(Submitted by Hannah Scott, Manager, Ohio Cooperative Development Center, OSU South Centers)
Seventeen participants in the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network learned first-hand the ins and outs of aggregating, distributing and even processing fresh produce when they toured multiple central Ohio produce companies in May. Food hub stakeholders and support organizations from across the region were welcomed at Sanfillipo Produce Co., DNO Produce, LLC and DNO, Inc. of Columbus, Ohio to learn about their organizations, which have roots in produce wholesale and distribution spanning 100 years.
Not only did participants observe working facilities, they learned from employees about how these operations source product from growers, their processes for aggregating and then distributing product to restaurants, grocers, institutions and other customers, as well as protocols the companies use to ensure the quality and safety of produce throughout aggregation, processing and distribution.
The Ohio Cooperative Development Center (OCDC) at The Ohio State University South Centers leads the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network, a peer exchange network of new and emerging food hubs, incubator training farms, and technical assistance providers. The regional effort was formed in early 2014 and participants now come together four times a year. Meetings focus on assessing the needs of food hub and training farm efforts, organizing programming to meet those needs, and creating a space for stakeholders to learn from one another. Past programming has focused on financial planning and finance resources, examining successful models, and quality and safety assurance programs. The network also incorporates activities such as resource sharing through an email listserv and educational webinars throughout the year.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines regional food hubs as, “a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.” The concept, and efforts to create food hubs in local communities, has gained a lot of interest in Ohio and West Virginia in the past few years as hubs can create a variety of benefits within their communities, including increasing market access for local and regional producers, particularly small producers.
If you are interested in learning more about cooperative food hubs or the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network, please contact Hannah Scott, firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-289-2071 x227.
Barham, James, Debra Tropp, Kathleen Enterline, Jeff Farbman, John Fisk, and Stacia Kiraly. Regional Food Hub Resource Guide. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service. Washington, DC. April 2012. http://dx.doi.org/10.9752/MS046.04-2012