Want to help design a local food hub?

On December 1st, 2011, three local college students, Brian Downes, Jennifer Christian, and Tabbitha Greenough, gave a presentation at the community college downtown center in Greenfield, Massachusetts on ideas to enhance the local food system by developing more capacity to process vegetables.

The presentation was attended by about 50 local residents who came to see the results of a creative new class offered by Abrah Dresdale, on local food systems.  Part of their presentation focused on an idea to create a town food hub.  Their presentation is worth watching!

The very next day, an article about creating the Greenfield Food Hub in an abandoned factory building was published in the local paper.  The article was written by Kyle Bostrom, a Greenfield farmer and member of the town Agricultural Commission.

Coincidence?  Maybe…. or maybe an idea whose time has come.

Ideas like this evolve over time.  I first became aware of the concept when a regional newspaper, The Valley Advocate, published a story about a study conducted by yet more students (this time from the Conway School of Landscape Design) on how the nearby community of Northampton might create an infrastructure that was supportive of a local food system.

Recently, two Greenfield residents asked me to post a few questions to my local blog, Just Food Now in Western Massachusetts, to see who else might be working on a local food hub.  The response was encouraging.  Here are a few of the comments we received:

  • I have three friends that are part of food hubs in different parts of the country – in Hardwick VT, in the Bay Area, and in Southern CA.
  • I’m excited about the possibilities you are exploring to develop an important aspect of a more local food system.
  • There is Hardwick, VT, Intervale in Burlington, VT and there has been a group working to establish one in the Bellows Falls, VT area for the past few years and they have received a grant to do a feasibility study

And some words of caution:

  • We found a need to focus on the development of the social infrastructure first, (community gardens, surplus food and gleaning efforts, farm- to-school, cooking classes, neighborhood buying markets, etc.) and the network of organizations working on local food issues  – and build them until the need for physical infrastructure became clearer.
  • Who is the economics person to crunch the numbers on this project? It seems that if public money was used you would have to know how long until the project can pay itself back?

I was encouraged enough by the local response to bring this conversation to the global audience at World.edu.  Here are the questions we posed in the local blog (where you can find all of the previous comments).  The organizers of this project would greatly appreciate your thoughts (please put them in the comments box below).

1) Are you aware of other Food Hub examples in the U.S. or around the World?  Please share them here and let us know if there is anything that can be added or changed to make the Greenfield Food Hub most effective.

2)  Please share your knowledge relating to:

a. Laws, accreditations, compliances, etc. required to make a local hub reality

b. Infrastructure needs such as design firms, contractors, transportation businesses

c. Equipment needed to make parts of the Food Hub function and where to get it

d. Sources of funding

As you give feedback on each of these questions, please identify yourself and describe your expertise or interest in the Greenfield Food Hub.

Thanks for your help!

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I’d appreciate it if you would share this post with your friends and perhaps comment below.  For more ideas, videos and challenges along these lines, please check out my web page Just Food Now.

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One thought on “Want to help design a local food hub?”

  1. For New England, one might consider tying this idea into old mill sights where the town itself could benefit from reclaiming abandoned property while spurring innovative new uses for old technologies.
    Could be worthwhile to investigate using water power to highlight the grander designs of the project while also providing continually renewable energy for the projects.
    Good luck.

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