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Talk is Cheap ... and Efficient! Facilitating value chain development without costly new infrastructure

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Introducing the critical role of the value chain facilitator.


Let's face it: food hubs are sexy! So are other Good Food infrastructure projects, such as region-scaled meat processing plants. 

And for good reason: these businesses are often filling gaps or bottlenecks in regional and local food systems. 

However, sometimes it's not a LACK of infrastructure that leads to bottlenecks; it is incomplete or inefficient USE of the infrastructure that stymies the system.

"Value Chain Coordinators" are people who work to connect the dots in a value chain. They ensure the right people, goods and resources connect with each other. Most often value chain coordinators work outside day-to-day business operations, a vantage point that offers a unique perspective on the optimal solutions in a regional market.

This expanded webinar dives deep into the approaches people across the country are taking to improve the food system without costly new infrastructure.



Presenter Bios

Jim Barham

Jim BarhamJim Barham is an Agricultural Economist for USDA’s Rural Development agency.   Jim obtained a MA in Cultural Anthropology and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Ecology from the University of Florida.  Before joining the USDA, Jim worked extensively in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean with a number of nonprofit organizations and government agencies on agricultural development projects targeting smallholder producers.  Jim joined USDA in 2007 where he has worked to improve marketing opportunities for small and mid-size producers through a combination of research, technical assistance, and grant support.  Jim has presented research and published a number of articles on regional food hubs, food value chains, local food distribution, and foodservice procurement.  He is also currently on the management team of USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” Initiative – a USDA-wide effort to  support the development of local and regional food systems.

Debra Tropp

Debra TroppDebra Tropp is a twenty-two year veteran of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s Transportation and Marketing Program, during which time she has worn many hats - most recently Chief of the Farmers Market and Direct Farm Marketing Research Branch, a position she has occupied for the past eleven years. Ms. Tropp has devoted most of her research attention to identifying emerging marketing opportunities for locally-grown food in institutional and commercial market outlets, and developing guidance material for small and medium-sized farm operations.  She was also one of the founding members of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food task force, and was an early and pivotal contributor to the Department’s work on the role of food hubs in advancing local food supply chains.  As a result of her pioneering work, she received a Departmental honor award from the Deputy Secretary in 2013. 

Lauren Gwin

Lauren GwinLauren Gwin is the Director of the national Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network. As an Assistant Professor at Oregon State University, she is also the Associate Director of OSU's Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems and is the Extension Food Systems Specialist for the College of Agricultural Sciences. Her extension and research focus on policy and regulations, small-scale processing, and distribution and marketing within local and regional food systems. She also leads the national Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network.

Steve Warshawer

Steve WarshawerSteve Warshawer, with his wife and family, operates Mesa Top Farm and Ranch, producing eggs, raw milk cheese, beef and produce. He operates the year round Beneficial Farms CSA, a multi-farm CSA, that has the honor of being the oldest CSA in NM. Steve and is the National Good Food Network Food Safety Coordinator. He serves on several government and industry advisory and technical committees ensuring that the voice of small and sustainable farming is heard. He is also is the Value Chain Facilitator for La Montanita’s Co-op Distribution Center, a food hub in Albuquerque, NM. 

Ann Karlen

Ann KarlenAnn Karlen is the Executive Director of Fair Food, founded in 2000 to build a sustainable and humane local food economy for the Delaware Valley by connecting regional family farms to the Philadelphia marketplace. In 2003, she opened the Fair Food Farmstand, Philadelphia’s first all-local food retail grocery store, in the Reading Terminal Market. Ms. Karlen is Faculty Director of the University of Vermont’s Food Hub Management Certificate Program, and is a member of Philadelphia’s Food Policy Advisory Council, and the Penn State Cooperative Extension Advisory Committee.

Todd Erling

Todd ErlingTodd is the founding chief operating officer for Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation (HVADC), whose charge is to enhance the agricultural sector in New York’s Hudson Valley by assisting both new and existing agri-businesses, and supporting public policies that support New York State’s agricultural economy. Todd and HVADC have taken a leadership role in the Hudson Valley’s burgeoning local food movement, which is increasingly meeting the demand for local food from New York City area consumers. Todd’s experience also includes managing a community loan fund portfolio, and providing development financing for public and private housing and community development projects. Todd currently serves as an advisor on agricultural policy to US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, US Congressman Chris Gibson and US Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney. 

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