Happy Anniversary Good Food Festival

February 26, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Ten Years of Good Food Festing


Good Food Festival_Amanda Areias_110

Photo credit Amanda Areias

From March 13 through March 15, over 5,000 people are expected to attend the Good Food Festival at the UIC Forum in Chicago.  Aiming to expand the reach of real, local food, the Festival interconnects farmers with consumers, entrepreneurs with funders, thinkers with those looking for change, apprentices with mentors, and always, those who like to eat with much good things to try.

2014 is the tenth year of the Good Food Festival.  The return of the Festival each year, bigger and stronger than the year before testifies to the hunger for a better food system.   Local food has been dismissed as a fad.  CSAs have been discussed as something you do for a summer to cross off your bucket list.  It’s all fodder for segments of Portlandia.  Yet, the work remains far from finished.  Making local food more accessible, enabling artisans, convincing your neighbors to eat like you, there is still so much to do.  Once a year, since 2004, Jim Slama and his team at FamilyFarmed, said things can get better if we all try.  We all try at the Good Food Festival.

The Good Food Festival, f/k/a the FamilyFarmed Expo, serves multiple audiences each year.  A critical component in recent years has been the Food Financing Fair.  Taking up a day, this event connects people looking to grow food enterprises with those looking to invest in food enterprises. At other days of the Festival each year, the focus may be on trade or consumers.  There are tons of panels to learn.  For those in the trade it may be on how to better supply local food to your customers.  For the crowds, it may be how to preserve your local food for year-round consumption.  All come together for a night of sampling at the Localicious party because we know the best way to get people to eat local is to have them eat local.   This year’s Festival features an outstanding selection of nationally renown speakers including:

  • Walter Robb, Co-CEO of Whole Foods
  • Deborah Kane, Director of USDA Farm to School Initiative
  • Will Allen, MacArthur Genius and Growing Power founder
  • Seven James Beard award winners and nominees leading chef demos and workshops, including Rick Bayless
  • Micheal Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn breaking down a whole hog and teaching salumi methods
  • 30+ chefs and local libation producers at the Localicious party
  • Stephen Jones, Bread Lab and Fred Kirschenmann of Stone Barns Center leading the conversation around Ancient Grains

The Local Beet is proud to have contributed to the Good Food Festival.  We’ve served on the Advisory Board, sat on panels, moderated events, hosted a table in the Exhibitor’s Hall and spent countless hours schmoozing with like-minded folk.  We’ve taken a little trip down memory lane below.  And it’s all very happy memories.  We’re looking forward to another Festival soon.  We heartily congratulate Jim, and Lloyd, Isabel and Jim, Holly and Kim, Grant and Kim, Connor, Kathy, and Kathy and all the others who’ve done this for ten years.  You’ve done a great job.  Happy anniversary!

We cannot say we were there at the inauguration.  In 2004, local food to us mostly meant the best Italian beef sandwich.  Influenced by regular visits to the Oak Park Farmer’s Market, befriended by Farmer Vicki Westerhoff, and spoiled by the products we got, myself and the three girls I live with, morphed into the Local Family.  What became a bit of a lark, could we eat that way, became our passion.  We had to eat this way.  We became dedicated to the idea that if we could get it local, we would only eat it local.  And we started parading around our locavore passion to whoever would pay attention.  Someone who did pay close attention was Monica Eng, then of the Chicago Tribune.  I met Monica in 2002 when I invited her along on a kooky quest to eat around Chicago for 24 hours.  Over time, we shared very similar food passions.  We wanted great soup dumplings but we also wanted local, pastured raised pork in those dumplings.  In 2008, I found out that Monica was moderating a panel at something called the FamilyFarmed Expo.  The panel: eating local. Me.  The panel needed me.

I contacted Monica.  She agreed.  I met the Family Farmed Expo audience in a talk about how I managed to be part of a Local Family.  I also met Jim and Holly and the whole FamilyFarmed Experience.  All those good ideas, all that good food, I was smitten. Some of what impressed me so much about the Expp can be found in this post.  By 2010, I had the privilege on sitting on the Advisory Board helping to plan the Expo. I used my influence that year to bring the Local Beet’s (then) chicken farmer, Helen Standen, to a wider audience. Here’s me looking forward to more on what I helped plan that year. Another great thing about 2010 is the Local Beet had the use of Brad Moldofsky as a Beet Reporter. Amongst the things Brad covered that year was the Financing Food to Fork aspect of the Expo. He wrote another story on the Expo here. It was great being in the middle of the movement.

Besides Helen, myself and other Beetniks sat on panelists at subsequent Expos. In 2011, I shared a panel with Paul Virant and other spirited food preservationists. Here’s a little recap from the 2011 Expo.

Better than speaking, in 2011 we had the first Local Beet table at that Expo. It’s really what I love best about being involved.  For one thing, the table allows us to meet readers of our site. Then, we can share our experiences and provide vital information, including passing out copies of our CSA guide. Finally, best, with our table, we it is our chance to chat with all the other heros of the good food movement. During the course of the Festival, various farmers, writers, thinkers, chefs, advocates, market managers, artisans, etc. stop by our table like a bunch of Shriners.

After being a panelist for a few years, 2012 found me moderating and helping make kraut.

Photo of Ben Walker & myself courtesy of Megg/PopArtichoke.com

Here’s our report from the 2012 Festival.

We were very CSA focused at the Good Food Festival in 2013.

After the Fest, we’re always looking to see what others are saying. Here’s a collection of links from after the 2012 Festival and here’s a collection of links after last year’s Good Food Festival.  You can surely see what a good thing the Good Food Festival has been these last ten years.

Join in celebrating 10 year of Good Food, March 13-March 15 at the UIC Forum.  When the next big anniversary comes, you can say  you were there.