Thursday, March 15 is the annual Northwest Washington Farm to Table Trade Meeting, a full day of networking and panel topics for all food based businesses.
The event, held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Peace Health Community Education Center in Bellingham, gathers fishers, farmers, buyers, chefs, distributors, farmers market managers, and institutions like hospitals and school districts from Whatcom, Skagit, Island and San Juan counties to foster more direct connections for local and regional trade.
“We hear over and over again this event is the most important trade meeting for our region’s small and medium food producers,” said the host of the event, Laura Ridenour.
Health and the local food economy is a theme for this year, connecting businesses who can supply more nutritious ingredients for schools and hospitals, for example. Hospitals alone serve meals seven days a week, 365 days a year. Health care spending is responsible for about 16 percent of the US GDP. With such massive purchasing power-combined with the moral authority of health care professionals-they represent an enormous catalyst for change in the food system.
The 2012 Trade Meeting integrates health care and public health’s role in the food economy with a keynote address from Kathy Pryor, program manager for the Washington Healthy Food in Health Care Initiative. Pryor will bring state-wide success stories on the ways Washington farmers, health care providers, and chefs are working together to build a food system that promotes health and the environment. Kathy is the co-founder of South Park Fresh Starts, a program that grows organic vegetable plant starts for food bank clients in south Seattle. Kathy’s first children’s book, Sylvia’s Spinach, published by Washington’s own Readers to Eaters, who will be vending the book at the trade meeting.
Following, panel discussions will feature farmers and food businesses from across the food sector address important topics of regional farmer co-op and new cooperative distribution business models, and the costs of local food.
Round table discussions over lunch, catered by 22 Cousins, include chefs and retailer discussion on consolidated purchasing, farmers market vendors and health department regulations, and meeting processing and distribution challenges for school districts. And, back again by demand for the second year, participants can sign up for one-on-one consultations between food buyers, producers, and food safety experts, which proved invaluable to a number of businesses in 2011.
“Meeting with representatives from grocery stores, distributing companies, restaurants, and institutions all in one day was a game changer for my business,” one 2011 Farm to Table attendee said.
Attendees can expect to leave with new connections, stronger business relationships, and a better understanding of the current Northwest Washington marketplace trends for marine, farm and locally produced food products.
The 2012 Farm to Table Trade Meeting local host is Sustainable Connections, and co-sponsored by regional non-profit organizations Cascade Harvest Coalition, WSU Whatcom County Extension and the Northwest Agriculture Business Center.