Raleigh, N.C., Mar 27, 2014 -- At the National Good Food Network’s 2014 Food Hub Collaboration Conference, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service announced today a cooperative agreement with FamilyFarmed.org to develop a national guide on “Building Successful Food Hubs.” Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Doug O’Brien also spoke at the conference, which brings together people and resources dedicated to supporting the diverse aspects of food hubs and regional food systems. With increasing demand for fresh, local foods, food hubs aggregate products from small and midsize farms so that large-volume buyers, such as grocery stores, can buy local foods from family farms in the region.
“To see the excitement around building viable local and regional food systems is remarkable,” says Anne Alonzo, AMS Administrator. “In talking with current and aspiring food hub managers, we hear a strong need for more tools and resources that can help them develop successful businesses and we’re responding to meet that need.” The new national planning guide announced by AMS at the conference will include descriptions of key functions, best practices, and proven strategies for food hubs - all based on successful models operating across the United States. The number of food hubs has risen by 65 percent since 2009, and there are now more than 230 operational around the country. On average, each food hub supports 20 jobs and generates nearly $4 million in annual sales.
“Food hubs are helping producers of all sizes grow, which in turn supports the economic health and well-being of rural communities,” O’Brien said. “USDA is a proud supporter of food hubs because we know they help build stronger regional food systems. During his remarks at the conference, O’Brien noted that Rural Development supported over 150 local food infrastructure projects, from food hubs to scale-appropriate processing facilities, to cold storage and distribution networks in 2013. He said that USDA set new goals this year to fund local food projects and help people in the local foods community work with and access USDA programs, such as USDA Rural Development’s Value-Added Producer Grants, Business and Industry Loan Guarantees, and Community Facilities Loans and Grants.
The non-profit FamilyFarmed.org, based in Chicago, is committed to expanding the production, marketing and distribution of locally grown and responsibly produced food. The guide to “Building Successful Food Hubs” will be one of several valuable tools that AMS and its partners have developed to help those establishing, enhancing, or expanding food hubs. Additional USDA research, information and findings about food hubs is available at www.ams.usda.gov/foodhubs.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA is creating economic opportunities for new and existing farmers, ranchers and small business entrepreneurs across the nation. Secretary Vilsack has identified local and regional food systems as one of four pillars of USDA’s work to help revitalize the rural economy and create jobs. AMS programs that support local and regional food systems are coordinated through the Department’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative.