|"Food System" Partners|
Wednesday, March 26
Site Visits (check-in at 7:45am)
explore North Carolina’s local food system through a number of field trips to food hubs, retail outlets, farms, and more. See the site visit descriptions.
Intensive Training Courses
|Conference Welcome and
Dr. Jill Long Thompson, Chair of the Board and CEO of the Farm Credit Administration
|Intensive Training Courses
Thursday, March 27
The Journey of Healthy Regional Food Systems: North Carolina
Some question whether the demand for local and regional foods is a fad that will soon fade away. When in fact, the growing desire for locally produced foods that are healthy for us and for the environment are deeply rooted in efforts for a more sustainable agriculture, strong and stable regional economies, and greater social equity. This session will tell the story of healthy regional food systems development in North Carolina, take a look at where it is going, and the role food hubs have played and may play in the future. Through the eyes of the North Carolina experience, this session will highlight three generations of organizations working in food and agriculture to better help us understand where the recent growth in regional food systems has come from, where it is going, and perhaps how to lead it into the next generation.
|Concurrent Workshops I
Doug O'Brien, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development
|Concurrent Workshops II
Getting the Margin to Meet the Mission
Financial viability is an important criterion for any business, and food hubs are no different. What IS different is that food hubs feel a responsibility to foster change and create opportunity where it did not exist before, whether it is through increased market share for local businesses, greater social equity in local communities, better environmental stewardship in local producers, or all three. But how can these social enterprises create a virtuous cycle in which greater revenue drives greater impact? What scale do they need to reach? What key lessons have we learned about infrastructure, staffing, finance, and marketing that can help increase revenue, reduce costs, and contribute to the mission? In this session we will take a look at the operating strategies of different food hubs around the country, and explore how increasing financial viability can make their desired community impact become a reality that can be sustained in the coming years.
Friday, March 28
Cutting Edge State Level Initiatives for Food Hub Development
A number of state governments are investing in food hub development, often times in partnership with foundations or other civic organizations. Investment at this level offers expanded possibilities for hubs, farmers, and others intent expanding the economic and social impacts of regional food systems. This panel will focus on what motivated these government offices, what it took to seal the deal, and what roles the states are playing in food hub development. Three examples will be presented with panelists from New York State, Michigan and from Ontario. Two perspectives from each state offer an inside government and outside government view of how these pioneering efforts were initiated, how they were championed within government, implementation and roles of the state and its partners, and what results are we seeing at this point. The goal of this session is to illustrate this innovation and share results so others who consider pursuing this strategy in their home state have some guidance on what is possible and how to achieve it.
|Concurrent Workshops III
Michael R. Taylor, J.D., FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine
|Concurrent Workshops IV
Trainings are in-depth, 3 hour sessions. You will leave with new skills to apply when at work after the conference.
- Access to Capital
- Advanced Excel for Business
- The Business Landscape: Defining Your Unique Position in the Market
- Business Planning and Business Plans How-To
- Customer Journey Mapping: Building Customer Relationships to Increase Sales, Service, and Impact
- Food Safety Planning for Food Hub Managers
- Reduce Error, Retain People: Five Steps to an Effective Staff Training System
- Responding to the Market Demand for Safe Food
- Strengthening Small Farms and Food Hub Operations: Bootcamp for Financial Success
Facilitator: Kathy Nyquist, New Venture Advisors
This business training, designed for early-stage companies and those familiar with business planning, will cover key planning concepts and frameworks, including defining your value proposition, analyzing your market and competition, and brand foundations. Participants will learn to better define their offering, their customers and the industry in which they compete, know why they will win and have the tools to convey these understandings clearly to customers and stakeholders.
Facilitators: Jesse Singerman, Prairie Ventures; Ela Chapin, Vermont Farm and Forest Viability Program; Robin Morris, Mad River Food Hub; Laura Edwards-Orr and Angel Mendez, Red Tomato; Darrow Vanderburgh-Wertz, Wholesome Wave Investments; Jessica Griffen, Green Mountain Farm-to-School
Learn how to increase your control over the key drivers and success factors you need to achieve business viability and your long-term strategic goals. Join other food hub staff and managers, and future operators, to improve your business management skills and increase your ability to track food hub growth and success. Hear from actual practitioners on how a good business plan comes together and why each part of it is important. In small break-out groups with content experts leading the discussion, explore two of the following topics of your choice in depth: financial management, operational planning and management, marketing and sales, or managing with data and metrics.
