- Sustainable Communities: food hubs
In the past ten years, demand for locally grown food has increased dramatically. Concomitantly, small, commercial farms have declined disproportionately to small and large farms. The decline in small, commercial farms may be due to the lack of appropriately scaled marketing and distribution resulting from changing markets. This applied research project will build on a summer 2011 Cornell Small Farms Program funded project, which is conducting preliminary data collection from distributors throughout New York State who carry locally-grown products. The NESARE-funded project will utilize the data collected from the distributors to create surveys for farmers and customers who work with the distributors. By combining the data from three sets of surveys, and utilizing input-output analysis, we will begin to assess the regional economic impact of local food, and the potential of regional food hubs (“a centrally located facility with a business management system that facilitates the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products”) to increase market access for small and mid-scale farms. The results of this work may have important policy implications, particularly for rural regions, and enhance the economic sustainability of small and mid-scale farms.
Project objectives from proposal:
1. Develop an inter-disciplinary methodology that combines secondary data analytic approaches with primary data collection throughout New York to evaluate regional food hubs that can be replicated across the United States; 2. Build the capacity of the Cornell Small Farms Program Work Team on local foods/local markets so as to develop statewide support to increase small, commercial farmers’ profitability by expanding access to markets, including assisting in the development of an annual distribution/regional food hub conference/networking session targeted for small commercial producers, and developing replicable best practice models of viable regional food hub businesses (as appropriate); 3. Develop policy recommendations for local, state, and federal government in accordance with findings.