Burlington Food Hub: Innovative direct marketing opportunities

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $98,429.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Glenn McRae
Intervale Center
Travis Marcotte
Intervale Center

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Farm Business Management: economic/marketing

    Proposal abstract:

    As more and more Vermonters desire fresh, locally produced fruits, vegetables, livestock products, and processed foods, farmers have an opportunity to increase profits by connecting with institutional and individual consumers though collaborative and innovative market linkages. The Intervale Center and our partner investors seek to create and launch a direct, farmer-owned market outlet, the “Burlington Food Hub” (or “Food Hub”), modeled after Community Supported Agriculture’s (CSA) bundling or “pick-pack” system, to meet demand for locally grown food, support sustainable agriculture in close proximity to consumers, and help increase the share of the food dollar going to farmers. This Food Hub will reach into four consumer markets seeking additional supplies of local food: committed institutional buyers such as the University of Vermont and Fletcher Allen Health Care, Burlington-area caterers and restaurants, Chittenden County residents, and emerging markets for local products such as Vermont public schools and light-processing centers. Farmers and distributors will deliver goods to the Hub to be repackaged into made-to-order CSA-style bundles that can be delivered or picked up by consumers. Additionally, through supply and demand assessment, enterprise analyses, market analyses and shared-ownership workshops and trainings, farmers will become educated about the local foods environment in Vermont and empowered to maximize profits on their farms.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Of the 300 farmers invited to participate in our project, at least 30 will supply the Food Hub and 12 will form an ownership team and develop the Food Hub, to be launched in 2009. By the end of 2011, the Hub will reach $1.5 million in sales and secure a 10% increase in profits for participating farmers.

    PHASE 1A: RESEARCH – 2007

    100 farmers and 400 consumers surveyed to identify potential product mix and volume, food supply gaps, shopping habits, spending levels and barriers to participation.

    • 3400 consumers mailed written demand survey and 400 consumers complete survey
    • 300 farmers mailed written supply survey and 100 farmers complete survey
    • 50 farmers identified for enterprise analysis
    • 30 farmers identified for marketing analysis and training

    PHASE 1B: EDUCATION – late 2007

    50 farms engage in 4 hours of on-farm enterprise analysis with the goal of identifying 30 farms as suppliers and/or potential owners of the Food Hub. 30 farmers receive additional marketing analysis and training with the intention of developing new products and/or marketing techniques to successfully supply the Food Hub.

    • 50 farmers engage in enterprise analysis
    • 30 farmers engage in marketing analysis and training
    • 30 farmers commit to supplying and/or potentially owning the Food Hub

    PHASE 2: EDUCATION – early 2008

    50 farmers (which may or may not include all 30 farmers already committed to supplying the Food Hub in Phase 1) participate in 3 Shared-Ownership Structure Educational Workshops, and 12 commit to investing in the new business and join the “ownership team.”

    • 100 farmers solicited from existing contacts during survey and analysis work
    • 100 additional farmers solicited at conferences, events and advertisements
    • 50 farmers total attend 3, 4 hour workshops over one year
    • 30 farmers total attend 4 formal, in depth training sessions about shared-ownership structure which will include pre-development work related to the Food Hub
    • Of these 30, 12 choose to invest in the new business (the “ownership team”)

    PHASE 3: RESEARCH AND IMPLEMENTATION – mid-2008 and 2009

    12 farmers (the “ownership team”) work to finish the business plan and launch the Food Hub, supported by appropriate business development consultants and investment partners.

    • 12 farmers attend 6 3-hour Food Hub Business Plan Development Sessions.
    • 12 farmers utilize additional 20 hours of training, development and trouble-shooting designed to support farmers’ implementation of the Food Hub.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.