My team and I are so excited to bring Natural Products Expo East back (home) to Baltimore Sept. 21 to 24. The city has matured ever so slightly since we last held Expo East there in 2008, but Baltimore still has the charming familiarity that the East Coast natural products community craves, and it remains the perfect place for buyers, sellers and policy influencers to gather.

I’m enthused about the many programs and opportunities that we hope will make your 2011 show experience the best it can be. For example, our Hosted Buyer Program includes participants from all product categories and channels, with a focus on Eastern U.S. regions. We’ve also teamed with the U.S. Department of Commerce to create an International Buyer Program, which has garnered interest from businesses in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Tunisia and Croatia—all of which will bring buyer delegations to Expo East. This program complements our partnership with Nuremberg Messe to host BioFach America, which showcases organic products from around the globe, as part of our organic pavilion.

We encourage exhibitors and buyers alike to participate in a number of incentive programs to save cash, push green practices and promote buying across the show floor. Travel Green, Save Green refunds buyers for utilizing mass and public transportation into and around Baltimore. The 25% Club highlights exhibitors who offer discounts of 25 percent or more on show-floor purchases, and the Green Exhibitor icon denotes those who employ several green and sustainable practices.

I am perhaps most thrilled about Expo East’s partnerships with a number of nonprofit organizations to celebrate community through dancing, music, food and philanthropy. If you’re in town Wednesday, Sept. 21, check out the Organic Trade Association Annual Dinner and Dance at the Maryland Science Center overlooking the harbor. Thursday, Sept. 22, features An Evening with eTown—a live taping of the acclaimed radio show, starring musical guest Moby—at the historic Hippodrome Theatre. On Friday, Sept. 23, hit up Celebrating Family Farmers with Farm Aid, a farm-to-table dinner and live music event at Pratt Street Ale House.

We look forward to spending time with you for a few days in Baltimore and hopefully influencing your business for years to come!

Erica Stone is show director for Natural Products Expo East