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Food Hubs: Viable Regional Distribution Solutions

An illustration of the variety of food hub models that exist, the outcomes they offer, and a sense of their viability, focusing on key elements of successful food hubs

May 19, 2011


Food hubs, or regional food aggregation and coordination facilities, offer great promise for systemic social and environmental change. There is a growing interest in food hubs as a route to alleviating food deserts, increasing small farm viability, establishing much needed infrastructure, providing fresh and low-carbon footprint food to all communities, and revitalizing local economies. But the food system is extremely complicated, social and economic goals can seem at odds, and the variety of food hubs springing up may seem dizzying.

This webinar provides a clear illustration of the variety of models that exist, the outcomes they offer, and a sense of their viability, focusing on key elements of successful food hubs. We weave together the experiences of two innovative hubs (very different from one another) with the draft results of the first comprehensive US food hub study to tell this exciting story of how food hubs are a lynchpin in a regional food system.




Scott Cullen, GRACE Communications Foundation


Webinar Recording



Webinar Slides

Download the webinar slides (PDF)


Presenter Bios

James Barham

Jim Barham is an Agricultural Economist for the Marketing Services Division of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.  Jim obtained a MA in Cultural Anthropology and a PhD in Agricultural Economics from the University of Florida.  Before joining the USDA, Jim worked extensively in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean with a number of non-profit organizations and government agencies on agricultural development projects targeting smallholder producers.  Since joining the USDA four years ago, Jim works to improve direct marketing opportunities for small farmers (this time in the US) through a combination of research, technical assistance, and grant support.   Jim’s current work and interests include regional food hubs, food value chains, food service procurement, and target marketing for farmers markets.

Dan Carmody

Benefiting from a schizophrenic youth split between the west side of Chicago and western Iowa, Carmody developed a keen appreciation for central cities and Main Streets. Schooled as a city planner in the Midwest and the North of England, Carmody is a devoted urbanist with special interest in regenerating depressed local economies.

Following a ten-year career as a tavern-keeper, Carmody led two different community development organizations in rust belt cities of the USA’s Midwest and has provided more than forty communities throughout North America with consultant services.

Since 2007 Carmody has served as President of Detroit’s Eastern Market Corporation (EMC) where he leads the non-profit tasked with converting one of the nations’ oldest and largest public markets into a healthy metropolitan food hub.

Kate Collier

Kate Collier grew up on a small farm and is a longtime supporter of the local food movement and an advocate for small farms and local food producers in Central Virginia. At the young age of 11, she began rolling out shortbread dough in her mother’s hilltop bakery, bussing tables at her father’s seasonally inspired restaurant and representing her family’s on-farm produced food products at national Food Shows. Upon graduation from the University of Virginia, Kate moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and worked as a salesperson and buyer for two family-owned specialty food distributors. Today, she and her husband, Eric, are the owners of the nationally acclaimed specialty food store, Feast! in Charlottesville. Together they have proven that it is possible to build a vibrant and profitable business by buying, promoting and selling local and artisanal cheeses, produce, cured meats, jams, sauces and wines.

Kate is a founding Director of the non-profit organization,  Local Food Hub. She is an appointed member of Virginia’s Specialty Food Advisory Committee as well as the Virginia Food System Council. Her well rounded, international experience in marketing, food sales, and distribution informs her innovative perspective on the food industry. Her strong relationships with local farmers, a keen business sense and an understanding of the issues facing small-scale food producers helps inform the Local Food Hub vision and mission.

Scott Cullen

Scott M. Cullen is the Executive Director of GRACE Communications Foundation which highlights the interconnections of food, water and energy, educating consumers, advocates and policy makers through web-based initiatives like the Ecocentric blog, Eat Well Guide, The Meatrix, Sustainable Table, Meatless Monday, Healthy Monday and Kids Cook Monday.  The Foundation is focusing on supporting efforts to re-build community-based food production and regional food distribution networks as well as increasing public awareness of how sustainable agriculture contributes to social, environmental, economic and personal health. Scott also serves as Treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Environmental Grantmakers Association and is on several committees of the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders Network.

He has also worked for the Nature Conservancy to develop partnerships with federal, state and municipal agencies to build capacity and support for the ecologically sound management of beaches, dunes and tidal wetlands.  From 1997-2003, he served as the Executive Director and Counsel to the STAR Foundation where he was responsible for legal, political and environmental affairs as well as efforts to promote local implementation of solar and wind projects.  Scott has served on numerous county, state and federal advisory committees and serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors of Renewable Energy Long Island.  Scott has a J.D from Vermont Law School.  

John Fisk

John Fisk, PhD, has an extensive history as a national leader in sustainable and equitable food systems work and currently serves as the Director of the Wallace Center at Winrock International, based in Arlington, Virginia. Under Dr. Fisk’s leadership, the Wallace Center has emerged as a national force in food systems work utilizing a market-based solutions strategy for linking a larger number of people and communities to “good food”— food that is healthy, green, fair, and affordable.

Prior to joining the Wallace Center, Fisk served as board chairperson and later as Director for Programs and Development at Michigan Food and Farming Systems, a statewide sustainable food systems organization, where he lead work to mobilize values-driven markets for sustainably produced agricultural products. Fisk has provided food systems consulting to several Michigan-based organizations including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In his work with the Kellogg Foundation, he provided strategic leadership to the Food and Society Initiative (FAS) as well as grantee support and review and has directed the FAS Networking Conference for six years which has become one of the premiere conferences in the nation for advancing sustainable food systems change.

Fisk is a published author of agricultural research and has written several chapters on sustainable food and farming systems. He has served as a Fellow in the Donella Meadows Leadership Program for Systems Thinking at the Sustainability Institute and was also awarded a C.S. Mott Fellowship of Sustainable Agriculture at Michigan State University. Fisk holds a PhD in Crop and Soil Sciences from Michigan State University, a Masters in Agronomy from University of Missouri-Columbia and a Bachelor degree in Environmental Studies-Agroecology from the University of California-Santa Cruz.

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