What is the Central Oregon Food Hub?
The Central Oregon Food Hub will be a facility that provides services such as aggregation, storage, and minimal processing for regionally grown, raised, and produced food products from small and medium sized farms, ranches, and food businesses. The Food Hub will connect these small and medium sized suppliers with wholesale buyers to satisfy institutional demand. Additional information about the Central Oregon Food Hub is available in our summary document (click on the image to the right)
What will the Central Oregon Food Hub provide?
A one-stop place for sellers and wholesale buyers to purchase local products and access the following services:
- Dry, cold, and freezer storage
- Washing, cutting, bagging for distribution
- Market intelligence and a broker system
- Aggregation of raw and processed products
- Consolidated marketing
- Food safety standards
- Incubation center for food entrepreneurs
The Food Hub will (a) prioritize local producers within Central Oregon, but will purchase as necessary from a larger geographic area in Oregon to reach the commercial volumes required by larger accounts, (b) tie into existing regional distributors, (c) operate on a competitive basis, and (d) work with producers to ensure wholesale compliance with relevant food safety regulations.
Why does Central Oregon need a Food Hub?
Currently, an infrastructure gap exists which prevents small to mid-sized farmers and food businesses from increasing production to provide consistent, competitively-priced local food to wholesale buyers. Additionally, Central Oregon is dependent on imported food and is considered a food desert, meaning access to food is difficult or limited in certain areas. COIC has completed the Central Oregon Food Hub Feasibility Study and the Central Oregon Food Hub Operating Plan which have demonstrated the need for the Hub and necessary steps to bring this facility to the region.
How will the Food Hub impact our region?
The Food Hub will provide triple bottom line benefits to our region: economic, social, and environmental
- Economic benefits include job creation; increased revenue in the local food sector (farming, ranching and food entrepreneurs/businesses); additional dollars invested into our local economy; and improved export of Central Oregon goods.
- Social benefits include enhanced food security. Food security allows for a reduced dependency on imported food to meet our needs as well as improved food access for everyone including those in rural areas which may experience higher poverty rates. Food security improves regional resilience in instances where the region may experience an emergency situation, such as a natural hazard or limited transportation, which could leave the region solely reliant on current food supplies.
- Environmental benefits include increased support for our agricultural producers to be stewards of the land, and a smaller food supply footprint based on the fact that the average piece of food travels 1500 miles from farm to plate.
Status of Current Work
COIC is currently working with private businesses to establish a public-private partnership wholesale food hub model that will provide aggregation, storage, simple processing and a one-stop shop for the purchasing of fresh and processed food products. The intent is to work with existing businesses that are established in the region to support their current work and to fill the gaps where the infrastructure and the marketplace are lacking. COIC will seek funding and investments for this infrastructure project.
To support this work, COIC and OSU are also conducting an economic impact study based upon the USDA Economic Impact of Food Systems Toolkit. This study will determine the local food economic impact (specialty crops versus commodity) including a multiplier effect, total jobs and revenues as well as the potential economic impact of a new food hub on the region. The final report will be provided in fall 2017 with presentations throughout Central Oregon to government officials, the public and investors.
In 2010, a Central Oregon Food Needs Assessment found that lack of infrastructure was a barrier to a robust regional food marketplace for both producers and consumers. In response, COIC partnered with regional stakeholders to explore the development of a food hub model. In 2012, the Central Oregon Food Hub Feasibility Study was published utilizing USDA Rural Development funding. In 2012, a Food Hub Steering Committee made up of representation from: agricultural agency and producer, food business, chefs, distribution, economic development, government, grocer, institution, low-income access was formed.
The goals of the stakeholder group were to 1) clarify roles and develop strong partnerships in the community to ensure successful implementation, and 2) develop a clear vision, implementation plan, and an outline of a business plan that is financially sustainable, improves the viability of the local food economy, and incorporates low-income access. In 2013 COIC presented our food hub model findings to the community and in 2014 COIC published a Food Hub Operating Plan.
In 2014, COIC partnered with the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance to work with community members to develop a food hub value-chain model. This project was funded by Rural Development Initiatives and focused on the WealthWorks framework, which brings together and connects community assets to meet market demand in ways that build livelihoods that last. Outcomes from this project were the development of a regional team, demand data to support the notion that buyers want local food, and next steps identified.
In 2015, COIC was funded by USDA RBDG to identify, site and develop a plan with a private business, who provides critical infrastructure needs for the value and supply chain, to potentially co-locate with a new Food Hub. In order to determine the feasibility of this endeavor, COIC and partners determined cold, dry and freezer storage needs, current fresh food supply, demand by wholesale/retail consumers, and the current workings of the supply and value chain. In addition to quantifying needs, COIC improved their social capital by reaching out to regional businesses and organizations to better understand their needs, barriers and potential opportunities for utilizing a food hub; this included reaching out to other regions of the state. Simultaneously, COIC was funded through a USDA LFPP grant to determine the economic impact of small to mid-sized farms on the Central Oregon economy. This study also determined the potential number of jobs and total revenue that could be generated if a Food Hub were to be built.
Next steps for COIC are to develop a business plan; and reach out the local jurisdictions, investors and the community to discuss this project and future investment opportunities for funding a food hub. COIC continues to develop projects that support the food system in general and partners with the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance on their food system work.
Resources & Studies
For more information on food hubs, please visit the following links:
Katrina Van Dis, COIC Program Administrator
firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-504-3307