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Three kinds of Boston food events

Rachel Greenberger

If you’ve been on the lookout for food events around Boston, you may have noticed that the pool of options just exploded. Everywhere you turn, it seems, there is a food event. This Examiner used to write regular food-event line-ups and troll the Internet and BFS (listserv) and COMFOOD (listserv) for content. Now, I can barely keep up!

It may be helpful to segment the wide array of options into three categories. Each is inherently valuable and, this Examiner would argue, “required coursework” for a robust food-system education. Which you choose, and when, simply depends on your current objective.

Since food entrepreneurship is foremost in this Examiner’s mind, I’ll start with what I know best…

  1. You-centric events, as the designation may make clear, put you, the attendee, in the middle. Near-term examples include tonight’s Networking for Food Entrepreneurs in Harvard Square. The wonderful Kim Courtney leads this series (when she’s not busy opening her new restaurant!) This Saturday’s Food Loft Internship Fair, next week’s Farm Share Fair and the weekly Community Table Boston are three more.

Bottom line: the value here lies in your active participation and interaction.

  1. Data-centric events focus almost entirely on content – usually expert or practitioner perspective on whatever the central topic may be. Boston is thick with these sorts of events, given our rich university and healthcare sectors. Next week’s Equal Exchange Banana Conference and Harvard Law School’s “The Meat We Eat” next month are two examples of data-centric programming. Certainly, Q&A and networking are common elements in data-centric programming, but they are not non-negotiables. “The show will go on” even if you don’t utter a peep. Online events naturally lend themselves to being data-centric: TEDxManhattan’s live-stream and “National Good Food Network” webinars, for two.

Bottom line: the value here lies in absorbing expertise and perspective from featured speakers.

  1. Blended events are, straightfowardly, a blend of the above two forms. This Thursday’s Why Developing a Brand is Key for Your Start-Up is one. It has an active networking component (advertised, in this case, as Free Beer) and a presentation component. Other examples include the regular Venture Café at Cambridge Innovation Center (sometimes on food) and the Slow Money Boston Entrepreneur Showcase, the next installment of which is April 29.

Bottom line: the value here lies in a combination of your active and audience roles.

Again, each type offers a pathway in to getting your food education in and around Boston. But if this Examiner’s hunch proves true, the local food event calendar is only going to get more crowded.

Faced with an “all you can eat” assortment, you may find that knowing clearly what you want out of a particular event before choosing to attend can be helpful.

Wanna talk about it? Tweet me at @businessforfood

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