Iowa Farmer Expands Operation by Evolving a Food Hub, vs. Going Out and Investing in More Land

Jim Offner reported recently at the The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Iowa) that, “There’s strength in numbers, Chad Thomas said.

“That’s why the Waterloo fruit and vegetable grower has cobbled together a ‘food hub’ comprised of a network of 25 to 30 other growers from the Cedar Valley region.

“Instead of providing fruits and vegetables from about 3 acres, now Thomas’ company, A Family Market Place, in Waterloo, supplies area retailers and restaurants with highly prized ‘homegrown’ product from 40 acres on farms 40 to 70 miles out.”

Mr. Offner noted that, “Forming a network of growers – including a number of Mennonite farmers — in the area assures a consistent in-season supply to customers, Thomas said.”

The article stated that, “A Family Market Place started in 2012, with a an 18- by 19-foot garden, Thomas said.

“‘Now, we’re probably going through 30-40 acres of produce a season,’ he said. ‘We kind of made the decision two years ago to try to evolve into a food hub, vs. going out and investing in more land.'”

Meanwhile, Sheila Hagar reported yesterday at the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Washington) that, “A fresh idea has grown into a way food banks can procure locally grown fruits and vegetables to deliver to low-income Walla Walla area families.

“One in six Washington residents used their local food pantry last year, according to government data, meaning about 140 million pounds of food went to roughly 8.5 million clients through 500 of the charitable sites.

Through a collaborative partnership with the state Department of Agriculture and the Rotary First Harvest program, in 2015 six of those free food sites were able to provide farm-fresh produce to their customers — not by luck or happenstance but on a planned, regular basis.”

Ms. Hagar indicated that, “The Farm to Food Pantry program started from seed in 2014 with funds for food banks to contract with local farmers for fresh produce. From a single pilot program, it spread to six communities in 2015. That year proved bountiful and this year the concept was expanded to 12 sites, including Walla Walla’s Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank.

“Under the program, volunteers have been handing out apples, peaches and lettuce to families lining up for grocery assistance, said Jeff Mathias, BMAC food bank director.

That lines up with Gov. Jay Inslee’s Results Washington program to make the state’s communities healthier. Launched in 2013, the initiative created statewide goals spanning economy, education, environment, safety, effective government and public health.”

The article explained that, “Specific to Farm to Food Pantry, Inslee’s blueprint called for a 5 percent increase in healthful food options offered to low income families through pantries, farmers markets and meal programs by 2017.

The plan was financed with existing state food assistance dollars diverted to sustain the new concept. Not only does the program benefit low-income families without requiring additional state money, it benefits farmers and supports agricultural conservation practices, state officials say.”

Recall that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor, recently challenged governors to invest in rural areas.

This entry was posted in Agriculture Law. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.