2011 Provender Conference: Planting Seeds, Harvesting Wisdom

The 2011 Provender Conference, the premier Northwest event for retailers, food producers and processors, distributors and brokers, will be held this year in Hood River, Oregon, October 5-7. Launched in 1977, Provender Alliance presents its 35th annual event designed to help businesses and organizations in the natural food industry to do business together better.

There are now more than 9,000 natural products and health food stores, including retail food co-ops. Natural and health food stores come in all sizes; from mega chains to small, independent groceries with annual sales from $2 to $20 million. These range from very small shops (less than 1000 square feet) to the “supernaturals” (supermarkets who sell natural products and health foods) such as Whole Foods (270 stores), Trader Joe’s (350 stores), and large food co-ops like the PCC Natural Markets (9 stores), Seattle.

Where to small organizations turn? Susan Schecter, Executive Director of Provender Alliance, shares her thoughts on this year’s conference:

Provender is a group of businesses and organizations working together to do business better, to build connections and relationships, to find each other in a whirlwind of competition. Those who have been in business longer will mentor newer business people. We’ve designed the conference as a business-to-business conference because our members are primarily natural food retailers and co-ops, food producers and processors, distributors, brokers, and consultants.

It’s a small but tightly knit group of about 250 attendees that represents thousands of employees. About half of our attendees are retailers – small independent stores and food co-ops – who are coming together with their own challenges and questions. Our food production and processing members – from small to large – find it a great way to connect with both retailers and distributors.

Provender Conference provides an atmosphere of relationship-building and education. This year’s education piece presents more workshops than ever before. Everything from product issues, financial planning, and management issues to domestic fair trade and dealing with genetically modified crops.

Keynote speakers include:

Paul Stamets

Solutions From the Underground, Paul Stamets, mycologist and author

Paul Stamets has been a dedicated mycologist for over thirty years. Over this time, he has discovered four new species of mushrooms, and pioneered countless techniques in the field of edible and medicinal mushroom cultivation. Paul will present six inventions, which help steer ecosystems and humanity to a healthier future. He will discuss the evolution of mushrooms in ecosystems and how fungi can help heal environments.

As environmental health and human health are inextricably interconnected, fungi offer unique opportunities that capitalize on mycelium’s diverse properties. Fungi are the grand molecular dis-assemblers in nature, decomposing plants and animals, creating soils and the food web of life. Paul will demonstrate that mycelium offers many of the solutions we sorely need.

Dr. Steve Jones

Very Local Grains: Why Bother? Dr. Steve Jones, a plant breeder and the director of The Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center of Washington State University.

It is difficult to find a region of the United States that at one time did not grow grains for local uses like bread, pastries, and malt. But today there are vast areas of highly diverse farming systems that have lost their rotational grains, and with them the benefit that grains bring to farming systems.

Fortunately, recent developments in small grain movements across the country have shown not only that the grains are back but they bring with them a sense and taste of regionality. They also bring added values at many levels that can help in revitalizing small communities.

Jesse Ziff Cool

Thinking Outside the Box, Jesse Ziff Cool, restaurateur and author

Dedicated to sustainable agriculture and cuisine for over 35 years, Jesse is an advocate for local, sustainable, organic food production and the farmers, to whom she warmly refers as her heroes, she considers to be the first real environmental pioneers.

In the midst of the big picture of how to create impact within the food system, how do we reach out in our local communities and create change, one person at a time? As a leader, an individual’s methods that are inspirational, inclusive and manifest excitement can’t help but create a ripple. Thinking outside the box, shifting the audience, not just the believers, remains a wonderful part of the work we do in our industry of offering to others good, wholesome, real food.

Workshops and Educational Sessions:

  • Today’s Seed, Tomorrow’s Table
  • Make Your Deli Move and Groove
  • Greener Healthy Food = Healthy Kids
  • Getting Real About Local Food
  • Integrated Marketing Workshop
  • Business Succession Planning
  • Safe Cosmetic Ingredients: What Does This Mean?
  • Handling Performance Problems in the Workplace
  • Become a Pro at Efficient Local Foraging!
  • Tax Opportunities to Increase Your Cash Flow
  • Domestic Fair Trade
  • GMO Consumer Awareness
  • Seeking Out Hidden Diversity for Better Teams
  • Finding Financial Partners for Your Business

For more information or to register, go to Provender Conference.