Much new on menu of Live Local Conference

New season, new location and new partner top the changes for the 2020 Live Local Conference March 10-12 in the Embassy Suites, Peoria.

Raghela Scavuzzo, Illinois Farm Bureau associate director of food systems development, noted the conference moved from fall to spring, moved to Peoria from Bloomington and added the Illinois Farmers Market Association as a partner. The conference is now the Live Local: Local Food and Farmers Market Annual Conference.

When communities were asked to share their local food connections, Peoria offered a range of local food entrepreneurs and activities and was selected as the conference location, Scavuzzo explained. Recently, Peoria received a grant to integrate local foods into its strategic plan, she added.

Sharing information through storytelling will be an important focus of this year’s conference and touch on many aspects from business and technology to marketing and products.

Participants can expect speakers to share technical information along with more personal information as they “share the impact of storytelling,” Scavuzzo said. Janice Person, a national communications consultant with JPLovesCOTTON LLC, will discuss the importance of storytelling in the first keynote address.

Janie Maxwell, executive director of the Illinois Farmers Market Association, noted the two organization partners will reach a broader audience of farmers, farmers’ market staff and vendors. And they’ll offer a lot of networking opportunities. “We are so much stronger when we communicate and work together,” Maxwell said.

On the first day, participants may take a class to satisfy Food Safety Modernization Act training requirements. The class requires advance registration. However, costs for the training manual and the licensing fee are incorporated into the conference registration. Registration for only the class is available for $50, a savings compared to the $115 manual’s value.

Farm-to-fork tours return and require preregistration. This year, two half-day tours are offered in the morning and afternoon with workshops available the remainder of the day. Participants not joining a tour will be offered a full day of workshops.

An optional farm-to-table dinner will be available, starting at 7 p.m. March 10 in The Edge, which sources menu items from 60 farms. The $50 dinner reservation is separate from the registration fee.

“Food is a driver of the Peoria economy … and we’re excited to share,” said Tory Dahlhoff, communications director with the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council.

General session speakers will include Debra Tropp, an agricultural consultant and retired USDA local food and farmers’ market specialist; and Mike Lewis of Third Wave LLC, program director of Kentucky AgrAbility and a veteran who was involved with the start of Homegrown by Heroes and industrial hemp legalization nationally.

A panel of local food representatives from Mount Pulaski and Peoria will share their communities’ stories about the importance of food and agriculture to their economies and development.

For three days, workshop sessions will be organized around topics, including business development, funding and finances, technology, marketing, building relationships, policy and regulations, market opportunities and communication.

Online registration is available until March 3. The online registration fee is $125 for members of IFB and the Farmers Market Association. The registration fee for nonmembers is $160. The fee includes two breakfasts, three lunches, one dinner, appetizers, snacks and beverages.

Onsite registration is $175 for organization members and $215 for nonmembers.

Hotel accommodations are separate. Until Feb. 18, rooms at the Embassy Suites are available for a conference rate of $136 per night. Breakfast is included. To reserve a room, call 309-694-0200 and mention the Live Local room block for the special rate.