New ‘Farm Tank’ food conference finds home in Sacramento

Visitors explore a tent full of produce during the Farm to Fork festival on Capitol Mall in Sacramento on Sept. 28, 2013.
Visitors explore a tent full of produce during the Farm to Fork festival on Capitol Mall in Sacramento on Sept. 28, 2013.

The Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau announced this week a new food-and-farming conference that’s expected to bring even more national attention to the local region being branded as “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital.”

Called Farm Tank, the conference is scheduled for Sept. 22-23, and will be part of Sacramento’s annual farm-to-fork celebration. The city is partnering with Food Tank, a food-focused nonprofit, to produce a conference featuring 70 experts in food and agriculture to showcase California solutions and perspectives on issues confronting the entire country.

Registration is now open, and more specifics on speakers are expected in the weeks ahead. General admission for the conference, to be held at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento, is $499, with other pricing options available. For its first year, the conference is expected to attract 400 to 600 attendees.

The conference is envisioned as an annual event intended to further solidify Sacramento’s farm-to-fork standing. Last year, the city hosted the inaugural California Craft Beer Summit, which has since become an annual event projected to rival the biggest beer festivals in the nation. Sacramento has for years hosted the annual Unified Wine & Grape Symposium that attracts industry personnel from throughout California.

Nicole Rogers, director of the farm-to-fork program at the Convention & Visitors Bureau, said topics at the conference will include environmental conservation, breeding, sustainable seafood, food health and nutrition.

Rogers pitched Food Tank, which hosts an East Coast conference series, on the idea of a West Coast conference.

“I thought we had a unique opportunity to tell our story,” Rogers said. “We are able to show off what I think is our greatest strength – our food and agriculture – from such a smart place. We get to have a really informed dialogue in front of a lot of people who don’t think about Sacramento and California in this way.”

On its website, Food Tank describes its mission as “focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters. We spotlight environmentally, socially and economically sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity and poverty and create networks of people, organizations and content to push for food system change.”

The conference’s first day is designed to be what Rogers dubbed the “learn day” – detailed panel discussions and lectures on a variety of food issues; the second day will feature chartered field trips to various locations. One field trip, for example, focuses on urban agriculture, with a chartered bus visiting local farms to highlight challenges they’ve faced and solutions they’ve found.

“We’ll have multiple examples of how we are addressing these particular issues,” Rogers said. “We get to show real examples and give real references.”

She added that the conference can position Sacramento as a resource for food and agricultural expertise that can benefit others locally, regionally and nationally.

“What good is being great at something if we don’t share it?” she said.

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob