Food hubs can take many forms, but most are designed to solve the challenges of processing and distributing food produced by independent small- and medium-sized growers operating in local food systems. The services provided by food hubs vary greatly. A food hub located in the Tri-county region could provide some or all of the following services to area farmers: produce aggregation (to meet scale requirements), production planning, storage, packaging and distribution, limited processing, and private labeling for interested large volume buyers in the area. Increased local food economy would help support local farmers by creating market opportunities, but would also benefit grocery retailers, restaurants, distributors, hospitals, hotels, schools and other institutional buyers who are seeing increased demand from consumers for local food.
A study commissioned by the Local Food Systems program and completed in October 2012 evaluated the financial feasibility of a food hub for Butte, Glenn, and Tehama county growers. The initial goal of the study was to estimate the potential market for local food, develop a model of revenues and costs for the facility, and establish the need among the grower and buyer community. The final study described two alternative formats: 1) a full-service food hub, including warehouse and other infrastructure; and, 2) A “bare bones” or online only food hub that would serve as an online brokerage between local buyers and sellers. The feasibility study found that an on-line food hub, or the “bare bones” model, would be the most viable first step. The feasibility study was made possible by a generous grant through Rabobank’s Community Development Fund with support from 3CORE, Inc.
The LFS program was awarded a grant in October of 2012 by the USDA’s Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP) to further expand the network of growers and buyers in Buy Fresh Buy Local, North Valley and to develop and launch an online food in California’s North Valley. The North Valley Food Hub online launched in early 2014, and is designed to help small- and medium-sized growers connect with buyers to overcome barriers to wholesale local food markets. The site will allow buyers like restaurants, specialty food retailers, distributors, independent groceries and other wholesale buyers to find more locally grown products, while also serving to assist growers with accessing new markets and expanding business. It is our vision that this website may be Phase 1 of a long-term plan to develop a full-service food hub for the region.