Becker Market Food Hub
Local foods business owner finds expansion, diversification in joining MN food hub project
By: Kathleen Rykhus
Beverly Dougherty has been a figure in the Willmar, MN community since 2007, when she began work on a contract with the city to increase economic development downtown. Becker Market originated in downtown Willmar that year, starting out as an outdoor Farmers Market.
In 2017, she brought the market indoors to a retail space. Becker Market currently sources and sells locally grown produce, beef, pork, chicken, turkey without chemicals and antibiotics and other organic grocery products. The store also offers Market Boxes, filled with local meat and produce that customers could order on a subscription basis, complete with an option for delivery. Boxes are aggregated with products from area farmers based on availability. When local producers run low, the boxes can be filled up with organic food from a Minneapolis based distributor, giving subscribers a well rounded variety of options that regular CSAs cannot offer. Pop up shops and an eclectic assortment of products offer customers a unique retail shopping experience.
In December of 2021, Dougherty got a call from Sara George, of Renewing the Countryside, a main partner in the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Food Hubs project. Even though she was aggregating products for the Market Boxes before her involvement with the hubs, as a business owner, Beverly feels that teaming up with the project has allowed her to expand and diversify her business, and reach new markets that had eluded her. For years Dougherty had her sights set on Farm to School wholesaling, supplying area schools with healthy, fresh menu items grown in the area. “I knew there were people at the school who supported local foods. I needed connections to the decision makers.” Through the food hubs project, Dougherty arranged a meeting with school representatives, and her local Statewide Health Improvement Partnership representative. Sara George helped facilitate the meeting.
“With Sara’s help, I was prepared and able to answer every question they had,” said Dougherty. They ordered 3,500 apples almost immediately." Through the hub, schools are able to place orders online, which most wholesale customers expect. In the past year, she has also worked with a local restaurant. In the future, Dougherty hopes to work with a fellow food hub project member to sell potatoes to area schools.
Through the years, and all of the changes, Dougherty, working with her Board of Directors, continues her commitment to her vision that everyone in the community should have access to local, minimally processed, healthy food options. Now, there are more options, tools and teams supporting that vision, and linking the Willmar area food system to an increasingly sophisticated and rapidly expanding food hubs network across the state.