Article by Chris Giesen
The Dodge County EDA recently was awarded a $5,000 grant from AgStar Financial to assist with a local food hub feasibility study. Since the fall of 2011, an EDA subcommittee has been meeting to discuss locally produced foods (locally grown meaning foods produced on a regional basis for use by consumers typically within that particular region, on a small, seasonal scale) and local foods systems (meaning the process of how small scale, regional food producers produce, market, sell, and otherwise interact with their customers).
Some of the subcommittee members had discussions with Dodge County producers and University of Minnesota Extension analysts. It was through these conversations that the group discovered there are likely higher demands for more locally produced foods; not only from individual consumers but institutional (school, hospital, senior facilities, etc…) consumers as well.
However it has been suggested by both producers and consumers that there are hurdles to overcome to fully link producers and consumers, especially producers with institutional consumers. Some of these hurdles deal with having sufficient quantities or reliable sources of product.
Based on these conversations, the feasibility of a food hub was discussed. A food hub is centralized warehousing facility that can collect and store product from producers and directly distribute them to consumers; typically larger or institutional consumers.
In order to determine if a food hub is feasible in the Dodge County region, a study needs to be completed to locate producers, existing and potential consumers, an asset mapping of Dodge County features, and a construct a rough business plan/financial projections in order to get a clearer picture of the need and opportunities.
It is anticipated that when the study returns a favorable result, local entrepreneurs can utilize the information determined in the study to support the establishment and financing of a food hub or related business in Dodge County, providing job creation and enhancing the tax base. The Dodge County EDA thanks AgStar Financial for their commitment to projects in rural Minnesota.