Urban agriculture provides us with locally sourced, fresh produce. However, local food would be much less valuable without a solid infrastructure to link farmers with institutions, businesses, and food markets. Small to mid-size farmers often have difficulty fitting with the large U.S. food infrastructure and regulations. Without the marketing and processing tools that large producers have, farmers lack access to the commercial markets they need to earn a living wage.
Food hubs have become the essential tools to develop local food infrastructures within regions and cities. Food hubs are a central component of the food value chain; a collaborative business network of all levels of the food system that coordinate activities to meet common financial, social, and environmental goals (Barham et al., 2012). Not only do they provide key distribution for small and mid-size farmers, they can create strategic alliances, process and store produce, increase sales, and provide security for farmers (Cohen, 2012).
Local food hubs are central to sustainable food systems and they are well-connected businesses that promote local buying to consumers and institutions. More importantly, they represent visible and active advocates for farmers. Support for farmers is arguably the most important part of a food system because if there are no farmers, there is no food. East Carolina Organics, in North Carolina, calls the growers after orders are placed so they know exactly what to harvest. Each year, they collaborate with customers and farmers to tailor their businesses based on local market demand. They also educate the public about the benefits of buying local, organic, and seasonal produce. Just by looking at their homepage you can get a sense of what food hubs are all about: a close and fair connection between the farmer and our table.
Food hubs connect the key sectors of local food systems. They provide restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, and schools with much needed fruits and vegetables. They boost local economy by providing crucial services. Also, a full capacity food hub could create 400 jobs and 60 million dollars of revenue for local economies (Barham et al., 2012). Accessible markets provide flexibility and security so that farmers can improve and thrive.
Barham, J., Tropp, D., Enterline, K., Farbman, J., Fisk, J., Kiraly, S. (2012). Regional food hub resource guide: Food hub impacts on regional food systems, and the resources available to support their growth and development. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5097957
Cohen, B.R. (2012). All praise the civics of food hubs. Civil Eats. Retrieved from: http://civileats.com/2012/09/07/all-praise-the-civics-of-food-hubs/