Fifteen years ago, many of South Carolina’s rural lands were turning over to developed land a rapid rate. So in 2008, the South Carolina Conservation League, a 25-year-old advocacy organization, began to look into finding ways to help farmers become successful as a means of slowing that land development.
Around that time, a donor bought an old warehouse in Charleston that had been abandoned for two years and donated it to the League. After a lengthy planning phase and some extensive renovations, the League launched a new program, Grow Food Carolina. The program moved into the warehouse and began helping farmers expand their markets in 2011.
Increasingly, food service directors and purchasing officers in schools, hospitals, and other institutions are being tasked with the mission of finding local producers of the food items they buy on a regular basis. They are doing this to support regional food systems, local economies, and the health of their constituents.
East Baltimore, home to numerous once-beautiful but now decaying buildings, will soon experience revitalization if plans underway for a new food and agriculture project―the Baltimore Food Hub―take shape, thanks to American Communities Trust and a coalition of other partners.
The Food Hub will be the first of its kind in Baltimore and will sit on a 3.5-acre tract which includes the historic Eastern Pumping Station.
According to Greg Heller, interim president and CEO of American Communities Trust, the Food Hub should be up and running by the end of 2015. It will be home to an urban farm, farm stand and garden center, all of which will be open to the public. Spike Gjerde, a Baltimore-based award-winning chef, will have a production kitchen at the facility, which will utilize locally-grown produce and provide jobs.
To Sustain Agriculture in Drought-plagued California, Look to Michigan’s Developing Local Distribution InfrastructureFebruary 18, 2014 | Noah Fulmer
Noah Fulmer is the director of training and capacity building at Local Orbit, which provides tools for the entrepreneurs and organizations building the New Food Economy.
California just can’t catch a break when it comes to water.
As the New York Times noted recently, thousands of Cailfornia Central Valley acres now feature dusty fields where tomatoes and melons once grew. Without any water, fields are simply being left fallow.
Large scale, centralized production wasn’t always at a disadvantage in California. The dryness of inland areas like Fresno, Bakersfield and Temecula made them ideal for finely managing crop production with few pests. The sunny, relatively stable year-round climate couldn’t be beat. When crops needed water, tightly controlled irrigation was designed to draw upon snowmelt off the Sierra Nevada up north and from the Colorado River further south.
Cherry Capital Foods opened business in 2007 with a single man selling local produce out of his van. The following year, John Hoagland bought the business and took it to the next level.
“As a distributor, Cherry Capital Foods picks up and delivers to schools, restaurants and other institutions,” says Evan Smith, chief of operations and spokesperson for Cherry Capital Foods. “We’re part of the value chain that connects local to local. A value chain is like a supply chain but it’s more transparent and collaborative so that everyone along the chain is valued. In a value chain, everyone earns a living and it is benefiting everyone along the way.”
In 1998, Cornell University launched a hydroponic greenhouse to explore the possibility of using controlled-environment agriculture to grow crops year-round in the state of New York. By 2006, Cornell decided to end its foray into hydroponics and sold the greenhouse to Challenge Workforce Solutions, an Ithaca-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities or other employment barriers find jobs.
Challenge Workforce Solutions has since developed Finger Lakes Fresh, a thriving local agriculture business in Ithaca, New York. The business is centered on hydroponic greenhouse production and a soon-to-be launched food hub. According to General Manager Steven Holzbaur, Finger Lakes Fresh is one of the most productive hydroponic leafy-green producers in the country and has been highly successful in marketing its product.
The recently established DROPP, Distributors of Regional & Organic Produce and Products, is a side project for the Great Basin Community Food Cooperative in Reno, Nevada. The food cooperative came into existence in 2005 under a buyer’s club model. Although the food coop is still going strong, DROPP is an effort to improve the infrastructure between the informed consumer and the sustainable grower and is best described as a food hub where farmer and fork collide.
“As we were building new relationships with local farmers we started sending out local availability lists to restaurants and members of our coop just saying ‘this farm has this and this farm has that.’
A lot of farmers will tell you that the food grown through sustainable agriculture is only part of the equation. Creating infrastructure for small growers through food hubs, incorporating marketing and educational materials for customers and overhauling the perception of organic food in the United States are all essential parts of a successful food evolution. Indeed, there’s more to food hubs than just food. Just ask Kristen Suokko of Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, VA.
“We see Local Food Hubs nationally having impacts on a range of interrelated issues: food security, food safety (knowing where the food comes from), local economic vitality, land stewardship, and public health,” shares Suokko.