According to a report on National Public Radio, increasing interest in local food is opening up opportunities for new farmers.

This growing local food market is also providing a way for less experienced farmers to expand their business and polish their craft. More often, this opportunity is coming from food hubs, which can also serve as food processing and distribution centers. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that there are 240 food hubs in more than 40 states plus the District of Columbia.

Many members of food hubs are small family farmers, each of whom pays a small fee to join. In exchange, they get cheaper liability insurance and access to a much larger pool of clients and training.

USDA is expected to continue supporting food hubs, though some farmers worry that could lead to more regulations. But at least for now, they do not appear to be keeping food hubs from growing.

“The infrastructure for local food is still lacking but growing fast. Food hubs respond to that call.”
Doug O’Brien, the acting under-secretary of rural development for the USDA, to NPR

Raised by the community

Consumers’ appetite for all things local is certainly growing. We have seen how brands and businesses are capitalizing on that by introducing services that connect clients with local workers, allow them to experience music by local artists, and provide local news and weather information.

Nowhere is this local craving more evident than in the food and drink category. Indeed, Mintel’s Living Local US April 2013 report has found that 62% of consumers try to purchase local food whenever they can.

And the opportunities for consumers to find and buy these local food items are becoming more abundant, whether it’s from a vending concept, delivered to a customer’s office, or through an online destination.

These food hubs, and the communities they provide for young farmers, are important given that the farming industry has seen a drop in the number of young people who are considering this occupation. As the demand for local products grows, brands and businesses will do well to develop relationships with local producers and perhaps sponsor branded food hubs in order to incorporate local flavors and ingredients into national brand profiles.