Farmers who want to meet with regional fresh produce buyers one-on-one are invited to attend a 'Meet the Buyers' event scheduled for March 27, 2012, at the Champaign County Farm Bureau.
Buyers from Illinois will be in attendance to provide an overview of their organizations and their procurement needs. The conference also will feature several speakers aimed at helping farmers market their produce locally.
"We have a great line up of buyers attending, including Schnucks, Central Illinois Produce, Strawberry Fields, Common Ground, Feeding Illinois, Feeding America, Hendrick House, University of Illinois Foodservice and others," says Cynthia Haskins, manager of business development and compliance, Illinois Farm Bureau. "We also will feature educational sessions."
Speakers and sessions at the event will include Steve Ayers and John Pike, Extension Educators for University of Illinois-Extension, presenting MarketReady, a training session focusing on the evolving commercial market opportunities for locally produced foods. Ayers and Pike also will lead a session covering Good Agriculture Practices (GAP).
Todd Rusk, associate director of energy and sustainable business programs, Business Innovation Services, University of Illinois, will lead a discussion about packing houses and food hubs and Terra Brockman, Dave Bishop and Elaine Sebald, steering committee members of The Edible Economy Project, will provide an update regarding a joint food hub project planned for central Illinois.
Champaign County Farm Bureau and University of Illinois-Extension will the host for the event with the help of county Farm Bureaus throughout central Illinois, the Illinois Farm Bureau and Illinois Specialty Growers Association.
"The meeting is a great opportunity for farmers who are currently growing specialty crops, and for those who are considering diversifying their current production to meet the demand for local food," adds Brad Uken, manager, Champaign County Farm Bureau. "We are pleased to facilitate connections between buyers and farmers so that business relationships can be formed."
The event will be held at the Champaign County Farm Bureau, 801 N. Country Fair Drive, Champaign, Ill., from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Farmers also may want to attend the Food Hub Summit, hosted by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), following the 'Meet the Buyers' event. The Food Hub Summit will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., also at the Champaign County Farm Bureau.
Those wishing to attend either event are asked to RSVP directly to the Champaign County Farm Bureau at 217-352-5235 by March 22. Both events are free to farmers.