June Breakfast Forum: “Connecting Small Farmers to New Markets Through Food Hubs”

Coming up on Monday, June 3, is the Food and Farming Innovation Network’s Monthly Breakfast. This month’s topic, “Connecting Small Farmers to New Markets Through Food Hubs,” will be presented by Marty and Chad Gerencer of Morse Marketing Connections, LLC.

For information about the event, including RSVP instructions and an overview of the topic, please click Here. Hope to see you there!

FSEP’s May Breakfast Forum: “The Ethics of Local Food”

Paul B. Thompson

Paul B. Thompson

Coming up on Monday, May 6, is the Food and Farming Innovation Network’s Monthly Breakfast, hosted by Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP). This month’s topic is “The Ethics of Local Food” and will be presented by Michigan State University’s Paul B. Thompson.

For information about the event, including RSVP instructions and a biography of this month’s speaker, please click on the above link. Hope to see you there!

We celebrate the arrival of Spring with a few progress updates and a feature on Michigan Agriculture Cooperative models promoting sustainability in our region!

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The final layouts for our storage and processing facilities are complete and bids from contractors are being reviewed as we look forward to begin operations during the upcoming growing season.

Our design for the initial space, partially funded by the MDARD regional food system grant, will consider the diverse needs of the many potential operations who are interested in conducting business at the WFH, and are engaged with efforts which promote and increase the availability and access of locally sourced and sustainably produced foods for all in our region.

The WFH Planning Team is also exploring an investor strategy for those willing to become involved as financial partners and stakeholders in the future of this promising effort. To date, we have had many talented and recognized members of the local food community contribute their vision, expertise and time to this project. Inquiries also include those from grant funded research groups from our nearby University and surrounding Farms, in addition to like minded businesses, individuals and local food Artisans. Thank you all!

IMG_4055In our last blog we mentioned a comment during our workshop at the Local Foods Summit on February 22, that efforts in promoting our local food system could benefit from more Cooperative Associations promoting sustainably minded producers.

In her book “Locavesting” published in 2011, Author Amy Cortese provides some background on the cooperative business model, which currently plays an important role in our local and national economy and food systems;

” Cooperatives, businesses owned by and run for the benefit of their members – were first established in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in the face of disruption brought on by the Industrial Revolution”. As people left farms for employment in the fast-growing cities and mechanization threatened the livelihood of craftsmen, workers were often at the mercy of abusive employers. These marginalized members of society – whether workers, consumers, farmers, or producers-began banding together as a way to protect and promote their mutual interests.”

“Often workers were forced to spend their meager wages at company-owned stores, which overcharged them for basic goods. That’s what led a group of 28 weavers and textile mill workers in Rochdale, England, in 1844 to pool their savings and open their own store, where they could buy staples such as butter, sugar, flour and oatmeal at reasonable prices. The Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society, as they called themselves, is widely considered the first successful co-op,and it’s governing principles, known as the the Rochdale Principles, are at the heart of the worldwide co-op movement today.”

Across our food system landscape, there are as many diverse agricultural cooperative associations as there are reasons for them to exist, including local, regional, national and multinational groups, who are involved with both conventional and sustainable farming. The major players stand out with successful branding and distribution in the common markets; Organic Valley, Sunkist, Land O’ Lakes and here in our State, the Michigan Milk Producers Association and the Michigan Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Association,

MACMA’s first commodity division was the Michigan Processing Apple Growers Division organized in 1961. It was preceded by the Michigan Processing Apple Growers Marketing Cooperative, organized in 1959 to negotiate prices, grades and other terms of trade with buyers of apples for canning and freezing. The new division attracted a substantial membership during the first several months. Faced with a large crop of apples, grower-members held several membership recruitment meetings. The leadership of the new MACMA division signed up over 200 apple growers in the month of August 1961. The members represented a large percentage of the state’s processing apple tonnage.

The key example here, as with any business model, is the leadership that will recognize and facilitate action steps on every level for the advantage of the Cooperative’s stakeholders. This includes, but is not limited to, discussion and enhancement of production techniques and food safety, packaging and labeling requirements and conducting marketing outreach efforts to expand sales opportunities with new end users in the value chain. Possibly these new end users include many of our region’s academic and healthcare food service facilities, which have recently announced commitments and intentions to achieve a higher percentage level of purchasing, for their for food service operations, from local and sustainable sources.

