New Venture Advisors is privileged to work alongside powerful forces driving progress toward building food systems we can all be proud of. These forces—our collaborators, partners, clients, visionaries—are leaders in changing how we think about food. As a returning feature of our blog and newsletter, we will voice our gratitude and place the spotlight on the people and organizations who are creating valuable, lasting food system impact.
One of our key partners is FamilyFarmed. Jim Slama, the founder and CEO, is driven by the vision that if we ever want to change our food system and the way America eats, the private sector needs to be engaged alongside the public sector to drive the market forward in a meaningful way. He advocates for small farmers because not only do they grow the fresh produce we want to readily buy, they also use our land in a more sustainable way. He started FamilyFarmed on this foundation: committed to expanding the production, marketing and distribution of responsibly grown and produced food, in order to enhance the social, economic, and environmental health of our communities.
FamilyFarmed has many avenues in which they carry out this mission, but we want to highlight a few important ways NVA has seen their endeavors strengthen local food systems.
- First was the vision that small farmers and buyers needed a forum to meet in order to conduct business because of the barriers of scale and distance that separated them. This led to the local food industry’s first and leading trade show, the Good Food EXPO. Entering its 15th season, this show brings together hundreds of farmers and wholesale buyers—as well as food entrepreneurs, policymakers, industry professionals and thousands of consumers.
- FamilyFarmed wanted to help farmers build their capacity to sell locally to wholesalers and move larger volumes of produce. The result: “Wholesale Success: A Farmer’s Guide to Food Safety, Selling, Postharvest Handling, and Packing Produce” manual and training guide. Soon after the guide was published, FamilyFarmed introduced a hands-on Farmer Training program which has helped more than 14,000 farmers put the principles into action. Many of our clients have hosted these trainings and the feedback is always outstanding.
- FamilyFarmed also recognized that it isn’t only post harvest handling that enables small to medium-sized farms scale up production. They also need an efficient way to bring their products to the market, a way that combines their yield with that of other small farms so that together they can offer meaningful volumes of fresh, locally-grown produce to wholesale customers. The mechanism for doing this traditionally had been through community packing houses, which today are dubbed food hubs. NVA is proud to have worked with FamilyFarmed in writing the guide “Building Successful Food Hubs” which has helped bring dozens of food hubs into existence.
- Last but in no way least is the Good Food Accelerator. FamilyFarmed saw the need for farmers to produce value added products to increase their incomes, and the burgeoning local, sustainable, artisanal food industry in Chicago. They launched the Accelerator in 2014, and since its inception, 35 businesses have successfully completed the program. FamilyFarmed reports that alumni have seen an average 245 percent sales increase and raised a combined total of $15 million in financing. Each year, NVA is delighted to kick off the Accelerator training program with a half-day session on business planning.
Visit FamilyFarmed’s website for more information about how to support these incredible programs that are making a huge difference in the lives of farmers, food entrepreneurs and everyday eaters who love good food.