IF YOU ARE A GROWER: CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY
Interested in a Food Hub, or a food processing facility ? Many consumers are – they want access to fresh, local, nutritious, healthy food!
Many of today’s industrial agriculture practices damage our soil, air, water, and ecosystems. Linked to this industrialized food system there are very challenging social and economic issues that impact community sustainability, such as obesity, ill health, increased rates of cancer, petroleum based (and green house gas emitting) long distance hauling of goods, and the competitive edge in subsidies and quantity sales available to the conventional large-scale (industrialized) farmers.
To address these issues, growing attention is being given to building wholesale and direct marketing channels for farmers, and customer access for local food grown on small to medium sized farms promoting environmentally sustainable production practices. The channels that move the local produce to vendors are called Values-Based-Supply-Chains (VBSCs), in other words a business with certain values that aggregates food and fiber products, and distributes them to retailers, wholesalers, or to consumers. Another name for a VBSC is a food hub. The main reason to build a healthy foods value chain is to move more organic and sustainably produced farm products into larger markets. Yet, once created and functioning, food hubs create new jobs, foster business development, bring new healthy food products to local markets and attract younger farmers to a profession that will provide a healthy, satisfying and lucrative future.
In 2013 the National Good Food Network conducted a survey that showed food hubs across the USA are working to improve distribution of local food, and that 62% of these began operating within the last 5 years. Thirty-one percent (31%) of the hubs posted annual revenue of $1 million or more and most were doing so with little to no grant assistance (includes non-profits). There are many reasons for these new initiatives, such as: rising consumer demand for local food coming from smaller scale agriculture operations, challenges to access locally produced food, mid-sized producers under utilize their production capacity, producers lack sufficient markets to move enough product, no integrated system to supply demand exists, moving local food from small producers to large food service institutions is costly and inefficient, the current system favors more large wholesalers that purchase large quantities of product from a small number of growers to keep transaction costs low and ensure consistent product, and buying produce from a large number of small-scale producers can be a time-consuming administrative burden for buyers.
With all of these challenges and without appropriately scaled aggregation and distribution infrastructure, how does one approach scaling up local food systems so that our communities benefit by nutritious and fresh foods, and producers (and rural families on the farms) benefit financially by greater profits?
According to several successful Food Hub start-ups, the process begins by doing a “Community Food Assessment”; that is, creating a dialogue with the community of producers and potential markets to answer specific questions about the market and growers. Fox Haven is launching a Community Food Assessment to assess the drivers and impediments to more local food production, aggregation, distribution and consumption.
Please read the letter we sent to 200+ farmers in Washington, Carroll and Frederick Counties, and, if you are a food producer, take the survey. Our funds are limited so we chose to reach out to farms that sell local and or are organic, but we welcome others!
On March 18th we held a gathering in Fox Haven’s Dairy Parlor to present the survey results and discuss needs for a food aggregation/distribution and marketing center in our part of the world, here are the minutes from that meeting.. The following are presentations from the March 18th meeting:
- Food Assessment Survey Results
- Growing Market Opportunity for Maryland Agriculture
- Co Packing Plant and Food Hub
- Hospitals for a Healthy Environment