Facilitators: Noah Fulmer and Erika Block, Local Orbit
As a food hub operator, both farmers and buyers are your customers. Grow your food hub sales by looking at your farmers’ and buyers' experiences piece by piece, including processes for sales, customers’ first impressions, customer service, product engagement and customer experience. Participants will walk away from this hands-on workshop with an action plan for improving customer engagement with farmers, chefs, institutions and grocery store customers.
Facilitators: Gary Matteson, Farm Credit Council; Erin Pirro, Farm Credit East; Chad Gerencer, Morse Marketing Connections
Financial stability and risk management comes from understanding your position, and planning from a solid base of clear-eyed self-assessment. Working from the results of the 2013 Food Hub Benchmarking study, we will show how to cut straight to the fundamental financial and business metrics – the “vital signs” of your business – to assist you with management decisions. The presentation will be complemented by an activity to allow you to put knowledge into practice by working with the tools in small group sessions. Food hub success depends on the economic viability of farmer-suppliers. This session will also provide small farm financial literacy resources you or a partner organization can use to support farmer success. There will be an opportunity for one to one technical assistance during the session as well from Farm Credit and other resource providers.
Facilitator: Peggy da Silva, Consulting for Community
(offered Wed AM and PM) Competent and engaged staff are key to any successful operation, but too often staff training is unplanned, incomplete, or unclear. This training will build your capacity to develop effective staff training systems by learning five key components and how to apply them to your own situation. At the end of the training each participant will have a framework on which to build “back home”.
Trainer: New York Interactive Media
Note: You must bring your own laptop to participate in this course. Limited to first 25 people in the room.
(offered Wed AM and PM) When you are finished with this class you will be able to: Extract data from large databases based on dynamic criteria; Save time with recording and replaying straight forward macros; Quickly organize and analyze large amounts of raw data with Pivot Tables and Charts; Increase your Excel knowledge with efficiency techniques, advanced formulas and collaborating techniques.
Facilitator: Michelle Pfannensteil, Dirigo Quality Meats
This workshop will walk food hub managers through the landscape of food safety planning. Topics covered will include: food safety regulations, how we get to hazards from risks, and how to use written food safety plans to create culture of food safety at your food hub. Participants will work together in exercises on process planning, risk assessment and hazard analysis. Participants will leave knowing the steps of food safety planning and how to implement them at their food hub.
Facilitators: Carol Peppe Hewett, Slow Money NC; Kate Danaher, RSF Social Finance; Alex Linkow, Fair Food Fund; Courtney Tellefsen, The Produce Box; Steve Peters, Sandhills Farm to Table; Lance Loethen, The Reinvestment Fund
Beginning with an introduction to the large variety of capital options, a panel of investors will share their unique perspectives on how they have assisted development of local / regional food systems. Small group time will allow digging in deeper to the capital strategies most relevant to you. You will also hear how several hubs were able to leverage capital to various ends.
Facilitators: Steve Warshawer, NGFN Food Safety Coordinator; Michelle Pfannensteil, Dirigo Quality Meats; Donna Burke-Fonda, USDA AMS; Jim Slama, FamilyFarmed.org; Heidi Weiderquist, Chipotle Mexican Grill
This training opens with a national buyer laying out their expectations about safe food. In response to this market challenge, we will demonstrate how to incorporate food safety into a business plan, including introductions to Group GAP (a novel, collective approach to food safety) and to a national GAP and wholesale readiness program for growers.
Moderator: Jim Matson, Matson Consulting
Panelists: Laura Theis, Idaho's Bounty Co-op; Diane Chapeta, Fifth Season Co-op; Sandi Kronick, Eastern Carolina Organics; Steve Peters, Sandhills Farm to Table
A multi-stakeholder food hub balances the needs of three stakeholder classes: the producers, the consumers, and food hub workers. This workshop will focus on the challenges, incentive structures, and the information flow and sharing associated with multi-stakeholder food hubs.
Panelists: Helen Dombalis, National Farm to School Network; Dave Prather, Western Montana Growers Coop; Linda Mallers, FarmLogiX; Kathy Lawrence, School Food FOCUS
Schools provide a perfect place to increase access to fresh, local foods for children in our communities, however, getting significant quantities of such food into cafeterias often requires a food hub to manage logistics. Hear two very different examples of successful, lucrative farm to school programs, and learn about many different resources available to to support your success in this market.
