Eastern Market: A Model for Food Hubs Around the Country

We were so pleased this morning to see this excellent article on Detroit Eastern Market published on the homepage of MetroMode.com. Eastern Market “is the most comprehensive food hub in the nation” according to its president, Dan Carmody. Understanding their methods and learning from their model could significantly increase the amount of regional food hubs in our nation – creating jobs, improving the health of our communities, and growing the small farm sector in an unprecedented way.

Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market

We’ve excerpted a few of our favorite quotes from the article, especially the piece that shares how we are aiding in Eastern Market’s efforts, but please make sure to read the full story here.

{The food hub helps small farmers grow the size and yield of their farms and create other viable sales outlets that aren’t community supportive agriculture (CSA), a farmer’s market, or direct sales to restaurants because “farmers have to balance their time between selling food and growing it,” Carmody says. “It’s the next step in the devolution of a food system into a stronger regional system, encouraging smaller growers.”}

{Carmody and his staff have increased the profile of local and regional growers supplying the market, says Debbie Tropp, branch chief of the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is conducting a two-year study of Eastern Market. “They’re doing their level best to try to revitalize the regional food system in a way that may not have happened prior.”

Eastern Market is considered a “hybrid market,” where wholesale and retail activities occur, one of about 50 in the nation, according to James Barham, agricultural economist and head of a USDA interagency task force on regional food hubs. “Hardly any of these would be classified regional food hubs. Mainly, it’s a property manager who’s leasing space…. What Dan is doing is pretty remarkable. He could have set up as a property manager and leased space. Eastern Market would have continued to exist.”

Food hubs are a fairly new designation for comprehensive agricultural centers that provide a catalytic impact on the regional food system, says Barham. “Because of the strong relationship regional food hubs have with producers, and because of the demand for locally grown product, producers are scaling up their operations, they’re hiring more staff, they’re planting more crops, they’re switching practices from more conventional to more sustainably produced because there’s higher customer demand for that type of product.”

Eastern Market has established a virtual food hub to connect the region’s growers and buyers in an unprecedented way using Local Orb.it. “The buyer can go online and pick Eastern Market as their hub, see a variety of our growers, our specialty product vendors, and be able to order from these different types of growers on one purchase order,” says Christine Quane, wholesale market coordinator for Eastern Market. “That allows growers to tell their story, inventory their items and put their wholesale pricing [on display]. They pick their products, make their orders, and the two meet on a set day — saving time for both. By knowing the story behind the grower, they know where their food is coming from. They’ll know who the growers are and how they grow.”}

Read the full story here.

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