Disaster Preparedness • Economic Recovery • Resilience

What’s Cooking? Niche Food Businesses, That’s What!

Date: Thursday, July 27 
Time: 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm ET

Niche foods are trending. Why? Because American palates are becoming more adventurous and demanding, leading to new business opportunities for farmers, gardeners, home cooks, bakers and others. Yet budding niche food entrepreneurs need help figuring out how to turn their hobbies into businesses. Helping them start and grow a profitable business operation enables them to serve the local community, export beyond the region, provide jobs, generate wealth and increase the overall quality of life. Discover how your community can leverage all the benefits that come along with niche foods.

Again a plateful of information about:

• How to assess your community’s potential to support a food industry cluster
• Essential elements of programs geared toward supporting food entrepreneurs
• How to other communities’ successes can inform your own strategies



Patty Cantrell
Regional Food Solutions LLC

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. She recently joined the West Central Missouri Community Action Agency in order to build its new nine-county rural community development corporation.

Earlier in her career, Patty spent 12 years developing regional food economy programs in Michigan, including the 10-county northwest Michigan Taste the Local Difference and Food and Farming Network initiatives. She served on the Michigan Food Policy Council and chaired the Michigan Good Food Charter infrastructure task force. Patty worked on national policy and communications initiatives in 2007-2009 as a Kellogg Food and Society Fellow.

Patty is trained in the WealthWorks value chain approach to community economic development and a co-author of the seminal USDA publication Food Value Chains: Creating Shared Value to Enhance Marketing Success. In 2012, Patty brought her food system insights and expertise to the TEDx Manhattan stage. Other past work includes producing the Good Food Economy Digest with the Wallace Center at Winrock International, home of the National Good Food Network, and developing the guidebook Food Innovation Districts: An Economic Gardening Tool with university and nonprofit partners. It won a 2013 Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations.

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. Her background includes a Fulbright Scholarship to study economic systems in Europe, and newspaper and magazine work as a business journalist.


Tera Johnson
Food Finance Institute, University of Wisconsin Extension

Tera Johnson is a serial entrepreneur whose mission is to create the next generation of regenerative food and farming businesses. The founder of teraswhey?, Tera participated in the full arc of creating to selling a successful investor-financed company. Now the founder of the Food Finance Institute “FFI” at the University of Wisconsin Extension, Tera is a frequent speaker, teacher, and financial consultant to sustainable food and farming businesses, social venture funds, and investors. FFI recently launched the first component of its learning platform, a podcast series called Edible-Alpha? that features Tera interviewing a wide range of food entrepreneurs, funders, and technical assistance providers on how to make money in food. FFI also trains technical assistance providers to work with food businesses to build financially viable enterprises using financial and operational business model metrics, market research data, and best practices in financial management and leadership.

Tera currently serves as the Board President of Slow Money WI and on other corporate boards. In 2014, Madison Magazine recognized her on their M-List of leading Innovators in the city. Her business was named the 2010 Innovator of the Year by WEDC. She received the Dairy Business Innovation Center’s Innovation Zone Award in 2010 and the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and the WEN network named her company a Wisconsin Company to Watch. Her factory received the 2009 gold medal in the Green Building category from the Associated Builders and Contractors of WI.