"Regional food hubs support local farmers by providing distribution for their products—like, for example, organic crops. They also play a critical role in transitioning conventional growers towards organic agriculture by providing access to a growing base of organic consumers.”
As we work to rebuild our foodsheds, regional food hubs are an integral ingredient. When “local” began to re-root in the American landscape and psyche during the first decade of the twenty-first century, we tended to celebrate the two ends of sustainable food systems: farm gate and dinner plate. We nearly forgot that we also had to fiddle with the middle—the supply chain components that drive (sometimes literally) our successes.
The behemoths of the food economy spent the last half of the twentieth century devastating small- and mid-scale farms and food entrepreneurs. Now, we are now tasked with reseeding the landscape with new solutions. Regional food hubs represent the infrastructure of a "new middle" that collects, prepares, markets, and distributes products from a diverse array of farmers and processors.
These regional food hubs leave us with two fascinating questions to explore together: Is there a connection between common goods and the common good, and how can we best link local and regional initiatives?
Title: Regional Food Hub
Location: Hummingbird Wholesalers, Republic of Eugene, OR
Featuring: Julie Tilt
A regional food hub is centrally located for the use of aggregation, storage, processing, marketing, and distribution of regionally produced food products. Hummingbird’s customers don’t want their food “From China,” so the company focuses on creating food security for the local community. Hummingbird distributes 225 different products from San Francisco to Seattle, with 85% of its customers are from Oregon. They work with 16 regional farmers and carry organic locally grown wheat, teff and flour, transitional garbanzo and lentils, local honeys, local organic filberts, dried cranberries, organic blueberries and prunes, organic cornmeal, organic wild rice, organic black beans and flax seed — and this is only a partial list.
As a micro distributor, Hummingbird supports local farmers by providing distribution of their products and also plays a role in transitioning conventional growers towards organic agriculture by providing access to a growing base of organic consumers. As a micro processor, Hummingbird processes foods that are made from locally sourced ingredients, so as to eliminate the need for a lengthy supply chain and, instead, centralizes the regions’ food needs.
Tracing your food from production to distribution
“By the time most food reaches the end-consumer, they have very little awareness of its growing conditions or environmental impact, or even who the farmer is," says Brian Keogh of Organically Grown Company.
Brian Keogh says distributors play a key role in handling nuanced logistics and marketing that connect supply-side “growers” with demand-side “eaters.” Fruit and vegetable growers face constant ups and downs, such as weather-related crop failures, transportation issues, and price spikes. Distributors help smooth out the bumps at the retail level by coordinating transport and production. They can also educate buyers about seasonality, new and heirloom varieties, family farming, fair trade certification, organic farming practices, sustainable packaging, and more.
Distributors, such as Organically Grown Company, also help regional growers coordinate annual production and map out what crops and volumes to grow so they can meet predicted demand.
Organically Grown Company is farmer- and employee-owned. Prosperity is shared among all stakeholders to create an even distribution of wealth, helping both the distributor and farmer share in the profits of a successful business.
Three things you can do
- Buy local! As a greater demand for local goods grows, so does the generation of local jobs and the local economy.
- Support your regional food supply chain! There are many ways in which you can contribute to this growth, whether an investor, a policy maker, a producer, or a consumer.
- Shed light on your local producers with a photo contest! We want to see some of the favorite local goods that you can only find in your area. Whether it’s a regionally produced root vegetable or an artisanal snack, we’re celebrating the bounty and diversity of local regional foodsheds. Here is a chance to highlight some of your favorite local goods, and win a prize in the end!
Do you think it is important to support local food systems?
For the past three years, the Lexicon of Sustainability has sought out the foremost practitioners of sustainability in food and farming to gain their insights and experiences on this important subject. What began as a photography project to spread their knowledge has grown to include short films, study guides, traveling shows, a book, and a website where people can add their own terms to this ever-evolving lexicon. See more at www.lexiconofsustainability.com.