by Marlene Petersen
Scouting Local Food Talent at Feast! Local Foods Marketplace
When it comes to buying local, Nicci Sylvester, owner of Tonic Kitchen and Juice Bar, puts her money where her mouth is. Literally. Okay…not literally. But pretty darn close. A fervid advocate for delicious, regional fare, Nicci refuses to compromise on quality and spends her time, talents and resources scouting out the best.
Committed to Local
“I have a passion for fresh, local food,” Nicci says. She started Tonic in November 2013 to fulfill her dream of owning a restaurant committed to sourcing locally. “I buy local because it’s about living life as a whole package. It’s better for the environment, doesn’t poison my staff with chemicals, supports area farmers and tastes better.”
With local food comprising 75 percent of Tonic’s summertime menu—and 35 percent of its winter one—procuring ingredients is a daily, if not hourly, venture.
“I’m constantly buying something,” says Nicci. “Today it’s honey from Bee Shed [Oronoco, Minn.]. Tomorrow will be chicken and turkeys from Larry Schultz [Owatonna, Minn.]. Right now, I’m going to the farmer’s market and asking around to find a grower who does carrots and beets.”
Creating menus for Tonic involves more than just purchasing inventory from a foodservice distributor like other restaurants do. It’s a commitment to eating in season and constantly examining fresh lists—an inventory of products farmers have to sell now, what’s coming up, and what’s over for the season—to see what’s even available. If Tonic runs out of carrots in the middle of lunch rush, Nicci doesn’t place an urgent order with Sysco or head to Cub Foods. She calls her farmers and hopes they have more. And if they don’t?
“When I’m out, I’m out.” She shrugs.Read more
In case you didn't notice, Feast! is not just another food show. It's local, and it's innovative.
As the name says, Feast! Local Foods Marketplace is very much about LOCAL foods, and all that that implies. For regional economic vitality, for transparency in the food system, and for environmental considerations like food miles, Feast! carries with it a strong emphasis on supporting local and regional food businesses in their efforts to follow a sustainable model that incorporates LOCAL sourcing of ingredients.
Starting a food business is complex and costly, and it has always been important to Feast planners that we keep the costs of attending low, in order to foster our regional food businesses that are striving to grow and watching every dollar. Enter our sponsors.
Whether it's a major premier partner like Mayo Clinic (full list here) or one of the many smaller and in-kind sponsors, all of them have expressed support for the Feast mission. They have dedicated resources — both financial and staffing — to help us work creatively to keep Feast booth costs low, provide educational & networking sessions at no extra charge, and include meals (sourced locally when possible).
Read on to see a comparison of some regional and national show costs...Read more
The 4th annual Feast! Local Foods Marketplace is now accepting applications for food and beverage businesses from Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota to attend the event at the Mayo Civic Center on Dec. 1-2, 2017.
Feast! 2017 will cap off a ‘food week’ in Rochester that includes the Feast! Restaurant Week—showing off Feast vendor products in local restaurant specials—and the large annual convention of the Midwest Food Products Association (MWFPA) that features over 150 vendors from equipment manufacturers to packaging and labeling suppliers.
Special free entry to the Feast tradeshow will be granted to MWFPA registrants, and likewise for Feast exhibitors to attend MWFPA Thursday morning (lunch ticket available for purchase).Read more
January 25, Owatonna, MINN. - Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), along with its partners through the FEAST Local Foods Network, including Renewing the Countryside and Slow Money Minnesota, are happy to announce the launch of a new loan fund for small-scale, sustainable farmers. The Grow a Farmer Fund is a revolving loan fund managed by SMIF that offers lower-interest loans up to $15,000 to individuals in SMIF's 20-county region for inventory, supplies, working capital or machinery/equipment.
Fundraising for the Grow a Farmer Fund kicked off last May at Slow Money Minnesota's annual gathering and was inspired by the principles of Slow Money, which originated out of the slow food movement. Slow Money's mission is to catalyze the flow of capital to local food systems, connect investors to the places where they live and promote new principles of fiduciary responsibility that "bring money back down to earth."
What started as planting some fruit and nut trees for their own personal use has blossomed into something much more. Bruce and Dawn Rohl’s 10 acre property now boasts a whopping 450 elderberry bushes, 150 apple trees, and 80 grapevines that they use to produce wine.
