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Let the madness begin!  Where do you find 56,000 of your closest friends in the organic and natural product, product space, including product purveyors, consumers/users, and service providers?  Why EXPO WEST, of course!  Where, as their wonderful, yet unprotected, tagline states, “Doing Business Just Comes NATURALLY.”  According to the EXPO WEST website, it is the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products trade show.  Wow!

Though the trade show floor doesn’t open till tomorrow, there were plenty of things to do today.  First, I attended the 14th Annual (my 1st) OFRF (Organic Farming Research Foundation) Think Spring! luncheon, which I came across in the event program and thought sounded good.  It was!  The food was provided by local, organic farmers and prepared by 6 chefs from across the country.  I also learned about OFRF, an advocacy organization engaged in grant-making, policy, education and networking initiatives for organic farmers.  Phillipe Cousteau gave an impassioned keynote presentation about the interconnectivity between organic food, clean water and the health of our planet.

After lunch, I attended the Responsible Packaging Forum — FTC Environmental Marketing Guidelines and Responsible Packaging Principles, which was hosted by Tom Wright from Sustainable Bizness Practices.  This workshop included presentations from Melissa Schweisguth from the Food Trade Leadership Sustainability Organization, Chad Smith from Earthbound Farms, and Tom Newitt from Nature’s Path, each of whom echoed the sentiment of my August 23, 2010 posting — avoid generalized “green” claims and be sure all of your marketing claims are clear and easily substantiated.  After the forum, the presenters were to hand out Responsible Packaging Awards.  I left before this happened to head over to the Fresh Ideas Marketplace.

I headed over to check on my friend & EXPO WEST roomie, Marcia Blackwell, who was distributing organic gelato at the Blackwell’s Organic booth.  I saw lots of folks happily enjoying mango gelato, so I think Blackwell’s generated a good buzz (not the kind referenced in this Monday’s post, but the hype type) with its presence.  I got to taste yummy fair trade certified chocolates, sweeteners, and rice, as well as a couple certified organic wines.  I especially enjoyed the zinfandel from Frey vineyards, which claims to be America’s first organic winery.  The folks at Frey were encouraging people to sign a petition to keep sulfites out of organic wines.  You can take action on this issue on-line HERE.

While at the Fresh Ideas Marketplace I saw lots of friends whom I wasn’t expecting to see.  First I saw a slew of SVNers (members of Social Venture Network).  There was Raphael Bemporad from BBMG, a brand innovation studio that plays at the intersection of branding, sustainability, technology and social purpose, who appeared to be interviewing Carol Levine from Lotus Foods.  Then I saw Michael Martin from Effect Partners, helps build brands by using them as a platform for positive social change and Janie Hoffman from Mama Chia.  While it was great to see so many friendly, familiar faces, I was most excited to see my friend, Todd Troha from Effect Partners, whose company and conversation I always enjoy.

The highlight of Day 1 was meeting Lauren Bell from Wild Sage Foods.  Lauren came up to me at lunch to let me know she follows this blog.  Whoo hooo!  A real human being is following my blog!!!  Sometimes I ponder whether anyone out there is reading these posts, so it’s wonderful to know that Lauren is.  Thank you, Lauren, both for reading and for letting me know!

Day 1 was great.  I look forward to seeing what the next 3 days will bring.

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