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Announcing Keynote Speaker for the First Coast Specialty Crop Conference


By Lana Nasser

Friday, July 17, 2015

The First Coast Specialty Crop Conference Planning team is pleased to announce Patty Cantrell as the conference keynote speaker. Cantrell has more than 20 years of work focusing on the community economic development power that comes from supporting family-scale, local farms in their work to produce tasty, healthy food for people and the planet.


Patty Cantrell

When asked to share her observations on local food systems, Cantrell explained that new supply chains are forming to bring healthier, fresh food to market. They involve businesses and many others with different interests and values. Some may care about the environment, others about farmers, others about human health, and so on. This creates a values-based food supply chain, or value chain.

“We are very excited to have Patty. She was an excellent choice from the planning team. She will be able to offer great insights and inspiration to our farmers in Northeast Florida,” said Danielle Treadwell, Associate Professor in Horticultural Sciences at the University of Florida.

You may recognize Patty Cantrell from her TedXManhattan talk in 2012, “New Roads to New Markets,” in which she spoke in depth about farm business options for local and regional food as well as public policy. Cantrell is also recognized for her program Regional Food Solutions, where her passion for regional food system development is put into action.

Developing healthy food systems “is challenging but very transformative and we have to be very honest about it,” Cantrell said. “Although there is not a lot of margin in this business, there is a lot of innovation happening because people from all corners are doing this because they want to,” Cantrell said.

One of the most important messages Cantrell hopes conference attendees walk away with is the notion that they are part of something larger than a singular individual or farm and each person has the power to re-purpose ideas into action. The main focus not only surrounds the farms, but the consumers and diverse interests as well, according to Cantrell.

“Entrepreneurs pursuing these opportunities also provide real benefit right in their community with new products and services ,” Cantrell said, “it’s great..”

The First Coast Specialty Crop Conference in Jacksonville, Florida, will take place on August 14 & 15.

Check out the Conference Program, all speakers and sessions, and register online at

Early Bird registration is $45 if you register on or before August 2. Registration is $55 after this date. Your registration includes refreshments, lunch, and educational materials.

For more information about the conference, contact Jose Perez at 352-294-1692 or

More about Patty Cantrell

Patty Cantrell researches, writes, and speaks nationally about local food as community economic development. She also offers strategic communications, facilitation and project development through her business Regional Food Solutions LLC. Cantrell spent 12 years developing and leading regional food initiatives in Michigan, including the 10-county northwest Michigan Taste the Local Difference and Food and Farming Network initiatives. She recently returned to live and work in her home territory of the Missouri Ozarks. Current writing includes Good Food Economy Digest blogs for the Wallace Center at Winrock International, home of the National Good Food Network. Other recent work includes Food Innovation Districts: An Economic Gardening Tool, which won a 2013 Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations, and Food Hubs: Solving Local, a report for the Wallace Center on wholesale regional food marketing. In 2012 Patty brought her food system insights and expertise to the TEDx Manhattan stage. She also devoted significant time to food and farm policy outreach in 2007-2009 as a Kellogg Food and Society Fellow. Her background includes newspaper and magazine work as a business journalist. She holds a masters degree in business administration from Drury University and bachelors’ degrees in economics and political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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