What does Food Infrastructure mean?  It’s being bantered around a lot, but only among food producers and food advocates.  If we are going to make it happen, we need to get others to understand what that means. It is a fundamental change.

Right now food companies either hire farmers, contract with them, or buy from them, their supplies for their products. Depending upon what their situation is, that food has to be picked before it is ripe, or the type of product grown is one that handles travel and storage better than one that might taste better. They are special types that are developed to look beautiful in hopes that their splash of color will make up for their lack of taste.

The companies then have to pay truckers or processors to transport, peel, clean, can, label and box those products.  Then they have to pay to have them shipped to the grocery warehouse, and then finally off to the store. There they sit on the shelves for months, or more, and wait to find their way to a household. Once purchased, it’s up to the family to decide when and how they use them.

Look at all the steps that are involved, and imagine the cost into those steps. If the product is going to be affordable, who do you think gets the least money? – The Farmer.

That wholesale/retail model is the least personalized way to get food, yet the most popular.  Ideally we’d all either grow our own food, or buy it directly from the farmer.  But few of us have ideal set ups, and even further actually want to do the work themselves. So we’ve developed Farmer’s Markets, CSA, and other models to get the food from farm to the family home. But in most cases that model requires that the farmer leave the farm, use their own gas and time to bring that food to the market. Meanwhile their fields need weeding or watering. Their animals may be giving birth without monitoring, and machines can’t be repaired that need fixing.

The new food infrastructure would create jobs from “food hubs,” where farmers can bring their food to a middle point, where it can be sold, either to a chef, a family, or a wholesaler. The farmer can then go back and do their work of choice and the food is handled safely, with the farmer getting a bigger share of the income, and buyers getting fresher food.

In some cases, that food hub may have commercial kitchens, creameries, canneries or processing facilities where another local food producer can make a saleable product and sell it from “the Hub.” This too, allows for the freshest, highest quality, and in many cases, safer food than that which has been “anonymously raised.”

Why safer? Because of the scale at which it operates. Batches are smaller. Fewer hands have touched the food. And in the odd situation where something goes wrong, fewer people are affected. Reputations are much easier to damage if care is not taken. The food is no longer anonymous, which makes everyone more invested in making the highest quality, freshest, safest food, they can.  Food producers can get higher prices for their food because it is of higher quality and there are fewer layers of infrastructure to deal with.

Once these “Food Hubs” are created, producers will have created a worthwhile role for transportation between “Food Hubs.” This will allow fresh food, unique products and connections to be made between “Food Hubs,” and enrich the pool of choices for buyers and sellers.

But this is only just beginning. Any Food Hub in a region already facilitates other Food Hubs. No two will be the same, because the “personality” of each structure will be based upon those who operate it.

These hubs will not likely be built by major corporations. They will be built by farmers, food advocates, concerned parents and other local concerns.  Because these are not major financial entities, each contribution is vital.  The refrain of “it’s not in my hometown,” is a red flag that more education is needed, and each of us involved in the local food campaign has to take on that role. We’re trying to do that at NCSC.  Making our Food Hub possible improves everyone’s chance for better food choices.  Please visit www.indiegogo.com/NCSCJigsaw.  Thanks.