From Food+Enterprise 2014, courtesy of Clay Williams

This weekend, Brooklyn, already known for its burgeoning food industry, will play host to farmers, entrepreneurs, consultants, funders and investors who will mingle and meet, converse and share information about how to grow the local food system and related businesses at Food + Enterprise.

This year, Food+Enterprise is being held from Feb. 27 to March 1 at Industry City in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. The event is a project of North East Foodshed Finance Alliance (NEFA) and Slow Money NYC, in conjunction with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Community Food Funders and the Young Farmers Alliance.

NEFA is a network of more than 80 organizations working “to bring about food system change through financing the growth of a sustainable food marketplace.”

Since 2013, this annual event, which was originally held under the auspices of the Food Book Fair in Brooklyn, has grown to encompass three days that feature speakers, workshops and discussions.

“We hope that this year’s conference will do what the prior two conferences accomplished, yet multiplied by three. Three days. Three times the number of attendees,” says Derek Denckla, one of the founders of the event.

There is also a “Pitch Competition” for five pre-selected “growth stage” food and farm-related businesses. These entrepreneurs will present their business plans to an audience made up of investors, consultants, peers and consumers. The winner, chosen by a panel of industry leaders, will receive a $3,800 tuition credit to Natural Gourmet Institute’s 12-week Food Entrepreneurship Certificate Program, where they’ll learn the tools to run a successful food business. Two other prizes will go to runners-up.

As part of the competition, on Sunday, March 1,the day of the event, each business will launch a customized crowdfunding campaign on the website Barnraiser, which will allow attendees to immediately help finance these entrepreneurs.

This year, the competitors include Goldilocks Goodies, a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania-based bakery; Jacqueline and Jerome, a family-owned salad dressing company; Made By Lukas, a Brooklyn-based veggie burger business; Nextdoorganics, a pickup and delivery service sourcing local organic vegetables, fruits, meats and dry goods for customers in Brooklyn & Manhattan; North East Farm Access, a team of consultants who bring together investors and farmers “to revive and transform sustainable agriculture;” Students For Service, a nonprofit that works with teen volunteers through its Teens for Food Justice program to “build and manage hydroponic farms that grow food for families in underserved, food desert communities;” and With Love, From Brooklyn, a company that sells curated gift sets of Brooklyn-made artisanal food and gifts.

According to Denckla, they “seek out a diverse set of business that take differing approaches to making the food system more sustainable and local” for the Pitch Competition.

He says past winners of the competition have seen benefits that go beyond prizes.

Mark Jaffe of The Fresh Connection, winner of last year’s competition, saw “a tremendous amount of new business arising from his involvement with Food + Enterprise.” The 2013 winner,  Sohha Yoghurt, was selected for participation in Chelsea Market and Down to Earth Markets as a result of its participation in the competition, says Denckla.

Previous participants in the conference, including consultant Christine Rico, who participated as a coach in the Entrepreneurship Clinic, “came away from Food + Enterprise with the most number of new clients that she had ever obtained at any conference,” according to Denckla.

Event Details:
For tickets and more information, go to: Food + Enterprise
Industry City, Brooklyn, NY
Feb 27-Mar 1, 2015