Leaders in the local food and food hub sector will soon converge on Albuquerque for the 2018 National Good Food Network (NGFN) Conference, America’s foremost food hub-focused conference, March 27-30.
“The Wallace Center has been a leader in promoting and expanding food hubs,” says John Fisk, Director of the Wallace Center. “We do research on this sector so that we understand what’s working and what’s not working. Then we can communicate the current needs, opportunities and innovations that are critical for the creation of a food system that’s better for people, planet and regional economies.”
Food hubs aggregate, market and distribute product from local and regional producers to supply wholesale, retail and institutional demand. By banding together through a food hub, farmers can meet their buyers’ quantity and quality needs without the expense of managing large-scale operations individually, leading to better margins on their products.
This year, programming will emphasize not just food hubs, but the broader food systems community: businesses and organizations that participate in the value chains of regional food systems.
“The Wallace Center’s role goes far beyond just having a conference. They’re the visionaries picking the topics that will be talked about, pushing the participants in the food hub and local food movement to get better at what they’re doing,” says Gary Matteson, Farm Credit Council. “The Wallace Center has the capability to deliver business-mindedness into the whole local food arena. That’s absolutely essential for it to be sustainable in the long run.”
Professionals, businesses and organizations throughout the value chain will gather to network and learn with industry innovators. Participants will explore the future of food systems, tour local cooperatives, learn field-tested strategies through interactive sessions and trainings, and hear from national leaders, such as Greg Steltenpohl, founder of Odwalla Inc. and Califia Farms; Michael Rozyne, founder of Equal Exchange and Red Tomato; and Don Bustos, a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award Winner who has committed his life to supporting underserved and minority farming communities.
Local field visits accentuate conference programming by showcasing local partners and the Wallace Center’s work on the ground. This year, participants will visit five local organizations in and around Albuquerque, including La Montanita Cooperative. Through an innovative collaboration between USDA and the Wallace Center, La Montanita is working on securing its GroupGAP certification.
For small and mid-sized operations like La Montanita, even those that already adhere to stringent safety standards, obtaining the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certifications required by markets can be cost-prohibitive. The GroupGAP Pilot Program helps smaller farmers and producers to organize collectively (within a food hub, for example) to create food safety systems and share costs to obtain certification. This empowers America’s small and mid-sized farmers to access wholesale markets, opening new doors and creating fresh growth opportunities.
Work like the GroupGAP program is just one example of the Wallace Center’s proven leadership in food systems innovation. The NGFN Conference is a platform through which the Wallace Center and its partners share evidence-based strategies and cutting-edge information from the field.
“Wallace has the unique ability, because of the relationships they’ve developed, to bring in experts on many different topics, from human resources, to financial analysis and forecasting, to procurement and the best systems for distribution,” says Erin Pirro, Farm Credit East. “Bringing all that knowledge together in one place at the conference really makes a tremendous resource for anyone involved in the food hub industry.”
Learn more about the 2018 National Good Food Network Conference and register here: https://winrock.org/ms/national-good-food-network-conference/