One of the functions we want to perform for local businesses and producers is to act as a food hub for the region. We'll already be making connections with local farmers, and we'll be able to connect local food-related businesses (restaurants, cafeterias, bakeries, coffee shops, etc.) with local food sources. The target to start the food hub service is six months after the market has opened.
What's a food hub?
The USDA defines a food hub as "a centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products."
The aggregation, distribution, and marketing parts sound a lot like what we're already planning to do at Coteau Community Market, don't they? We'll already be making and maintaining relationships between the market and local producers as we work to sell their products, so the next step to expand access to local food in the region will be to make it available in larger quantities to local businesses like restaurants, cafeterias, bakeries, coffee shops, etc. By using the existing relationships we're already maintaining to stock the market, we'll eliminate many of the associated costs that every business would have in order to buy local food, saving both time and money by not duplicating efforts, for the businesses and producers both.
How does a food hub work?
In practice, our food hub set up will work something like this:
- Farmers tell the market what they've got large quantities of this week.
- Coteau Community Market makes a purchase list available online to local food businesses to order from once a week.
- The market submits orders to the producers.
- Producers deliver food to the market.
- Food businesses pick up their orders at Coteau Community Market and make lots of yummy, locally sourced foods for the public to buy at their establishments.
(Food businesses will also be able to purchase in bulk from the market what regional and national producers have available, but the focus is on access to local products.)
The food hub service will grow (as will the market) as producers ramp up production of their products, steadily increasing the amount of local food available, both at the market for the general public to buy, as well as for food-related businesses in the region to purchase in greater quantities to make yet more local food products.