By SARAH B. AUBREY
GREENFIELD, Ind. — Purdue University extension is calling all Indiana farmers to learn about the Central Indiana Food Hub at 7 p.m. Dec. 13, at the Hancock County Public Library, 900 W. McKenzie Road in Greenfield.
All producers of farm-related, value-added products are invited to this open meeting to understand how a food hub can create marketing opportunities for Indiana produce.
A group of farmers, local community leaders and members of extension commissioned a study this summer assessing the feasibility of starting a food hub in central Indiana. The steering committee is now developing a business plan and marketing materials. This meeting will present the hub’s planned operational strategy and solicit feedback from farmers’ to gauge their interest in accessing new marketing opportunities through a food hub.
A food hub is often defined as a centrally located site and coordinating role in facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products.
“It’s really a new way to foster the connection between consumers and area farmers and keep food dollars local longer,” said Roy Ballard, extension educator in Hancock County.
He explained a food hub may allow farmers to reach new markets with their products and offer consumers convenience and the chance to know the source of their food.
Jeremy Weaver of Weaver’s Produce, a small produce company located near Boggstown, joined the food hub steering committee at Ballard’s urging. “I think they were looking for a farmer’s perspective, and I was more than willing to help,” said Weaver.
He sees the importance of this food hub as multifaceted: “It would obviously be another marketing outlet for growers to sell our product, but (would) also allow individuals and buyers a place to source their produce needs locally.”
The group hopes retail and wholesale buyers can eventually find what they are looking for in one location. “The mission of this food hub initially will be to find the right growers to fit the food hub model,” said Weaver, pointing out the need for farmers to attend the Dec. 13 meeting.
Growers considering new outlets to sell produce are encouraged to attend; those unable to go may obtain more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 317-462-1113. They can also “like” the Central Indiana Food Hub on Facebook to receive updates.
The feasibility study and business plan were funded from the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program administered by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.