SMIF launches new Peer Network to boost local foods businesses

OWATONNA, Minn., January 19, 2016 – Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) is pleased to announce the launch of a new Peer Network for the region’s food sector businesses. The Peer Network, intended to be a peer-to-peer resource network, is another extension of SMIF’s work to strengthen the local foods sector in its 20-county region. It is an outgrowth of SMIF’s 2015 Entrepreneurial Bridge event, which brought together over 100 regional business leaders and fostered many new connections between leading area businesses.

Outreach surveys indicate individuals in the food industry desire a resource which encourages mentorship and trusted conversation. Many of the same principles that are applied to other businesses can be beneficial to growers, retailers and producers in the food industry. The goal of this Peer Network is to build a trusting, learning community where group members can learn about best practices from each other as well as outside experts.

Meetings will be held monthly beginning in January at SMIF in Owatonna. The session topics will be selected by the facilitator and participants. Twelve businesses will participate in this pilot Peer Network, most of which attended the recent SMIF-sponsored Feast! Local Foods Marketplace & Tradeshow. The Peer Network will be facilitated by Greg Thomas, a Business Growth Advisor with Enterprise Minnesota.

“The demand for local foods in our region is increasing,” said SMIF Vice President of Economic Development Pam Bishop. “We see growth in the local foods sector as a great economic development opportunity for our region. However, for businesses to step up and meet this demand, they need a range of business support. This peer network is one tool to help strengthen these local foods enterprises and our regional economy as a whole”

The first Peer Network meeting will be held tomorrow, January 20 at SMIF’s offices. The following businesses will be partaking: Blue Earth Valley Trading Co., Mankato; Carlson Roasting Co., Houston; Curly Girlz Candy, Owatonna; Flower Valley Vineyard, Red Wing; Grandma's Gourmets, Albert Lea; Hidden Stream Farm, Elgin; Lucky's Popcorn Dressing, North Mankato; Mama Stoen's, Owatonna; Regal’s Catering, Rochester; Salsa Del Diablo, Rochester; Squash Blossom Farm, Oronoco; and The Bee Shed, Oronoco.

If you have any questions regarding SMIF’s business or local foods initiatives, please contact Pam Bishop at or 507-455-3215.

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