Imagine a housewife in Anderson gets online to look for produce. Someone in the Greenfield area has the asparagus available she is looking for. As long as they're close enough to make it practical, they can connect to make the transaction.
This 'Food Hub' is more than a dream, according to Roy Ballard, Extension ag educator in Hancock County. He is spearheading a project with funding from a block grant form USDA for specialty crops.
The plan will be officially unveiled and opened to discussion on Dec. 13, 7 p.m. EST at the Hancock County Public Library. It's located in Greenfield at 900 West McKenzie Road.
This isn't pie in the sky, Ballard insists. A feasibility study has already been conducted indicating that a central Indiana food hub could be successful if properly implemented. A steering committee is creating a business plan and marketing materials for a hub which would connect and serve both farmers who produce products and consumers who want them.
This is not just a program for Hancock County, Ballard says. "We believe it should work for anyone within a two-hour driving distance of the hub. We definitely want people outside of our county to participate. That is one of the reasons why we have the Specialty Crop grant."
How soon could this be up and running? Surprisingly, Ballard believes the virtual version over the Web will happen first. "We're going to make it happen one way or the other," Ballard says. "It's going to happen, and we intend to have it up and running when vegetables start coming on line this spring."
The wholesale version where consumers and farmers actually do business in one spot may take longer to coordinate, he says. Ballard hopes that it's up and running by 2014.
If you can't attend the meeting, you can still make comments, express interest or find out more details by contacting Ballard directly. Reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at 317-462-1113.
While the emphasis is on specialty crops, Ballard suspects there will also be farmers offering locally grown meat once the operation gets underway. What he pictures is a site where a consumers could get everything they need, including vegetables and locally-grown meats.