Just because a producer works at a smaller operation doesn’t mean he or she can’t sell on a bigger scale. And the size of a farm shouldn’t limit a producer’s ability to feed local foods to local people. But how can such an operation connect the dots to successfully market its products?
One answer lies in a new kind of business model known as food hubs, which are emerging as critical pillars for building stronger regional and local food systems. A food hub centralizes the business management structure to facilitate the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products. Read more »
As I talk to farmers across the country, regardless of what they produce or where, they all share one common challenge: how to best move product from the farm to the marketplace. This is especially crucial for small and midsize farmers who may not have enough capital to own their own trucks, their own refrigeration units, or their own warehouse space. They might not have the resources to develop sophisticated distribution routes, build effective marketing campaigns or network with regional buyers and customers.
Without infrastructure, logistical and marketing support, these producers might be growing the sweetest strawberries or raising the most tender beef, but they lack the infrastructure support to get their exceptional products to your table. Read more »
On March 3rd, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan gave an informative speech about USDA’s ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative to a packed crowd of Portland State University (PSU) students and faculty. As both a PSU graduate student of Public Administration and a new employee with USDA Rural Development in Oregon, I was impressed by USDA’s active role in creating solutions to some of our most pressing national and global issues. Read more »
Shed Two at Detroit’s Eastern Market
Look up Wayne County, Michigan, home to Detroit, in USDA’s Food Environment Atlas and it is obvious that local residents have some significant challenges in accessing healthful food. An alarmingly high number of households that lack a car in Wayne County are located further than one mile from the closest grocery store, meaning that many families struggle to get access to fresh and healthy food. Read more »
One afternoon in the fall of 2003, 36 consumers and several volunteers gathered in the basement of an Oklahoma City church to sort and purchase products from twenty local producers. They generated $3,500 in sales, and the opening day of the Oklahoma Food Coop (OFC) was determined to have been a great success.
Today, seven years later, OFC has over 3,000 members and processes up to 700 orders monthly. The participating producers – all two hundred of them – generate about $70,000 in monthly sales from 4,000 locally produced products. The organization manages storage space, a warehouse and owns several trucks. It has transformed from a small buying club to a formal food hub. Read more »
A core component of any food hub is making sure that products can get from the farm to the table, a complex task involving perishable goods, cold storage, varying scales of supply and demand, and, of course, the occasional flat tire.
A number of food hubs have taken this challenge on utilizing diverse approaches, including a particularly impressive non-profit organization in Charlottesville, Virginia: Local Food Hub. Directed by the entrepreneurial Kate Collier and Marisa Vrooman, it is addressing three major issues in the local food system: distribution, supply and access. Read more »