Food Hub Proposal – Your Thoughts are Needed!

On December 1st, 2011, Brian Downes, Jennifer Christian, and Tabbitha Greenough gave a presentation at the Greenfield Community College (GCC) downtown center on creating a town food hub as part of their work for the Introduction to Food Systems Course.  The very next day, an article about starting the Greenfield Food Hub was published in the Greenfield town Recorder.  The article was written by Kyle Bostrom, a Greenfield farmer and member of the town agricultural commission.

Please view the recording by the GCC students and read the article by Kyle Bostrom.   Then join us in a dialogue  about the Greenfield Food Hub (even if you don’t live in Greenfield, Massachusetts) by responding in the comments box below to these two questions – or just add your own thoughts:

1) Are you aware of other Food Hub examples in the U.S. or around the World?  Please share them here and let us know if there is anything that can be added or changed to make the Greenfield Food Hub most effective.

2)  Please share your knowledge of:

a. Laws, accreditations, compliances, etc. required to make the parts of the Greenfield Food Hub a reality

b. Infrastructure:
– Design Firms
– Contractors
– Transportation businesses for farm products
c. Equipment needed to make parts of the Food Hub function and where to get it
d. Sources of funding

As you give feedback on each of these questions, please identify yourself and describe your expertise or interest in the Greenfield Food Hub.

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30 thoughts on “Food Hub Proposal – Your Thoughts are Needed!

  1. Hi guys, the main problem with the CDC as a public food hub, whether on weekends, or as part of their regular business is that they require liability, and workmen’s compensation insurance in order to use their kitchen. This was not just “on their website”, we did a tour of the CDC with John, who explained this to us himself. Moreover, there is very little profit to be had in renting out the CDC kitchen for only an hour or two so that the public can say, make some pasta sauce from surplus tomatoes in their garden. This is something a local food hub could do regularly and with overlap depending on the facility. Also, many of you have talked about placement, and as Kyle wrote in his article, the town is currently considering the Lunt property on Federal St., which would be a reuse of a currently unused building. I do agree that there are agencies (such as CISA and their farmer’s market connections) that would be incredibly helpful in providing support to this idea, but I just wanted to make it clear that this is not a competitive proposal to the CDC, but rather, one that would allow individuals to participate in their own processing and not HAVE to depend on businesses for all of it.

  2. On the 26th (3:30 – 4:45) there is going to be a webinar on moving from a feasibility study to a business plan. One area that will be used as an example is a local food hub.

    http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=f6e853d37c1ed4db967a79125&id=71395e62f9&e=b08a91d78f

    And then there is is this archived one about food hubs.

    http://ngfn.org/resources/ngfn-cluster-calls/the-business-of-food-hubs

    You may also find more that is helpful at the ngfn.org site.

    Best Wishes…

  3. Local Food Hubs has been popping up on Seedstock.com. Seedstock is the blog for sustainable agriculture focusing on startups, entrepreneurship, technology, urban agriculture, news and research. One or several of those below, or listed on the site may be able to help you;donate server space, software, etc.

    http://seedstock.com/2012/01/18/illinois-farmers-new-guidebook-online-tool-to-improve-local-food-system/

    http://seedstock.com/2011/06/23/one-local-food-systems-software-to-unite-them-all/

    And then there have been a few reports and other items I have seen lately that may be of assistance. I can only guess that you have seen the Northampton Food Security report.

    http://www.valleyadvocate.com/article.cfm?aid=13146

  4. This is my first visit to this group, and it is a nice surprise to see so many well informed folks on this forum. For those of you who may not be aware of it, I wanted to mention that USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service maintains a portal of food hub information and research findings at http://www.ams.usda.gov/foodhubs and is slated to release a resource guide on food hubs in early March (written in collaboration with the Wallace Center).

  5. I think that previous posters who commented that the new Town Farm, the CDC and the people behind this proposal should sit down together are spot on. There are existing entities in Greenfield already that could work as building blocks for a program like this.

