Here's what I had to say after attending the Family Farmed Expo two years ago.
What a bounty of information! A bumper crop of delicious food samples and a cornucopia of pamphlets, brochures, and business cards!
I'm so glad I attended, but equally glad that I did not have my children in tow. The children's area was a bit small and the crowd was large, meaning things were cramped at times. I would not have wanted to negotiate that kind of crowd with my kids. Then again, we Moldofskys are a crowd-averse and early rising bunch.
I can't possibly distill everything I learned into a simple post, so you have to make do with the highlights below.
Jerry Jimenez retired to Southern Illinois to start a chili pepper farm. Yeah, I know, Illinois isn't exactly known for its specialty hot peppers, but Jerry’s out to change this. At his downstate Rancho Bella Vista he grows two acres of specialty peppers and turns them into salsas, powders, jellies, and jams. I sampled a mild salsa that offered just enough heat for my timid taste buds, but provided a more complex flavor than your typical grocery store variety. I bought DH a jar of the hot stuff. Learn more here.
I met Shelly, mom and co-owner of Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks. Think: Peapod meets Whole Foods. A great choice for a mom like me who loves the idea of feeding her crew organic produce grown at local farms, but fears wasting much of CSA box of veggies. While her prices are competitive with Whole Foods, you're saving not only a trip to the store, but all the impulse purchases you're likely to make there. (Or is DH the only one who needs a chaperon at Whole Foods?)
Speaking of unique cheeses
I was delighted to meet Gaylon Emerizian producer of the James Beard Award-nominated documentary about artisan cheese makers in Wisconsin, Living on the Wedge. BTW, James Beard Awards are the Oscars of the food world. And yes, I said a documentary about artisan cheese makers. I purchased a copy and watched it with my family. It was fascinating! I totally want to have a cheese tasting party.
Gaylon is probably better know for her other James Beard-nominated production, Spatulatta. Spatulatta is a fun by-kids, for-kids webcast featuring two girls from nearby Evanston.
Equal Exchange, a 20 year-old fair trade organization, offers a fundraising program for schools.
You can bring Envirokidz certified organic snacks and cereals (like Gorilla Munch and Panda Puffs) to your school by contacting Elaine in their foodservice division, phone 909-648-4234 or see www.naturespath.com to learn more.
Here are a few interesting websites connected with the organic food and sustainable farming movements:
Slow Food Movement, an eco-gastronomic non-profit dedicated to educating the public about local and seasonal foods that are grown according to sustainable principles, advocating for artisans who grow, produce, market, prepare and serve wholesome foods and more. Note: they also have a program for schools.
Find healthy food wherever you are with the Eat Well Guide and its twin, the Sustainable Table, celebrating the sustainable food movement. These sites will help you find some interesting, good-quality restaurants when you're traveling around the US and Canada.
More help for the gastro-traveler who seeks agriculinary adventures, tours, retreats, or culinary travels at LearnGreatFoods.
Find a local farms at Farm Direct. Choose your commodity (i.e. eggs or honey) punch in your ZIP code and see what’s in your area. Of course, if you live in the heart of the metro area near Chicago, “in your area” probably means 20-50 miles away.
Find a farmer's market in the Chicago or learn about the greenest, most organic one of all, the Green City Market. There's also City Farm @North Clybourn and Division and Growing Home, a job training and Employment for homeless people through organic agriculture plus a new urban farm in Englewood.
And to end on a sweet note, check out Chicago Honey Co-op.