The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

U.S. has more than 100 food hubs, Merrigan says

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced Tuesday that more than 100 food hubs are in operation around the country, making it easier for small farmers to aggregate their production and find distribution.

“This new data clearly demonstrates that small and midsize farmers can work with a variety of players to overcome the infrastructure challenges they face, while creating effective economic opportunities for their communities at the same time,” Merrigan said at a conference entitled “Making Good Food Work” that included Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

“Food hubs are innovative business models emerging across the country specifically to provide infrastructure support to farmers,” Merrigan added in a USDA blog post.

“While food hubs are a nascent industry, and many operational food hubs are less than 5 years old, they are based on a time-proven business model of strategic partnerships with farmers, distributors, aggregators, buyers and others all along the supply chain. The models rely on cooperation instead of competition, and ensure that the regional small and midsize producers get access to the infrastructure they need.”

Based on online surveys sent to food hubs, as opposed to public or farmers’ markets, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has concluded that:
  • More than 100 food hubs are in operation around the country, with large clusters of food hubs in the Midwest and Northeast.
  • Average food hub sales are nearly $1 million a year.
  • On average, each food hub creates 13 jobs.
  • The median number of small and midsize suppliers served by an individual food hub is 40.
  • Almost all food hubs offer fresh produce and the majority offer dairy and protein products as well.
  • Nearly 40 percent of food hubs surveyed were started by entrepreneurial producers, nonprofits, volunteer organizations, producer groups, or other organizations looking to build a strong distribution and aggregation infrastructure for small and midsize producers.
  • More than 40 percent of existing food hubs are specifically working in "food deserts" to increase access to fresh, healthful and local products in communities underserved by full-service food retail outlets.

The “Making Good Food Work” conference was sponsored by the CS Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems at Michigan State University, University of Wisconsin Extension, the Wallace Center at Winrock International, Detroit's Eastern Market, the Food Systems Economic Partnership and the Detroit Food Policy Council. Additional support was provided by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.