Day 1 Recap of Family Farmed Expo 2011

Gary Hirshberg

Gary Hirshberg delivers the opening keynote.

Day 1 of the Family Farmed Expo was geared towards agricultural entrepreneurs, farmers, food producers, financeers and businessman, but the issues raised and inspiration gained were important messages for everyone who eats.

The day started with the morning keynote by Stonyfield Yogurt‘s CE-Yo, Gary Hirshberg, who delivered a talk about the trials and tribulations of getting his business off the ground. If there was a mistake to be made he made it, but it was his perserverence, belief in his product and uncompromising approach that finally allowed him to make Stonyfield Yogurt the largest organic yogurt company in the United States.

Eden Farms

Farmers and producers interacting at the Financing Fair.

Mid-day panels included examples of successful agricultural businesses and their approach to quality food. Bartlett Durand of Blackearth Meats was particularly passionate about building a business that was on a human scale. He runs an abattoir operation in Wisconsin that gives farmers who raise grass-fed and organic beef a premium price and an alternative market to one of the four nationally run meat processing plants. The beef he processes is traceable and cleanly processed. With his business, he’s also trying to bring back the art of meat processing, building up skills that have been lost, and adding resiliency by increasing avenues to food distribution. Incidiently, Durand was a finalist in the Expo’s business plan contest.

Will Allen from Growing Power

Will Allen from Growing Power preparing to deliver the afternoon keynote.

The day ended with more inspiration from Growing Power‘s Will Allen. Allen, a former NBA basketball player, returned to his farming roots after his career. He saw that people in urban settings, particularly people of color, did not have access to good, wholesome food or have the capability to produce it themselves. He set up an urban farm on the outskirts of Milwaukee that grew to include aquaculture, composting, beekeeping, year-round food production and included everyone from community activitists, at-risk youth, the disabled and parolees in the operation. Growing Power sells the food it produces through its farmstands but also in “food deserts” and corporate offices. Allen travels constantly to help others set up urban farming operations and to inspire people to enter the agricultural field.

Coverage of the Family Farmed Expo continues today and tomorrow. Please follow @chicagobites on Twitter for live updates and follow the Family Farmed Expo Twitter list to see updates from attendees.