Eat, Party, Learn– West Coast Style!

expowest logoThe organics and natural foods industry gathers twice a year to showcase new products, network and strengthen existing business relationships.  These expositions are affectionately called Natural Products “Expo East” and “Expo West”. They present the opportunity to celebrate the success of organic foods and discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead. In my previous Blog “Eat Party Learn”, I highlighted the educational sessions held by The Organic Trade Association and The Organic Center at Expo East last September. This week, Expo West will descend upon us with all its festivity, gastronomy and bustle. Here you will find opportunities to join the discussions that are important to the flourishing organic and natural food business community.

The first time I attended Expo West was in 1984 when I worked for the small, collectively-owned, health food store, Community Foods. We were so small and frugal that we had to room together.  In those early days the show was simpler and smaller but still a place to express our vision for the organic movement. This year, there are a myriad of opportunities to join in the strategic discussions of where the organic industry can go.

The Sustainable Food Trade Association (SFTA) is a non-profit trade association that represents North American, mission-aligned, organic food companies. This organization supports members in implementing innovative sustainable business practices across the supply chain, from farm to retail enterprises. The SFTA Annual Member Meeting will be held March 6, at the Anaheim Hilton, 4:30 -7:00PM. There will be a reception to follow where you can learn more about implementing sustainable practices in your businesses.

The biggest new idea out there is the concept of an Organic Research and Promotion Program. What if the industry had plenty of funds to perform research and educate the public on organic? Imagine a world where “Got Organic” bumper stickers where on every vehicle! Now that Congress has passed a Farm Bill, it’s time for the organic sector to “officially” consider whether or not an Organic Research and Promotion Program is in our future. OTA’s advocacy efforts successfully removed the legislative barriers preventing the potential program from becoming a reality. Now, USDA is authorized to consider an application for a check-off program from the organic sector, should the sector choose to pursue such an application. The new Farm Bill also expands the exemption for organic operations from conventional check-off programs. Please attend the panel discussion reviewing the options for a program framework, and be sure to weigh in!  The discussion will be on Friday, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m., at the Anaheim Marriott, Platinum Ballroom 1.

If you are concerned about GMOs in your supply chain, join the non-GMO experts from Global ID Group for two sessions at Expo West. Session 1 is on developing a global Non-GMO strategy. In it they will explore how to develop a global non-GMO strategy for your products and how to prepare them for verification. You’ll find out why a global strategy is necessary to successfully market non-GMO products, and you’ll learn about every key step in the verification process. This will be held Friday, March 7, 3:30-4:30pm, in Platinum Ballroom 1, at the  Anaheim Marriott. Session 2 will be on “Preparing Your Products and Ingredients for Non-GMO Verification” and held on Saturday, March 8, 10:30am-12 noon, in Platinum Ballroom 5, Anaheim Marriott.

Friday night you can join supporters of The Organic Center at its 11th Annual VIP Dinner from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at the Hilton Anaheim. This delicious event will celebrate the science and research done by The Center over the past year and highlight the Center’s vision for the future. In addition, Dr. Charles Benbrook will be honored as the first recipient of The Center’s Award of Excellence.  There are only a few remaining tickets. See if you can be one of the lucky winners.

There are just too many educational conferences at Expo West to mention here. You can view this link to discover more topics, from future trends in health and wellness to the evolution of integrative medicine into established health and wellness regimes.  Expo West isn’t just a place to sample new products while meeting new friends. It presents a unique opportunity to join in the discussions that are shaping the future of our business and community.

In order to further the discussion, everyone who signs up to follow Organic Matters Blog during Expo West this year will be entered into a drawing to win an I-Pad. Join in; I hope to see you at the show!

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