What are food hubs? Food hubs work directly with farmers to assist in the marketing and distribution of their products, making it easier for local businesses and communities to access fresh local food. Food hubs can do lots of things, but the first things that they focus on is a coordinating the marketing and distribution of fresh local produce. They become the pieces so that farmers can jointly market to restaurants, food services, wholesale customers and institutions, or to households and businesses.
You will find that food hubs are thriving today, filling a long needed gap in the food distribution puzzle that eluded many. Food hubs can be small volunteer run groups to large food distribution businesses which provide additional services such as training and education along with the distribution. Why are they needed and why does it help the farmers?
Several local farm markets are run only once a month during the growing season, the farmers have produce continually during the harvest season. They are forced to either travel well outside of their normal comfort zone and market area to attract potential sales. Secondly many farmers love what they do, but if they could eliminate any particular part of the job, it would be the marketing and distribution of their fruits of labor. With a food hub, they join with other farmers in the area to maximize their efforts in attracting potential sales while eliminating the drudgery of marketing and distribution.
Food hubs are part of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer and Know Your Food initiative. In the past when every family was involved in some form of farming endeavor, there was no need for such a service. But now the food hub fulfills a vital role, joining farmers in regional areas to tackle similar problems and maximize value to themselves and ultimately to the consumer. This allows them to share services instead of competing for valuable resources.
Food hubs also provides potential buyers the chance to provide valuable information to the growers in the form of want lists and needs, giving the growers a much better chance of success instead of guessing what the end consumer might want. This also allow the buyer to have the product that his customers want, maximizing his efforts and insuring repeat business not only for himself, but also for the grower.
While Ohio has several existing food hubs, the closest to the Lima area would be the Miami Valley Farm to Chef located in Dayton Ohio, you can find additional information about their services at http://www.mvfarmtochef.com/. If you would like to open your own food hub, you can find more information at the USDA website www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer along with comprehensive list of funding programs available to support local and regional food systems development.
With personal and professional regard - Vince