Organizations work to connect small producers, buyers

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

The USDA has released its first Regional Food Hub Resource Guide as part of an effort to support small, midsized and beginning farmers.

Food hubs are businesses or organizations that connect producers with buyers by aggregating farm products and offering a variety of production, distribution and marketing services.

Food hubs allow small and midsized farmers to meet the growing consumer demand for fresh, local food by gaining entry into commercial and larger volume markets, USDA undersecretary Kathleen Merrigan said in a conference call April 20.

Food hubs also offer preseason contracting for growers.

"That can be very important," Merrigan said, particularly for younger operators that don't have much to fall back on.

The new resource guide includes a map showing where food hubs operate and provides information on how to develop and participate in regional food hubs.

More than 100 food hubs are in operation around the country, according to USDA, with large clusters in the Midwest and Northeast.

The effort to promote local food sales is part of the agency's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. It is not in opposition to the agency's work to increase export and nationwide sales opportunities, Merrigan said, but a complementary exercise that USDA is proud to engage in.

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