Uncategorized| March 8, 2019

Five Questions for EXPO Exhibitors, Part 3

The Good Food Marketplace has been the centerpiece of the Good Food EXPO since it launched in 2004. This will again be the case at the 15th Anniversary Good Food EXPO, March 22-23 at the Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. You will be able to sample and buy products from many of the Midwest’s best food and farm producers. 

We invited EXPO vendors to submit their answers to five questions. Meet three very different exhibitors: Chicago Market Community Co-op, Ruckus Teens Entrepreneurs, and Big Fork Brands.

There is still time to register to exhibit if you have a Good Food business or organization. Access a registration form at the Good Food EXPO site, and contact Lisette@familyfarmed.org if you have any questions.

You can purchase tickets for the Good Food Trade Show on Friday, March 22. The Good Food Festival on Saturday, March 23 is free, but pre-registration is requested.

Chicago Market

Community Co-op

FamilyFarmed: Elevator pitch time: Tell us in a few sentences what your business does and why.

Chicago Market: Chicago Market – A Community Co-op exists to build a better, more connected food community. Our community of Owners, volunteers, farmers, food producers and supporters is building a grocery store together that connects us all around our shared food values. We want better, more regular access to local, sustainable foods and transparent information about what we eat. Once open at the corner of Wilson and Broadway in the beautiful former ‘L’ station, we will be a big, bright beautiful grocery store welcoming all shoppers and offering a vibrant gathering place.

FamilyFarmed: We define Good Food as delicious, produced as locally as possible, using sustainable, humane and fair practices. How does your business relate to this definition?

Chicago Market: We are very aligned with FamilyFarmed’s definition of Good Food. Working closely with farmers, food producers and our Owners, we’ve developed a set of Purchasing Values that will drive how our general manager and staff stock our store once we’re open. These Purchasing Values call for stocking preferences that are delicious; transparent about sources and production methods; sustainable; as local as possible; and socially responsible. In short, we’ll be a store packed with Good Food!

FamilyFarmed: What do you view as the strongest short-term opportunities for your company or organization, what (if any) do you see as obstacles that need to be overcome?

Chicago Market: We see four opportunities to set Chicago Market apart. One: We’re focused on serving the community, on building community, which is not the typical model for grocery stores. Two: We’ll carry a much larger selection of local, sustainable foods and we’ll bring transparency to shoppers about their food and how it’s grown and raised. Three: We’ll offer good jobs and hire locally. When you walk in the store, it will feel like a part of the neighborhood. And four: We will deliver on the community’s desire for sustainability. Bulk foods will cut down on packaging; prepared foods will help us reduce food waste (and we’ll compost when necessary); our build-out will prioritize energy and materials conservation; and our purchasing from local sustainable farmers and producers means together we’ll be supporting a cleaner environment in our foodshed.

Obstacles we face? One is helping people understand the co-op model and getting them to see how much it relies on their economic participation. If people want change and want a store like this, they need to join us! And once we open, we expect to face some challenges around local food distribution in our region. We look forward to working creatively on this challenge. 

FamilyFarmed: In what years have you exhibited at the EXPO, and how did the experience(s) persuade you to join us again? What do you hope to gain as a result of your participation this year?

Chicago Market: We’ve partnered with other co-ops in the area to exhibit at the EXPO the past two years and are glad to be back this year. Attendees and other exhibitors at the EXPO want the same things we do in our local food system, and we love connecting with them to build partnerships, meet future store vendors and welcome people as Owners of Chicago Market.

FamilyFarmed: Finally — please describe what people will find at your market when it opens.

Chicago Market: We’ll be located in the beautiful former train station at Wilson and Broadway (the backdrop for the group photo below). The store is opening in April 2020 and will be a destination grocery store and community hub for Chicago’s North Side. Catch us at our booth at the EXPO to talk directly with us about becoming an Owner, or catch one of our Ownership Info Sessions or social Mixers, which you can find on the Events tab of our website: chicagomarket.coop.


Ruckus Teens Entrepreneurs

Program of the Concordia Place non-profit organization

Family Farmed: Elevator pitch time: Tell us in a few sentences what your organization does and why.

Ruckus Teens Entrepreneurs: Ruckus Teens Entrepreneurs is a teen-led program in which we make all-natural body care products such as soap, lip balms, Shea balms and face masks. We use organic oils and butters, as well as herbs from our two local teen gardens, one onsite and another at a local elementary school. The teens do everything from start to finish, ranging from gardening, creating the products, packaging, selling, taking inventory/calculations and evaluating new product research and development. Our main purpose is to give back to the community and provide teens from all across Chicago with job experience before they reach adulthood.

Family Farmed: We define Good Food as delicious, produced as locally as possible, using sustainable, humane and fair practices. How does your business relate to this definition?

Ruckus Teens Entrepreneurs: Ruckus Teens Entrepreneurs relates to local, sustainable and best practices because of our involvement with the community. Whether it is when we garden and harvest at a nearby elementary school or when we donate our products to two organizations — the Night Ministry and the Irving Park Food Pantry, through our Buy One Give One [BOGO] project — we are impacting our community in a positive, lasting way. In addition, we are conscious of what we do and use in our products, which is why we create organic, holistic body care.

