Insights into Regional Food Hubs
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 21st 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: aggregation, processing, storage, and distribution of products. Perhaps we didn’t adequately acknowledge the realities of brick and mortars, mechanization, food safety hurdles, transportation logistics…not to mention the need for consistency and reliability of product for a broader marketplace. Or maybe the need for capital to fund the critical infrastructure of the middle simply overwhelmed us in those early days of “local.”
Regardless, the insatiable behemeths of the food economy spent the last half of the 20th century devastating small- and mid-scale farms and food entrepreneurs, and we are now tasked with reseeding the landscape with scale-appropriate solutions such as regional food hubs, the infrastructure of a new middle that generally collects, prepares, markets, and distributes products from a diverse array of farmers and processors. While the components, ownership models, and management approaches vary widely among regional food hubs, they nonetheless tend to serve a shared purpose--knitting together a variety of local food enterprises into what can be more effective and resilient regional market opportunities. 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.