Today I want to share with you some of Illinois Farm Bureau’s retail agriculture initiatives as shared by Cynthia L. Haskins, Manager of Business Development and Compliance at Illinois Farm Bureau.
Meet the Buyers meetings have proven to be popular venues for Illinois farmers who want to make contact with the decision-makers of grocery store chains and stores, food service distributors, health food stores, and restaurants.
On August 28, farmers from Northern Illinois attended a multi-county Meet the Buyer event at the Highland Community College Conference Center, Freeport. The hosts included area county Farm Bureaus, Illinois FB (IFB), and the University of Illinois Extension. Farmers had an opportunity to hear from and to meet grocery, food service distributors, and direct-to-consumer distribution buyers among others. A special chef-farmer networking reception took place in the afternoon.
U of I Extension personnel presented MarketReady and Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) training sessions. “Market Ready” is a program designed to teach best commercial business practices between growers and various retail markets. Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS) are a set of recommendations that can help improve the quality and safety of the produce grown.
Another Meet the Buyer event in Central Illinois will be held on Sept. 26 at the U of I Extension office. The hosts include Sangamon and surrounding county Farm Bureaus, U of I Extension, and IFB. Buyer participants will include grocery retailers, foodservice distributors, direct-to-consumer distributors, and restaurant chef buyers.
The Local Food Working Group brings together leaders working on local food initiatives who want to see Illinois take the next steps in forging a local food system that complements our agriculture industry. The LFWG is part of an ongoing effort to increase our understanding of local food systems, identify opportunities and create stronger linkages between one another. Originally, there were 10 individuals serving. Now there are nearly 30 organizations represented. Organizations include state and federal agencies, nonprofits and university and college professionals working on local food initiatives.
The Local Food Connections and Technical Summit
On August 20, IFB hosted the Local Food Connections and Technical Summit. As interest in local food grows in the state, Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) works to grow opportunities for fruit and vegetable farmers, too. Last week IFB hosted the Local Food Connections and Technical Summit for 150 participants. The Keynote speaker was Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Other presenters included: Director Robert Flider, Illinois Department of Agriculture; Assistant Director Dan Seals, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity; Colleen Callahan, Illinois State Director, USDA Rural Development; William Weissinger, Deputy Director, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Chicago District; Tiffany Carrington, Senior Program Specialist, USDA Food and Nutrition Services; Carol Pinkerton, Buyer, Illinois Central Management Services; Pat Stieren, Executive Director, Illinois Farmers’ Market Association; Mark Gebhards, Illinois Farm Bureau; Cynthia Haskins, Illinois Farm Bureau; Anthony Totta, President, Grow My Profits, LLC; Mike Nicometo, President, EmpowerTech; Rick Terrien, Executive Director, Iowa County (Wisconsin) Area Economic Development Corporation; and Richard Weinzierl, Professor and Extension Entomologist, University of Illinois and Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms, University of Illinois Extension.