CANNON FALLS, Minn. — The FEAST! Local Foods Network held its first-ever standalone tradeshow earlier this month to introduce wholesale buyers to the many unique food businesses in the tri-state region of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.
The FEAST! event included recognition of exhibitor businesses for exemplary practices in two categories: supporting regional farms by using locally-grown ingredients in their products, and giving back to their communities in charitable and inspirational ways.
This year’s Innovative Local Sourcing Award was presented to Ameeta Jaiswal-Dale of Panache (St. Paul, MN), who crafts ayurvedic-inspired apple juice blends made with Minnesota apples. The Inspiring Social Benefit Award was presented to Bob Howard of Country View Dairy (Hawkeye, IA), which donates yogurt to schools and other community programs.
The FEAST! Network exists to help businesses like these to succeed, and one of the keys is for grocery retailers to have more access to these businesses, and to get them on shelves. To that end, an additional third award was launched this year to recognize the important role that retailers play: the FEAST! Retail Local food Champion Award.
Consumers nominated their favorite grocery store, co-op, or specialty store that promotes #localfoods, both produce and shelf-stable grocery items.
“Retail establishments that make local foods available to their customers really go the extra mile to do that, and we commend them for it,” said Brian Erickson, New Markets Program Manager at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
Erickson presented the FEAST! Retail Local Foods Champion Award to The Greensted, a vertically-integrated microgreens operation in Zumbrota, MN that last year opened a farm store that sells exclusively locally-made products.
FEAST! event organizers define Retail Local food champions as a retail store or individual who excels in their support for locally farmed and produced foods. Characteristics might include:
- Continuously bringing in new local food products
- Being responsive to customers recommending new local products
- Inviting businesses in to offer samples at the store
- Featuring local businesses in social media, signage, displays and other communications
FEAST! Local Foods Network events are co-hosted by the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and Renewing the Countryside non-profit organizations and is supported with premier partnership by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Network members are essential for this collaborative effort, as shown on the FEAST! website listing of the Tradeshow Committee and Cannon Falls Subcommittee that made this tradeshow possible.
–FEAST! Local Foods Network