Moderator: Devona Bell Sherwood, Wallace Center at Winrock International
Panelists: Nancy Creamer, Center for Environmental Farming Systems ; Daniel Doyle, Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network; Leila Wolfrum, Company Shops Market; Lesley Sykes, Red Tomato; Jesse Rye, Farm Fresh Rhode Island; Sara Clow, Grow Food Carolina; Chris Hartman, Headwater Food Hub
How can hubs get more sustainable product into the marketplace? A panel, including representatives from some hubs who are finding success moving the needle, will share some successes. Other panelists will share ideas of some concrete ways hubs can work to improve their supply of green food. Bring your challenges – our panel will brainstorm with you about how your hub can increase the volume of healthful and green food you sell.
Co-Moderators/Presenters: Jim Matson, Matson Consulting; Micaela Fischer, Michigan State University
Lead Discussants: Kathy Nyquist, New Venture Advisors; Erin Pirro, Farm Credit East; Darrow Vanderburgh-Wertz, Wholesome Wave Investments
This session will offer participants a "deep dive" into what it takes to run a financially viable food hub operation. We will start by presenting a model of a financially viable food hub, which will be critiqued by several of the foremost experts on food hubs. With participation for those attending encouraged, the intent of this session is to get the bottom of these triple bottom-line businesses.
Moderator: Ela Chapin, Vermont Farm and Forest Viability Program
Panelists: Ann Karlen, Fair Food; Karen Simons, Local Economies Project; Todd Erling, Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corp.; Lilian Brislen, University of Kentucky
Successful food hubs have so many benefits to farmers, communities, the planet, and the economy that it’s no wonder that so many groups are interested in starting one in their area. But consider that an UNsuccessful hub can cause great damage. This session will challenge you to pause before starting a hub, and suggest some answers to questions such as: Why do hubs fail? How can one determine if a hub is truly warranted in an area? If not a hub, then how can a group still make positive, market-based and social changes to the local food system? This session is especially for hubs in the planning stages, and for values-based funders and financers looking to make the most effective investments.
Using Integrated Capital to Change Food Systems
Moderator: Haile Johnston, Common Market
Participants: Kate Danaher, RSF Social Finance; Linda Jo Doctor, WK Kellog Foundation; Michael Roberts, The 11th Hour Project; Mailee Walker, Claneil Foundation
A layered capital approach is sometimes required to create an appropriate funding strategy while also meeting investors’ risk/return needs. In this session, explore how different funders – foundations and intermediaries – came together with different types of capital to support the growth of a food hub. This session will focus on the individual decisions made by each party around capital type, risk, and mission fit, as well as the greater impact made by working together.
Moderator: Jim Slama, FarmilyFarmed.org
Panelists: Heidi Weiderquist, Chipotle Mexican Grill; Bradley Austin, Whole Foods Market; Jeff Gorelick, Foster-Caviness
A variety of large buyers representing several sectors (restaurant chain, hospital, produce distributors) will give you first hand insight into what it takes to sell to them. What do the various buyers require for food safety? How does invoicing work? What technology is required? What is the minimum volume? Do they require contracts? Can they get a buy local / sustainable product at a premium price point? Answers to these questions and more.
Moderator: John Fisk, Wallace Center at Winrock International
Panelists: Dennis Derryck, Corbin Hill Food Project; Bu Nygrens, Veritable Vegetable; Sandi Kronick, Eastern Carolina Organics
As thin-margin businesses, food hubs are under tremendous pressure to compromise their values to stay in business. This discussion will dig deeply into how three hubs at different sizes have been able to steadily scale up their operations while maintaining their core values-based mission.
Panelist: Becca Jablonski, Cornell University; and Rich Pirog, Michigan State University
A recently completed USDA-Cornell project developed a method to evaluate the economic and farm-level impacts of food hubs (or proposed food hubs). Using a case study to illustrate the method, we show how to evaluate the potential of a hub to impact farms and communities, as well as how to make the case to economic developers/funders using more traditional ‘job creation’ or ‘economic multiplier’ language.
Panelists: Haile Johnston, Common Market; Jan Tusick, Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center; John Waite, Western Mass. Food Processing Center
Providing affordable frozen produce to school, hospital, and university kitchens is necessary to increase local produce procurement by institutions. Three hubs will share its stories of struggle and success in developing a product line of local, sustainably-grown frozen produce for institutional sale – an attempt to provide year-round local product while maintaining its inherent value.
