For the fourth year in a row, the Chicago Cultural Center hosts the Family Farmed Expo, and although just in time for Thanksgiving Day food shopping, this expo is far more than just a perfectly timed, glorified farmer’s market.
All kinds of major players in the Good Food movement are here to tell stories, learn from one another and revel in their shared passion—good eats.
Organic farmers and consumers are here as well as self-named “ethical middlemen” like Goodness Greeness who help get organic and locally made produce off farms and onto shelves, government employees and even some volunteers for Kallari, the very of-the-moment Ecuadorian Co-op-produced chocolate recently featured in the New York Times and now flying off Whole Foods’ shelves.
This event suggests the tide is turning in the United States.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” explains Mariann Holm, an Organic Valley farmer. “The more you know about food, the more you become concerned about it.” And Holm would know. She and her husband (and soon to be seven kids) abandoned life in corporate America eight years ago, buying their farm in Wisconsin sight unseen, to begin a more sustainable and family-friendly existence.
“It’s exciting to come here and see people care about food—what it is and where it comes from,” Holm says.
Almost on cue, a expo attendee scampers by. “We drink your milk!” she shouts gleefully.
Such enthusiasm echoes throughout the cavernous second floor of the Cultural Center.
“I have had really good meetings here—made some great contacts,” beams Debra Tropp, USDA Branch Chief for Farmers Markets & Direct Marketing Research, as she discusses her newly expanded five-million-dollar grant budget, which will now provide help for even more small and mid-sized farmers.
Martha Nolin, a full-time volunteer for the Kallari Foundation, demonstrates that such good food enthusiasm also extends beyond the boundaries of this event.
“All Kallari Foundation workers in the United States are volunteers,” she explains. “They are not profiting from their efforts but are just passionate about the people and the place that produce Kallari chocolate.”
Family Farmed President (and Chicago-based Conscious Choice magazine founder) Jim Slama seems to sum it all up perfectly. “Local food is hot,” he says. “It is growing.” (Meaghan Strickland)