Local Farm Food Hub Could Create Opportunities For Growers

With organic vegetables, a direct-to-consumer marketing strategy appears to be key.

Published on: Nov 27, 2012

In Atlanta, Dave Bishop has access to several large central Illinois communities. Selling directly to urban consumers in these cities is key to his profit strategy.

Several years ago, Bishop's direct-to-consumer marketing plan was only reinforced when he explored additional markets for his organic eggs. A corporation offered him a contract from organic eggs at $1.50 per dozen. He could sell the same eggs locally for a wholesale price of $4 per dozen.

Still, not all small growers have the opportunity to market directly to consumers. Bishop, who is also president of the newly-formed Illinois Organic Growers Association, acknowledges this is a problem when it comes to adding small, organic farms to the Illinois landscape. However, opportunity abounds.

HIGH-TUNNEL SEASON: Dave Bishops high tunnel structures allow him to grow vegetables 11 months out of the year. He reasons a southern Illinois grower would get even more growing days out of the structures.
HIGH-TUNNEL SEASON: Dave Bishop's high tunnel structures allow him to grow vegetables 11 months out of the year. He reasons a southern Illinois grower would get even more growing days out of the structures.

In a recent study, Ken Meter, economist at Crossroads Resource Center, analyzed the food production system for 32 counties in Illinois. According to his findings, those counties import approximately $5 billion worth of food from other states and countries. It's all food that could be grown locally. Bishop says the impact is even greater because that money is typically circulated seven times from farm to consumer.

This economic impact is the cornerstone of the new Edible Economy initiative, which recently received a $99,000 grant from USDA. Edible Economy's first goal is establishing a local food hub from the Central Illinois area. The hub will act as a warehouse/middleman that will then distribute locally-grown foods to customers such as chef/owner restaurants and small, locally-owned grocery stores, Bishop explains.

This will provide a market for small growers looking to get in the game. Bishop explains further saying it would be possible for a customer to enter into a contract with Edible Economy for 200 acres of organic potatoes. Edible Economy would then work to source the potatoes. Whether they work with a single 200-acre potato grower or 20 growers with 10 acres apiece, the customer gets the potatoes and the money stays in Illinois.