Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today highlighted the economic opportunity provided by strong local and regional food systems for America's farmers and ranchers while touring Blue Ridge Produce, a regional food hub that aggregates, markets and distributes locally grown fruits and vegetables for sale to wholesale customers in the region surrounding the nation's capital. Founded in 2011, Blue Ridge Produce currently works with 120 farms of all sizes throughout Virginia to supply local supermarkets, food service companies and regional distributors.
"Skyrocketing consumer demand for local and regional food is an economic opportunity for America's farmers and ranchers," said Secretary Vilsack. "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."
During his visit, Secretary Vilsack noted the need for a comprehensive, multi-year Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that would provide USDA with the strong program support needed to continue making investments in local and regional food systems. A Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would also continue safety net and credit programs that support producers, enabling them to supply reliable and high-quality products for marketing.
USDA estimates that there are currently over 220 active food hubs across the country, with at least 20 operating in Virginia. Food hubs have successfully leveraged state, federal and private investments, including a variety of USDA programs, to develop and expand their businesses. USDA has a dedicated portal on food hubs featuring news, cutting-edge research and publications related to food hubs and other innovative food distribution models.
USDA's work on food hubs is part of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative (KYF2), which coordinates the Department's efforts on local and regional food systems. Information about USDA programs and supported projects is available through the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass and the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass Map, which maps federal investments in local and regional food, including food hub development.