They Wanted Beer – Jim Slama Talks to Us About an 11th Good Food Festival

March 17, 2015 at 1:40 am

FamilyFarmed Presents the Good Food Festival from March 19 – March 21 – UIC Forum

Good Food Festival_Amanda Areias_110
(Photo by Amanda Areias)

Jim Slama and all the hard workers at FamilyFarmed hit a big milestone last year. And they saw no reason to let up. In a few weeks, the gang returns for three more days of workshops, demonstrations, tastingsmotivations, and more. As in past years, the Good Food Festival contains three distinct parts. day one called the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference, focuses broadly on growing food related enterprises and specifically on connecting funders with food businesses that need financing.  Day two serves multiple agendas, covering both food policy and food production.  If that’s not enough for day two, there’s really a whole separate thing, think of it as day two-two, the Localicious party.  Here many of our favorite restaurants, like Beet sponsor Vera and many of our favorite local boozers, will use your stomach to convince your head and heart the value of real food.  Finally, day three brings the whole mess to the public, with many chances to learn, try and experience what we all mean by good food.   We had the privilege of asking the founder of the Good Food Festival, Jim Slama, why he keeps going and what people really wanted out of the event.

Local Beet: Why 11?  What keeps you going?

Jim Slama: Our 10 year anniversary show last year was incredibly successful – Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaking shows that Good Food is an economic engine for our city and that urban ag and job training initiatives are on the city’s radar as well. This fall we launched our Good Food Business Accelerator which is preparing Fellows to reach out to investors and funders at this year’s Financing & Innovation Conference. It is clear to us at FamilyFarmed that the demand for local, sustainable food is growing and the Good Food Festival & Conference is the region’s pivotal event that gets all the players in the same room to network, learn, eat and grow this movement.

FamilyFarmed has never thrown the same Good Food Festival twice.  They’ve strived to improve, especially in the areas of providing hands-on training and making the information accessible.  We wanted to know some tweaks for this year’s fest.

LB: What went well last year that you’re repeating?

JS: The last two years actually have shown the incredible power of the Good Food Commons. These are short micro workshops that give you solid DIY skills in everything from back yard chickens to canning and preserving to gardening and composting. We have four fantastic community partners who help us build out these sessions – Advocates for Urban Agriculture, Chicagoland Food Co-Op Coalition, Edible Alchemy, and Faith’s Farm. We’ve learned the hallway is too crowded for these sessions, so look for them in a better location this year with more sessions than ever.

LB: What are (some?) reasons for someone to go that they had not considered before?

JS: We have a really exciting chef event this year – Matthias Merges and Jason Hammel are part of a group of chefs who have formed Pilot Light which is a group of chefs who present food lessons in schools in a way that integrates across the curriculum. It is very successful and they’ll have students on hand Saturday as part of their lesson at Festival.

Parents should definitely feel welcome to bring their kids. Purple Asparagus sponsors the Kids’ Corner with great family-friendly activities and there are food samples throughout the show floor that kids love. Plus, there are baby chicks!

And if you’re confused about how to start a CSA share, the CSA Pavilion is loaded with farmers who can answer your questions – what better way to choose than to meet your farmer!

We also think people should see themselves as such an important part of the movement toward healthier more sustainably produced foods that they need to come be a part of the Festival. The movement is people who want to eat and grow foods in this way. If you want that, come contribute your interest and energy to the event. You should be there!


(Photo Kaitlyn McQuaid)

If you’ve been around Jim Slama enough, like us, you know he’s highly optimistic.  We tend to share his enthusiasm when near, but when we fade into our eat local quarters, we sometimes get a little pessimistic.   We were hoping for a pep talk.

LB: What’s the state of good food movement & why–be honest!!

JS: The National Restaurant Association shows most of their top 10 food trends for 2015 relate to local and sustainably produced food. Organic sales have had double-digit growth for the past 30 years. We launched the Good Food Business Accelerator and had incredible interest and a great list of applicants. These are all proof to us the Good Food movement is growing. And the strength of attendance at the Good Food Festival & Conference each year supports us in saying that as well. The movement is made of its people and the Festival is where we see them all together and recognize our strength. We hope you’ll join us!

 Finally, Jim, gave us our biggest surprise

LB: What’s new this year & what motivated you to do it?

JS: For the past couple years we’ve heard from people that they’d like a beer with the lunch they buy in the Good Food Court on Saturday. We couldn’t agree more and certainly the local drink scene is on fire, so we have partnered this year with Farmhouse Chicago and Evanston who will be sponsoring our Craft Drink Corner. Now you can get a local beer or cider to go with your delicious lunch!

2015 good food festival