- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
- Sustainable Communities: food hubs
Food commodities are transported hundreds of miles from large corporate farms before reaching our local grocery stores. We have an industrialized and centralized food system because of concentration and consolidation in agriculture. A greater proportion of farmers are unable to either market in bulk or sell directly to the consumers. Small and medium sized farmers face significant challenges in accessing volume and institutionalized markets such as retail, food service, hospitals and schools. With changing trends and increasing consumer awareness about local foods, localization is becoming a favored strategy. With increased demands for local foods, year-round agricultural production in North Central Florida has the potential to ensure a steady supply of local foods. The post-harvest handling and marketing options can be made economically viable for farmers such that they thrive locally instead of relying on conventional, low-margin wholesale markets. We hypothesize that this can be achieved through the establishment of local food hubs.
The main objective of the study is to evaluate the feasibility of establishing a food hub in the region of North Central Florida to ensure a resilient local food system. We plan to achieve this by conducting producer needs assessment surveys of small and mid-sized producers in the region. The data from the surveys will be used to analyze patterns and trends that will aid in deciding the location and size of the food hub. We anticipate that the creation of food hubs will increase the market power of producers in the local market.
Project objectives from proposal:
Identify priorities and gaps by conducting producer needs assessment surveys of small and mid-sized producers in the region of North Central Florida. This involves gathering information on current marketing channels utilized by the growers, identifying the barriers and obstacles that prevent them from using alternate market channels and their willingness to market through an alternate food system such as a food hub.
Assess suitable location(s) for a food hub using geospatial tools such as ArcGIS. The data from our needs-assessment survey will enable us to decide the factors on which the location of a facility such as a food hub can be determined, if feasible.
Develop recommendations based on findings from the study that can aid in supporting a viable alternative food system in the region. A better understanding of the needs of North-Central Florida region can be achieved once we analyze all the factors and recommendations on feasibility of alternative local food systems and modifying local food policies can be made.