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A New Hub for Local Food

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Ever since the launch of LocalHarvest back in 1998, the local food movement has positively blossomed online. The success of that site, which connects consumers with growers in their area, helped spawn others like it as well as buy-direct online farmer markets like Foodzie and Goodapples.org.

And now, the trend has taken a turn towards retailers and restaurateurs, who have worked hard over the past couple years to source locally. FoodHub, which launched in January, is an online forum connecting growers and food buyers throughout the northwest. It’s like a craigslist for the local food world — members pay a $100 annual fee, which sets up a profile and grants access to forums where growers and buyers link up.

produce.jpgMost useful, perhaps, is a search tool that helps buyers find exactly what they’re looking for. Type in “sweet potatoes”, “raspberries” or “rutabaga” to find the folks that grow them.

Or “pickles”, which one recent poster is currently craving.

We currently go through approximately 30 gallons of dill pickles and I would like to source out a local and more creative pickle to offer our customers at our 4 locations around Portland.

Pretty neat, huh? For supermarkets, a tool like this could be a real leg-up. Buyers want to source local, but they often don’t have the time or know-how to establish relationships with area growers.

Indeed, it was a conversation with a grocery buyer that inspired founder Deborah Kane to start FoodHub.

“She wanted to support regional farmers, but often didn’t know where to go to find suitable farm partners for her store,” Kane wrote in a recent post on the sustainable food site Culinate. “‘Why can’t I just walk to my computer, type in the word ‘cranberry,’ and get a list of all the cranberry producers that might want to do business with our stores?” she wondered aloud.”

Of course, for supermarkets the process is more complicated than just finding a farmer and cutting them a check. Retailers have quality control and delivery protocols that can factor out small producers. It’s a work in progress, with both sides working their way towards the middle, and innovations like FoodHub to help them along the way.

(Creative Commons photo by NatalieMaynor)

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