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ODA to bring buyers, sellers together at Feast Portland
Special showcase allows growers & processors to meet with invited buyers & media

A four-day food festival in Portland this week will provide a perfect meet and greet opportunity for some Oregon growers and food processors who want to make inroads with wholesale buyers and media. The inaugural Bon Appetit Presents Feast Portland is a multi-faceted event designed to showcase local foods and culinary talent. The Oregon Department of Agriculture has carved out an hour for each of two days during Feast Portland to bring buyers and sellers together.

“Feast is a large event and we are happy to have a slice of it,” says ODA Director Katy Coba. “Our job has always included matching up Oregon producers and food processors with buyers. To be able to tap into this exciting, well-attended festival is a great chance to bring the two sides together.” 

The 60-minute trade showcase– taking place on both Friday and Saturday of the four-day Feast– features 50 Oregon growers and food processors on display at Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square who are available to meet with 26 invited buyers and three handpicked trade media representatives. Each grower/processor has three feet of table space to get the conversation started. Brochures, photos, product displays will hopefully lead to an exchange of business cards, handshakes, and follow-up conversations. Those are the building blocks of future sales and more exposure for some of the great local products Oregon has to offer.

“Our growers and food processors exemplify the agricultural diversity we have in Oregon and the entrepreneurial spirit that goes with it,” says ODA trade development manager Laura Barton. “We have a great cross-section of quality products on display at the showcase. I think the potential buyers are going to be very impressed.”

The vendors will be showing off crops and products that run the gamut from traditional agriculture to extreme niche. Among the offerings are wine, garlic, berry jams, endive, artisan cheese, hazelnut caramels, organic beef, ice cream sandwiches, heirloom vegetables, and even edible flowers. What they all have in common is that they are locally grown and that the growers and processors are hoping to penetrate a wider market.

“Many of these vendors are wanting to move up the chain,” says Barton. “Perhaps they’ve been selling at a farmers’ market, a local farm stand, or a small local store. The next step, for those who want to go forward, is to get their face in front of a group of large retail buyers or possibly a distributor. Our showcase as part of Feast Portland makes that happen.”

The invited buyers include representatives of national and regional retail grocery chains, local chains, restaurants, food service companies, and wholesale distributors. The buying group is attracted to the multiple events and venues surrounding Feast Portland. But they have been specifically identified as buyers of interest by ODA and have sent in their RSVP to attend the showcase.

Inviting members of the media to attend the trade showcase can also pay dividends down the road. Food writers often get great stories simply by meeting the farmer who grows it or the small company that processes it. Coverage can many times lead to sales.

“We want to bring the two sides together,” says Barton. “We are always looking for opportunities for our farmers and food processors– especially those who use Oregon products– to make sales and be profitable. We are also trying to leverage our own resources, and that’s why Feast Portland is a good option.”

The collaboration with Feast Portland opens the doors for growers to other possibilities. There will be  workshops, chef demonstrations, separate dinners, and large scale tasting events that may be using some of the products– a host of activities the showcase participants will have access to which might provide additional exposure for their products. It’s how small and beginning companies network themselves into a wider playing field. Feast Portland will attract the critical mass necessary to make good connections between buyer and seller.

“The buy local connection doesn’t mean it has to be made within a ten mile radius,” says Barton. “For instance, a grower or food processor in Southern Oregon may have a great product that would sell well in the Portland metro area. So coming to Feast Portland might be a great business opportunity.”

Some of the vendors come from such distant points as Pendleton, Bend, Klamath Falls, and Hood River.

For ODA, the trade showcase at Feast Portland is just the latest in a series of events and opportunities to connect the direct farm ingredients of Oregon with those who make buying decisions. A specialty crop grant project called “My Oregon Farm Days” is designed to offer Oregon specialty crop farmers new opportunities to connect with local wholesale buyers through outreach activities in rural and urban Oregon. Each "My Oregon Farm Day" event has included table top displays of participant farmers’ products and time for them to meet with buyers individually. Previous events have taken place around the state. Feast Portland provided the necessary ingredients to attract the same kind of buyer-seller conversation, this time in downtown Portland’s living room.

“We really wanted to try incorporating our efforts into a larger, trade show-type event that would allow for face-to-face meetings,” says Barton. “Feast Portland seemed like a very good fit. The festival organizers have been very interested in integrating us into such a big event. It has been a great partnership so far. I know our farmers and food processors who will be on display are excited to be there. We’ve heard the same positive comments from the buyers we’ve reached out to.”

Bon Appetit Presents Feast Portland premiers September 20-23 with more than 40 events designed to celebrate Oregon’s agricultural bounty. The ODA-sponsored showcase is scheduled for Friday, September 21 from 12:45 pm to 1:45 pm, and Saturday, September 22 from 10:45 am to 11:45 am.

Details on Bon Appetit Presents Feast Portland

For more information on the showcase, contact Laura Barton at (503) 872-6600.

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