Aspelund Winery began when the Rohl’s realized they could only freeze and can so much fruit juice, fruit, jams and jellies for themselves. They knew they needed another outlet and since Bruce had experience making wine with his father growing up, it was a natural jump to become a home vintner.Read more
Every year now (well, for two years in a row), the Feast! planners have worked hard to build off of the previous year’s event and make it even better. There are a lot of things that have been there from the beginning—most notably, the many unique and delicious foods available for sampling and purchasing directly from the farmers and artisans who make them.
Also every year we have engaging activities for kids of all ages! This year you’ll see the fun Veggie Grand Prix again, where vegetables turn into race cars. You’ll also see face painting, mini-sprout greenhouses under construction, budding artists crafting designs with dried seeds and paintings with veggie cutouts, and a special KidsFit program hosted by Hy-Vee, full of games that promote movement and learning about foods and nutrition.
KC Kye, a native Korean, moved with his family to the United States when he was three years old. As he grew older, he decided to bring more of his Korean culture back to the states with him—in the form of their flavorful food traditions.
After creating 90 different iterations of sauces, they selected the best ones, and K-Mama Sauce was born. They have currently perfected four sauces that are available to purchase, which include: original, original gluten-free, spicy and spicy gluten-free.
K-Mama Sauce really started taking off as a business when it was placed in its first few restaurants. You can see K-Mama Sauce on the tables of Brasa Premium Rotisserie and taste it in multiple dishes at The Kenwood in Minneapolis.
After being a minister for ten years, Kye found it crucial to give back to the community. This is what inspired K-Mama Sauce to donate 30 percent of all profits to various charities. Some of the charities they donate to are the church, Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock.Read more
There is a whole lotta love that goes into Zaza’s Pastas!
“We pour our heart and soul into each batch of pasta. We love the ingredients, we love the process and we want you to love what you eat!” says founder and owner Julie Parisi. Zaza’s Pasta includes only local, organic and non-GMO flour.
Julie grew up on Long Island, New York in a large Italian family. “We cooked and ate....a lot!” she says.
She thought it would be fun to try selling something at the local farmer’s market and realized no one was making and selling homemade pasta. “I thought, ‘Hey! I know how to do that!’” she recalls. So in 2010 Zaza's Pastas got started in a small, one-bedroom apartment in Iowa City.
When you’re around entrepreneurs for any time at all, you immediately notice how impressively hard they work. Among entrepreneurs, food businesses have additional worries with food safety and manufacturing regulations, not to mention the key factor that has really taken the spotlight in today’s food culture: supply chain. “Where does your food come from?” is an oft-repeated question, and that’s at the center of Century Sun Oil’s message.
Century Sun Oil is made from local, organic sunflower seed and there are many reasons that co-founders Pam and Dale Johnson call their sunflower oil “Your Midwest alternative to olive oil”.
In just five years, the Dave and Carolee Rapson family has gone from creating their first commercial batch of yogurt having their product served at the Chicago Google Headquarters and throughout O'Hare Airport.
“Sales are up 40 percent [this] year to date. We are now in more than 100 stores in six states, 20 public schools, 11 colleges, four health care institutions and several restaurants,” says Bob Howard, director of marketing and sales. “Also, our distributor in Chicago has helped us break into new markets in Chicago from cafe chains downtown, to Google Headquarters, to parfaits in the book stores throughout O'Hare Airport.”
Country View Dairy been crafting quality yogurt in their on-farm processing plant for five years and they are looking forward to sharing their products at Feast! again this year.
Country View Dairy, located between West Union and Hawkeye, Iowa has been growing. After three years in business, Country View was using about 7,000 pounds of milk for processing yogurt four days a week. This year they are averaging about 15,000 pounds of yogurt production per week with a staff of ten (half of those are family).
During the past year they added a second pasteurizer, enabling them to make two batches of yogurt at once, and they are in the process of adding a second filler machine which will increase production. This past spring they completed an addition onto the plant including a much larger walk-in cooler to accommodate pallets, a larger incubation room, a loading dock, storage space and new office.
The Rapsons have not only been increasing the quantity of their production, their quality remains high as well. “Over the last year we have won the Iowa Venture Award, second place ribbon in the American Cheese Society competition in the flavored, cultured milk category (they won with theirAronia Blackberry Greek yogurt, the only Aronia yogurt in the United States) held in Des Moines this year, and we also swept all the ribbons in the yogurt category at the Iowa State Fair,” said Howard.Read more