The substantial buying power here would leverage all activities within our local food system, and continues to be promoted by many advocates far and wide, as a key goal in increasing infrastructure across the value chain involving local foods, which will assist in creating fair and available access for all groups via improved efficiency.

Let’s take a look at some of the Agricultural Cooperatives, here in Michigan, that have organized to assist producers in efforts to establish and promote sustainable growing practices, facilitate sales information and transportation logistics. All with the goal of increasing market share.

Michigan Chestnut Growers Association

A cooperative dedicated to the preservation and planting, as well as the cultivation and marketing of this unique food native to our area. Great information on the website above, including recipes and ordering.                                                                                                    The Rogers Reserve is the aggregation and processing center for the chestnut growers and was donated by Ernie and Mabel Rogers to Michigan State University in 1990. The Rogers were a prominent couple in the Jackson community, concerned with natural resources and food production. In 2002, at the bequest of the Rogers, an endowment was established to support the farm.                                                                                                                        Funds have been spent improving the farm and constructing Phase I and II building projects with the MSU Office of Land Management. Phase I, consisting of a steel pole building to house equipment, including a chestnut peeling line, was completed in 2005. Phase II was completed in April 2010 and consists of a wet lab, analytical lab, office and restrooms. The chestnut peeling line was purchased from Italy by the Midwest Nut Producers Council, supported by funding from the USDA Rural Development program. It is the only commercial chestnut peeling line in the western hemisphere.                                                                    Ernie Rogers was very interested in American chestnuts because chestnut blight was killing American chestnuts when he left his native Pennsylvania home and moved to Jackson, MI. When he found professor Dennis Fulbright working on American chestnuts in Michigan, Ernie offered his farm to grow the trees Fulbright was studying. It was on his farm that Ernie watched American chestnuts take root and produced their first crop of nuts. Edible sweet chestnut orchards have sprung up across Michigan. According to the Ag Census of 2007, Michigan has the largest number of growers and the most acreage of any state.

Chestnut tree

Grazing Fields Egg Cooperative in Charlotte, MI. 

This group has set the standard for sustainably produced eggs at a reasonable price point for food service and retail buyers. Here’s their current information;                                      “Most of the farms are in mid and west Michigan, nine in all. All the farms draw a sufficient amount of their income from being part of the egg co-op. Our label claim is that the hens are free range, meaning that they are able to go outside, have at least three square feet inside the coop, and can easily display natural behaviors like dusting feathers and scratching the ground for grit. Because GMO’s are so pervasive, we cannot label the eggs as such. However all of our farmers raise their own feed, surrounded by fields which cross pollinate. Look for Grazing Fields eggs at your local foods retailer or contact by email, orders.grazingfields@gmail.com or call 517-649-8957.                                                   To help pay for ever rising transportation costs, Grazing Fields Co Op partners with other farms for distribution of their goods. Most recently is MOO-ville Creamery, in Nashville Michigan.

Michigan Cheese Makers Cooperative

Born of imagination from the MSU Product Center, this group represents the best of our State’s Artisanal producers. Ordering and availability at retail outlets and Farmers markets is provided on the web site, as well as this brief quote below. Currently ten producer members are involved, representing every area of Michigan and the dairy farmers they source from.                                                                                                                                               “The Michigan Cheese Makers Cooperative is dedicated to the production of artisanal and farmstead cheese. Cheeses made in the “hand” of Michigan are just that – crafted primarily by hand, adhering to the standards of each of our cheese makers’ art.”

Four Seasons Produce Cooperative

The Four Seasons Produce Co Op is a Michigan based farmers organization that collectively markets produce, primarily to institutions year round. They also provide logistical and educational support to their member farmers. The Co Op launched the Spinach Pilot Project to supply spinach to their first institutional buyer, Allegiance Hospital in Jackson. Institutions in Michigan like Allegiance are jumping into the locavore movement, such as universities, and public and charter schools.
So why is this project beneficial when Allegiance could get spinach from a broad line distributor or produce company for $2 a pound? Projects like the Spinach Pilot Project are a win win situation for farmers and institutions. The Co Op guarantees fair prices for farmers, while institutions are able to fulfill their dedication to providing nutritional options for their patients and students. Locally grown produce is picked close to the day of delivery, therefore holding higher nutritional value than conventional produce. What’s unique about the Co Op is that they work to grow food year round. Farmers use hoop houses during cooler months to grow vegetables such as salad greens, spinach, and kale.
By building hoop houses and committing to grow a certain crop, they pool the supply of locally grown produce for institutions, while maintaining fair prices for themselves and their customers.They encourage small farmers to consider joining the Co Op to help meet the demand for locally grown produce.
This is certainly just a sample of Cooperative efforts in our agricultural neighborhood. If you know of a like minded effort, organization or business, we would enjoy hearing about the details. Please send us a message at our website and we will pass on the information!

