Building a network, a food network in this case, is all about developing relationships.
On April 16, Gorge Grown Food Network (GGFN) will host the Gorge Food & Farm Connection, a day-long conference for local producers, buyers, and sellers of food to network and find inspiration.
The conference will take place at the River of Life Church at 979 Tucker Road in Hood River.
The event will feature inspiring speakers, educational breakout sessions, training in on-line marketing, and a speed-networking event for farmers, chefs, food processors, and distributors.
Anyone in the Gorge who farms commercially, processes or prepares food, or purchases wholesale product is invited to attend.
Local Chef Kathy Watson of Nora's Table and local rancher Paulette Lefever Holbrook are the morning's featured keynote speakers. They will share how they have used their businesses to help build a stronger regional food system.
Following the keynote addresses, there will be breakout educational sessions for farmers and chefs. One of the speakers will be Bruce Dunlop of Lopez Island Farm in Washington. Dunlop helped design, construct and organize a co-operatively managed USDA-inspected mobile processing unit (MPU) and butcher shop for Island Grown Farmers Co-op of the San Juan Islands. He now helps other groups of niche meat ranchers around the country develop their own MPUs.
Additionally, there will be breakout sessions for vegetable, orchard, and grain producers as well as chefs. A lunch panel will feature local food entrepreneurs such as Kelly Wheat, Sandoz Farm, and Zip Chips, sharing their stories of launching successful value-added food products such as wheat flour, jams, salsas, and fruit chips.
There will be more breakout sessions after lunch, with an emphasis on innovative marketing. FoodHub from Portland will be on site to teach farmers, chefs, and buyers about their virtual wholesale meeting place for farm fresh food throughout the Northwest.
The day will end with a speed-networking event for producers and buyers, farmers and chefs. This will be an opportunity for farmers, chefs and food buyers to make new connections for marketing and purchasing products regionally.
Farmers are invited to bring product samples, which can be prepared or heated-up in the on-site commercial kitchen.
Networking will continue at an optional post-event wine tasting event in the early evening. Featuring local wineries and live music, attendees will get a chance to make more connections and learn about what GGFN is doing and planning to strengthen the regional food system.
Gorge Food & Farm Connection is being organized by GGFN and co-sponsored by WSU-Extension Klickitat County, WSU-Extension Skamania County, OSU-Extension Hood River and Wasco counties and Columbia Gorge Community College as a collaborative effort to meet the needs of local farmers and chefs to enable a stronger and healthier regional food system.
Tickets for the Gorge Food & Farm Connection are only $10 until March 16, but increase to $20 after that. Registration closes on April 2. The price includes a gourmet, locally-sourced lunch prepared by local Pampered Palette Catering.
Visit the GGFN website, www.gorgegrown.com to purchase tickets on-line or call 541-490-6420.