Food Hubs Connect Healthy Food, Farms, and Communities

The USDA defines a food hub 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”, but food hubs do much more. Food hubs are a catalyst for community wellness. They address problems of food insecurity and connect community members to the source of their food.

Building a regional food hub requires collaboration of multiple partners. Each partner contributes unique strengths and resources to the project. Community stakeholders amplify success by participating in project planning and execution and supporting the food hub in their community.

In 2018 the Ohio State University’s Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFact) partnered with the Methodist Theological School in Ohio (MTSO), Seminary Hill Farm, and Franklinton Gardens Urban Farm, to develop a model for food hub businesses in underserved urban communities. The organizations invite community stakeholders, individuals and organizations to attend the Building Regional Food Hubs Conference on Nov. 9, 2018.

The conference will host local food leaders from across the state of Ohio. Anna Haas from Local Food Connection will share online possibilities for urban food hubs. Piper Fernway will describe how Bon Appetit Management Company connects institutions to local food in Appalachia. Leslie Schaller, the founder of the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks’ (ACEnet) Food Venture Center and Nelsonville Food Hub, will tell how ACEnet helps producers enhance their businesses with value-added products.

The conference will feature a panel of practitioners discussing challenges and opportunities for producers in food hub models. Panelist Tadd Petersen, manager of Seminary Hill Farm, notes that producers face many challenges. Tadd says, “Storage is the number one barrier facing producers.” Food hubs can provide aggregation, packing, processing and storage space to help farmers expand business capacity. Seminary Hill Farm works with 30 local farms to provide catering and event services, supply MTSO’s dining facilities with farm fresh food, and operate a 300-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription. A tour of Seminary Hill Farm will follow the conference.

Attend the Building Regional Food Hubs Conference

Date: Friday, Nov. 9, 2018

Time: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: Methodist Theological School in Ohio, 3081 Columbus Pike, Delaware, Ohio

Fee: $10

To learn more and register for the event visit www.mtso.edu/foodhubconference

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References

1. Barham, James, Debra Tropp, Kathleen Enterline, Jeff Farbman, John Fisk, and Stacia Kiraly. Regional Food Hub Resource Guide. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service. April 2012.

*Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper

Get ready for retail: Selling farm products at grocery stores and restaurants

Retail and restaurant sales are an opportunity for farmers and food businesses to increase sales volume and revenue, while building brand awareness in the local marketplace. But selling farm products to retail buyers isn’t as easy as showing up with samples. Before approaching grocery store and restaurant buyers, farmers must understand the market, obtain required insurance and certifications, and comply with industry standards for packaging and labeling.

Understand the market: products, people, promotions and pricing

Visit the grocery store(s) you wish to sell product to. Survey the store’s current products, customers, promotions, and pricing. Pay special attention to similar products that your products will compete against, noting the price range. Typical retail mark-up is 40%; if the retail price of fresh asparagus is $2.89 per pound, the grocer paid about $1.73 per pound.

Enjoy a meal at the restaurant you wish to sell products to. Look for language or signage that promotes local sourcing. Notice fellow diners- will your products appeal to the restaurant’s typical customers? Review the menu and consider if your products are a good fit. Make note of prices on the menu. Restaurant industry food costs average 30-35%, depending upon the style of restaurant.

Insurance and certifications

Retail and restaurant buyers may require vendors to maintain a level of product liability insurance, worker’s compensation and/or other insurance policies. Grocers may require vendor farms to be Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certified. Buyers will appreciate a copy of your farm’s food safety plan, and an invitation to perform an on-farm food safety inspection.

Be prepared to provide buyers with documentation proving your products are USDA Certified Organic, Certified Natural, Verified Non-GMO, Animal Welfare Approved or other specialty certifications. You may need to explain terms like “grass-fed”, “pasture raised”, “natural”, “antibiotic free”, and how those terms can be used to market products to customers.

Packaging and labeling

Grocery stores and restaurants require product to be delivered in packaging that complies with industry standards. Packaging may need to include USDA or industry grading, sizing and quality standard information.

Understand legal regulations for labeling retail products, including Country of Origin labeling, USDA inspection seals, label claims, weights and business contact information that allows for product traceability. Many grocers require a price look up (PLU) or universal product code (UPC) label.

Pitching your farm products

Farmers that understand the market, obtain required insurance and certifications, and comply with industry standards for packaging and labeling, can approach buyers with confidence! The first successful sale is the start of a long-term mutually beneficial buyer-seller relationship.

Need help getting ready for retail?

Join the Ohio State University Direct Food and Ag Marketing Team for MarketReady Producer Training.

Dates: Two-part training on Thursday, November 1, 2018 and Friday, November 9, 2018

Time: 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. both days

Location: OSU Extension- Cuyahoga County, 12200 Fairhill Rd. E Bldg. Cleveland, OH 44120

Fee: $30 covers both days (lunch is provided)

Register: Contact gardner.1148@osu.edu or 740-289-2071 ext 132 by October 30th.

*Article originally published in Farm & Dairy Newspaper

Celebrate co-op month with Co-op Cookies

Co-op Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup Land O’ Lakes butter, softened

¾ cup America Crystal sugar

¾ cup American Crystal brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ tsp Sunkist orange zest

1 heaping cup all-purpose King Arthur flour

1 heaping cup self-rising King Arthur flour

6 oz Ocean Spray Craisins

½ cup Blue Diamond sliced almonds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy.
  3. Add vanilla, eggs, soda, salt and orange zest. Mix well.
  4. Incorporate flours to form dough.
  5. Stir in Craisins and almonds.
  6. Drop by spoonful onto ungreased baking sheets.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden.
  8. Remove from heat and allow to cool on pan.
  9. Store in airtight container.

OSU Professional Services for Collaborative Enterprises Survey

The Center for Cooperatives in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University is working on a project to assess the professional legal, accounting, and tax services available to cooperative and collaborative businesses in Ohio and West Virginia.

The goals of the project are twofold.

  • First, using information collected from an online survey, the Center will create a directory of professionals who provide services to cooperatives and collaborative enterprises.
  • Second, the Center will use online survey responses to better understand professionals’ experience levels, continuing education practices, and interests in network building to help develop programming and resources for professionals in our region’s cooperative community.

How can you help with this project?

If you are an attorney, accountant, or tax professional who works with cooperatives and collaborative enterprises, we invite you to take the short survey at the link below. The survey will gather information for a directory of professionals and ask about your experience with cooperatives as well as continuing education and networking interests. We anticipate that the survey will take approximately 5-10 minutes of your time.

If you know legal, financial, or tax professionals working with cooperatives, please forward this invitation to participate to them! Gathering robust information will help us create valuable resources for the cooperative community.

Professional Services for Collaborative Enterprises Survey

If you have questions about his project, please contact Hannah Scott at scott.1220@osu.edu or 740-289-2071 ext. 227. This survey is for a study being conducted by The Ohio State University.

Take Ag Action in Moorefield, West Virginia on 8/27 and Kearneyville, WV on 8/28

Think a co-op may be part of the solution for your farm or food business?

Now is the time to get involved and/or come to ask questions.

Date: Monday 8/27/2018

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Location: Eastern WV Community & Technical College, 316 Eastern Drive, Moorefield, West Virginia 26836

Date: Tuesday 8/28/2018

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Location: WVU Kearneysville Tree Fruit Research and Education Center, 67 Apple Harvest Drive, Kearneyville, WV.

For more information and to register contact:  tina.metzer@easternwv.edu or nbergdoll@wvda.us