March 03, 2024

Everything Local Conference Jan. 11-13

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Local food and specialty crop growers are joining forces for Illinois’ largest conference focused on bolstering the local food supply chain.

Farmers, local businesses and those passionate about local foods are invited to join the Illinois Specialty Growers Association, Illinois Farm Bureau and Illinois Farmers Market Association for the new From Food to Flowers: Everything Local Conference.

“Whether its flowers or food or specialty products, we truly believe that there is something for everyone to enjoy and learn about at this conference,” said Raghela Scavuzzo, IFB associate director of food system development and ISGA executive director.

“We are thrilled to offer this opportunity for farmers, producers, market managers and anyone interested in specialty crops to connect and find innovative ways to build local food systems.”

Combining the former Illinois Specialty Crop Conference and Live Local: Local Food & Farmers Market Conference, the new hybrid event will be held Jan. 11-13 in-person at the Springfield Crowne Plaza. A virtual component is available through an online conference portal.

Early and online registration is open through Jan. 2 and is $75 for IFB, ISGA and IFMA members and $175 for nonmembers.

Online registration will close Jan. 2, but attendees will be able to register onsite at the conference Jan. 11-13. In-person registration is $150 for members and $250 for nonmembers.

To register or for more information, visit www.specialtygrowers.org/everythinglocal.

“The new Everything Local conference brings the same volume of information typically exhibited during the Illinois Specialty Crop Conference and Live Local: Local Food & Farmers Market, now all under one roof,” said Randy Graham, ISGA chairman.

“Merging these two conferences provides a more efficient way for the industry to get the resources they need to be successful. We are excited to offer this new opportunity to learn best practices and network with other local food and specialty crop producers.”

In addition to four other keynote speakers and panel discussions, ESPN analyst and former Chicago Bears player Sam Ancho will hold a fireside chat on using influence to create change in the community.

Ancho helped create the Austin Harvest Market in Chicago’s Austin Neighborhood. He will discuss his experience with Austin Harvest Market and how the community came together to solve a need for their neighborhood.

More than 100 speakers for breakout sessions and workshops on specialty crop production, farmers market management, community food development, business development, funding and financing and more will be held throughout the conference.

The popular apple cider contest is also returning with winners announced during the Thursday banquet.

Other highlights include awards and a trade show with more than 65 vendors and plenty of networking opportunities.

During a general session on Jan. 12, a panel discussion will feature representatives from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Department of Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, and USDA Rural Development. Topics will include new purchasing programs, loans and grants to build local and regional food systems. The panel will feature a moderated discussion with questions from the audience.

A banquet and awards ceremony on Jan. 12 and will feature the statewide Farm to Food Bank pilot program with farmers, farmers market managers and food bank operators sharing an overview of lessons learned and future opportunities.

On Jan. 13, specialized workshop topics will include Good Agricultural Practices certification, financing and fundraising, threat assessment and risk management for markets, farm-to-school training, sweet corn, agritourism and hydroponics.

“We are confident attendees will enjoy new opportunities to network with people from other parts of the industry while still getting relevant information that matters to them,” said Janie Maxwell, IFMA executive director.

“The merged conference allows for better interactions from people throughout the supply chain, representing everyone from farm to fork.”