Growers and buyers forge business relationships during second annual Farmer-Chef Connection

Release Date: 01-18-2007

Oakley Brooks

Senior Media Manager
503.467.0779

Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury calls to preserve local agriculture and protect the environment

SEATTLE, WA – Washington farmers, food purveyors, chefs and foodservice professionals will gather at the second annual Seattle Farmer-Chef Connection on Monday, February 5, for a daylong conference designed to link local producers with buyers. Attendees can choose from a menu of opportunities for collaboration, edification, exploration, debate and direct market connections within their Pacific Northwest foodshed.

This free conference, presented by Washington State Department of Agriculture, Seattle Chapter of the Chefs Collaborative, Ecotrust, Cascade Harvest Coalition, King County and Puget Sound Fresh, will be held at The Mountaineers at 300 Third Avenue West in downtown Seattle. Organizers are planning for a full house as these distinct groups come together with a common goal — moving more local food through the local economy. Space is limited to 250 participants so register now at www.farmerchefconnection.org/Seattle_FCC_2007.cfm or by contacting Kristen Schumacher at chefschu@gmail.com or 206-227-3000. Registration closes on January, 26.

Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury will present the conference keynote address entitled, “Preserving Local Agriculture and Protecting the Environment.” Bradbury is Oregon’s second-highest-ranking constitutional officer. He sits on the State Land Board and was appointed by Governor Kulongoski to chair the Oregon Sustainability Board. Prior to becoming Secretary of State, Bradbury served as Executive Director of For the Sake of the Salmon – a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding common ground for salmon restoration in Oregon, Washington and California. He also worked in the television news industry and owned a restaurant in Southern Oregon.

After a luncheon feast prepared by local chefs using direct-from-the-farm ingredients, the conference commences with an afternoon of workshops and panel discussions covering a range of topics including: current events affecting local policy; Renewing America’s Food Traditions in the fields and in our restaurants; buying and selling locally raised meats; cheese and dairy production in Washington, plus a session on how to market local farm products to schools, hospital, institutional and retail channels.

A highlight of the Farmer-Chef Connection is the “dating game,” a fun and effective approach to matchmaking between growers and buyers, where participants trade stats on raising practices, supply and costs and leave with the start of a, hopefully, respectful, long-lasting business relationship.

“The essence of this gathering is connection and we aim to provide practical, hands-on tools that farmers and buyers can utilize to enhance sales and improve local distribution systems,” explains Andrew Haden, market connections manager for Ecotrust’s Food & Farms program. “This event is a proven catalyst for fundamentally changing the way people think about, purchase and consume local food.”

The Farmer-Chef Connection is now in its seventh year of developing and deepening market connections throughout the Pacific Northwest. What started as a partnership in 2001 between Ecotrust’s Foods & Farm program and the Portland Chapter of the Chefs Collaborative has expanded to include partners throughout the Cascadia region who are committed to advancing change in the region’s food system. Registration is also now open for the March 5th Portland Farmer-Chef Connection conference to be held at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby, Ore.

About Ecotrust Food and Farms Program

Since 2001, Ecotrust’s Food and Farms program has been investing in building direct market connections between farmers, ranchers, and fishermen and restaurant chefs, grocery retail buyers, institutions and distributors. One of five major program areas of the Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit Ecotrust, the Food and Farms program is building a vision for a sustainable food system.

About Chefs Collaborative

Chefs Collaborative is a national network of more than 1,000 members of the food community who promote sustainable cuisine by celebrating the joys of cooking local, seasonal and artisan foods. While celebrating the pleasures of food, Collaborative members recognize the impact of food in our lives, on the well-being of our communities, and on the integrity of the global environment. Founded in 1993, Chefs Collaborative is the only culinary organization that provides its members with tools for running economically healthy, sustainable food service businesses and making environmentally sound purchasing decisions.

About WSDA’s Small Farm and Direct Marketing Program

Almost 90 percent of Washington farms are considered “small,” with gross sales less than $250,000 a year, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Small Farm and Direct Marketing Program works to improve the status of small farms in Washington. The mission of the program is to increase the economic viability of small farms, build community vitality, and improve the environmental quality of the region.