 

 

 

 

 

 

FSEP’s April Breakfast Forum: “Politics of Right to Farm for Small Urban, Suburban, and Rural Farms in Michigan”

Coming up on Monday, April 1, is the Food and Farming Innovation Network’s Monthly Breakfast, hosted by Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP). This month’s topic is “Politics of Right to Farm for Urban, Suburban, and Rural Farms in Michigan.”

For information about the event, including RSVP instructions and a small biography of this month’s speaker, please click on the above link. Hope to see you there!

What is a Food Hub? Part IV: Moving forward with some help from the past!

Image courtesy of Noel Kerns Photography

Image courtesy of Noel Kerns Photography

“Now, we find, ‘the market-place’ assumes another aspect, a change which time and circumstances have created. The producer is often hundreds of miles in one direction, while the consumer may be as many hundred in another, from the mart at which the productions were sold and purchased. Through the course of the year, the products of the North, South, East, and West, are to be found in our large public market-places; from which great quantities are disposed of, to be consumed in other cities, towns, or villages, or on the many ocean or river steamers or other vessels, as well as in foreign countries.”

THOMAS F. De Voe, Butcher.
JEFFERSON MARKET, City of New York, 1864.

Mr. De Voe’s book, “The Marketeer’s Assistant” is an incredible documentation of the available foods for sale in the East coast markets around the time of the Civil War, including some criticism of the logistics and facilities for distribution. Fortunately, for us modern day shoppers willing to take a stroll down the aisle of a past era, copies of this work are included in the Longone Culinary Archive at the William Clements Library on the University of Michigan campus, and the Special and Rare Book Collection at Michigan State University. MSU also included this selection in the “Feeding America” project, which digitized important volumes like this and was assisted in selection by Jan Longone. Here are a couple more excerpts:

“A great trade has imperceptibly grown upon us, which I have sometimes thought, would have been more profitable to both producer and consumer, if proper laws, and practical, honest heads, had been placed over these vast interests, which so much affect the general health and comfort, as well as the pockets of our over-taxed citizens; and I cannot avoid the conclusion, that if our public markets were properly conducted, they would be highly advantageous, not only to the city and citizens, but to all who have occasion to obtain supplies, as they facilitate the voluntary inspection, as well as the comparison of every article offered for sale in them, and they also concentrate the trade by which the people are protected from imposition.”

“This great metropolis should have her public markets as objects of our city’s pride, by having proper and substantial buildings, kept orderly, cleanly, well-arranged and officered, when they could be visited by strangers in safety and comfort, as well as by all her citizens, who would find pleasure and exercise in the performance of a necessary and agreeable duty.”

Well stated Sir! Our mega marts and broad line wholesale suppliers might be fulfilling this role for the majority of consumers in any given area, and even offer support to locally based producers. Our challenge now is to create an efficient system that provides fair access to the bounty of our local sustainable food shed and traceability throughout the value chain. In doing this, we may also celebrate our culinary heritage and enjoy the prosperity of a sustainable regional economy.

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Courtesy of Andy Ciordia

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’s menu, which is posted at the WFH page at realtimefarms.com. We had a table at the Summit to spread the word about our efforts so far, and a few of us also presented in the afternoon breakout sessions about local food distribution and food hubs.

In the last afternoon session, 18 people joined in for a great conversation about wholesale distribution for sustainable products from Michigan and the surrounding area. There were producers, distributors, wholesale 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 of local, sustainable foods a bit easier and more efficient 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 and products. 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 for our region’s sustainable food shed without identifying some challenges for producers, distributors and buyers alike. In keeping with our ‘look to the past’ theme of this post, let’s highlight some action steps with quotes from an article in the New York Times, one hundred years ago, which interviewed Cyrus C. Miller speaking to the challenges surrounding food distribution in his metropolitan area.

