Farm Fresh Rhode Island is also in an area targeted for
revitalization. “We have our farmers’ market in a renovated mill building that is 16,000 square feet. Now, other
businesses are springing up in the mill building, including
light industrial work spaces, art galleries, fitness studios
and small food businesses,” says Rye. The mill space is
in a part of Rhode Island that is filled with abandoned
mill buildings and residential areas that need attention.
Helping Farmers Grow the Local Economy
Other than providing farmers a way to distribute and
market products, food hubs also serve to help them get
desired certifications that make it easier to distribute to
institutional and retail buyers. There is a push through-
out the United States for safer food. “There is a voluntary
agricultural USDA certification that more and more
buyers are looking for but many growers can’t afford to
apply for,” says Mabe. His area food hub, along with
others through a pilot program with the NGFN and the
USDA, are able to help mitigate the cost of certification.
“The food is already safe, but the paperwork and certi-
fications are expensive. This allows them to get certified
and access other markets.”
According to Farbman, another pilot program through the
NGFN and ALBA, (Agriculture & Land-Based Training
Association, http://www.albafarmers.org) offers several
incubator training hubs. “There are many immigrant farm
workers who are skillful farmers but forced to take low-
wage jobs as farmhands. ALBA trains these farm workers
in organic farming,” he says. ALBA runs a food hub where
all the food produced by the farming students is sold
at different markets.
A challenge for many food hubs is investing in growth
while supporting their broader social missions, such as
supporting small and mid-sized producers and helping
to improve food access to the underserved, according to
the USDA guide. While many food hubs are well positioned to be economically viable businesses that can carry
out the core functions without external subsidies, says the
USDA, they recognize that they need further support/
partnerships if they are to offer a variety of complementary producer and community services.
No matter what the challenges, the good outweighs them
all. Even if the hip trend of eating organic and locally
sourced food withers, food hubs are here to stay based
on the good they do for the communities in which they
are located or serve.
Tracey C. Velt is a real estate writer and editor based
in Lake Mary, Fla.
Food hubs are here to stay
based on the good they do
for the communities in which
they are located or serve.
Photo by Alan Light
Photo courtesy of USDA