Common Market Wants To Be The Nation’s Food Hub

The Lempert Report
March 02, 2018

According to Civil Eats?, The Common Market made its first delivery in June of 2008, when enthusiasm was taking off for the “food hub” model as a solution to rebuilding regional food economies that had been degraded by the industrialization of agriculture.

Advocates began to preach the possibilities of aggregation and distribution businesses that could close the gap between those growing good food and those needing it. And they want to go national. 

Ten years since Common Market launched food hubs are a success. They have beat the odds of the financial challenges to become viable businesses that support small and mid-size sustainable growers and get healthy fresh, food into varied environments, from supermarkets to Aramark and Sodexo to college dining halls and even to hospitals in underserved neighborhoods. 

 Food hubs came to be as the question surfaced – how do we take the farmers market model and make it bigger? 

A USDA report­ released in November 2017 showed there are currently approximately 360 active food hubs in the U.S.—compared to fewer than 50 in 2000—and that the five-year survival rate for hubs since 2005 is 88 percent, - significantly higher than the survival rate for all types of new businesses, at 53 percent.   

“It hasn’t been a straight success indicator from the very beginning. There have been ups and downs. Some work, some didn’t work. There’s a lot experimentation,” said James Barham, a USDA agricultural economist and food systems specialist and food hub expert told Civil Eats. “But overall, [food hubs] have been very successful.” 

In his work at the USDA, Barham said he sees institutional purchasing as one of the biggest areas of growth for food hubs, since more of the mainstream food distributors are looking to meet customer demand for local but don’t have the right infrastructure to provide it themselves. Food hubs set out to shorten the supply chain.