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 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.
Good Food Business Accelerator
FamilyFarmed.org is excited to announce the upcoming launch of the Good Food Business Accelerator. Aimed at providing a needed support network for entrepreneurs, the project will help launch, stabilize and grow nascent food businesses. The national program will select applicants to become project Fellows, who will be supported by expert mentoring and technical assistance to accelerate their growth and strengthen the foundational elements of their business. By the end of the program, these Fellows will be better equipped to run their businesses, and those needing funding will be ready to meet with investors to receive initial or follow-on investments. This strategic, operating and financial support will enable Fellows to launch or scale their business more rapidly, allow other participants in their food systems to stand on their shoulders, and spur the development of good food clusters across the nation. The Good Food Business Accelerator will be supported in part by a generous grant from the Local Initiatives Fund of RSF Social Finance.
Wholesale buyers have strict quality and safety guidelines that can be formidable obstacles for small and mid-size producers. 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 5000 farmers in food safety and post-harvest handling through our Wholesale Success Workshops, a program supported in part by the USDA.
Good Food Financing
Local farmers and food businesses often grow quickly and are in need of financing to help them succeed. Recognizing this, FamilyFarmed.org created the Good Food Financing Conference as part of the Good Food Festival & Conference. This 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. Launched in partnership with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, this conference helps attendees gain new insights and inspiration from successful farm and food entrepreneurs and learn strategies to grow their businesses. It includes a Financing Fair that encourages investment in farms, food processing, and distribution businesses by connecting them with potential funders, investors, and bankers. In 2011, SLoFIG, a Chicago based angel investment group focusing on sustainable food businesses, debuted at the Good Food Financing Conference. Midwest farms and food businesses who participated in the 2012 conference, including FarmedHere, the largest vertical farm in America, have since raised over $3 million in funding. The 2013 conference was filled with innovative business plans, including butcher Kari Underly’s plan for a comprehensive butchery academy in Chicago.
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.
Through strategic partnerships with Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) food service provider Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, FamilyFarmed.org has helped develop local food procurement programs that provide healthy lunches to CPS students. In the past three years Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality has purchased over $7 million in food from local farmers in the FamilyFarmed.org network. This innovative program includes a preference for fruit and vegetable farms using Integrated Pest Management techniques and produce grown without the use of organophosphate pesticides. CPS recently purchased 1.1 million pounds of antibiotic-free chicken sourced from an Indiana Amish farmer, the largest purchase of its type in the US. Chartwells has since partnered with FamilyFarmed.org to expand the program to five states in the midwest where they provide over 1 million school lunches every day.
In addition to sourcing local and responsibly produced food for CPS cafeterias, FamilyFarmed.org has also partnered with CPS on a school garden program. 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 are working to produce a school garden manual and training materials that will allow CPS cafeterias to source produce from their own school gardens.
FamilyFarmed.org works to enhance fresh local food availability and access throughout Chicago, especially in disinvested communities. Working with community partners and the City of Chicago, FamilyFarmed.org helped develop a pilot program whereby federal food benefits can be accepted at Chicago farmers markets. Additionally, we partnered with the Wholesome Wave Foundation on a program that doubles the value of such benefit programs at three farmers markets in Chicago serving low-income families.