IFB sponsors Food Expo offering food safety training, marketing resources

Last year's event drew 7,500 people, including farmers, buyers, investors and lenders.

By Kay Shipman

Grocery _produce

Specialty growers and other farmers may tap into a variety of resources at the Good Food Expo, March 22-24 at the University of Illinois-Chicago Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago.

“These are really great resources that are not available elsewhere. It will create avenues of market opportunities,” said Raghela Scavuzzo, Illinois Farm Bureau local foods program manager. The sessions will help growers with food safety issues and marketing opportunities, Scavuzzo noted.

As one of the sponsors, IFB will host an exhibit booth, and Scavuzzo will moderate a finance panel discussion.

The Good Food Expo is organized by FamilyFarmed, a Chicago-based nonprofit group that works to build markets for locally produced food.

Last year, about 7,500 people attended the show, especially the food trade show and exhibits on Saturday, said Bob Benenson, communications manager with FamilyFarmed. In addition to farmers and the public, the event draws a variety of buyers, including wholesale and retail buyers, investors and lenders, Benenson noted.

Illinois specialty growers interested in exhibiting their products may apply for one of 20 expo exhibit scholarships valued at $370 each. A scholarship may be applied to exhibition space costs on Friday, or Friday and Saturday. For information, email james@familyfarmed.org.

Free training related to on-farm food safety and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will be offered March 22, starting at 8:30 a.m. Participants will receive a three-ring binder and develop recordkeeping and traceability systems. The workshop will include risk assessments to identify potential on-farm hazards. Lunch will be available for purchase.

Free training for farmers wanting to sell to wholesale buyers will be offered March 23, starting at 12:15 p.m. Participants will learn about bunch sizes, labels, lot codes, contracts, pricing, quality controls, trends and more. Lunch will be available for purchase.

Benenson estimated about 100 exhibitors, including growers, will participate in a March 23 Good Food Market that offers opportunities for one-on-one meetings with buyers and others.

“It’s a big opportunity for farmers and processors to develop relationships with buyers,” Benenson said.

A variety of sessions with panels, speakers and symposiums will be offered March 23-24 as part of the event.

“There is a vast market here (in Chicago) interested in procuring local food,” Benenson said.

Tickets for the trade show either day cost $55 in advance and $65 at the door. For more details, to register or buy tickets in advance, visit goodfoodfestivals.com.

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