FamilyFarmed.org is the most recent program of Sustain. It encourages organic farming and new marketing and business opportunities by connecting local farmers with new buyers. It helps to build a food system that supports local organic farmers by offering them a roadmap of selling opportunities throughout the Chicago region. FamilyFarmed.org uses four tools to effectively link organic farmers with new sources of business and to educate consumers about the value of supporting local farmers: retail program/food label, an annual EXPO, website, and networking/knowledge-sharing.
Producers, distributors, retailers and consumers attend the EXPO to network, learn from each other, and build marketing relationships. The first FamilyFarmed.org EXPO was held in 2005 at Navy Pier in Chicago. It garnered media coverage from every major newspaper and most broadcast stations in the area. In 2006, the EXPO found a new home at the historic Chicago Cultural Center. The list of headliners throughout the two-day event was truly impressive—Chicago’s Mayor Daley, Illinois First Lady Patti Blagojevich, Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, TV-journalist Bill Kurtis, and Deborah Koons Garcia among others lent their support for family farmers and local organic food.
The 2007 EXPO drew over 3000 people who came to the Chicago Cultural Center to hear an incredible lineup of speakers, attend workshops, visit the sold-out exhibit areas, see Chicago’s finest chefs and meet local and organic family farmers. The success of the EXPO solidified its role as the premier local and organic food event in the Midwest. Speakers included George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, Arran Stephens, CEO of Natures Path and many more leaders of the organic food movement.
Plans for EXPO 2008 include a trade show in March and an expanded two-day food festival in November.
FamilyFarmed.org Success Stories
We believe that the success of our program is reflected in the success of our partners. FamilyFarmed.org has established relationships with many of the largest buyers and sellers of local organic food in the Midwest. As a result, the FamilyFarmed.org website and EXPO have played a key role in developing new markets for local farmers. Here are some of the success stories:
- Whole Foods Market Whole Foods has 22 stores in the Midwest. At EXPO 2007, Whole Foods and Sustain publicly announced a partnership where Sustain will promote and publicize a Local Producer Loan Program in the Midwest as part of Whole Foods Market’s national campaign to lend up to 10 million dollars in low interst loans in support of local farmers and producers.
- Goodness Greeness As the second largest organic distributor in the country, Goodness Greeness buys more organic produce than any other company serving Midwestern grocers. The company works with a wide range of buyers that includes Dominick’s, Jewel, Cub Foods, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, Treasure Island, plus other major retailers in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. Since the inception of FamilyFarmed.org, Goodness Greeness has been a partner in the program and, as a result of this relationship, has increased its level of local organic purchasing by over 500% in a two-year period. They are now working with Sustain staff to recruit new farmers to add to their local purchasing.
- Trader’s Point Creamery – Trader’s Point is a certified organic creamery and farm in northwest Indiana whose primary products for retail are grass-fed, creamline milk and yogurt. In 2004, Trader’s Point attended Sustain’s first event, the Local Organic Trade Show, and made contacts with Wild Oats, who added them to their dairy cases throughout the Midwest. In 2005, after exhibiting at the FamilyFarmed.org EXPO, Trader’s Point was picked up by Whole Foods Market and Stanley’s (a well-known Chicago retailer). These retailers now account for a significant percentage of Trader’s Point Creamery’s rapidly growing business.
- Igl Farms – Igl Farms is a family farm that grows certified organic potatoes near Antigo, Wisconsin. In late 2004, the Igl family had a warehouse full of potatoes that needed to be sold. Sustain worked with Igl Farms as a pilot project and partnered with them to design new bags incorporating the FamilyFarmed.org food label. The bags also emphasized local, organic, and family-farm grown. The final designsone each for russet, gold, and red potatoesfeature a new name (“Organic Spuddies”), the FamilyFarmed.org logo that includes Wisconsin as the place of production, and a photo and brief bio of the Igl family. Igl Farms subsequently sold all their remaining potatoes (84,500 pounds) to five vendors.
- Wholesome Harvest – Wholesome Harvest is a farmer-owned company that produces organic meat and poultry products. When the company was stymied in its efforts to place its products in Whole Foods Market, Sustain discussed the issues with key leaders at the retailer and helped them embrace the product. As a result, Wholesome Harvest products are now being sold throughout Whole Foods’ Midwest region. In addition, Sysco distributors recently announced that they, too, would be carrying the Wholesome Harvest line throughout Sysco’s Midwestern region. According to Sysco Chicago president, Chuck Staes, the connection with Wholesome Harvest began at the FamilyFarmed.org EXPO.
- Gifts From the Good Earth – Mike and Deb Hansen have been farming 80 acres organically in central Wisconsin for nine years. The Hansens produce a variety of organic meat and poultry, including grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork, and pasture-raised chicken and turkey, which they direct market from their farm. FamilyFarmed.org has given them opportunities to direct market their products in Chicago, resulting in significant business with local church groups, the Fruitful Yield stores in Chicago, and some Chicago area restaurants.