    I was interested by your comments about using second market foods as a component of this project. This is an element that is relied on by the Food Bank of Western MA, and the emergency food programs we serve (of which, the pantry you mentioned in Wendell is one.) I think it’s important to note that the market for these products has gotten much more competitive in the last 30 years, partly because of the rise of discount stores. Another challenge with these foods is the reluctance of people to use them. Particularly reaching out to lower income communities, there is a stigma about using food perceived to be old or bad. this could be an obstacle to the acceptance learning opportunities.

  6. There are many ways that we interact with food, what a silly statement.

    Everyone eats.

    There is a long supply chain for most products that we eat, from farmer (and their inputs), to processor, to manufacturer, to packaging, to distributor, to retailer, to end user, to family eating.

    For a very moderate % of vegetables and some meat, all of those stages happen regionally, within the valley.

    For all grains, most vegetables, really anything bought in groceries, coop, natural foods chains, the supply chain is extensive, even for organic.

    At each stage in the chain, there are improvements that can humanize and reduce the cost of food.

    Close to home, I’m part of a group that eats together every two weeks. We do a potluck, but it could be a rota, in which a different household hosts a group of say 8 – 10 on whatever frequency. We play music together, but a group could also be a food buying club.

    The advantage of cooking for more than one person is that people tend to cook real food, it uses less total energy to cook, less total time to cook, less total time to clean, and is social and fun.

    Many folks have home gardens. It is easy to supplement one’s eating by raised bed green and root gardens. In our neighborhood, we have a compost pile in our backyard, that a couple neighbors contribute to. We built a two pile system using old pallets with three walls (so we can easily turn it), and collect compost in 5-gallon plastic buckets, consolidating 1 gallon buckets in households. We get horse manure from local horse farms (Warwick and Gill). Leaves are easy.

    Community gardens.

    There are a gamut of small commercial vegetable farms locally, some 11 month ones (hoop houses), CSA’s. My son is part of a meat CSA from Sunderland, and I’ve heard of forestry CSF’s starting for cordwood.

  7. For New England, one might consider tying this idea into old mill sights where the town itself could benefit from reclaiming abandoned property while spurring innovative new uses for old technologies.
    Could be worthwhile to investigate using water power to highlight the grander designs of the project while also providing continually renewable energy for the projects.
    Good luck.

  8. Ummm, I’m pretty sure “research by looking at the website” doesn’t count as an exhaustive examination of the issue. LOTS of small businesses and non-profits have crappy websites (or even just not all inclusive), doesn’t mean they are not doing good stuff!!

    I will refrain from going on a rant about “kids theses days Googling something and calling it research”

    I support the idea of the FoodHub, but since the CDC has been at it for 25+ years [and just got the kitchen to be profitable/self-sustaining after 10]; it would really make sense to have a dialogue/forum with them.

    PS: mobile foodHub anyone? http://flashweb.com/blog/2012/01/cheap-mobile-slaughter-unit-for-sale.html

  9. The CDC is a great asset but as we said in the presentation it tends to not be able to help people as individuals. Sure if your a business the CDC is your go to resource but where does the public go? The Food Hub will give the public the opportunities the CDC can not offer adequately at this time. Unless they are planning on making big policy change over there. I do not see how the CDC could possibly fill this large void. Please fill me in on how they plan to serve ALL the public interests when businesses are their intreats. Or at least the CDC’s web site led our research pod to believe this. This void will not be filled by expanding the CDC, we need public opportunity !

  10. Pingback: What is a Sustainability Hub? « growingfuture

  11. Check out Foodworks in Montpelier. A great example of a community food hub and a great example of the stability provided by a food hub over that of a CSA. During the 2 floods that hit the area last summer, we saw CSA’s fail to perform and serve their customers due to the catastrophic damage. The food hub managed to survive and maintain its supply of fresh food due to a reliance on many farms over a broader area. Where a river valley farmer was unable to provide, a hilltop farmer was able to step in.

  12. Having just moved south into this area (Northfield) from Walpole, NH, I have been involved with the integrated food systems discussions going on in Cheshire County, NH and Bellows Falls , VT area. I am on the board of directors of a start up food coop in Walpole and we will have extra infrastructure capacity when we open and have been discussing with the Food Hub participants there how best to integrate the coop with the need for a regional food system. I hope that Greenfield will also explore with te Franklin County Coops what role they can play in such a Greenfield centered venture.

