The second workshop in the Food Hubs and Co-ops: How local family farms can feed our communities series will be offered August 29, 2013, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. in the Douglas County Fair’s Dreher Building, 2110 Harper St, Lawrence, KS. The workshop will provide farmers, community organizations, and local governmental entities with information on the multiple phases of food hub development.
Using the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative as a case study, the workshop will explore best practices in food hub development and outline the project phases including: identifying opportunities and need, conducting a feasibility study, developing a business plan, and launching the food hub.
“With numerous Kansas food hub initiatives in various stages of development, we are so fortunate to have representatives that are able to share the back story of the Wisconsin project from research to launch,” stated Mary Howell, Membership Specialist with the Kansas Farmers Union.
Kathy Nyquist is strategy consultant providing business development services for regional food system coalitions and entrepreneurs. As principal of New Venture Advisors, she has led multiple feasibility studies which investigated the commercial viability of regional food system infrastructure projects. She completed the 2011 feasibility study for Dane County, WI.
WFU Executive Director Tom Quinn and Sarah Lloyd represented the organization during the development and launch phases of the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative. Quinn explained, “Our food hub project started with a study sponsored by a local governmental initiative, and was incubated in a partnership between government, university, community organization and farmers. The business start-up phase required the direct leadership of the core group of farmers who were making an initial investment of both money and product. It also required a core sponsor and investor like WFU to provide a stable source of initial funding and essential staff support.”
According to Quinn, WFU became involved in organizing the food hub co-op for several reasons, “First, our board decided as part of our strategic planning process that we wanted re-engage with our original roots in cooperative development. In our early years, local Farmers Union chapters often came together around establishing a farm supply or dairy cooperative. The link between cooperative enterprise and Farmers Union membership was a real strength in building the organization.”
“Second, we wanted to provide that same opportunity to our current membership. We wanted to hold a share of our long-term investments in something that could directly benefit our members, provide a long-term income source for the organization, and foster ancillary economic development opportunities in rural communities. The unique cooperative structure of the Hub is designed with these goals in mind,” said Quinn.
WFU determined that local food system development could offer a significant opportunity for farmers to have more direct control over their markets and to re-build an efficient and sustainable connection between the food they produce and local consumers. The organization believes that retaining even a modest percentage of total food purchases within a region offers a huge potential market for farmers.
“To be successful and grow market share, local food systems need efficient infrastructure and marketing systems. One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is that we don’t need to completely replace conventional distribution systems, which are generally very efficient, but that we need to provide a bridge that allows local products to gain access to existing distribution channels and use those to service the exploding demand for local foods. Food Hubs come in many shapes and sizes, and use a variety of business models, but to be successful they need to allow local food production to access markets efficiently and profitably,” Quinn explained.
In 2013, the main service that the co-op will provide for its farmer members will be sales and logistics and transportation planning. Assistance with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification as well as development of marketing materials from each farm, helping to tell our farmer-member stories in the marketplace are additional services that will be provided by the co-op.
“Wisconsin Farmers Union is happy to be in a position to be part of these exciting efforts to build a diverse regional food system that works for both farmers and eaters,” said WFU’s Sarah Lloyd.
Complete event information and registration can be found at http://foodhubsandco-ops.blogspot.com/ For questions, contact: Mary Howell – firstname.lastname@example.org or Mercedes Taylor-Puckett – email@example.com.
Presentations and resources from part one of the series, “How to Start an Online Food Cooperative”, can be found on the series blog: http://foodhubsandco-ops.blogspot.com
Sponsoring organizations for this session are Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (KS-SARE), Douglas County Food Policy Council, Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops (KSCAAC). Program collaborators include the Kansas Health Foundation’s Healthy Communities Initiative, USDA Rural Development, Kansas Rural Center, KC Healthy Kids and the Douglas County Food Policy Council.