At the time, Mr. Miller was President of the Bronx Burrough and had proposed changes to a Mayor’s appointed committee addressing these difficulties. His comments, in bold font, are listed under some current observations from our workshop group. It turns out that, while we had some great ideas, they are not new, historically speaking!

At our workshop, both institutional buyers and producers 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.

“The quick and cheap distribution of farm products among the people of this city is almost essential to their best welfare as the quick and cheap distribution among them of water and light”

“The small and occasional shipper ought to and must become an important factor in our food supply. At present he is not.”

In building an efficient market system, Miller believed,

“The buyer, no longer asked for speculative food prices, would buy more freely. The apparent anomaly of lower prices for the consumer and higher prices to the farmer would result.”

With a lack of processing facilities and distribution channels for small producers in our region, many find difficulty in accessing larger markets.

“As things are, farmers cultivating acres close to our borders have no advantage within our market over those who till the soil a thousand miles away. The distant market sends it’s products here in (rail) carload lots, the nearby market sends it’s in by wagon loads.”

“The tendency in this and other most desirable directions among nearby agriculturists will be strengthened when a system is adopted here which will enable them to feel reasonably certain of a market with fair prices and without waste.”

Existing retail farmers 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.

“Every Market should have refrigerated rooms into which refrigerated rail cars could be be directly discharged without subjecting perishables foodstuffs to a change in temperature.”

“When the produce has been economically transported to the market buildings, cold storage rooms must wait there for such of it as needs them, while generous facilities must be at hand for storage of commodities which do not require refrigeration”

By creating producer co-ops, members would benefit from shared costs of scaled-up production, group certification, and educational opportunities or information sharing regarding wholesale distribution.

“Cooperative associations have not been notably successful in this country, our people are too individualistic. In Europe, such associations have succeeded because people have been driven into them by necessity… It is possible that in the course of time our people will learn to successfully cooperate (in commerce) through organized association. But the building of efficient markets is no less co-operation, and a form of co-operation better fitted to this place and time.”

The group also suggested more large-scale certification for producers, including
whole farm certification (as opposed to individual crop certification within individual farms), which would make it easier to sell to larger markets. There was general consensus that institutional purchasing policies and regulations should be analyzed (and lobbied for changes when necessary) to make it easier for small-scale producers to access these larger markets. In the meantime, it was suggested that we team up with conventional distribution channels, making use of existing infrastructure like processing facilities and distribution networks, as we continue to build a local food distribution system that functions well.

This was a great discussion that, as you can see, led to a lot of suggestions for the
near future and we are pleased to present the relevant comments from those who addressed these complex challenges not so long ago.

We were impressed with the diversity of interests represented in our workshop and
the specific recommendations these folks had for improvement. Do you have more
suggestions? Please contact us (washtenawfoodhubevents@gmail.com). We are constantly searching for new ideas and new partners in this work.

One more thing before we go: in January the USDA published a report on the role of Food Hubs in marketing local foods. Be sure to look at this for the latest information from the USDA!

Courtesy of the Cornell University Library

 

What is a Food Hub? Part III: Michigan Hubs

We wanted to continue our blog series on food hubs by returning close to home here in Michigan. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development recently awarded $1.9 million in grant funding to 14 projects across the state that focus on both regional food systems planning and value-added production. Here at the Washtenaw Food Hub, we are grateful for our grant and want to tell you about some of the other regional food system projects happening statewide. We will start in Southeast Michigan, with our own project at the Washtenaw Food Hub.

With MDARD funding, we are making improvements to existing facilities to support food aggregation, storage, processing, and distribution. To do this, we are beginning construction – insulation and wall framing has begun!  In addition, we are in conversation with various suppliers about using WFH as a possible distribution site for farm needs – for compost, chicken feed, seed-starting soil, and more. We are also providing space for a number of CSA farms and an online farmers market to distribute food. And we are developing the capacity to serve as a single point of contact between local producers and institutional, retail, and wholesale markets (like  schools, restaurants and grocery stores).

An important part of our work up to now has been reaching out and networking with other organizations doing similar work. A few sites we’ve visited so far include The Starting Block commercial kitchen in Hart, MI;  the Uptown Kitchen in Grand Rapids, MI, and the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK) near Toledo, OH. If you’re not familiar with these organizations, be sure to browse their websites. As support for the WFH and other similar projects grows, we are constantly reminded that this work is about building long-lasting relationships.

