There is unprecedented demand for local foods across Virginia and the United States. Presently, the demand appears to be greater than the supply of locally-grown and identified foods. Many groups, organizations, and universities are looking to scale up local foods to meet the demand and strengthen the overall food system so local foods are available and accessible to more people of all socioeconomic levels. In 2009, the University Wisconsin’s Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems identified 10 keys to scaling up to meet the demand for local food:
- Aggregating of farmers and farm products (e.g., cooperatives, alliances, buying clubs, and food hubs)
- Controlling product quality and consistency
- Addressing issues of seasonality
- Matching supply and demand
- Retaining food and farm identity
- Differentiating food and farm products
- Building and expanding supply chain infrastructure
- Increasing and accessing capital
- Enhancing the capacity of established farmers and beginning farmer development
- Increasing and improving information flow and transparency among all participants in the food value chain from farm-to-table.
Virginia has a long history of farmer-based and producer-led cooperatives. Models for aggregating and distributing local and regional food continue to grow. Some non-profit and for-profit models around Virginia include the following:
- Appalachian Harvest
- Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction
- Local Food Hub
- Page County Grown
- Good Food, Good People
- Lulus Local Food
- LexRocks Grows
- Shenandoah Valley Beef Cooperative
- SW Virginia Farmers Market and Virginia’s other wholesale farmers markets
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has been researching different innovative regional food hubs and distribution models around the country to strengthen and enhance the food system. In a recent USDA-AMS report looking at innovations in regional food distribution, Virginia’s own Appalachian Harvest , along with 7 other models from around the U.S., was highlighted as a non-profit model for aggregation and food distribution. The report discusses lessons learned from each of the different models so is a valuable resource for those involved in local and regional food distribution.
Barham, J. and A. Diamond. 2012. Moving Food Along the Value Chain: Innovations in Regional Food Distribution. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Marketing Services.
Day-Farnsworth, L., McCown, B., Miller, M., and A. Pfeiffer. 2009. Scaling Up: Meeting the Demand for Local Food. University of Wisconsin – Extension Ag Innovation Center and University of Wisconsin – Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems.
Local and regional food hubs have been identified as one way for aggregating farmers and farm products