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Food Hubs: How Small Farmers get to Market

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Ask most small and mid-sized farmers who sell food to a local audience what they like least about their job and they will probably say marketing and distribution. Driving long hours to sit at farmers markets (or managing someone else who does) is always a risk that can result in unsold leftovers. And even when you have a guaranteed market - like in the case of community-supported agriculture (CSA) and restaurant sales - the effort involved diverts time and energy from the actual work of farming.

Enter food hubs. A key component of the USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, food hubs operate on the simple principle that farmers, like everyone else, are stronger when they work together. Food hubs are networks that allow regional growers to collaborate on marketing and distribution. The term applies to a broad range of operations, from multi-farm CSAs to Craigslist-like virtual markets where buyers and producers can connect. But each model is motivated by the belief that individual farms can't survive in a vacuum.

"When everybody was a farmer, there was all sorts of infrastructure to support family-scale farming, and that's all gone," said Amanda Oborne, director of FoodHub, an online resource that connects growers, buyers, and distributors in the western U.S. "Food hubs are a huge part of the answer to rebuilding that infrastructure."


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