Other MDARD funded Food Hub projects are also working on building relationships across the state. For example, Forgotten Harvest works throughout Southeast Michigan, rescuing surplus food from many institutions and producers and donating it to emergency food locations in Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland counties. Thanks to grant funding from MDARD, Forgotten Harvest, in collaboration with Detroit Eastern Market, will now be able to process fresh fruit and vegetables for emergency food use.

Moving on to Lansing, we find The Allen Street Food Hub, which is affiliated with the Allen Neighborhood Center.Allen Street 7166224393_c9d35c7550

This hub is located in a previously unused warehouse and will serve a number of functions. First, it will allow the Allen Street Farmers Market to expand to year-round operation. The space’s community kitchen will allow area food businesses to produce value-added goods and also provide space for educational opportunities. The warehouse will also offer food storage space to producers in the region. Finally, the hub will also be an aggregation and distribution point that links producers and institutional buyers in the area. ANC believes that “the Food Hub will catalyze a whole new set of food, energy, entrepreneurial, and health related initiatives to enrich public and private life in the region.”

The YMCA Veggie Van, located in Grand Rapids, also received an MDARD grant.

Veggie_Mobile_8.23.11_images 001 The year-round service boasts that it is West Michigan’s first and only mobile farmers market! Sara Vander Zanden, the YMCA’s Healthy Living Agriculture Manager, says that the YMCA Veggie Van has grown tremendously since its initiation in August 2011. Securing funding from MDARD has made it possible to expand even further upon a program that has shown astonishing growth. Now, in addition to selling affordable fruits and vegetables at community centers, the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids is making healthy, prepared food available to manufacturers, students, and elderly neighbors and proud to be on the cutting edge of food access and education in their community. To learn more about the Veggie Van, including services offered and upcoming locations, click here.

The Grand Traverse Regional Market is striving to turn a portion of a former psychiatric hospital into a regional food hub.

P2260514The campus, currently known as The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, is a mixed-use area dedicated to residential, commercial, and retail spaces. The Regional Market will include an indoor farmers market, food processing centers, and industrial kitchens (for both business incubation and educational opportunities). You can read more about it here or watch this video from the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments.

In the Upper Peninsula we find the U.P. Local Food Network, headquartered at the Marquette Food Co-op. This network will provide resources for farmers to store and distribute their products. The goal is to eventually work across the entire Upper Peninsula, a very broad geographic range! Natasha Lantz, the Marquette Food Co-op’s community liaison, describes the project in this local news clip. To learn more about the history of the project and what it’s taken to get it up and running, you can read this article from Cooperative Grocer.

Do you want to know more about the growing network of food hubs in Michigan? This is a good place to start.

Although we are not including full descriptions of the value added producer grants in this post, you can see a full list of all 14 MDARD-funded projects here. Be sure to check out some of these projects. They cover everything from livestock processing to the production of fruit, wreaths, and even powdered sugar!

As you can see, there is a lot happening with Michigan agriculture! We are excited about all the great work done by dynamic people and organizations to build up regional food systems in Michigan, and we are thrilled to be a part of it. If you or someone you know is doing good work, we want to hear about it. Drop us a line at washtenawfoodhubevents@gmail.com and tell us what you’re up to. Who knows, you may even be featured on our blog in the future!

Let’s keep up the good work of learning more, getting our hands dirty and growing something, or simply eating good Michigan products – it all helps us grow a more robust regional food system.

In the meantime, we would love to hear from you! Email us any time. Additionally, if you haven’t done so already, follow us on Facebook and sign up for our monthly newsletters.

Locally yours,

The WFH team

 

Photos courtesy of Allen Neighborhood Center, The YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, and Grand Traverse Regional Market

What is a Food Hub? Part II: National Models We Like

Hopefully our last blog post provided you with a few examples of what a food hub is and how it operates. Now that we have covered the basics, we would like to show you what is happening in the world of food hubs by showcasing some great projects. This list is by no means complete, but it demonstrates the diversity of business structures, programming, and operations happening nationally.

