Local Food in Washington County
Food Hub Development
Growth in local food consumption by our schools, institutions and wholesalers could significantly increase the viabilty of the local food economy in Washington County. Though schools, hospitals, and large retailers may wish to purchase local food they encounter simlilar challenges.
The barriers to local food market expansion AND the solutions for large scale buyers that could significantly increase use of local food are well documented in our region1 and are the same as those identified across the nation2.
Barriers to Market Entry or Expansion:
- inconsistent quality and out-of-season availability
- inability to obtain sufficiently large volumes of products
- inefficiencies/irregularities in ordering, delivery and invoicing of products
- irregular/unavailable pricing and product lists from farmers
- requirements for contracts
- logistical difficulty of dealing with multiple small suppliers
- lack of space, facilities and/or skills to use a fresh product
- lack of prepared or frozen products
- labor shortages for harvest and marketing
- regular order and delivery schedules
- farmer co-op/regional brokers to allow "one-stop shopping", preferably on-line
- intermediary to pack, distribute, or ship local products
- mid-scale aggregation and distribution systems
- supply chain infrastrcuture (vehicles, temperature controlled storage facilities, processing plants)
- reduce regulatory and processing barriers for meat and value-added production
- easy-to-use record keeping software and information labelling for farmers
- more refrigeration, freezer, dry storage space for institutions
Food Hubs - A Pivotal Part of the Solution
The challenges and solutions above point to a variety of responses including training, capital, technology and building of relationships.
The single and most effective solution that is growing in Maine and across the country is the creation of food hubs to create a large, consistent and reliable supply of local and regional food.
A truly great resource on food hubs is the 2012 USDA publication3 pictured at right that provides a good definition of a regional food hub:
A regional food hub is a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.
Food Hubs in Maine and Washington County and throughout the nation...
- Farm Fresh Connection LLC in Freeport
- Crown O' Maine Organic Cooperative in North Vassalboro
- Fresh Start Farms CSA in Portland (note the link provided in the USDA PDF does not work; the one provided here does)
Do you know of others? E-mail Judy East so we can list (and learn from) others!
1 - Downeast Business Alliance and Healthy Acadia/Healthy Maine Partnership. Downeast Farm & Food Cluster Project; Farm to Cafeteria - New Markets, New Opportunities. May 2009.
2 - Martinez, Steve, et al. Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues, ERR 97, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, May 2010.
3- Barham, James, Debra Tropp, Kathleen Enterline, Jeff Farbman, John Fisk, and Stacia Kiraly. Regional Food Hub Resource Guide. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service. Washington, DC. April 2012