Panelists: Carol Coren, Cornerstone Ventures LLC; Sharon Cech, Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College
How can food hubs address urban community needs such as food access and job creation while maintaining solvency? Food hub business developers with experience developing, building and capitalizing food hubs will share insights into three projects located in different regions of the country, representing different phases of food hub development. This interactive workshop will feature a combination of short presentations, group discussions, and evaluation of best practices.
Panelists: Mark Ames, SQF; Donna Burke-Fonda, USDA; Steve Warshawer, NGFN Food Safety Coordinator
All buyers from food hubs, from consumers to institutions, have high standards of safety and quality - indeed that is a primary reason for buying local. Food hubs, as businesses in the middle of the transaction must ensure that their diverse suppliers are able to meet the buyers' standards, and perhaps government standards as the Food Safety Modernization Act goes into effect. Hold on to your hats as we show you how lessons from manufacturing can be effectively applied to food hub operations, including Group GAP - a cooperative approach to food safety.
Moderator: Ann Karlen, Fair Food Philadelphia
Panelists: John Waite, Western MA Food Processing Center; Robin Morris, Mad River Food Hub; Sarah Waring, Center for an Agricultural Economy
Operators from three New England food hubs will share farmer/producer, foodservice, and hub perspectives on the benefits and pitfalls of processing as part of a food hub’s business model. They will also share how a regional processing Community of Practice has benefitted all involved.
Moderator: Amy McCann, Local Food Marketplace
Panelists: Laura Theis, Local Food Marketplace; Neil Stauffer, Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance; Jesse Rye and/or Hannah Mellion, Farm Fresh Rhode Island
Sales channel diversity increases business complexity, but when managed well reduces food hub risk and can increase food hub profits. Learn the pros and cons of each customer segment (including restaurants, grocery stores, institutions, convenience and neighborhood stores, and consumers), how to serve and staff each segment effectively, and manage inventory, sales, and distribution.
Moderator: Casey McKissick
Panelists: Jennifer Curtis, Tina Prevatte, Firsthand Foods; Evan Smith, Cherry Capital Foods; Sean Buchanan, Black River Produce; Lin Peterson, Locals Seafood
Panelists with experience in marketing and distributing red meat, poultry, and seafood will discuss a range of marketing, pricing and efficiency strategies, including selling by the piece, purchasing whole animals, and adding processing capacity to food hub operations. This session will also explore the opportunities and challenges specific to scaling sales of meat and seafood, including supply side scheduling, whole animal utilization, inventory management, and food safety.
Panelists: Shanna Ratner, Jackie LeBlanc, Yellow Wood Associates
In an effort to develop a common set of metrics for food hubs to track the contributions they are making at the community level, the Wallace Center partnered with Yellow Wood Associates to research four potential common measures: 1) food access; 2) food hub investment by federal and private sources; 3) increased economic activity and market access for small- and mid-sized producers; and 4) increased articulation and understanding health-related outcomes. Yellow Wood Associates will present stories about how food hubs are making impacts in these areas and attendees will have the opportunity to weigh in on whether a common set of metrics is useful and identify other important measures.
Moderator: Mitch Gruber, Foodlink
Panelists: Leona Davis, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona; Sharon Thornberry, Oregon Food Bank; Kathryn Strickland, Food Bank of North Alabama
Like food hubs, food banks exist to bridge gaps in the food system. This panel will discuss the unique role that food banks can play in providing food hub infrastructure and supporting community actions to build a resilient food system. It will also examine specific examples of food banks shifting their model from emergency service providers to regional food hubs.
Panelists: Allison Hagey, PolicyLink; Kate Fitzgerald, Fair Food Network; Eugene Kim, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; Ellen Vollinger, Food Research and Action Center
Food hubs across the country are looking to increase access to healthy, affordable food for all communities. This session addresses current trends in policy and government spending that supports low-income access to food through hubs. We will also speak about how one can influence policy at local, state and federal levels.
Panelists: Laura Edwards-Orr, Angel Mendez, and Lesley Sykes, Red Tomato
Many new food hubs are contemplating extremely expensive infrastructure investments – warehouse space, trucks, refrigerators, etc. Is there another way? Red Tomato has no assets, yet is moving millions of dollars of local foods into a variety of markets, and getting a good price for their farmers. They strive to mimic elements of the industrial global food system's high efficiencies without compromising their values and mission so farmers, food hubs, distributors and buyers all win.
