Out East: The First Annual Edible Business Conference

The first annual Edible Business Conference, June 5–7, Friday to Sunday, takes place at and coincides with the inauguration of The Food Lab at Stony Brook Southampton.

The conference is organized around the interests and needs of people working at all links in the food chain — from farmers, foodtech start-ups and investors to next wave food enthusiasts, policy makers and agribusiness executives. The panels, presentations and other events are as much about economic development and successful business models as they are about the latest trends and techniques to deliver sustainable farm-to-table, healthy and delicious food and beverages. Today’s leading thinkers in food business media and policy will discuss the path toward a healthy regional food system. (Follow the conference on Twitter, #ediblebusiness.)

The first event begins at 5 p.m. on Friday night with a cocktail and shellfish reception hosted by Edible East End. Saturday kicks off with the keynote event at 9:30 a.m. and features Amanda Hesser, celebrated chef/blogger/former New York Times Magazine food editor and co-founder of Food52, in conversation with Jessica Soffer, local author of the well-received novel Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots. A day of discussions and paired tastings follows, along with a dinner prepared by a collaboration of East End chefs. The conference culminates Sunday morning with a networking brunch and discussion of socially responsible entrepreneurship.

“We hope the conference puts the Food Lab on the map as a center for food education, media and enterprise,” says Brian Halweil, editor in chief of Edible East End/Long Island/Brooklyn/Manhattan and a team member at Food Lab. “Part of the Food Lab’s mission is to be a convener of people and ideas. Edible Business is our first gathering of that kind and will have an impressive swatch of decision makers and producers from our food community.” And, beyond connecting decision makers within the community and “providing the technical, educational and career support these new entrepreneurs need to build successful businesses,” says Kathleen Masters, executive director of the Amagansett Food Institute, “the conference will showcase many of these local entrepreneurs and connect them to some of the biggest names in the food business.”

“Over the last 20 years,” says Geoffrey Drummond, executive director of the Food Lab, “partly as a result of food TV and media, the public’s interest in food has exploded.” He himself has played a major part in this shift by producing and collaborating with the likes of Julia Child and countless other superstar chefs, including Lidia Bastianich, Jacques Pépin, Martin Yan, the Frugal Gourmet, America’s Test Kitchen and Eric Ripert. But, he says, what these shows and celebrity culture have not focused on is how the rest of us relate to food and eating. “On the East End of Long Island,” he adds, “the food chain, from fishing and farming to getting good food on the table, is still uniquely present in our contemporary world, but so too is the great and evident divide between those people with both access and opportunity to fully partake and those who do not.” The Food Lab is to be a center “to promote and incubate social, cultural and economic nourishment, as well as healthy eating and nutrition, for all of our communities.”

Amanda Hesser Headshot
Amanda Hesser. Photo credit: James Ransom

The Food Lab joins a host of nonprofits advocating for the East End food region. “School Gardens of the East End has helped get gardens, greenhouses and food education into every East End school district, supporting them with funding and materials for teachers,” says Halweil. “We are a national leader in this area. Beyond that, Peconic Land Trust, Amagansett Food Institute and Long Island Farm Bureau all have young farmer and beginning farmer programs now, which every part of the country is struggling to support.” Food Lab looks to focus on media, enterprise and education. Like Edible East End, the media component of Food Lab will document and tell the stories of our growing foodshed. In addition to holding business conferences, Food Lab will bring together regional leaders to hash out and work together on challenging issues, from land preservation to access to healthy food, and continue to operate the existing South Fork Kitchens, which can help farmers and food businesses make and launch new products. Along with an upcoming online college course taught by Halweil, Food Lab plans to roll out courses designed to help K-12 teachers and healthcare professionals teach food and nutrition. “We are co-located with the Marine Sciences lab at Stony Brook Southampton,” says Halweil, “so we are also talking about how we craft a food system on land that protects our food at sea. If Food Lab can help advance these discussions and make our food supply future-friendly, everyone on the East End will benefit.”

Tickets are $259 for the three-day conference; $150 for early birds through May 15; $75 for students and seniors. For more information or to inquire about sponsorship opportunities, please email Kathleen Russo.

About the video

“We’ve just completed a new season of Avec Eric with Eric Ripert. It is the first non-PBS TV directing I’ve done in decades. Here is a link to a two-minute sizzle created for Squarespace from the series. It seems to be running in every taxi cab in NYC!”
— Geoffrey Drummond, executive director, the Food Lab at Stony Brook Southampton

Follow the Food Lab on Twitter, @foodlabsh.

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