Food Hubs

basket of veggiesUSDA defines a food hub as, “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 provide important services for small and mid-sized farmers by marketing local products, brokering volume sales, coordinating distribution logistics, and helping producers meet industry requirements in areas such as food safety and packaging.

Resources

Iowa Food Hub Directory. Find a food hub in your area, and see what types of products and services it offers.

Iowa Food Hub Managers Working Group. This community of practice was begun in the summer of 2015, and meets quarterly to address operating challenges and needs for food hub businesses in Iowa. Together, group members are exploring how they can work together to improve their technical knowledge of aggregation and distribution systems, source more local products, leverage funding, build partnerships, and grow opportunities for farmers. For information or to get on the group’s email list, contact Jason Grimm, working group coordinator, at jason@ivrcd.org, or Kayla Koether, FFED working group liaison, at koether@iastate.edu.

Iowa Food Hub: Managing Cash Flow for a Low-Capital Food Hub Start-up. (ISU Extension and Outreach and the Leopold Center) For food hubs, or businesses that aggregate and distribute local food, limited funds can be a barrier to growth. If food hub managers pay close attention to cash flow, however, they can grow their business using the income generated by the business itself, and reduce the need for grants or loans in the start-up phase. This publication explains the idea of cash flow and how food hub managers can use it to their advantage, drawing on the real-world experiences of Iowa Food Hub. Watch a webinar about the resource at this link.

Using Accounting Software for Food Hubs: Processing Traceable Orders. (ISU Extension and Outreach and the Leopold Center) Based on an actual Iowa food hub, this tutorial takes a step by step approach, guiding users to expand their use of QuickBooks to improve product traceability, accounting, basic inventory management and recordkeeping. Using QuickBooks in combination with Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets and a few other low cost tools can provide an effective, low cost solution for data management.

Local Food System Toolkit 1: Developing a Worksite Food Box Program. (Iowa Food Hub, ISU Extension and Outreach and the Leopold Center). This is a guide for creating a program for pre-packed food boxes delivered weekly and picked up by employees at their workplaces. It is marketed to employers, such as businesses, universities and hospitals who want locally grown food more accessible for their employees. This was a collaboration with the Iowa Food Hub and ISU Extension and Outreach.  Watch the webinar here.

Production Planning for Aggregators(ISU Extension and Outreach and the Leopold Center) This 21-page guide is designed for aggregators — businesses and organizations that create a single sales outlet through which large-volume buyers can purchase products from several local farmers. This fact sheet reviews the basics of coordinated production planning, explains how aggregators operate, and suggests things to consider when getting started. Examples from other aggregators are included.

More publications

Food Hub Development in Iowa. By Arlene Enderton and Corry Bregendahl, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. This 25-page report is from the first coordinated study of food hub development in Iowa.

Regional Food Hub Resource Guide.  Published by USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. A good general overview of food hubs in the United States.

Starting an Online Local Food Co-op: A Case Study from the Iowa Valley Food Co-op. By Jesse Singerman. Prepared for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

Grower’s Manual:  A Template for Grower Cooperatives.  From the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. A sample guide to food safety and quality standards for a growers cooperative, based on the guide used by GROWN Locally.

The Farmer’s Legal Guide to Producer Marketing Associations.  From Drake Agricultural Law Center. Overviews both legal and business issues for producer associations, including business planning, feasibility studies, business structures, liability and more.

Scaling up:  Perspectives from Growers and Buyers on Barriers and Benefits to Wholesale Marketing of Local Fruits and Vegetables.  From Practical Farmers of Iowa. Discusses challenges and opportunities for Iowa Farmers and food purchasers in developing wholesale relationships.

Resources

National Good Food Network – Food Hub Center. The best national collection of food hub resources, as well as archived webinars on a wide variety of food hub topics.

Wholesome Wave. Publications include the Food Hub Business Assessment Toolkit and a suite of related business resources for food hubs and their supporters.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service: Food Hubs portal. USDA’s collection of publications and resources for food hubs.

Useful Contacts

Kayla Koether_BWKayla Koether, FFED

Teresa Wiemerslage.Teresa Wiemerslage, field specialist, northeast Iowa

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