By Nikki Keltner
Program Coordinator, University of Illinois Extension Serving Jo Daviess, Stephenson and Winnebago Counties
FREEPORT, Ill. — Farmers wanting to meet fresh produce buyers and chefs interested in sourcing ingredients locally are invited to attend “Meet the Buyers/Meet the Chefs,” an event scheduled for 9 a.m., Aug. 28, at Highland Community College Student Conference Center in Freeport, Ill.
This regional event is designed to bring farmers and buyers/chefs together and to create additional outlets for specialty crops produced in northern Illinois as well as Wisconsin and Iowa.
The event is open to farmers from throughout Illinois and the region.
There is no cost to attend, but participants must preregister by Aug. 24. To register, contact University of Illinois Extension at (815) 235-4125 or online at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw.
“This program has been offered downstate, and I have watched and listened to the enthusiasm it brings,” said Margaret Larson, county director for U of I Extension. “I think it will be a great addition to the programming Extension has been providing for local growers for a number of years, and appreciate the opportunity to work directly with the Illinois Farm Bureau.”
Buyers will be in attendance to provide an overview of their organization and their procurement needs. Farmers will have the opportunity to meet with buyers one-on-one. Chefs will be available to meet with farmers in the afternoon.
In addition to the networking opportunities that will be offered, the event also features trainings for producers.
John Pike, U of I Extension educator, will present “Market Ready,” and Ellen Phillips, also a U of I Extension educator, will present “Good Agriculture Practices” (GAPs) training sessions.
“Market Ready” is a program designed to teach best commercial business practices between growers and various retail markets. “GAPs” are a set of recommendations that can help improve the quality and safety of the produce grown.
Pike and Phillips will provide introductory information about these two programs. A full-day GAPs program will be offered in the area in October for producers who are interested in learning more.
A special chef-farmer networking reception will take place in the afternoon. Farmers will have an opportunity to visit with chefs one-on-one to learn their procurement interest for fresh produce, meats, dairy and value-added products.
“There are a number of local restaurants that are already connecting with local growers, and others are exploring the possibility of using local produce,” Larson said. “Extension has been working with restaurants in the area for the past five years, working to connect them with local producers. We are excited to bring several of them together to meet local producers.”
“Meet the Buyers/Meet the Chefs” is sponsored by area county Farm Bureaus, Illinois Farm Bureau, U of I Extension, Illinois Specialty Growers Association and Illinois Department of Agriculture.
From the Aug. 15-21, 2012, issue