Greetings from the Washtenaw Food Hub! We have a couple new things to share with you:
We are exploring a possible Farm and Garden Exchange at the WFH
Stephanie Willette and Georgia Richardson say it best:
We are exploring the possibility of a new business, Farm and Garden Exchange, dedicated to providing agricultural products that fulfill one or more of the following criteria: high quality, locally made, and produced with organic practices, to meet the needs of the farming and home gardening community in Washtenaw County and SE Michigan. We have some current products available at the Food Hub and are anticipating ordering more in the future. We would like feedback from farmers and gardeners in the area on what products you would like to see featured (perhaps something difficult to get, or expensive to ship). Also, we would like to hear from any local suppliers that are interested in sourcing from this location to be future partners. Please contact Stephanie and Georgia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local Food Summit was a Success:
Washtenaw Food Hub planning team members played an active role in preparing for and participating in the Local Food Summit on February 22. WFH folks helped with food sourcing and meal preparation for the day; we had a table at the Summit to spread the word about the WFH; and a few of us presented in breakout sessions about local food distribution and food hubs.
In the last afternoon session, 18 people joined us for a great conversation about wholesale distribution in Michigan. There were producers, distributors, wholesale buyers, institutional buyers, and “eaters” present. We discussed what is going well in terms of wholesale distribution; we discussed places for improvement; we also came up with some recommendations that would make wholesale distribution a bit easier in our region.
First, the good things: participants agreed that Michigan benefits from a great growing climate, resulting in a variety of crops and an impressive diversity of producers. Additionally, the large number of farmers markets in our region presents opportunities for retail. The good news is that there seems to be a common mindset and growing demand for local, sustainable food products. With tools like the internet at our disposal, relationship building and networking across the value chain is becoming easier, and participants agreed we should be using that to our advantage as we continue to build our regional food system.
Of course, we can’t talk about wholesale distribution without talking about some frustrating aspects for producers and buyers alike. Institutional buyers and producers alike stated that cold calls to match producers and buyers are a lot of work. There are dedicated folks who do this anyway, but it takes an incredibly discerning person to keep up with this. Producers noted that there is a great deal of red tape to work through (mostly related to safety regulations) when it comes to selling to institutions. And with a lack of processing facilities and distribution channels for small producers in our region, producers find difficulty accessing larger markets. Finally, the group noted that existing retail markets typically do not have storage facilities for local food products, meaning that timing and logistics are all the more important when distributing local food products.
The group came up with some ideas that would make wholesale distribution easier in our region. We would share them with you in this post, but we’ve got something exciting to tell you in the next blog post along with the group’s suggestions for improvement. Without giving too much away, we’ll say this: It turns out that, while the group had great suggestions, they are not new, at least historically speaking!
Keep your eyes open for the next blog post, when we will reveal the group’s suggestions for improvement and unearth a bit of history on the subject of local food distribution.
the WFH team