The Food Hub, as a project, emerged out of necessity when we first began running farmers markets several years ago. Part of the geographic, sprawl-based challenge in South Florida is that producers rarely make time (as it requires lots of it) to come out to farmers’ markets. So we began by diligently scoping out producers and their practices and then aggregating all the produce weekly in what we called The Stand (we also took a strong stand on values), which was the centerpiece of our market. We noticed that several others who ran markets were doing the same.
This is where the idea of the food hub was born. We instinctively knew there was a need for a vehicle that would allow more small-scale producers to get their produce not just to our market, but to others and then why stop at markets? Buying clubs were importing all their organic produce and restaurants were dependent on Sysco. This was a service that everyone needed. Heck why not retail too…customers could get the choice that they did not get in their CSAs and still pick it up at a given location.
So the Food Hub project came about way before the Farm Enterprise did. However, it was a perfectly suited collaborative component that would connect the Farm with the community at large, especially because of its location. The fact that the market building afforded space and cold storage was all the more reason that the hub must be located there and that it could assist the entire Farm Enterprise to thrive was obvious.
When the FPC Hub Team stepped in, led by Diego Angarita, a food hub manager, finance expert Jonathan Cloud and Permaculture designer Jude Hobbs, their challenge became to adapt the project that had evolved to being an integral part of the larger Farm Enterprise. They immediately concentrated on operations and logistics as the key focal point for their design. The process yielded many insights including staffing concerns, vehicles, and how we would align the business of the Hub as to not conflict with the farms direct sales…it was tricky business. Once again, Permaculture design and the ecological approach to what was being designed amongst all the teams made it possible for each team to stretch and they did. In the end, each team, including the Hub team made stronger recommendations because they were responsive to the Farm’s needs and helped the Farm enhance its outreach plan rather than overlap or compete with it.
The Hub is one of the first of Earth Learning projects to spin-off into multiple related enterprises. One of our team leaders Charlie Wilson, took the Hub model and implanted a similar business component to her market and café in Key West. She has since purchased a truck and is bringing organic, mainly local, produce to the Keys. And our long time Hub manager, Debra Iglesias, is taking on the Hub as her business enterprise with our continued support.
Be sure to reserve your space to join us at the 2014 Local Food Enterprise Summit next month, we will be working together to design business expansion models using earth-friendly principles of permaculture for real, South Florida food businesses. Visit www.financialpermaculture.com for schedule, details and registration options.