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What is the Good Food Festival, and Why Should You Go Check it Out This Weekend?

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Amelia and Erika, aka Lindy and Grundy at Wednesday's Good Food Festival demo event (Mud Baron/LAist)
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This week marks the 30th Anniversary of the Santa Monica Farmers' Market and the launch of the Good Food Festival and Conference (they are planning an Act II in 2012). We had been waiting on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Food Policy Council's Paula Daniels, Glen Dake and Al Renner to tell us why the South Central Farm had been excluded from their "Good Food for All" agenda and how that fits in to the Good Food Festival, but they did not respond to our request for interviews.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, between in-market presentations of darling cookbook author Amelia Saltzman and "Lamb Breakdown" demos with the likewise darling butcherettes of Lindy and Grundy, I did get a few questions in to event producer Jim Slama, who is also the executive director of the Chicago-based non-profit, Family Farmed.

What is the Good Food Festival and Conference?

It's a five day gathering of people in Southern California who really care about food. People will have the opportunity to connect with some amazing speakers, chefs, farmers, and other leaders in the Good Food movement. We have over 180 speakers including MacArthur winner & urban farmer extraordinaire, Will Allen, Pulitzer Prize winner Jonathan Gold, "Tomatoland" author Barry Estabrook, Food Day's Mike Jacobsen, rancher Bill Niman, journalist Tom Philpott, author Laurie David, and a whole lot more. Leading L.A. policy experts are speaking, including L.A. Food Policy Council's Paula Daniels, Robert Ross of the California Endowment, Kelly Meyer of the Teaching Garden, Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, and Zev Yaroslavsky of the Los Angeles County, Board of Supervisors. Even you, Mud Baron, are now in the lineup--you are replacing The Los Angeles Unified School District's Superintendent John Deasy, who had to cancel at the last minute.

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There is a huge chef component of the event. The epicurean will delight in "Chefs at Play," featuring cooking demonstrations pairing local farmers with some of L.A.'s finest chefs. Friday night, the "Localicious" Gala celebration will take place at the spectacular Annenberg Community Beach House. It features 30 of L.A.'s top chefs paired with 30 market farmers, and will showcase the freshest and best of the season with signature anniversary dishes. It’s truly a 30th Anniversary Celebrations worthy of the Santa Monica Farmers' Market.

On Saturday, September 17 and Sunday, September 18 there is a two-day festival at Santa Monica High School. Attendees can purchase products and ready to eat food from exhibitors such as farmers, artisan food producers, restaurants, sustainable businesses, and food trucks that source products from the Santa Monica Farmers' Market. The speaker series includes many national and local leaders as attendees immerse themselves in two days of stimulating programming during Good Food for Thought.

For the burgeoning DIY audience, "Grow Your Own" and "Preserve It" workshops feature demonstrations on seed starting, fruit trees, backyard chickens, container gardening and bee keeping, plus L.A.'s Master Food Preserver demonstrations. For the school edible garden enthusiast, there will be sessions on making school meals healthier and regionally sourced. Tickets for these two days are only $10. Best deal in town for a foodie!

What do you want to accomplish out of this event?

We want to build the good food movement. When you bring people together in these situations, new opportunities arise. Farmers get new customers. Families have fun together in a great environment that promotes healthy eating and sustainability. People learn new ways to grow food. Chefs and master preservers teach people cool new tricks. Policymakers come together to learn and advance positive agendas to create more food access. School foodservice directors meet new vendors that can provide healthier, local, and sustainable food. It's all about connecting people!

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Why is some non-profit organization from Chicago doing this?

The Santa Monica Farmers' Market brought us in to develop the event, which is modeled after one we have done in Chicago for six years, which has been very successful in building the movement in the midwest. Laura Avery, who has run the market in Santa Monica for 29 years, wanted to do something similar here. So, FamilyFarmed.org helped lay the foundation for this event and built a local team. The reality is that most of this event has been created by an amazing advisory board consisting of food leaders here in California. They have shaped most of the programming and done a great job. It's been an exciting collaboration and we can't wait to see the results.