What’s a Food Hub?

A business or organization actively working with farmers and buyers to coordinate supply and demand of local and regional food. This is accomplished through the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified local and regional food products, primarily from very small to mid-sized producers to individuals, wholesalers, retailers, and/or institutional buyers.

What’s the U.P. Food Exchange (UPFE or The Exchange)?

The U.P. Food Exchange (UPFE or The Exchange) is an agricultural hub being created with funds that the Marquette Food Co-op received via a Regional Food Systems Grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in November of 2012. Natasha Lantz of the Marquette Food Co-op and Michelle Walk of MSU Extension are responsible for the overall development of The U.P. Food Exchange and coordination of its activities. Kathryn O’Donnell is serving as the Project Assistant for the Exchange during it’s first 15 months. Ray Sharp and Sara Salo of the Western U.P. Health Department are overseeing Exchange related activities in the Western U.P. Additional overall project support is provided by Abbey Palmer, Kelly Cantway and Sarah Monte of the Marquette Food Co-op Outreach Department.

Virgin Earth FarmThe U.P. Food Exchange connects local food activity within each of the Upper Peninsula’s three distinct regions (eastern, central, and western), and coordinates local food efforts between the regions/hubs. This project aims to establish both online and physical aggregation sites for farm products, improve local food storage capacity, and educate consumers, farmers, and institutional purchasers about the resources and benefits available to them via the Exchange.

The initial project will take 15 months to complete, beginning with the creation of a website and online marketplace, and moving into physical enhancement of existing storage/aggregation facilities. The development and dissemination of resources to farmers, consumers and institutions will be ongoing throughout the project. The U.P. Food Exchange will create and/or formally designate a food aggregation site in each of the three regions of the U.P. in order to provide each region with the resources it needs to to establish operational activities that will respond to the developing food needs of each region. The results of this project will affect local agriculture throughout the U.P., as evidenced by an increase in the number of farmers listing their products through the online network, an increase in the number of farmers listing their farms in the U.P. Food & Farm Directory, and an increase in the farm products moving between the regions.

tomatoesA strong local food system is at the core of the U.P. Food Exchange’s mission. Food is not just the basis for keeping our bodies functioning at their best – it is the basis of helping our communities function at their best. It empowers the agricultural community to take pride in what they do by marketing their products and making it possible for farmers to expand their operations. The Exchange helps our local economy, contributes to our food security, and ensures that more people in our communities have access to the healthiest foods available.

The U.P. Food Exchange’s actions are a crucial part of the process of making agriculture a growing and sustainable part of the U.P.’s economy again. The Exchange serves as a cohesive network for U.P. farmers, many of whom, have been operating in isolation. By bringing these farmers together to share resources, each individual operation is strengthened. The U.P. is geographically remote from resources, making it is necessary to share what we have. This cooperation makes for a vibrant local food economy and healthy communities. In addition, having UPFE as the central coordinating body, where all entities involved with agriculture can come together to grow the local food system, just makes sense. As an informational and infrastructural entity, UPFE helps farmers to share knowledge, and provides the agencies working with these farmers with a mechanism to reach this audience in an efficient and effective manner.