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Meetings to study idea of food hubs


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Purdue Extension offices around the state are hosting nine community sessions, including one in Columbus, aimed at determining the feasibility of local food hubs.

A pilot program is underway in Greenfield.

The Purdue Extension Hancock County office this past year launched Hoosier Harvest Market, a food hub that partners and consumers interact with through a website, hoosierharvestmarket.com.

Via the site, farmers can post what goods they have available, and community members can use it to place orders, which are aggregated and available at pickup locations.

The Greenfield food hub project is in the process of being transitioned to area farmers, said Roy Ballard, Purdue Extension educator of agriculture and natural resources in Hancock County.

With 42 farmers participating in the Greenfield area, Ballard said the Hancock County hub also includes bread and soap makers.

Food hubs can take on many forms, but the most appropriate one should be dictated by the community, he said.

“There’s a lot of good that can come of this,” Ballard said.

“We’ve targeted some regions that could have critical mass.”

The Bartholomew County Extension office is hosting the Columbus session, which is open to the public, from 10:30 a.m. to noon Sept. 4.

Next week’s meeting in Columbus will be facilitated by Kris Medic, agriculture, natural resources, economic and community development educator with Purdue Extension Bartholomew County.

“We’re trying to figure out if (a food hub) is workable here,” Medic said.

Medic is gathering potential clientele, such as farmers who produce specialty crops such as fruits, vegetables, produce, honey and Christmas trees.

“I really wish for whatever is the best outcome,” Medic said. “Our community will determine that — our growers, our buyers, our consumers.”

Like in Columbus, other communities statewide will study whether the food hub idea has potential, Ballard said.

The food hub sessions are the projects of Purdue Extension offices working in conjunction with the state Department of Agriculture, which has commissioned Indianapolis-based consulting agency Thomas P. Miller to help in the process.

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