Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

June 21, 2014

Ag Forum: Food innovation hub making progress

TRAVERSE CITY — The recently passed 2014 Farm Bill offers increased funding in program areas that will assist in the continued development of regional food systems with increasing access to locally grown and produced food products.

The Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion program provides assistance for farmers markets, farm-to-institution initiatives and food hubs, or facilities that process, distribute, aggregate and store regionally grown and produced food products.

“Skyrocketing consumer demand for local and regional food is an economic opportunity for America’s farmers and ranchers,” USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a May 2013 statement. “Food hubs facilitate access to these markets by offering critical aggregation, marketing, distribution and other services to farmers and ranchers. By serving as a link between the farm or ranch and regional buyers, food hubs keep more of the retail food dollar circulating in the local economy. In effect, the success of regional food hubs comes from entrepreneurship, sound business sense and a desire for social impact.”

One such development is progressing toward completion in the Grand Traverse region. Regional food distributor Cherry Capital Foods partnered with the nonprofit Grand Traverse Foodshed Alliance to develop a “Food Innovation Hub.” Food Innovation Hub development will help GTFA and community partners progress toward their overarching goal, a goal also shared by the Michigan Good Food Charter and Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network: By 2020, 20 percent of the food consumed in northwest Michigan will be grown in the region.

The Food Innovation Hub will be co-located with Cherry Capital Foods at 1610 Barlow Street and offer approximately 12,000-square feet of space for lease to eight to 10 separate value-added food businesses. These businesses may benefit from the efficiency co-location offers in other sectors, such as increased cooperation and innovation.

Co-locating with Cherry Capital Foods provides the opportunity for a value-added food producer to wholesale a product or reach retail outlets around the state without having to invest in a refrigerated truck. The GTFA expects the Food Innovation Hub to be in operation by early October.

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