FamilyFarmed: What do you view as the strongest short-term opportunities for your company or organization, what (if any) do you see as obstacles that need to be overcome?

Ruckus Teens Entrepreneurs: The strongest short-term opportunities for our organization are to advertise/market (for example with merchandise), as well as to network. Our obstacles revolve around competition, creating an everlasting memory, and providing marketing skills among our intern crew.

FamilyFarmed: In what years have you exhibited at the EXPO, and how did the experience(s) persuade you to join us again? What do you hope to gain as a result of your participation this year?

Ruckus Teens Entrepreneurs: We have exhibited every year since 2015, and the experience has always been enlightening, collaborative and supportive towards achieving our social mission. The positive outcomes, along with the variety of opportunities we come across at the EXPO, have persuaded us to join once again. This year, we hope to come in contact with other vendors and explore other local organizations for possible future partnerships or tactics to improve ourselves.

FamilyFarmed: Finally — do you market locally, regionally or nationally and where can we find your products? 

Ruckus Teens Entrepreneurs: Ruckus — being a Teen Leadership program at Concordia Place, a nonprofit organization based in Chicago — markets locally. We do different selling events across the city. We also sell our products on our website (www.ruckusteens.org) and our Etsy page (www.etsy.com/shop/RuckusTeens ). We also stay in contact with our customer and alumni base with our websites www.Facebook.com/ruckusteens and www.Instagram.com/ruckusteens, at which we update people on what we do in our day-to-day work environment.


Big Fork Brands

Bacon sausages, jerky and snack sticks

FamilyFarmed: Elevator pitch time: Tell us in a few sentences what your business does and why.

Big Fork Brands: Elevating the Swine. Big Fork is all about the pig. We work with small independent farmers in Iowa who raise heritage hogs outdoors without the use of antibiotics. These happy hogs make the best-tasting pork on the planet. All we do is treat it with respect by naturally smoking it through our lines of Bacon Sausage, Craft Pork Jerky or Craft Pork Snack Sticks. Clean-label, great-tasting products with a unique twist, that’s Big Fork.   

FamilyFarmed: We define Good Food as delicious, produced as locally as possible, using sustainable, humane and fair practices. How does your business relate to this definition?

Big Fork Brands: Big Fork Brands is a Chicago-based, family-owned company centered on innovating the swine. Our delicious pork is nitrate free, uncured and hardwood smoked. Our goal is do very little to the glorious meat, so you can taste the quality, taste the difference. All our products are smoked using a combination of hickory and applewood hardwoods. 

Founder Lance Avery is a culinary ninja wanting to blow up the otherwise stagnate pork industry. With more than 20 years working in the food industry, Lance has a passion and vast experience for food in general. But where his true passion lives is with the glorious hog. Born and raised in Iowa, Lance learned at an early age the importance of the pork industry to his native state. Yet there is a contradiction that’s going on in Iowa (we’ll address this contradiction below). Lance wants to bring awareness to this part of the industry, raise hogs in a humane and respectable way, and will only support farmers who believe in doing so.   

We’re hoping to create many more innovative products with one key feature, antibiotic-free pork that’s raised humanely. Most hogs are raised in massive confined feedlots that are not only terrible from a hog’s perspective, but also detrimental to the environment and the surrounding communities. When you take antibiotics out of the picture, the hogs require more space (including outdoor), thus a better life for them, less harm to the environment, and ultimately a better-tasting finished product.  

FamilyFarmed:What do you view as the strongest short-term opportunities for your company or organization, what (if any) do you see as obstacles that need to be overcome? 

Big Fork Brands: Our strongest short-term opportunities fall within our line of jerky and snack sticks. It’s a growing category, but almost everyone else is focused on beef. These other producers also use a ton of soy sauce, the second ingredient to almost all the jerky out there. Not us. We want to let the meat speak for itself flavor-wise, whereas when you add soy, it masks flavors. We have nothing to hide. But with opportunity comes more competition, smaller margins and more expectations from retailers to pay slotting fees, and that’s really difficult for a small brand like us.  

FamilyFarmed: In what years have you exhibited at the EXPO, and how did the experience(s) persuade you to join us again? What do you hope to gain as a result of your participation this year?

Big Fork Brands: I think we did it back in 2013-2015, but my years might be off a year either way.  Often we had scheduling conflicts, so I couldn’t run the show. We hope to connect directly with consumers, chefs, retail buyers and the press.  

FamilyFarmed: Finally — do you market locally, regionally or nationally and where can we find your products (or get involved with your cause)?

Big Fork Brands: We sell our sausage to small independent groceries throughout the Midwest, as well as Whole Foods Market stores throughout the Midwest. We also sell our sausage in small, random pockets throughout the nation, but by no means do we have many retailers.  We actually work more with foodservice accounts since it’s way less costly than retail. We also work with Central Market in Texas. With our jerky and snack sticks we mostly work locally, often direct, since it doesn’t require cold supply chain.  It’s the perfect high protein snack for breweries, distilleries, gyms, theaters, coffee shops, hotels, etc.  

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