We know two things: first, there is increasing demand for regionally produced food. Second, many small- and mid-size growers lack access to the networks and infrastructure that would make their access to these markets possible. Eastern Carolina Organics is a grower-owned LLC that addresses both of these issues by marketing products to buyers and supporting growers. ECO makes regional food access possible through marketing and distributing produce to retailers. On the growers’ end, their Grow With ECO program helps growers build relationships with ECO, plant their crops based on market demand, and find outlets for their produce.

Farm to Family Foods, located in St. Louis, MO, is an LLC with an impressive résumé. This organization increases food access by working with many institutions: schools, daycare centers, restaurants, and retail outlets. It offers a CSA, “Metro Markets,” available to those who use public transportation, and “Mobile Markets” that bring fresh food to neighborhoods that lack nearby grocery stores. And this fall, the St. Louis Food Hub will open. While Farm to Family Foods is already participating in what we might consider “hub” activities (by aggregating and distributing growers’ products), their website says the new food hub will be “processing and packaging foods, growing specialty products on site, operating a retail store and facilitating the wholesale distribution of locally produced foods to regional businesses and institutions.”

Common Market, a mission-driven nonprofit foodservice company based in Philadelphia, aggregates and distributes food from its warehouse. With a network of about 80 growers and 200 institutions, Common Market’s impacts can be felt throughout the region. This PBS video features Haile Johnston, who explains Common Market’s beginnings and vision.

The Fifth Season Cooperative is a multi-stakeholder cooperative with members representing all levels of the food system. Members are from a region that includes parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois. This group is committed to creating a viable regional food system. To learn about the coop’s work, watch this short presentation that can be found on their website.

These are just a few examples of the great work going on nationwide. Whether focusing on growing, distributing, or buying capacity – or sometimes all three – these organizations are making a big difference for many key players in the food system.

Check back for our next blog post, where we will move closer to home and take a look at food hubs in Michigan.

 

Photos courtesy of USDA and cafemama

What is a Food Hub?

Recently, we have heard a lot of questions about food hubs: what are they? What do they do? How is a food hub different from other operations? Hopefully, this post can shed some light on these questions.

Q: What is a food hub?

A: According to the USDA’s Regional Food Hub Resource Guide, a food hub is a “business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of course-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.”

Q: What does that mean in action?

A: It means working with producers: offering technical assistance, training, and business development strategies so they can consistently produce food and access wholesale and retail markets. Food hubs might provide liability insurance, provide processing and packaging facilities, or offer food safety, sustainable development, or business training.

It means working with institutional buyers who purchase food for institutions or retail outlets: identifying their purchasing needs and connecting them to regional producers.

It also means working with end consumers: measuring the demand for regionally produced food and increasing awareness of regional food production. Examples of efforts tailored toward consumers include community events, educational workshops, composting programs, and food bank donations.

Q: Is my local co-op a food hub? What about the farmers market?

A: While these are great ways for consumers to access regionally produced food, these do not qualify as food hubs. The activities described above are different than direct-to-consumer marketing; a food hub’s approach is to help producers access larger markets. Food hubs do so through helping producers with business development, aggregation, and distribution.

Q: What are some Impacts of food hubs? 

A: Economic: By supporting and promoting regional food procurement, food hubs have the potential to increase the economic vitality of food businesses in a region. When institutions such as hospitals and schools with tremendous buying power commit to procuring regional food, they generate more revenue within their local communities. Effects of food hubs can also be seen in job creation in food-related businesses all the way from producers to consumers.

Social: Food hubs that offer business training and community programming are creating connections across many community members. Food business professionals learn from one another. Activities that build awareness of relevant issues related to food production also increase social ties. Many food hubs work for the social good, donating “seconds” to food banks and therefore increasing healthy food access.

Environmental: Whether it’s through increasing the amount of food bought within our immediate communities, teaching new methods of sustainable production, or hosting environmental awareness programming, food hubs can play a large and visible role in positive environmental change.

Stay tuned for the next blog post, where we will highlight some of our favorite food hub efforts both statewide and nationally! In the meantime, if you are interested in reading more detailed information about food hubs’ business structures, funding, and operations, take a look at the USDA’s Regional Food Hub Guide.

The Food Hub Has Lots of News to Share!

Hello, Friends! The FSEP breakfast, advertised in the previous post, will be the first of a monthly series located at the WFH bringing together any and all members of our region to present and share information and ideas for improving and expanding access for local, sustainable food. We hope to see you there!

Our planning team has been working hard over the last few months hosting other events, completing grant applications for specific project funding, developing our new LLC’s business structure and making many needed repairs and improvements to some of our buildings and grounds. The recent updating of our website will continue as we look forward to sharing with everyone the exciting news taking place at the Hub and around our community. Following are just a few details of the many activities centered at the WFH; many more updates to come!

Recent WFH Friends and Neighbors’ Open House

 

A new floor is installed at the WFH house

The Washtenaw Food Hub has been gifted with the generosity of four women’s gardening efforts since last April. With initiative and perseverance, Eva Forman, Kathy Peterson, Gwen Hejna, and Jane Severson decided to help out the Food Hub and Tantre Farm by transplanting herbs from Tantre Farm and their gardens to the Food Hub. Through a collaborative effort they designed an herb garden, planted flowers, and tomatoes that have evolved into a productive part of the Food Hub, which are beautiful to the landscape, beneficial to insects, and helpful to Tantre Farm in providing an extra source of bountiful herbs for their CSA members and market customers this past summer. We are grateful for their tenacity and consistent watering, weeding, and caring for this little corner of the Food Hub.

Herb garden at the WFH

On recent tour events with area residents, two community groups involved in very worthwhile efforts included the Hub as a featured stop. The Eco Center’s annual Eco Ride, held on Sunday, June 24 featured a new 10 mile “Eco Tour” route out Whitmore Lake Road, with tour stops at the Washtenaw Food Hub, the Tilian Farm Development Center and Leslie Science Center’s Project Grow gardens. In lieu of registration fees, riders were asked to raise pledges for their ride and pledge donations will benefit the Ecology Center’s work for a safe and healthy environment. Cyclists stopped by the Hub over several hours for some rest and light refreshments, and some took the time for a tour of the property. On Saturday, Sept. 22 it was the Greenbelt Advisory Commission’s turn as members hosted a bus tour highlighting farm and open space properties that have been protected. The Greenbelt program was approved by City of Ann Arbor voters in November 2003 to provide funding for the preservation and protection of open space, natural habitats and working landscapes both inside and outside the city limits. The program has protected almost 2,000 acres of farmland and open space surrounding the City of Ann Arbor, and has leveraged over $12 million through grants, landowner donations, and other locally funded projects. Thank you to both organizations for having us along!

Evan Dayringer has set up shop with his Eat Ideas Farm on a section of the property towards the west boundary. Evan is a member of the Michigan Young Farmer Coalition and in Eat Idea’s first year has been selling his produce at the Wednesday evening Ann Arbor market, the Cobblestone market and to The Brinery. You can see what’s going on at Eat Ideas Farm on Twitter and sign up for the weekly newsletter at eatideasfarm@gmail.com. Feel free to text 734-678-8523 with questions or input for Evan! Profiles like this will be featured as more businesses join the crowd gathering up on Whitmore Lake Road!

Eat Ideas Farm at the farmers market

WFH Planning team members have been busy with off site activities in addition to work at the Hub. Kim Bayer, Jane Bush and Kathleen Timberlake have all attended various Food Hub conferences in Chicago, Virginia, Vermont and Lansing, bringing back great information from similar efforts. Maris Laporter, Richard Andres, Dan Vernia and Kim presented proposed Hub activities for members and staff of the Ann Arbor Township Planning Commission at two recent meetings. Also, in early August, Richard and Deb Lentz provided fantastic tasting Tantre Farm produce for Dan, as he prepared a peak season summer brunch menu featuring local, sustainable ingredients for Senator Debbie Stabenow and guests at a private fundraising event. Our Senator gave us insight on important food policy issues and her leadership role in crafting the Senate’s version of the 2012 Farm Bill. Everyone who would like more information on current agriculture policy can visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and sign up for weekly updates. Both public and private leaders are realizing the importance of Food Hubs in developing a strong regional food system (please read some of the comments under “Community/Support for the WFH” on this website). This summer the Michigan Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development requested grant proposals for Value Added/Regional Food Systems funding.

It is our pleasure to announce the Washtenaw Food Hub’s funding proposal for $200K has been chosen by the State and initial work for re purposing the 6000 sq. ft. space behind the former store can begin! Click here to see the diagram which was included in our successful package and illustrates some of the activity to take place.

Stay tuned for more updates; a lot is happening!