  13. Seems like a forum with FCCDC, Food Hub, and Town Farm (Just Roots) would be worthwhile. What are the gaps at the CDC? Much of what was presented COULD be done at the CDC (on weekend or evenings). Butcher and/or dairy might need some study to see how viable that really is [Bart’s, Our Family Farms etc..looked into Gfld Milk Processing plant a while ago…] Could we avoid a lot of regulation and expense with grassroots-TimeTrade-barter-skill share activities?

  14. Good work, glad to see you are looking at small scale food production/provisioning as part of a healthy resilient local food system. I’m actually focused on very similar issues and approaches here in Ithaca and other communities in NYS through my work at Cornell, so found your presentation helpful. I like the focus on creativity, and collaborative, open ended solutions. Conducting a community survey of actual needs might be a good next step.

    I encourage you to think a little more “outside the box” in terms of one building or hub accommodating most of the needs outlined. Envision a local food ecosystem where multiple resources/players are connected together, with the help of some type of coordinating body(s) – Larry’s excellent Food Commons 2.0 vision piece proposes one such example. Your food hub graphic is a good start -now start articulating who and what the individual entities are within each sphere, the specific needs or assets associated with each, the relationships needed to connect them and meet overall system objectives (e.g. resiliency), and how those connections will be sustained (financially, culturally and technically).

    This systems approach will allow you to better leverage existing resources where they already exist, and get greater buy-in from those already doing good work in the community. A comprehensive inventory of local resources and initiatives should help everyone see this picture more clearly, offering a better understanding of what is needed to increase connectivity and flow.

    I think some of the other folks who have commented here may be confusing the apparent focus of this project (supporting greater self-provisioning and collaboration) with what “food hubs” are more widely associated with, commercial supply chain aggregation and distribution. These are two different (though sometime overlapping) objectives.

    My Local and Regional Food Systems reference guide (http://guides.library.cornell.edu/local_food) lists several useful resources you may want to check out, including Food Hub (http://tinyurl.com/food-hubs) and Food Processing (http://tinyurl.com/local-food-processing) sections.

  15. I used to live in South Woodbury farm on the old Cate Farm when I was with Bread and Puppet Theatre, 1970 to 1975. I farmed and reclaimed almost single handed the oldest apple orchard in Vermont, planted 1924 in East Calais with 49 different varieties of apples. This was the seed farm for all orchards in Vermont. I also kept an organic farm, with vegetables and flowers and maple sugaring, collecting wild plants to eat, etc. The Plainfield Coop was my link to people.

    High mowing seeds, http://www.highmowingseeds.com/ is a major source. I need help with planning, germinating, cold framing (and green construction). I went to high school with Roger Goldstein and he just back from Cuba where they are working on similar concepts of food delivery to the max number of people for the best good.

  16. We’re a group of producers in Charlotte VT who’ve developed an online market which we’ve held weekly for the last 18 months and now have almost 1000 customers in 12 towns served by 150 farmers. It’s a really easy way for small scale producers to get their products out and a resource for customers who don’t want to commit to a CSA. It’s not a food hub as such, but the system could be adapted pretty easily to support different models. Our site is http://www.yourfarmstand.com

  17. Of all the Wallace Center food hub case studies, a food hub in Charlottesville, VA was my favorite, and they do consulting: http://localfoodhub.org/about/consulting/. About them: “Local Food Hub” is a nonprofit organization working to connect farmers, food, and community. They currently work with more than 50 farms, all located within 100 miles of Charlottesville, Virginia. I have no direct experience with them, but I’d be interested in seeing a food hub here work like this one.

    An LC3, a legal name for a low-profit, limited liability corporation, might make a great structure for a food hub. Its not available in Massachusetts yet, but Vermont has it, and MooMilk of Maine incorporated in VT for this reason. Read about it: http://moomilkco.com/index.php/our-story

    And yes, I second Larry Yee, it seems like aggregation, redistribution, and logistical efficiencies are key. Hope they become central in your chart. To serve farmers well, the food hub should make distribution simpler for individual farmers and buyers than it is now (although to do this, the food hub itself has responsibility to manage a complex system and must have the expertise, resources and technology to do so).

