August 13, 2012
Small and medium-size farmers face multiple obstacles when trying to bring food products to market, but beginning next year they will have a new resource.
The Wabash Valley Food Hub will work to expand the local foods market in West-Central Indiana and East-Central Illinois. The non-profit, member-driven organization is being developed through Indiana State University's Rural-Urban Entrepreneurship Development Institute (RUEDI).
The local food hub project is one of many across the nation, as communities nation-wide strive to meet the ever-increasing demand for locally-sourced foods.
Last December, a local foods panel discussion hosted by Terre Foods Cooperative attracted an overwhelmingly large crowd - a testament to the growing interest in locally-produced foods in our region.
"Our research has shown that there is a gap in the market for local foods in the Wabash Valley as well as a sizeable number of producers who have the desire to expand their operations," said Steven Pontius, professor of geography and director of the RUEDI.
With no existing organization dedicated to coordinating the local foods market, Pontius saw an opportunity.
"With the food hub project, we will reduce barriers to market entry for farmers and producers, and make sourcing local foods a real option for local businesses and institutions," he said.
"The primary purpose of the food hub project is to reduce as many barriers as possible and allow the market to work more efficiently," said Jason Saavedra, principal at J3 Concepts, a consulting firm hired to assist the RUEDI with launching the organization. "Typically, it's just not feasible for a buyer to deal with 30 or 40 local farmers to get the supply they need. A food hub addresses this issue because, instead, the buyer can deal with one entity - the food hub - to get its local produce, meats and other food products."
The food hub will work with local small and medium-sized farmers as well as local producers of value-added food products. The organization will be membership-based and will be self-sustaining once launched. It is being organized with funding from
ISU's Unbounded Possibilities (UP) initiative, aprogram through which the university is pursuing institutional distinction.
The project will have the support of an advisory committee that includes a number of constituents in the local foods market, including Jim Luzar of the Vigo County Purdue Extension office.
"I am looking forward to working with the food hub to support our local farmers," Luzar said. "There are a number of resources that Purdue Extension can contribute to ensure that it succeeds."
J3 Concepts will conduct stakeholder meetings after harvest time to gather input on what local producers and consumers need.
"We are excited at the positive energy we've received in talking withlocal farmers at farmer's markets in the region and with potential consumers," said Jennifer Hale, also a principal at J3 Concepts.
About the RUEDI - The Rural-Urban Entrepreneurship Development Institute (RUEDI), one of eight projects selected for investment through Indiana State University's Unbounded Possibilities initiative, aims to develop and support the entrepreneurial culture within rural communities. Core projects of the RUEDI include the creation of entrepreneurial programs for K-12 students, establishment of a rural entrepreneurship major and minor program, offering of business development services to rural entrepreneurs, and development of the Wabash Valley Food Hub.
For more information on food hubs, visit www.ams.usda.gov/foodhubs.
Contact: Jennifer Hale or Jason Saavedra, 812-645-4610 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ISU's Rural-Urban Entrepreneurship Development Institute is developing the Wabash Valley Food Hub to work to expand the local foods market in West-Central Indiana and East-Central Illinois.