Waiting for word on the North Country Food Hub

Photo: USDA

When the North Country’s Regional Economic Development Council was awarded $90.2 million dollars from the state last month, it was good news for the North Country Regional Food Hub.  The project will receive $350-thousand dollars of the state award.

So, what is a food hub, anyway?  The US Department of Agriculture estimates there are more than 100 of them around the country.  The USDA website says food hubs offer “a combination of production, aggregation, distribution, and marketing services.”

Um.

So, we’ll have to ask again, what is a food hub?

The folks involved in the North Country Regional Food Hub aren’t talking yet.  The proposal was launched by Sparx, a for-profit business that was started by United Helpers Inc., and North Country Pastured. (Full disclosure: NCPR General Manager Ellen Rocco is a partner in NC Pastured.)

USDA is examining food hub distribution models, like this one being used by Common Market in Philadelphia, to find ways to compliment and supplement existing food systems. Photo: USDA

We’ve read in the Watertown Daily Times that they’re looking for a 9,000 square foot facility for operations.  United Helpers CEO Stephen Knight says when they’re further along with the project, they’ll provide more information.

Meanwhile, the Farm Aid website explains that food hubs coordinate the supply chain for local food, moving products from farmers, to processors, distributors, and buyers.

Farm Aid says, “Some food hubs have permanent facilities that offer equipment for food to be stored, processed, packed and even sold under a shared label. Some also offer technical and business planning assistance for farmers.”

It sounds like the food hub model is based on cooperation.  As U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan says food hubs are places where, “Producers are helping producers. Processors are helping processors. Distributors are helping distributors.”   Merrigan says she's hopeful about the future of food hubs, “Food hubs are not a flash in the pan. They are incredibly innovative business models specifically addressing some of our producers’ most overwhelming challenges.”

We look forward to hearing more as plans for the North Country Regional Food Hub move forward.

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3 Comments

  1. For a short explanation of the local food economy see http://www.foodshedguide.org A food hub in simply the distribution aspect of a local food system.

  2. For a short explanation of the local food economy see http://www.foodshedguide.org/foodshed/ A food hub is simply the distribution aspect of a local food system.

  3. Following Gary's comment, just wsnted to note that the USDA food hub site now features a directory of more than 200 food hubs across the US, in addition to many resources that describe food hubs in action and their various organizational structures and functions. Please see http://www.ams.usda.gov/foodhubs for more details