Thank You My Name is Sharon Cechand I am with the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute or UEPI at Occidental College. – I work on Uepi’sFarm to InstitutionProgram which focuses on developing alternative distribution strategies for Locally and Regionally produced Foods to support smallFarmers and improve access to Good Foodinthe Region.
I’m first going to quickly go over what I’ll be telling you about today…Our main strategy for supporting small and mid-sized farmers is through the creation of what we’re calling “regional food Hubs” so I’m going to explain a little bit about [what] they are Describe a few [examples] of RFhsand briefly introduce a project that we’re working on to [Network] these Hubs throughout the StateI’ll then go into some of the [challenges] that we face in this workAs well as some of the [solutions] that we’ve come to Includinghow one of our partner hubs – [the San diego growers]-- is tackling some of these issues
So First of ALL – What Exactly is a Regional Food Hub? Along with many of the the partners that we work with – [This] is what we’ve come up with:
So – How did we Reachthis Definition? We all agreed that [Aggregation – Distribution – & Wholesale]were critical Hub components And because of the great diversity among RFH projects -- WE EssentiallyWanteda Definition that would Incorporate and involve any and All Existing Hub Projects … So, we wanted something [BROAD] – But realize that RFHscan Potentially include Many [Other Components] – And Here are some of Those
To show what we mean by Broad – here area few Examples of Regional Food Hub Projects First we have the [Ojai Pixie Growers]… This is a group of about 40 growers Then we have [ALBA Organics] This is a much larger project in the Salinas Valley Includes an extensive farmer training programAnd Finally we have The San Diego Growers who are an emerging hub or one that is not yet fully functioning It is currently in the feasibility stages These Hub projects all vary in size –-- entity –-- infrastructure ---- and Programs But all of them can be and areVery important parts of their Regional food systems and could be supported by a Regional food hub Network
Another project that we’re working on is figuring out a way to [network] these regional food hubs that are emerging throughout the state We want to connect these projects because we think that working together they will:Regionalized food systems… Support farmers by leveraging resources to increase [efficiency] and improve [access] to informationWholesaleEquity Access
In this work, one of the main[challenges] that we deal with has to do with definitions.This is because Much of the value of the products that we’re looking at lies in the stories of how they were produced – -- And As you all know as members of the organic Growing community – How something is grown Matters In this case -- Customers are often willing to pay more for something when they know that their dollars will support a small farmer who they consider to be a part of their communitySo this brings us to the Challenge that many RFHsand the RFH-Network are facing of [defining]: what exactly is a [small or mid-sized farm] – what is the size or dollar cut off that still maintains the integrity of the product and supports our target growers? How do RFHs define [Fair Labor Practices] ?What is [Local]?And finally – what are [sustainable growing practices] ? And then how does Organic fit into that?
These are big Questions -- and at least On the Statewide or Network level – Instead of defining these terms -- Our main Solutions to these Challenges are to: facilitate [transparency and traceability] in each stage of the food chain – so to let consumers know where a product was grown and then how it got to them – and then they can make their own decisions And at the same time -- we want to Couple that product information with [education] about the importance of local foods --- emphasizing the idea that the closer something is produced --- the better and we also want to educateconsumers about the importance of sustainable and specifically organicgrowing practices so that they really understand what it means to be certified Organic. Then with this combination of information and education– consumers can make their own –truly informed– decisions about the foods that they buy – and of course -- it’s our sense that given all of this information – they’ll understand why it’s important -- and will want to buy from local farmers --- and they’ll want to buy organic products --- even if it means paying a little bit more.
This also givesindividual regional food hubs the freedom to create their own definitions: For example --- the [san diego growers] -- a Group of growers that we’re working with to develop a regional food hub -- are are currently dealing with some of these questions of Identity: So far – they have defined what they feel is [local] – And that is 25 miles from the San Diego County border In terms of [Sustainability] – they are still working on developing criteria for sustainable practices but have so far agreed on [no GMO Crops] Then Because there are both organicand non-organic growers in the group – and the members want to accommodate and support both –As they are developing their label they are making a [distinction] between organic and non-organic products and also factoring that into their combined distribution strategy
Farm to Institution &Regional Food Hubs Sharon Cech Urban & Environmental Policy Institute, Occidental College February 19, 2011
What is a Regional Food Hub? Regional Food Hub An integrated food distribution system to coordinate agricultural production and the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution and marketing of locally or regionally-produced food products. Graphic by Juliette Bellocq
How did we Reach this Definition? Aggregation – Distribution – Wholesale Broadto Include a Range of Hub Projects
Examples of Regional Food Hubs Existing Hub Existing Hub Emerging Hub Nonprofit Cooperative (likely) No Formal Entity Sell Full Range of Food Products Sell Variety of Fruits and Vegetables Sell Pixie Tangerines Utilize available Citrus Packinghouse Own 3000 sq ft Facility and 110 Acre Farm Working toward Distribution Center and Public Market
Why Network Regional Food Hubs? Support sustainable regionalized food systems Increase opportunities for small and mid-sizedfarmers