Recently I brought forward a proposal that will grow the regional marketplace for local food entrepreneurs.
The proposal dedicates $25,000 a year from the Department of Agriculture to The Feast! Local Foods Marketplace, a two-day tradeshow and public expo held in Rochester. The event provides a platform for business growth through meeting retail and foodservice buyers, and allows them to share their healthy foods directly with consumers.
The program is the brainchild of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. Since it deals with farmers and local manufacturers who work in the food business, this funding from the ag department has been critical to the expo’s continued success.
The Feast! has been taking place for the past three years. Last year, more than 1,600 people attended the event, and more than 100 food exhibitors and guest speakers from around the country have brought their food and their insight to the expo.
What we’ve heard from entrepreneurs and participants is that they are pleased to have a venue where they can learn more about healthy eating and connect with local producers who can help them accomplish this goal.
With 80 percent of attendees making their first visit to The Feast! last year, it’s clear the expo is ripe for continued growth. It has extended the reach for consumers to educate, learn and partner to grow the local food opportunities beyond the Metro Area. The Feast! Local Food Network has also been able to expand resources beyond the event, now executing new food peer networks such as the Grow-A-Farmer Fund and the Feast! Smart Start Initiative.
The Feast! has proven to be a worthwhile event for producers and participants, and I’m pleased the House is giving strong consideration to keeping its funding in the budget.