Regional Food Hub Models

It is no secret that efficiencies of scale contribute to successful business models and local food production is no exception. Food hubs are emerging which are aiding local farm producers in achieving efficiency of infrastructure, employees, and marketing. These really are essential for the survival of the small local producer, and when I attended a Boulder County farmer panel Q&A earlier this year this was brought out, “View from the Real World: What are concerns of Boulder County Open Space Farmers?”

  • Over 100 food hubs are in operation around the country, with large clusters of food hubs in the Midwest and Northeast.
  • Average food hub sales are nearly $1 million annually.
  • On average, each food hub creates 13 jobs.
  • The median number of small and midsize suppliers served by an individual food hub is 40.
  • Almost all food hubs offer fresh produce and the majority offer dairy and protein products as well.
  • Nearly 40 percent of food hubs surveyed were started by entrepreneurial producers, nonprofits, volunteer organizations, producer groups, or other organizations looking to build a strong distribution and aggregation infrastructure for small and midsize producers.
  • Over 40 percent of existing food hubs are specifically working in “food deserts” to increase access to fresh, healthful and local products in communities underserved by full-service food retail outlets.

For an example of just one food hub model, check out this one in Vermont.

Graph of U.S. Organic Food Sales Trends


Once available only in natural product stores and farmers’ markets, organic foods are now found in conventional supermarkets, value-priced big-box chains, and an expanding array of direct-to-consumer markets. U.S. organic food sales are expected to reach $25 billion in 2010, up from $3.6 billion in 1997. Organic products accounted for over 3.5 percent of food sold for at-home consumption in 2009. Produce and dairy products accounted for over half of organic food sales in 2009, followed by soymilk and other beverages, packaged foods, breads/grains, snack foods, condiments, and meat. Sales of other organic products (including herbal supplements, personal care products, flowers, linens, and clothing) started from a smaller base but are growing even faster than total organic food sales. (source: usda)

Dr. Frank Mitloehner on Greenhouse Emissions from Livestock


Graph Showing World Production of Main Categories of Meat 1961-2007

Friend Dr. Nevil Speer, W. Kentucky University, alerted me to some key talks from the 2011 Annual Conference of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, held earlier this month in San Antonio, Texas, which he moderated. Today, I’ve chosen to feature the presentation by Dr. Frank Mitloehner, Associate Professor and Air Quality Extension Specialist, University of California-Davis titled “The Overarching Demand for Food and Implications for Resource Use and Ecosystems.” This half-hour talk truly is worth your time if you are interested in how livestock regions and methods influence their emissions which contribute to climate change. It contains many great slides (including the two used in this post) and also covers the changing diets of the world’s growing population.


Graph Showing Trends in Land Used for Meat Production 1961-2001

Whereas scientists understand that intensification is key to mitigation, the public does not (excluding all other ethical issues). What Mitloehner says correlates well with yesterday’s post interviewing Dr. Charles Rice.