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Food Hubs

Innovation Grows Local Food Economies in New York State

Consumers expect a lot from local food. They want it to be fresh, healthy and raised responsibly. They want it to be affordable and convenient. And, they want their purchase to support local farmers. At first glance these goals seem at odds with each other. How can local food improve farmers’ bottom lines without being expensive? Is it possible to efficiently deliver local food to (mostly) urban consumers while still supporting (mostly) rural farm economies?

The answer may look something like Field Goods, an innovative food hub and social enterprise based in eastern New York State. Like other food hubs, Field Goods helps facilitate the connection between producer and consumer. By providing distribution and aggregation services, Field Goods helps reduce producers’ costs. And, for consumers, Field Goods delivers fresh, affordable and local products directly to workplaces – making it easier to support local producers.

Pavilions, Food Hubs and Community Kitchens - Designing for Local Food Systems

Today, we celebrated National Farmers Market Week at Uptown Market in Greenwood, South Carolina, highlighting USDA support for the local food sector in South Carolina and across the country. Uptown Market Manager, Stephanie Turner, and Greenwood Mayor Welborn Adams joined us in thanking the farmers and vendors, and recognizing the great benefits their market has brought to the local community.  The Uptown Market is a special place for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), with a special connection to my program and work we do.

In 2013, AMS Architect, Fidel Delgado, got involved in providing technical assistance for the design and development of the new Uptown Market pavilion.  We worked with city officials, businesses leaders and local farmers to understand the community needs for the farmers market. The planned site was originally a railroad station and inspired the design that mimics a train station to fit the historic character of the town.  From our visit today, it is clear this market is creating business opportunity and serving as a community resource.

Building Businesses & Helping Communities - Celebrating the Fruits of Farmers Markets

National Farmers Market Week is the perfect time to reflect on the evolution we’ve witnessed in our nation's local and regional food systems, and to celebrate the results of the public and private partnerships that have made success possible.

The local food sector represents more than $12 billion dollars per year in sales, according to industry estimates.  That’s a lot of economic growth and opportunity for American producers and businesses.  And, in the newly-released results of the 2015 survey of nearly 1,400 farmers market managers, we are able to see the direct benefits these markets provide to businesses and communities across the country.

Fresh Foods Signal a Fresh Start for New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward

I’m really looking forward to celebrating National Farmers Market Week. Farmers markets play a key role in developing food systems that help local grow economies. They bring people together, create bridges between rural and urban communities and increase access to locally-grown fruits and vegetables, providing healthier options for consumers across the country.

When Hurricane Katrina struck over a decade ago, New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward notoriously faced some of the worst devastation in our nations’ history. The floodwaters have long since subsided, but residents in this community are still struggling to rebuild the lives they knew before the storm.

Mapping Out Farmers Market Success

Anticipation is building for the opening of seasonal farmers markets in communities across the country—especially in Takoma Park, MD, at the Crossroads Farmers Market.  With over 1,000 visitors each week and vendors offering 131 different fruits and vegetables, market manager Michelle Dudley has a lot of work to do figuring out the perfect placement of farmers and vendors coming to the market starting June 1.

Thanks to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), she has it all mapped out!

New Tools Bring Lenders to the Table for Local, Regional Food Enterprises

Open any food magazine these days and you’re bound to find a profile of the latest locavore start-up turning cream and cantaloupe into craft popsicles or maple sap into a whole new category of bottled beverages.  As consumer demand for local foods continues to climb like pole beans, venture capitalists are scouring this sector in search of the next hot investment.

USDA has long been investing in this space too, for the good of rural economies. And now we’re unveiling a new online interactive training to help other funders understand the work of regional food enterprises that are connecting local producers with local markets, and why they might want to invest in a piece of this pie.

Talking Local Food: Measuring Progress and Creating Opportunities

Results—at USDA we are constantly tracking and measuring them.  We want to know that what we’re doing is making a difference, that we’re making progress towards our mission, that the communities we support are getting the help they need.  Recently I had the pleasure of visiting local food stakeholders that are making a real difference in Charlottesville, VA and hear firsthand how USDA programs have made an impact in their community.

During my visit, I had a chance to listen to farmers, local food organizers, and business owners share their experiences involving local food production.  Just outside Charlottesville, I toured the Hill Farm and the warehouse of Local Food Hub.  The open dialog of these visits is important to me and important to USDA.  I strongly believe that we need to hear from the public so we make sure our priorities, programs and services are in line with what the American people need.

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Beth Robinette

Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. This month, we hear from Beth Robinette, a rancher and leader in the local food and regional food movement in Spokane, Washington. She runs her family's fourth-generation grass fed beef operation the Lazy R Ranch, and is one of the co-founders of LINC Foods, a worker and farmer owned cooperative food hub based in Spokane. She studied sustainable agriculture and business and marketing at Fairhaven College at Western Washington University, and earned her MBA in Sustainable Systems at Pinchot University with an emphasis on Local Living Economies and Sustainable Food and Agriculture.

How did you first become interested in the local and regional food movement?

Local food was really the norm in my household growing up. We raised a lot of our own food, or we would trade beef for things we didn’t raise ourselves. My grandpa was a prolific gardener and I can vividly remember the joy of eating a perfectly ripe tomato, warm from the sun, out of his garden. My dad had a part-time job working for a sustainable agriculture non-profit called the Washington State Food and Farming Network when I was in middle school and high school. He was the Eastern Washington coordinator and his job put him in contact with many movers and shakers in the local/regional food movement, which was really my first exposure to the idea. It wasn’t until I left for college, however, that I began to realize how privileged I had been to grow up on a ranch, and that most of my fellow students had a totally different relationship to food and agriculture than I did. I read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma for a class my freshman year, and I was pretty much hooked on local food from then on.

Every Family Needs A Farmer

Since the beginning of April 2016, USDA has celebrated the success of small and mid-sized farmers in conjunction with local and regional food systems.  USDA officially kicked off Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) Month by not only announcing a number of new initiatives, but also highlighting the vast array of accomplishments achieved by our stakeholders, grantees, employees and more.

KYF2 Month is soon coming to a close.  However, we still have a few announcements up our sleeves.  Today we’re rolling out the revamped Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food website.  The site was redesigned to offer a more user-friendly experience that makes it easier to navigate the wealth of USDA and partner resources. Using updated web standards and visuals to optimize the user-experience, we’ve reorganized the information and gathered new content.  In short, the KYF2 website has become an even better a one-stop-shop for information on USDA’s local and regional food systems work.

New GroupGAP Certification Brings New Opportunities for the Produce Industry

Excitement is building in the produce industry.  From salad greens to roasted beets to fresh blueberries, local food is showing up on grocery stores shelves, as new features on restaurants menus and on our kids’ school lunch plates.  The increased demand for local food is creating more opportunities for farmers, ranchers and producers. While exploring new ways to meet the demand, the produce industry is also keeping an eye on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

To help producers meet the requirements of FSMA, one of the most important services USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides is our Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification. That’s why we’re launching a new GroupGAP certification program that allows smaller growers and producers to band together to become certified as a group. We are working closely with FDA to align our GAP and GroupGAP programs with FSMA requirements so that as FSMA takes effect, certified growers will know they are meeting the new requirements.