Wait! Do you really need to start a food hub?
Is starting a food hub the right strategy for strengthening your local food system? Does operating a bricks-and-mortar facility provide the best return on your investment? Can value chain coordination realize the same end to these needs? These are the issues that our food hubs panelists will address, and the theme of the questions that they’ll workshop with audience members. The panel will be moderated by Jim Barham, Agricultural Economist at the USDA, and will include a frank discussion of the failures and challenges faced by each of these food hubs. The reasons for each panelist’s continued success (be it perseverance, lucky breaks, wherewithal, or all three) will also be highlighted, including their provision of value chain services for their producer and market partners.
Jim Barham, USDA Rural Development; Benjamin Bartley, La Montanita; Dan Hobbs, Co-op development specialist; Jillian Dy, Deputy Director of The Common Market Mid-Atlantic
Farmers’ perspectives on food hubs and value chains
Food hubs have grown in number and matured over the last decade as a way to aggregate, process and deliver regional food from small and medium-sized farms. Little is known, however, about what farmers’ experiences are as suppliers to these food hubs. This panel will explore this by sharing findings from a national USDA AFRI study that surveyed farmers nationwide about the perceived benefits and challenges they experienced participating in a food hub, their degree of dependence on the food hub and their views on the impacts of food hubs and value chains on the viability of their farms and farming practices. We will also hear directly from farmers and a food hub who will share their own experiences as suppliers (farmers) and buyer (food hub). The food hub will describe what they are doing or might do in the future to support their farmer suppliers.
Gail Feenstra, Deputy Director at the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (SAREP), UC Davis; Benjamin Bartley, La Montanita
Building Collaborative Networks for Food System Resilience
Learn about the Michigan GroupGAP Network and the Michigan Food Safety Workgroup, a highly collaborative & interagency network that has created statewide, on farm food safety training alternatives that are customizable to meet the diverse needs of historically underserved and beginning farmers in Michigan. The objective of this group is to create a replicable framework to increase market access for beginning and historically underserved farmers by providing them with training alternatives that are necessary for compliance with buyer requirements at food hubs and the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Rule. Portions of this session will be delivered in Spanish to model the lessons learned in tailoring our programing to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking farmers in Michigan. Written or audio translation of this portion of the session will be provided no those who do not speak Spanish.
Jen Silveri, Filiberto Villa Gomez, Michigan Farming and Food Systems; Phil Britton, Michigan Group GAP; Filiberto Villa Gomez, Director, MIFFS Spanish Speaking Farmer Network; Evan Smith, Alden Services, Director
Getting Financially Naked
Sharing real business numbers makes us all nervous. We will share 4 real sets of financials from local food hubs. We’ll talk about what it means to really share and grow from sharing our numbers with a non-competing group of peers. Let’s discuss how building multiple groups of 20 non-competing Food Hubs and sharing everything in a structured format will enable our local supply chains to grow faster and stronger and will help our organizational managers to build and grow their operational and financial acumen.
Ted LeBow, Kitchen Table Consultants; Rebecca Frimmer, Kitchen Table Consultants
Partnering to Increase Farm Viability
Food hubs are only as strong as their farmer suppliers. Many food hubs missions include service to farmers who are at risk because of who they are or what they grow. But as businesses, food hubs have significant limitations in their ability to provide services that do not directly add to their bottom line. Farm service organizations provide assistance, but often lack the consistent interaction with producers that food hubs can provide. What is their responsibility and opportunity to provide technical assistance and address longer-term viability issues? This session will provide a discussion of the opportunities for and challenges of partnerships between farm services organizations and food hubs to serve farmers at risk. The group discussion will result in potential partnerships to test resources and provide support for strengthening assistance for farmers based in the concrete financial and time limitations of food hubs.
Scott Marlow, Rural Advancement Foundation International USA; Susie Marshall, Grow North Texas; Joe Schroeder, Farm Aid; Sandi Kronick, Eastern Carolina Organics