs. Our Programs Include:
Good Food Festival & Conference
For the past nine years, FamilyFarmed.org has produced the Good Food Festival & Conference, previously named the FamilyFarmed EXPO. Hosted at the UIC Forum in Chicago, the GFFC is a trade show, financing, and food policy conference, and celebration of local and responsibly produced food. We work to link local farmers and family-owned producers of food and farm products with the public, trade buyers and leaders in the field. Connections made at the GFFC facilitate the growth of local food systems. In 2011 and 2012 FamilyFarmed.org partnered with the Santa Monica Farmers’ Markets to produce Good Food Festivals in southern California. We are now gearing up for our 10th Anniversary Good Food Festival & Conference, March 13th-15th, 2014 at the UIC Forum in Chicago!
Food hubs are essential economic stimulators in the Good Food movement that help grow local food systems. They provide infrastructure to get local food from farms to wholesale buyers and give smaller producers greater market power. FamilyFarmed.org is a national leader in food hub development. We have done extensive work researching and developing facilities that aggregate and/or process food from local farmers and commercial customers, and have helped launch multiple food aggregation and processing facilities. In partnership with the Illinois DCEO (Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity) and the University of Illinois, FamilyFarmed.org published Building Successful Food Hubs: A Business Planning Guide for Aggregating and Processing Local Food in Illinois, a “how to” guide for food entrepreneurs. We have also conducted two feasibility studies for commercial kitchens focusing on the use of local food, and helped launch one of these kitchens in 2012.
More than 99% of agricultural products consumed in America are purchased through wholesale channels, so creating new wholesale markets for family farmers is key to building local food systems. FamilyFarmed.org 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. We work with many leading buyers of local food including Whole Foods Market, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Goodness Greeness, Sysco, Compass Group, Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, Chicago Public Schools, Testa Produce, Lettuce Entertain You, Natural Direct, and others to connect them with local food sources. Additionally, FamilyFarmed.org partners with the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition to work directly with restaurants in the Chicago area to increase local food sourcing. At the 2013 Good Food Festival & Conference McCormick Place, O’Hare Airport, and Midway Airport announced huge commitments to buying local and responsibly produced food in partnership with FamilyFarmed.org.
Wholesale Success Farmer Training
Wholesale buyers have strict quality and safety guidelines that can be formidable obstacles for small and mid-size producers. FamilyFarmed.org provides technical assistance and training to farmers looking to break into these markets. Recognizing a need for comprehensive information and training for small farmers, we published Wholesale Success: A Farmer’s Guide to Selling, Postharvest Handling and Packing Produce. The 312-page manual includes sections on issues such as Building Relationships with Buyers, On-Farm Food Safety and Calculating Return on Investment. It also includes over 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.org has trained more than 6000 farmers across the country in food safety and post-harvest handling through our Wholesale Success Workshops, a program supported in part by the grants from the USDA.
Food safety is a key concern for farmers of all sizes. Our On-Farm Food Safety Project gives small to mid-size farmers the tools to comply with national best practices. Developed in partnership with the USDA, FDA, and a wide range of national partners, the tool was launched by Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan during a press conference at USDA headquarters on December 15, 2011. The project gives fruit and vegetable 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 GAP certified in food safety, a key requirement for most wholesale buyers. This tool is available at our website www.onfarmfoodsafety.org. The tool was recently translated into Spanish and has been used in bilingual Wholesale Success Trainings.
FamilyFarmed.org has partnered with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to help develop their local food procurement program. In the past four years, their former foodservice provider, Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, purchased over $7 million in food from local farmers, including one million pounds of antibiotic-free chicken sourced from an Indiana Amish farm, the largest purchase of its type in the US. FamilyFarmed.org and Chartwells have recently expanded this program Michigan, where they anticipate purchasing one million pounds of local apples. FamilyFarmed.org is currently working with CPS’s new foodservice provider, Aramark, and expects to expand local procurement. Additionally CPS has added an organic salad bar to all of their cafeterias with our assistance.
In addition to sourcing local and responsibly produced food for CPS cafeterias, FamilyFarmed.org has also partnered with CPS on Eat What You Grow, a school garden food safety project. Food in school cafeterias must meet strict food safety standards from the farm to the plate. Many school gardens do not meet these requirements, so even if students grow produce, they may not be able to eat that produce in their own school cafeteria. FamilyFarmed.org and CPS have produced a school garden manual and training materials that allows CPS cafeterias to source produce from their own school gardens. The first school garden grown produce from five pilot schools was served in cafeterias in spring 2013, and the program is rolling out to more CPS locations in fall 2013.