Farmers who want to meet with regional fresh produce buyers one-on-one are invited to attend a 'Meet the Buyers' event scheduled for April 4 at John A. Logan Community College in Carterville.
Buyers from St. Louis and Southern Illinois will be in attendance to provide an overview of their organizations and their procurement needs. The conference also will feature several speakers and breakout sessions aimed at helping farmers market their produce locally.
"We have a great line up of buyers attending, including a health food co-op and health food store, restaurants, foodservice distributors, universities, food banks and a grocery chain capable of taking direct store deliveries," says Cynthia Haskins, manager of business development and compliance, Illinois Farm Bureau. "The focus of the event is for farmers to meet with buyers and learn how they can do business with one another."
Speakers and sessions at the event will include John Pike, University of Illinois-Extension, presenting sessions focusing on MarketReady and Good Agriculture Practices (GAP). Todd Rusk, associate director, energy and sustainable business programs, Business Innovation Services, University of Illinois will lead a discussion about packing houses and food hubs. Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon also is invited to speak.
"This event fits nicely with our efforts to promote regional collaboration around local food system development and showcases the 'can do' spirit in Southern Illinois," adds Stephanie Brown, agriculture, energy, and natural resources liaison with the Connect SI Foundation.
Event organizers include the Illinois Farm Bureau, University of Illinois, Illinois Specialty Growers Association, John A. Logan Community College, Office of Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, Connect SI Foundation, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Illinois USDA Rural Development, Williamson County Farm Bureau, Jackson-Union County Farm Bureaus and several other county Farm Bureau offices located throughout southern Illinois.
"The Illinois Specialty Growers Association is pleased to be a part of this initiative," says Diane Handley, manager of the Illinois Specialty Growers Association. "The demand for local food continues to grow, and this is a great opportunity for specialty crop growers to expand their market outlets."
The event will be held at John A. Logan Community College, 700 Logan College Drive, Carterville, Ill.
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 John A. Logan Community College.Those wishing to attend either event are asked to RSVP directly to the Williamson County Farm Bureau at 618-993-2609 by March 30, 2012. Both events are free to farmers.