Sittin’ in the Middle of a Movement – FamilyFarmed Expo ’10

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March 14, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Rob Gardner

About the middle of the day, on the middle day of the FamilyFarmed Expo 2010, I found myself plopping a chair in the middle space between two ongoing sessions.  I spent too much time at lunch, too much time walking the exhibits to make either of the on-going panels. And being without the better technology of my fellow twitterers and live-bloggers, I needed to power up.  In the middle was the outlet.  I plugged.  I charged.  I dreamed usefulness with the wifi.  I got it man.

I liked about everything I came across in the three days of FamilyFarmed Expo.  I believed in Slow Money from Wood Tasch.   I listened in as aspiring market managers sought the necessary ingredient for sucess.  I listened in as Chef Virant added ingredients to Oriana the Papple Lady”s Asian pears while Oriana sat next to me saying she would never think to put those things together (sticking our fingers in shot glasses of honey mousse told us he was right).  I walked the trade floor where Sysco reps perhaps have me convinced they can play a role in local food.  Localicous was.  I scored a take home container of giardinara.  I risked ruin, however, by avoiding the raw beet “cheesecake”, but just because I plan on sweet talking Chef Pat Sheerin into another Beet piece for his beets with creme fraiche does not mean I didn’t really love that dish.  I asked if the challenge to getting more local in your restaurant had less to do with our climate and more to do without enough people rooting for the rutabaga.  I met the coolest guy working for the US Department of Agriculture.

That’s the thing.  After planting myself in the middle of those two sessions, I got maybe as much from the people that passed me by as I would have got if I sat in on either talk.  In the middle I chatted with a fellow foodie for a bit.  I learned a lot about a market coming very close to Oak Park.  I talked organic lamb.  Being in the middle paid off.  The Expo put me and a whole host of others in the middle a lot. 

It does not take attending more than one Slow Food event to learn their mantra.  Slow Food is a movement not a group they say.  FamilyFarmed.org is an organization, with the visionary leadership of Jim Slama.  What he organizes best is bringing this movement, this movement towards a better food system, together.  The Expo was talks and tastes and working lunches.  What it was best was an intersection.  There were foodies and their rock star chefs.  In fact, rock stars seemed to be everywhere across the three days.  There were rock star investment bankers and rock star farmers and surely Kathleen Merrigan is the rock star appointee of Obama when it comes to agriculture.  So many rock stars that when I participated in a panel on Saturday it was against the rock stars of whole animal consumption, Rob Levitt and Paul Kahan and the rocking-est rock star chef of chefs, Rick Bayless in full demo mode.  It was a wonder that anyone was in my room besides my family.  No wait, I could not even get my whole family; two staying behind to see Rick wrap up (“we’ve seen you Dad”). 

It was not about hearing me.  It was about meeting me.  Meeting you.  I marveled at all the people I chatted with.  Sustainable farmers and radio hosts, more than a few reporters and more than a few market managers.  I talked with people running very small businesses and someone running a business nearly $100 million strong.  I passed out many cards.  I picked up a bunch of new cards.  I picked up a bunch of new story ideas (Brad!).  I’m especially excited, maybe best of all, that I picked up a couple new voices for the Local Beet.

I found myself for three days right smack in the middle of a movement.  We can eat local.  We can farm sustainably.  I came across a lot of the people that are making that happen.  I enjoyed being in the middle of it all at the 2010 FamilyFarmed Expo.

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