There’s a $62 billion industry whose dirt-encrusted hands, good-intentioned heart and green-tinted soul reside in Boulder. Naturally Boulder Days 2008, which runs through October 30 at the St. Julien Hotel and Spa in Boulder, helps put a face to this growing movement.
Naturally Boulder Days 2008 is a two-day conference focusing on entrepreneurs in the natural and organic food industry. The attendees range from small business owners to consultants to investment bankers looking for clients. Everyone is networking, and there’s a collective push coming from the keynotes speakers, attendees and creators of the event for social and environmental responsibility.
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Today, the first day of the confab, began with a biodiesel bus trip to the “smart grid” home of Bud Peterson, the chancellor of the University of Colorado. If you have a couple grand lying around (and who doesn’t?), you can retrofit your home as he did, with solar panels and internet-adjustable thermostats. We all then got a tour of Udi’s bakery in Louisville, as well as Seth Ellis Chocolatier in Boulder. Both are burgeoning local companies pushing high-quality, environmentally conscious products. Perhaps more important, those products are products. Udi’s bread has that shattering, crispy crust with a slightly sour, slightly chewy center of great bread. The chocolate at Seth Ellis is organic and mind-numbingly tasty. It’s the best chocolate I’ve ever had; I want to take a bath in its melted form. I want it in my coffee at night and with my cereal for breakfast.
After the tours, we returned to the hotel for a cocktail party with hors d'oeuvres and organic wine presented by Organic Vintners. There was also a fascinating panel discussion about the state of entrepreneurship, specifically regarding the competitive natural food world, with Barney Feinblum, chairman of Organic Vintners, and Justin Gold, founder of Justin’s Nut Butter. Feinblum is a seasoned veteran of natural foods, Gold a relative newcomer who started his company in 2002.
According to its website, Naturally Boulder “was established in 2005 by the city of Boulder and the Boulder Economic Council to provide support to help grow area natural and organic products businesses.” The Fresh Ideas Group is helping to organize and promote the event this year.
The first day of Naturally Boulder Days brought an impressive display of how an industry has grown up, in this state. Day two will bring more breakout sessions and speeches, culminating with the idea orgy known as the Pitch Slam. And I’ll be there for the action – naturally. – Tyler Nemkov