For the past two decades, Jim Slama has been a national leader in promoting environmental sustainability and the Good Food Movement. He is the founder and President of FamilyFarmed.org, which encourages the production, marketing and distribution of locally grown and responsibly produced food. FamilyFarmed.org expands the market for local farmers and food producers by advancing the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement, training farmers to adopt best practices in food safety, playing an integral role in public policy, and supporting farmers to develop new wholesale markets. Jim works with many of the leading trade buyers for local food in the country including Whole Foods Market, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Compass Group, Goodness Greeness, Aramark, (Chicago Public Schools), Lettuce Entertain You, McCormick Place, Midway Airport, and more.
FamilyFarmed.org’s Good Food Festival & Conference is the leading event in the midwest promoting sustainable local food to the public and trade buyers. The Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference brings together regional and national leaders in farming, food production and finance to create channels for farms and food businesses to access capital and finance growth. Launched in partnership with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the conference has played a key role in helping to fund businesses in this niche. Farms and businesses, including Farmed Here, America’s largest vertical farm, have secured over $5 million in financing. These businesses will create over 300 jobs when fully developed.
Seeing the need for a tool to assist farmers selling to wholesale markets, Jim created Wholesale Success: A Farmers Guide to Selling, Post Harvest Handling, and Packing Produce. The manual gives small to mid-size growers technical assistance to help them develop the skills to sell produce into wholesale markets covering topics like food safety, post harvest handling, and developing relationships with buyers. Over the past four years, FamilyFarmed.org has trained over 6000 famers across the country in these methods.
FamilyFarmed.org created the On-Farm Food Safety Project in partnership with the FDA, USDA, food buyers, and advocates for small to mid-size growers. This project culminated in an online tool that walks farmers through a series of questions about their business, and creates a customized food safety plan, which allows the farmers to get food safety certified. The tool was launched at USDA headquarters in a press conference hosted by Deputy Secretary, Kathleen Merrigan and thousands of farmers have used the tool to adopt best practices in food safety. (www.onfarmfoodsafety.org) The tool was recently translated into Spanish and launched in New York with a bi-lingual food safety training for farmers.
Food Hubs provide infrastructure to get local food from farms to wholesale buyers and give smaller producers greater market power. Recognizing the need for this, FamilyFarmed.org has done extensive work researching and developing facilities that aggregate and/or process food from local farmers and commercial customers. In partnership with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the University of Illinois, FamilyFarmed.org published Building Successful Food Hubs: A Business Planning Guide for Aggregating and Processing Local Food in Illinois, a “how to” guide for food entrepreneurs.
Leading up to the formation of FamilyFarmed.org, Jim had an accomplished track record in environmental advocacy. In 1996 Jim launched Sustain on the heels of creating a successful multimedia campaign that shut down an incinerator that released 150,000 pounds of lead into the air annually. Sustain went on to become one of the country’s leading environmental communication groups and had many regional and national victories. These included the Keep Organic Organic Campaign, developed in partnership with the Organic Trade Association. The effort helped generated 275,000 comments to the USDA opposing standards that would have allowed food that was genetically engineered irradiated and grown in sewage sludge to be called organic. Other victories included stopping the state of Michigan from drilling for oil on the shores of Lake Michigan and forcing Congress to adopt a real recycling program when it was exposed that they were only pretending. Jim was also the founding publisher and editor of Conscious Choice magazine and during his 14 years tenure, it was named nine times by Utne Reader as a member of the Best of the Alternative Press.
Jim and his companies have received a great deal of recognition. FamilyFarmed.org’s work earned the Yahoo! for Good Green Award. Crain’s Chicago Business named Jim to its “Forty Under Forty” annual list of leading young business and civic leaders. Jim also received the Chicago Tribune Good Eating Award for his contributions to the Chicago food and beverage world. His work has been featured in Crain’s Chicago Business, The New York Times, Ode Magazine, Chicago Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle.