Local food growers, consumers and entrepreneurs in the Lansing, Michigan area have had good cause to celebrate as of late. Last September, Allen Neighborhood Center, a community development agency that doubles as Mid-Michigan’s nonprofit food hub, opened the doors of a warehouse they’d spent months renovating.
Located directly behind their community center on the city’s northeast side, that building, the Allen Market Place, now serves as an incubator kitchen and indoor market. It’s also linked to an online market called the Exchange, that connects regional farmers and food producers with commercial and institutional buyers in a 75-mile range of Lansing.
When it comes to food, Robert Egger is all in favor of making the most of what you’ve got.
Twenty-five years ago, Egger founded D.C. Central Kitchen, a “community kitchen” that uses salvaged food to make meals for agencies servicing low-income and homeless individuals and provides culinary training to unemployed men and women.
Egger stepped down as its president last year to start a new project called L.A. Kitchen, based in his hometown of Los Angeles. Similar in concept to the D.C. nonprofit, the new kitchen places a greater emphasis on participating in the local food economy. Egger sees the effort as “taking charity up a notch” and establishing “a self-sustaining model” that supports local farmers, helps local residents and provides opportunities for men and women who may face barriers to employment.
It’s getting easier to buy food grown in northeast Iowa, thanks to a regional food hub,.
For small to mid-sized farming operations, associating with a regional food hub can mean selling more crops, reaching more markets, and earning more money to reinvest in the farm. Associating with a food hub also means that more food can be distributed to markets nearby, a boon for the regional economy. Food hubs help farmers aggregate, market, and distribute their goods, jobs that growers may not have time or money to do themselves.
Fertile soil, water and compost aren’t the only ingredients that make a local foods scene blossom. Sometimes what’s needed is a helping hand.
In Waitsfield, Vermont this takes the form of a food warehouse, processing and distribution center known as the Mad River Food Hub.
The 4,000-square-foot facility caters to farmers and food processing businesses in central Vermont’s Mad River Valley. The area is home to several small communities and dozens of farms and serves as a popular tourist destination for skiers and summer idlers.
Founded three years ago, the Mad River Food Hub came about as a combination of the British entrepreneur Robin Morris’ love for local foods and his experience in the business world.
As farmers increasingly seek local markets to sell their product, restaurants are struggling to meet their local sourcing goals without greatly increasing the number of vendors with whom they work.
One Chicago-based business has been addressing this market gap since March of 2013, and plans to expand their business with a new distribution center scheduled to open in fall 2014. The name of the business is “Local Foods,” and CEO Andrew Lutsey hopes the brand will encourage restaurants to increase their local sourcing while providing regional farmers with a focused local market.
It’s called the Healthy Food Hub, and it’s the brainchild of three local nonprofits who want to transform a place now known as a food desert into an urban oasis for low-income patrons.
The Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative was born of a unique and timely collaboration between the private and public sector. When the Dane County Planning and Development Department realized there was an unmet demand for local food in southern Wisconsin, the organization brought together farmers, consumers, foodservice buyers, local food advocates, and other stakeholders for a food hub feasibility study.
People become farmers for many different reasons—family tradition, a love of the land, a desire to make a difference, and so on. But for Indiana-based This Old Farm co-founder Jessica Smith, motherhood was the main motivator.
“I started looking at agriculture from the standpoint of having children and wanting to feed them well,” says Smith. “Our kids motivate us and that’s really the motivation for looking at agriculture.”
Jessica and her husband Erick started This Old Farm in 2000 because they wanted to bring healthy food to their family and other local families as well. The operation began as an 88-acre row crop farm that they gradually converted to pasture. They have focused primarily on livestock, raising Katahdin lamb, pastured pork, and pastured poultry. They are, however, looking to increase their produce production, and have 10 acres of lettuce going out this year.