Sixty-two percent of consumers are more likely to buy food and beverages described as local, and 57% seek out restaurants offering locally sourced products, according to Technomic. More than half of consumers say local foods taste better, and nearly as many agree local foods are higher in quality and less processed. Meeting this demand is challenging. Connecting small to medium sized growers with the buyers who are looking for local produce can be complex. Farmers and buyers grapple with everything from pricing strategy, distribution, food safety, seasonality, availability of supply, quality and consistency of product.
Food hubs have emerged to help address these challenges and connect farmers to markets seeking their products. Food hubs aggregate, distribute, and market source-identified food products from local and regional producers into wholesale, retail, and institutional buyers. No two hubs look the same. They can focus on any number of farm products – fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, specialty goods and/or value added products. They range from large warehouse facilities to online marketplaces to processing facilities to technical assistance providers.
A food hub is often launched because a farmer, buyer, nonprofit, community organization or planning group has a vision of strengthening the local supply chain in their region. We help these groups conduct studies to determine the optimal operating model for a food hub given their goals and regional context, assess the financial viability of these potential food hubs, and develop robust business plans to launch these enterprises.
Food Hub Projects
East End Food Hub
Since 2010, East End Food Institute has supported, promoted, and advocated for the farmers, vintners, fishermen, and other food producers and providers on the East End of Long Island. Since New Venture Advisors completed a food hub feasibility study in 2015, the organization has operated a cafe, workshop space, commercial kitchen, and processing space at Stony Brook University while building the foundation for a more integrated food system. New Venture Advisors is now assisting the Institute in establishing the East End Food Hub as a centralized point of aggregation, processing, and distribution for produce and products from regional farms and food businesses. (2020)
Worcester Regional Food Hub
The Worcester Regional Food Hub has been a collaborative effort between the Regional Environmental Council of Central Massachusetts (REC) and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, made possible by the generous support of the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. The food hub, piloted as a kitchen incubator and aggregation hub in 2016, sought to enhance the regional economy through improved producer and consumer networks, targeted workforce development programs, and business incubation. NVA assisted REC and its partners in assessing the market and developing a business plan for the hub’s next stage of growth. (2019)
Kane County Food Hub
Kane County Planning engaged New Venture Advisors to assist in the development of a food hub that serves Kane County residents as well as the greater Chicago foodshed. A feasibility study identified a multi-million dollar opportunity to aggregate from Kane County farmers and distribute to customers across the region. A unique business model ensured the hub’s products will reach Kane County low-income residents and institutions that serve these communities. An owner/operator was selected and the food hub piloted operations in 2018. New Venture Advisors developed a strategic plan and roadmap to guide the food hub’s first full year of operations. (2019) Read the report here.
Central Appalachian Food Enterprise Corridor
Appalachian Sustainable Development and ACENet are two of the longest standing and most established food hubs in the U.S. These pioneering organizations recognize that between them is a corridor of farms and food businesses across VA, WV, KY and OH that may all benefit from coordinated marketing, operations, logistics and transportation services. Through funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the organizations have embarked on a joint planning effort to explore models that might enable them to operate more profitably in their rural settings. NVA assisted in this effort by highlighting examples of innovative, successful models that have been established worldwide in order to connect rural, dispersed agricultural producers to mainstream markets. (2018)
Northwest Kansas Food Hub
Bird City, KS
The Greater Northwest Kansas Community Foundation and Northwest Kansas Economic Innovation Center, Inc. assessed the viability of a food hub to be located in Northwest Kansas. The project was instrumental in discerning whether a permanent food hub is a viable option for bringing more fresh produce to the Kansas market. The project team conducted this study on its own, using NVA’s Do-It-Yourself Feasibility Study Toolkit that features coaching from NVA through a 10-step work plan. (2018)
California Food Hub Network
University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program is a statewide program committed to strengthening California’s agriculture by advancing knowledge of the science of sustainability, supporting farmers and ranchers working to develop more sustainable agricultural practices, and assisting communities in building strong and healthy regional food systems. UC SAREP convenes a collaborative learning group of California food hubs which NVA assisted in evaluating potential network models. (2017)
Wyoming Statewide Food Hub Network
New Venture Advisors worked with Bould Development and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union to assess the strategy and feasibility of a network of food hubs across the state of Wyoming. The study evaluated potential hubs in six distinct clusters across the state, and recommended how the hubs would transact with each other. (2016)
Western New York Food Hub
New Venture Advisors conducted a Feasibility Study with Field & Fork Network and in partnership with Cornell University Cooperative Extension. The study recommended the launch of a Western New York Food Hub. New Venture Advisors worked with the project team on an operator search, and then developed the food hub business plan alongside the chosen operator, Eden Valley Growers, a longstanding farmer-owned cooperative in Eden, NY. The hub launched in 2015. (2015)
Southern Wisconsin Food Hub Feasibility Study
New Venture Advisors worked with Dane County Planning and Development Department to assess the size and viability of a local food hub. New Venture Advisors completed the Southern Wisconsin Food Hub Feasibility Study in 2011, recommending that the county move forward in the development of a food hub, based on high levels of demand and supply identified. The business was launched in 2013 as the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative. (2011)