  18. I have three friends that are part of food hubs in different parts of the country – Andrew in Hardwick VT, Tim in the Bay Area, and Glen in Southern CA – I’ll encourage them to join the conversation.

    Expertise and interest: attended the talk, PVGrows Steering Committee member, and much more

  19. I also attended the GCC presentations and was surprised to hear the recommendation for establishing a food hub in a vacant industrial building, given that you have the Franklin County CDC. I am the Project Coordinator for the Great Falls Food Hub in Bellows Falls, VT. We recently completed a feasibility study for a regional food processing facility (not feasible, yet) and a strategic plan to better define our mission of improving the local food system. I’d be happy to share those documents and our experiences. We found a need to focus on the development of the social infrastructure including programs (community gardens, surplus food and gleaning efforts, farm- to-school, cooking classes, neighborhood buying markets, etc.) and the network of organizations working on local food issues and build them until the need for physical infrastructure becomes clearer.

  20. I’m excited about the possibilities you are exploring to develop an important aspect of a more local food system. Have you read our latest concept paper, the Food Commons 2.0, which describes the design of a regional food system. If not, just google The Food Commons and check it out under the pdf.

    In looking at your diagram, I think you’re missing the essence of a food hub, that is its aggregation and re-distribution functions. You have to think of it as a business (but perhaps using a non-traditional business model) and pls know that distribution is essentially a logistical nightmare. If you get the logistics and efficiencies correct, then you’re well down the road to creating a successful new enterprise.

    Most of the connecting circles in your diagram are peripheral to the key functions of a food hub.

    good luck.

  21. I attended the GCC presentations and have spoken with Kyle and many others. The Western MA Food Processing Center, operated by the Franklin County CDC in Greenfield is already a successful Food Hub and can do even more. These creative and energetic people can help move resources forward so the economics work for a sustainable food system in the region that has a positve impact on growers and eaters (all of us in the community). We here at the CDC’s Food Processing Center look forward to contuinuing to work with everyone to make this happen. By the way, we are also working with folks from the 6 New England states on expanding Farm to School so young people have acess to better food and nutrition.

  22. There is Hardwick, VT, Intervale in Burlington, VT and there has been a group working to establish one in the Bellows Falls, VT area for the past few years and they have received a grant to do a feasibility study – you may be able to contact them via the organization Post Oil Solutions in Brattleboro. Here in Worcester, MA we applied for a HUD grant that included a Food Hub project as part of it, but it did not get funded. Best of luck!

  23. Who is the economics person to crunch the numbers on this project? It seems that if public money was used you would have to know how long until the project can pay itself back. Personally, I think it could work and be self sustaining w/in a reasonable amount of time!!!

  24. I have a started a group for organic farming and a pre-diabetic diet in Belmont and surrounding. We have interested people gathering for monthly meetings and email support.

  25. Of course there is Hardwick VT. And you can check out the article attached from the UK (pay no attention to the horrific Murdockian ads..) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2072383/Eccentric-town-Todmorden-growing-ALL-veg.html.
    I grow diversified crops in Amherst and preserve much of my family’s food.
    I also work at the jail in Greenfield where we have almost 15 acres of open land and a surplus of young, healthy often-idle men in need of job skills. We also now have a well-publicized connection with GCC.
    With creative, hard-working guys like K. Bostrum, I’ll bet Greenfield stands a good chance of making the food hub a reality.

  26. Hello, I am a recent graduate from UMass Amherst with a Master’s in Architecture. I looked at increasing the ability of Northampton residents to grow their own food in conjunction with increasing the density of an urban neighborhood for my thesis design project. My interest in local and nutritious food has lead me to obtain my permaculture design certification as well. I found it interesting in the video that the potential reuse of existing churches is mentioned. This is one area I have experience with in working in the field of Architecture. I look forward to see what develops with this initiative.

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