I’ve been hunting for ways to measure the local food movement in Minnesota and just found a new one on a U.S. Department of Agriculture map.
Coordinated food hubs identified by the US Department of Agriculture.
In a USDA blog post, researcher Jim Barham writes about the value of regional food hubs in helping the local food movement reach scale. He defines a regional food hub as “a centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products.” In other words, a coordinating middleman helping growers find markets and markets find growers.
The blog links to a slideshow with more detail, including mentions of a couple Minnesota examples — the Co-op Partners Warehouse operated by the Wedge food co-op in Minneapolis and the non-profit Big River Foods operation run by the Minnesota Food Association in Marine on St. Croix.
But what caught my eye was the map of “coordinated regional food hubs” for the nation. The greatest concentration in the country is centered on the Upper Mississippi River valley, mostly between the Twin Cities and the Iowa-Wisconsin border. Barham cautions that he hasn’t finished compiling the list.
The map is a great indicator of, among other things, how geology rules. The unglaciated, rolling region cut by streams is conducive to small farms good at vegetables and orchards, as opposed to the flat prairies of southern and western Minnesota where corn and soybeans rule.
But it also shows where the organization of the local food movement has strength in Minnesota. I’ve got a request out to Barham to talk about his research and will update here when I hear more. UPDATE: See here for a post after talking with Barham.