Amagansett Food Institute, an organization that advocates for farmers and food producers on the East End, has been working with New Venture Advisors over the past several weeks to gauge the feasibility of an East End food hub. “We want to make sure that farming continues to thrive in our area and the food hub study will help determine how feasible and how much interest there is in entering and/or expanding wholesale markets for small and medium sized farmers,” says Jessica Engle, program coordinator for the nonprofit Amagansett Food Institute.
According to the USDA, a food hub is a “critical player in re-establishing strong local and regional food systems” and can provide the link between small producers and larger institutional and wholesale buyers by aggregating produce from small farms for sale and providing a single point of purchase for wholesale, which accounts for 99 percent of all food sales. Hubs offer sound infrastructure support to producers across the country, build up a “stronger regional food system” and “keep more of the retail food dollar circulating in the local economy,” says USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Food hub models vary and can work as aggregation or processing centers, or both, and services can run from basic washing and packing of local produce for retail, to the full gamut of processing and (inter)regional distribution. Aggregation center business models can include an aggregation facility, a packing house and/or a web-based aggregator. Processing center business models can include contract processing, private labeling, a shared use kitchen for farmers and others, a food business incubator and workforce development.
This past Tuesday, on April 14, AFI held a small gathering at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead to get grower feedback. Issues discussed included increasing supply radius, food processing, freezer storage and exposure for farm brands in Manhattan. The viability of a food hub best depends on feedback from local producers and buyers all across the East End.
The survey, which ends mid-May, is the first step to determine local needs; the feasibility of a food hub will develop from there. “Please send these links to your network, to any local farmers and wholesale buyers that you know. The surveys are an integral part of the food hub study process and we need as many responses as possible, even if the person is not sure a food hub will be helpful,” says Engle. Each survey, links below, takes approximately 15 minutes.
For more information, please e-mail Jessica Engle.