Rick Bayless at the 10th Anniversary Good Food Festival & Conference. (FamilyFarmed.org)

FamilyFarmed.org, the Oak Park-based nonprofit that promotes locally produced food production, is beefing up its efforts to connect sustainable food businesses with angel investors.

The group has launched its Good Food Business Accelerator this year and selected nine Chicago-area and Illinois-based businesses as fellows in the program, which is an extension of its annual Good Food Finance and Innovation Conference. 

Joel Blechman, director of the Good Food Business Accelerator, said the new strategy is being operated out of the office of 1871, a technology innovation incubator organization in Chicago. 

He said the annual finance and innovation conference, which is part of the multi-day Good Food Festival in March, has experienced success in the past, connecting businesses to financing worth an estimated $6 million in recent years. But FamilyFarmed.org aims to take it a step further by working with companies in the months leading up to the conference.

“If they get traction they will continue to update their plans and work with investors,” Blechman said in a telephone interview.

He noted that FamilyFarmed.org has chosen nine candidates to participate in the program. The group made headlines in local newspapers earlier this year for helping connect local food co-op Sugar Beet with investors to raise $102,000. The money helped seal the deal in the co-op’s 10-year lease for its soon-to-be home at 820 Madison St.

The new business accelerator will connect the nine companies with experts in business, finance, foods, and investor and business distribution networks, Blechman said.

“Not all of our fellows are looking for investment money; when you read the bios, it’s a really diverse group,” Blechman said. “Some of them have raised the money they need and are looking for broader understanding of the distribution networks in the food business. Some of them are just trying to focus on their business plan. It’s all over the map.”

The nine businesses include: 

  • Ro’s Beverage, a traditional Middle Eastern wellness beverage company based in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood; 
  • Mint Creek Farm, a grass-fed and pasture-raised livestock company in Cabery, Illinois; 
  • Daily Serving, a health food products company based on Chicago’s near West Side; 
  • Spark of the Heart, a food production company in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood; 
  • Jakobs Brothers Farms, a beef cattle and grain farm in Sterling, Illinois; 
  • Food Trace, a food supply chain company in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood; 
  • The Urban Canopy, an urban farm based in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood; 
  • Living Waters Farms, which grows microgreens, salad greens, herbs and edible flowers in Strawn, Illinois; 
  • Phoenix Soy, a tofu products company based in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood.

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