By Keith Robinson
August 20, 2014
will host meetings throughout Indiana for specialty-crop producers, wholesalers and community leaders to help the Indiana State Department of Agriculture assess the potential for a statewide network of regional food hubs.
The nine sessions will be held from Aug. 26 to Sept. 9 as part of a study to determine whether there is a need for increased marketing of locally grown specialty crops and to make them more readily available to consumers through the additional distribution system of food hubs.
"This is an important opportunity for anyone interested in enhancing the connection between Indiana farmers and shoppers for fresh local food to have input and learn more about food hubs," said Roy Ballard, Purdue Extension agriculture and natural resources educator in Hancock County and a member of the feasibility study's advisory team.
Ballard last year helped establish the Hoosier Harvest Market, a farmer-owned food hub serving central Indiana.
Sixty-two percent of food hubs in operation today started less than five years ago, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists more than 300 on its website at http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/foodhubs.
Food hubs enable the grower and buyer to connect with transparency, maintaining the food value chain from farm to customer. This emerging system for the collection, processing and distribution of local foods can consist of space for retail vending, processing and equipment; community kitchens; and warehousing, packaging and transportation distribution facilities, among other services.
In addition to the regional meetings, the feasibility study will consist of a data analysis of specialty crops raised in Indiana; surveys of producers, consumers and wholesalers; and ongoing meetings with the advisory team. Ballard joins representatives of ISDA, Indiana Farm Bureau and Indiana Cooperative Development Center on the team.
The project is funded by a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant and administered by ISDA. The USDA defines specialty crops as "fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture."
The project website is at http://indianafoodhubs.org.
Meeting dates, times (all times local) and locations:
* Aug. 26, New Albany: 10:30 a.m. to noon, Purdue College of Technology, Shine Family Room, 3000 Technology Ave.
* Aug. 27, Batesville: 10:30 a.m. to noon, Margaret Mary Health auditorium, 321 Mitchell Ave.
* Aug. 27, Indianapolis: 3:30-5 p.m., Purdue Extension's Marion County Office, 1202 E. 38th St.
* Aug. 28, Fort Wayne: 2:30-4 p.m., Purdue Extension's Allen County Office, 4001 Crescent Ave.
* Sept. 3, Valparaiso: 10:30 a.m. to noon, Porter County Administration Center, Classroom 102A, 155 Indiana Ave.
* Sept. 4, Columbus: 10:30 a.m. to noon, Purdue Extension's Bartholomew County Office, 1971 State St.
* Sept. 4, Evansville: 4:30-6 p.m., Purdue Extension's Vanderburgh County Office, 13301 Darmstadt Road, Suite A.
* Sept. 9, Lafayette: 10:30 a.m. to noon, Purdue Extension’s Tippecanoe County Office, 3150 Sagamore Parkway S.
* Sept. 9, Muncie: 4-5:30 p.m., Delaware County Fairgrounds, Heartland Hall, 1210 N. Wheeling Ave., Muncie.
For more information about the regional meetings, contact Laura Buck, ISDA project manager, at 317-607-9797 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The advisory team has made three online surveys on food hubs available:
* For consumers: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/IndianaFoodHubSurvey
* For producers: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ISDAFoodHubProducerSurvey
* For wholesalers: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ISDAFoodHubWholesalerSurvey
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