More Farmers’ Market Food Hubs Dotting Minnesota’s Local Food Landscape in 2022
Minnesota, February 2022 - A new business opportunity awaits select Minnesota farmers’ markets in 2022 due to a grant that Renewing the Countryside (RTC) was recently awarded by the USDA Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). Through this grant, 10 farmers’ markets will receive both financial and technical assistance to become licensed farmers’ market food hubs. The farmers’ markets will bring together product from multiple farmers and offer it to larger-scale buyers like grocery stores, restaurants, and institutions supporting food access programs. Farmers’ market growers who don’t have the time, resources, or enough product to sell directly to such buyers, can now work with their market and sell collectively as a food hub in addition to selling directly to farmers’ market customers.
Joining RTC in administering the grant are the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association (MFMA) and the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA). Key partners in this endeavor are the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA); and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) coordinators who will provide outreach support in the communities where the market hubs are located.
“This LFPP grant builds on the work we’ve done the past five years, piloting this concept of farmers’ markets as food hubs,” said Sara George, RTC project coordinator. “With our earlier grants, we were able to trial online sales platforms that are critical to a hub's success, test processes for efficiency, and iron out licensing details. This $750K LFPP grant now provides support for three years, 2022-2024, to 10 market hubs, with the end goal to have them fully serving their communities with local food year-round.”
Farmers Annelie and Kevin Livingston-Anderson of Good Turn Farm in Stockholm, WI, have been a part of the Wabasha Farmers’ Market food hub since its inception. “We’ve been really happy with how it has increased our access to new retail and wholesale customers without increasing our marketing labor,” said Annelie. “It also gave us a low risk way to become familiar with using an online sales platform which we have since adopted for our own farm.”
“This is about supporting rural economic development,” said Kathy Zeman, MFMA executive director. “We need to provide more opportunities to get locally grown food into the hands of our communities and provide opportunities for more food partnership for our local farmers. This project does both.”
Laurie and Mark Timm of Fairview Farm in Winona County began selling products through the Wabasha Farmers’ Market online program in 2021. “We realized that COVID was not going away and there were many customers who wanted to be able to source healthy foods locally and safely,” said Laurie. “This program helped us through a challenging year and allowed us to reach new customers including schools, restaurants, and individuals who wanted and needed nutritious foods at their tables. What a great program for the farmer and consumer!”
New market hubs will receive financial support to buy the required startup supplies and equipment, an online sales platform, promotions, training for vendors and buyers, as well as anannual stipend for the hub manager. All participating market hubs will receive specialized financial training from the University of Wisconsin’s Food Finance Institute. Market hubs, with assistance from SHIP, will find buyers to purchase weekly produce from the market hubs, providing communities with fresh, local produce.
For more information on this farmers’ market food hub project, visit: https://farmersmarkethub.org, contact RTC’s Sara George at firstname.lastname@example.org, MFMA’s Kathy Zeman at email@example.com, or MISA’s Jane Jewett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Renewing the Countryside
Renewing the Countryside is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide inspiration, ideas and assistance to individuals and communities who are looking for sustainable ways to strengthen their rural communities and reduce poverty. They work to foster the development of sustainable rural communities and landscapes that balance environmental, social, and economic needs. They also work to educate the larger public of the value of these sustainable rural endeavors to society and the planet and to engage their help in “renewing the countryside.”
About the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association
The Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association (MFMA) provides services, programs, and leadership that support and promote farmers’ markets across Minnesota. The organization works to foster a community of vibrant, profitable and professionally managed Minnesota farmers’ markets that cultivate, nourish and inspire a vibrant local foods landscape. The MFMA vision is to create greater accessibility to local, farm-fresh foods and to allow opportunities for local food producers to thrive and grow.
About Minnesota Institute for Sustainable AgricultureThe Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA)
is a partnership between the University of Minnesota's College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, University of Minnesota Extension, and the Sustainers' Coalition. The purpose of The Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) is to bring together the diverse interests of the agricultural community with interests from across the University community in a cooperative effort to develop and promote sustainable agriculture in Minnesota and beyond.