The Seedstock annual conference is a comprehensive, expert-filled program filled with up-to-the-minute information about how to be successful in starting or expanding a sustainable and/or urban farming operation. As featured on CNBC, the Seedstock annual conference is one of the few events in the country that bring together farmers, entrepreneurs, financiers, suppliers, distributors, restaurant owners and others in the sustainable agriculture industry.
“Sustainable agriculture does and will require new thinking, investors, breakthrough technologies and knowledge. This year’s Seedstock conference is bringing together some of the most experienced and forward-thinking individuals to help meet significant challenges in the US and around the world,” said Robert Puro, Seedstock’s co-founder. “We must examine the economic opportunities and environmental and societal benefits of embracing, developing, and investing in sustainable farms, practices, technologies, and start-up companies.”
The conference begins Nov. 5 with a field trip of sustainable farms near urban Los Angeles, followed the next day by the speaker and panel portion of the conference at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Below is a sample of the program and panel speakers.
Thaddeus Barsotti, co-CEO of Farm Fresh To You and Capay Organic, will deliver a keynote address detailing solutions and business models designed to assist local producers in increasing their presence in the supply chain. Born on one of the first farms in Yolo County to be certified organic, Barsotti grew up imbued with the philosophy of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and is the company’s chief farmer.
Following his talk, Barsotti will join Colin and Karen Archipley, founders of Archi’s Acres, for a panel presentation on “Growing New Farmers and Expanding Established Operations.” Experts in sustainable, hydroponic, organic farming, the Archipley’s established the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) program to assist returning vets in creating business opportunities. Included in this panel will be John Mesko, executive director of the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota, which supports the development and enhancement of sustainable farming systems through farmer-to-farmer networking, innovation, demonstration, and education.
“Connecting Urbanites to the Food System” will examine the social and economic role that urban agriculture plays in reconnecting people to their food through commercial urban farming endeavors, community gardens, and distributed farming networks. Bringing personal experience to the conversation include: Dan Allen, CEO of Farmscape, a Los Angeles-based urban farming venture that has established 350+ gardens at homes, schools and restaurants; Chris Higgins, of Urban Ag Products and an expert in hydroponic and controlled environment agriculture systems for commercial urban farming; Tara Kolla, founder of Silver Lake Farms, a micro farm specializing in cut flowers and specialty edible crops using biological farming practices; David Rosenstein, founder of EVO Farm and its mission to cultivate resilient communities by producing high yields of produce that are distributed truly locally with zero waste and minimal water; and, Joe Swartz, director of farming for Sky Vegetables, an innovative agriculture company dedicated to building sustainable, commercial-scale hydroponic farms on urban rooftops across America.
Reconvening after a farm-to-table lunch, “Growing New Markets for Sustainable Farmers” will unite Chef/Farmer Adam Navidi, creator of Future Foods Farms, Chef Erik Olberholtzer, co-founder of Tender Greens and other retailer and wholesaler participants to discuss the philosophy behind their purchasing decisions and how the embracing of local food by restaurant buyers, retail buyers, wholesalers, and others is growing new markets for sustainable farmers.
“Distributing Sustainable Agriculture” will offer an investigation of local/sustainable/organic food distribution models that explores current marketplace demand, the different roles that various distribution entities play in supporting sustainable farmers and increasing local food in the marketplace, the challenges of working with small farmers, and potential solutions to increase their presence in the supply chain. Lending their insights to the topic include: Erika Block, founder and CEO of Local Orbit, which provides tools designed to support businesses and organizations that are rebuilding local and regional food supply chains; Sharon Cech, regional food systems program manager for the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) at Occidental College; and, Lucy Norris, director of marketing for the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, which provides services to assist farmers in bringing the farm to market.
Val Dolcini, state executive director of the US Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), along with Zack Porter of Proteus Environmental Technologies, representatives from venture capital, social finance and local loan firms, will present “Funding the Future,” an examination of the various investment routes–venture capital, Social Financing, kickstarter, USDA loans and grants–available to assist startups in getting their businesses off the ground. The panel will be moderated by real assets and ag investment pro, Nicola Kerslake of Battle Born Venture Fund.
“The Future of Farmers Markets” is the topic to be addressed by Laura Avery, farmers market supervisor and Wednesday Farmers market manager for the City of Santa Monica. Avery has presided over the Santa Monica Farmers Market program since October, 1982.