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 EXPO — 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. 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 — who sell primarily direct to consumers — who are much needed in a nation where the current average age of farmers is around 60.
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 third year of operating the Good Food Business Accelerator, which is designed to stimulate entrepreneurship, and is currently developing the related Incubator Without Walls (IWOW), which will provide technical assistance and other guidance to entrepreneurs with esoteric needs. And to better engage businesses, producers, and the public in the Good Food conversation, it launched goodfoodoneverytable.org. Organizational achievements include the following:
Good Food EXPO
FamilyFarmed launched the first sustainable local food trade show in America 14 years ago. The Good Food EXPO is held annually in Chicago, includes the Good Food Trade Show: Policy & Industry Exchange with evening networking reception, a consumer-focused Good Food Festival.
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 2018 Tradeshow and Festival will be held March 23-24 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 Fairas part of its Good Food Financial & Innovation Conference. This conference, which makes up the first day of the annual three-day Good Food EXPO 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. Businesses that participated in recent conferences — including Fellows in our Good Food Business Accelerator since 2015 — have raised more than $30 million in debt and equity capital and other business deals.
Good Food Business Accelerator
FamilyFarmed is now in its third year of the Good Food Business Accelerator. Each year’s cohort of nine promising, competitively selected businesses is provided with an intensive six-month curriculum that includes weekly instructional meetings, with leading Good Food industry speakers, at 1871, Chicago’s center for entrepreneurship and innovation, and a mentor and support network that helps them stabilize and grow their 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 FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference that kicks off our annual Good Food EXPO, with several doing pitches for their businesses and/or participating in the Financing Fair.
The immediate impacts of the Good Food Business Accelerator are evident in the first and second year’s program metrics reported by FamilyFarmed.
Since the second Accelerator cohort graduated in April, the businesses reported a 239 percent market increase, and all of Fellows say they directly applied what they learned to their business practices. At the point of graduation, 89 percent of second cohort Fellows said they were already better prepared to launch or expand, and to increase their sales. More than half said they were better prepared to create new jobs. And all of the cohort Fellows reported they were better prepared to speak with investors about their offerings.
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.
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, US Foods, KeHe, UNFI, Mariano’s, Illinois Restaurant Association, Fortune Fish & Gourmet, Central Grocers, Anthony Marano Company, 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.
Farmer Training and Development
Recognizing that successful farm businesses make up the foundation of our food system, FamilyFarmed has emerged as a national leader in farmer training. 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 fifth 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 11,000 farmers from more than 40 states through Wholesale Success.
FamilyFarmed has greatly expanded its training program with the January 2017 publication of Direct Market Success, which also is being utilized in a series of training workshops. Modeled after Wholesale Success, Direct Market Success is a farmer’s guide to farmers market, CSA, farmstand, online and restaurant sales, and is especially aimed at young and beginning farmers who sell primarily through those venues.
Food safety is both a moral and economic imperative for farmers, and FamilyFarmed is playing a major role in providing the knowledge and information they need to make sure the food they produce is safe to eat. 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.
The manuals and training workshops for both Wholesale Success and Direct Market Success contain a major emphasis on food safety and post-harvest handling, and FamilyFarmed now offers workshops to focus entirely on food safety.
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.
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.