Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chicago's Good Food Festival - 2012

I am interested in food.  Everything about food.  How it's grown, how it's transported, how it's prepared.  I'm interested in food systems, food justice, food security.  In early March I thought to myself, there has to be a large group of people who feel the same way and get together to talk about it!  So I googled a few choice phrases to try and find a conference nearby.  I came across the Good Food Festival in Chicago and the 2012 dates were only a week away.  On a whim I booked tickets and convinced my sister, Devin, to come with me.  6 days later we were on a 6 hour road trip to a Holiday Inn near UIC campus.

While at the conference I met a lot of farmers and people interested in changing food policies.  During the opening session I felt a swell of emotions rise up in my belly.  My hands were a little shaky as I listened to a woman talk about her transition to farming.  She said that she was recently giving a speech to a large group of mostly white, middle-aged, bearded, flannel-wearing farmers.  She came in sporting dreaded hair and leather pants; she told her audience, "Gentlemen, this is the new face of farming."  I texted Sammit, "these are my people."

I was able to thank, in person, the man who picks out the best oranges I've ever eaten.  (His name is Scott and he's the buyer for Door to Door Organics.)  I learned about the 2012 Farm Bill, backyard chickens, 4 food preserving methods, and how to compost everything.  Devin and I got a little tipsy at the Localicious food tasting event.  We also ate some amazingly delicious things: 1) Sour Cream Ice Cream, 2) Smoked chicken on creamy cheesy polenta with cilantro micro greens, 3) BBQ Chip Chocolate Bar, and 4) Herbed Pistachio Pesto.

I decided that weekend that I'm going to make strides toward becoming a farmer.  Half of the U.S.'s farmers right now are 55 years old or older.  There are not enough young people interested in pursuing farming as a career even with its glamour and six figure salary.  Because of this there are a lot of farmers who are interested in passing on their valuable information and the USDA is providing grants for farm start-ups.  Sammit and I had a "farm-talk" this past week and have hatched a plan.  We're starting small, buying our first house this summer with enough land to start a market garden.

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