Co-Facilitators: Rich Pirog, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems; Marty Gerencer, Morse Marketing Connections
Panelists: Kathlyn Terry, Appalachian Sustainable Development; Pam Roy, Farm to Table – New Mexico; Ann Karlen, Fair Food Philly
Food hub networks are informing and accelerating the work of regional food systems throughout the country. Learn how the Michigan Food Hub Network is building the capacity for regional food hub commerce in Michigan and their early successes and lessons learned. This session will also share early lessons from three nascent regional networks, painting a fuller picture on commonalities of network building.
Moderator: Steve Saltzman, Self-Help
Panelists: Sandi Kronick, Eastern Carolina Organics; Tony Serrano, ALBA; Kristen Suokko, Local Food Hub; Haile Johnston, Common Market
Many food hubs are trying to be, and do, everything, spreading themselves too thin. Learn from the leaders of four successful food hubs as they describe some of the paths they have chosen NOT to pursue, and why they have chosen to follow others. This panel will dig deep into a few critical choices these hubs have made as a way of exploring the tension between breadth and specialization.
Presenter: Lauren Handel, Foscolo & Handel, PLLC
In this session food hub managers and staff will learn about legal tools that are key to the success of a food hub business, including choosing a business structure, protecting and leveraging intellectual property, and basic principles of contract law. Participants will also learn ways they can plan ahead to optimize eligibility for small business exemptions from the upcoming Food Safety Modernization Act regulations.
Panelists: Shanna Ratner, Jackie LeBlanc, Yellow Wood Associates; NGFN Food Hub Collaboration Study Hubs, TBD
Learn how food hubs have used You Get What You Measure®, a systems-based analysis to identify their priority measures that will tell them if they are making progress towards their goals. In the first part of this workshop participants will see examples of useful measures for making progress toward infrastructure, marketing and food hub viability goals. In the second part, participants will draft their own internal and external goals and learn how to frame indicators of progress.
Panelists: Ben Tettlebaum, Rhodes Fellow, Conservation Law Foundation; Joanna Hamilton, CLF Ventures
Understanding the differences between nonprofits, corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities involves more than just filling out the right forms. It determines how food hubs can raise capital, interact with employees and customers, manage risk and liability, and much more. This session will walk participants through how to choose the right business entity for their operation. Using real-world examples, panelists will illustrate how this important choice can lead to terrifying or fantastic results.
Panelists: Darrow Vanderburgh-Wertz, Wholesome Wave Investments; Daniel Wallace, CEI
This session will teach food hub operators the basics of the financing process so that they can be better prepared as they seek debt and equity investments. The workshop is also suited to investors and funders interested in learning a framework for assessing a food hub’s investment potential. The panelists will introduce a new Toolkit for assessing the business strength of food hubs, and their readiness for investment.
**The lessons from Financing 101 will be put into practice with a real-time evaluation of two food hubs’ financing potential in Financing 201.**
Moderator: Gary Matteson, Farm Credit Council
Sharks: Gray Harris, CEI Maine; Tom Cosgrove, Farm Credit East; Erin Pirro, Farm Credit East
Bait: Susie Sutphin, Tahoe Food Hub; Tom McDougal, 4P Foods
This session provides a window into the financing process with a real-time evaluation of two food hubs for investment, who will present their businesses and potential financing needs to a panel of seasoned loan officers and underwriters. Participants will come away with deeper understanding of what makes a solid investable business.
**Food Hub Financing 101 provides an introduction to financing and business diligence that will help participants fully engage in Financing 201. **
Presenters: Kathy Nyquist, New Venture Advisors; Ron Cropper, Resource Group
This is one of the biggest surprises in the industry: local demand is off the charts, yet the largest customers (Sysco, Sodexo) are not buying. Why? Learn secrets for success for working with the giants.
Presenters: Nicole Mason, Veritable Vegetable; Sean Buchanan, Black River Produce
Two veteran food hubs will share ways to make hub operations more environmentally sustainable, have a positive impact on the community (including the hub employees) and beat the traditional distributors by using a value chain approach to be nimble. The panelists will focus on clear, practical ways they accomplish these goals, which you might adapt to your operation.