Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
Those who manage small and medium-size farms face multiple obstacles when trying to bring food products to market, but beginning next year they will have a new resource.
The Wabash Valley Food Hub will work to expand the local foods market in west-central Indiana and east-central Illinois. The nonprofit member organization is being developed through Indiana State University’s Rural-Urban Entrepreneurship Development Institute.
The local food hub project is one of many across the nation, as communities nationwide strive to meet demand for locally sourced foods.
“Our research has shown that there is a gap in the market for local foods in the Wabash Valley as well as a sizable number of producers who have the desire to expand their operations,” said Steven Pontius, professor of geography and institute director.
“With the food hub project, we will reduce barriers to market entry for farmers and producers, and make sourcing local foods a real option for local businesses and institutions,” he said.
“The primary purpose of the food hub project is to reduce as many barriers as possible and allow the market to work more efficiently,” said Jason Saavedra, principal at J3 Concepts, a consulting firm hired to assist with launching the organization.
“Typically, it’s just not feasible for a buyer to deal with 30 or 40 local farmers to get the supply they need. A food hub addresses this issue because, instead, the buyer can deal with one entity – the food hub – to get its local produce, meats and other food products.”
The food hub will work with local farmers and producers of value-added food products. The organization will be membership-based and will be self-sustaining once launched. It is being organized with funding from ISU’s Unbounded Possibilities initiative.
An advisory committee drawn from those in the local foods market, including Jim Luzar of the Vigo County Purdue Extension office, will aid the effort.
“I am looking forward to working with the food hub to support our local farmers,” Luzar said. “There are a number of resources that Purdue Extension can contribute to ensure that it succeeds.”
J3 Concepts will conduct meetings after harvest time to gather input on what local producers and consumers need.