July 17, 2015
Filling a gap in information on operations and best practices from food hubs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development mission area launched a new technical report series called Running a Food Hub with the first report, Running a Food Hub: Lessons Learned from the Field, Vol. One (hereafter Lessons Learned) on July 15.
Yesterday’s release of the report series, developed in partnership with Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability (VA FAIRS) and Matson Consulting, highlights issues food hubs should consider in starting or expanding a food hub and provides operational profiles from 11 successful food hubs around the country.
The publication of the report followed by a day the release of the Wallace Center et. al.’s COUNTING VALUES: Food Hub Financial Benchmarking Study that we profiled yesterday.
Lessons Learned covers the following areas in food hub operations: Customers, Labor, Products, Operations, Food Safety Certifications, Transportation, Infrastructure, Software, Viability and Success, and Common Ground.
Food hubs featured in the report range in size from 1 full-time employee (FTE) with a few seasonal and/or part-time employees (PTE) to 22 FTEs and PTEs and work with between 12 to 700 producers. The hubs, the majority of which were developed within the past 10 years, are a mixture of cooperatives, nonprofits, S-Corporations (a special type of corporation in which shareholders are taxed rather than the business itself) and an LLC (limited liability corporation), with sales ranging from $60,000 to $5.5 million.
The report offers practical advice, such as recommending a diversity of products and creating operational advantages through partnerships or existing infrastructure in a region, as well as featuring characteristics common to the featured food hubs, such as approaches to infrastructure, and issues important to the longevity of food hubs, such as food safety practices and certification.
Among the successful food hubs featured in its profiles section are:
To learn more about these and other feature food hubs’ operations and growth through the years, see Running a Food Hub, Lessons Learned from the Field, Vol. One.
Over the past several years, USDA has been promoting food hubs and other local food businesses and infrastructure through similar reports, along with other information and resources (including access to capital). A description of hundreds of local and regional food system projects supported, in part, through USDA programs between 2009 and 2014 can be found in the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass, which we reported earlier this month as having been revised and re-released at the end of June.
For information on federal programs that can assist the development of food hubs and other participants in the local and regional food economy, see NSAC’s Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs.