The USDA has unveiled a first-ever Regional Food Hub Resource guide for small and medium-sized producers to help them grab more market share. Deputy Ag Secretary Kathleen Merrigan tells Brownfield the USDA with several partners has identified 170 regional food hubs.
But, Brownfield asked, what are food hubs? Merrigan say they are businesses and organizations that connect producers with buyers – offering the things those farmers lack such as volume, cold storage or equipment.
Merrigan says, “Some of these are run as farmer cooperatives – people are familiar with that notion out in the countryside – others are not. But, it’s a way that farmers can aggregate product and provide the volume of zucchini or the volume of cheese or the volume of whatever it is that the food hub is sourcing, so that institutional buyers say, ‘Yeah, I can work with that.’”
Merrigan says there are physical food hubs, for example, there’s, “‘Grown Locally’ in Decorah, Iowa, established in 1999. It works with 30 producers to sell a wide variety of produce to wholesale institutions and distributors, including Sodexo, for a local college.”
And, Merrigan says there are virtual food hubs, “Another example,” says Merrigan, “Would be the local food hub in Portland, Oregon which uses an online platform to connect local producers and buyers to grow the local food system in the Pacific Northwest.”