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Local/regional foods conference returns for second year


From Illinois Business Journal news services

Southwestern Illinois economic developers, entrepreneurs, and community developers continue to explore growth opportunities in the local foods market.

Confluence Business Advisors has teamed up with the Illinois Farm Bureau, USDA Rural Development, and the Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center to host the region’s second local food event, titled “Opportunities in Local and Regional Foods Conference.” It will feature speakers from the Illinois Farm Bureau, USDA Rural Development, and the SBDC.

The event will be held at the Morris Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on March 29, from 7:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. The cost is $25 and payable online or at the door. The military admission is $15. Registration is required at .

Event planner, Ron Tanner, principal at ConfluenceBA, said the event is aimed at farmers, nutritionists, food producers, entrepreneurs, restaurant owners, caterers, economic developers, food retailers, food distributors, hospitals, school administrators and others with an interest in growing their business through a local food ecosystem.

“To illustrate the growth opportunity in the local foods sector, three of the featured speakers were attendees at last year’s event trying to find their place. This year, they are on stage telling their story,” Tanner said. “It’s an exciting place to be.”

Speakers include:

– Patrick McKeehan, SBDC/SIUE
– Cynthia Haskins, Illinois Farm Bureau
– Colleen Callahan, USDA
– Matt Harris, USDA
– Pam Dierks, Dierks Farms
– Greg Brumitt, Active Strategies
– Lauren Pattan and James Rogalsky, Old Bakery Beer Company
– Kathleen Logan Smith, Southern Illinois Farm Beginnings
– Karen Fraase, Illinois Department of Agriculture
– Ron Tanner, entrepreneur
– Blaine Bilyeu, Papa’s Pasture
– Eric and Crystal Stevens, Grow Create Inspire/LaVista CSA.

The topics discussed will include industry growth statistics, mainstream market fulfillment, grant funding and resources, local foods and craft brewing, market opportunities and challenges, active lifestyles and local foods, training for new farmers and military veterans, and tips on how to get involved.

You can register and purchase event tickets online at You may pay at the door after pre-registration. Cash, checks and credit/bank cards are accepted.

For more information, contact Ron Tanner, Confluence Business Advisors, LLC, by phone at (618) 570-9125, or online via

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