Local Food Showcase Sets Stage for New Food Hub

This summer, the Puget Sound Food Network hosted the Business-to-Business Local Food Showcase at the 21 Acres Center for Local Food and Sustainable Living. The showcase — geared towards commercial and institutional buyers — was a chance for local producers to meet buyers interested in purchasing local products for their business straight from the source!

From berries to greens; from beef to zucchini, the Showcase featured farms and food businesses producing an enormously diverse selection of fresh, seasonal and value-added foods — all from Western Washington and available for commercial sale!  Buyers (including hospitals, day care centers, schools, universities, restaurants, and more) were invited to pre-arrange bulk orders and pick them up at the event, make on the spot purchases, and arrange for future sales.

Check out this brief video about the Showcase!

Business to Business Local Food Showcase 2012 from Moon Rock Creative on Vimeo.

Funded by a USDA Value-Added Producers Grant (VAPG), the event aimed to connect sellers, buyers and logistical providers at the height of the season to facilitate positive sales relationships. And it worked! One producer said after the event, “The Showcase enabled us to make contacts that would have taken hours on the phone and then follow up visits. I don’t have the time to make all of the contacts necessary to move this business along. The networking with others is very appreciated.” Each vendor at the Showcase reported making between 2 and 12 solid new sales relationships with commercial buyers. Buyers, too, found the event helpful. Nearly every buyer at the showcase plans on following up with the producer contacts they made!

No local food event would be complete without ample local snacks. Chef Gill Dey, cooking instructor at 21 Acres, and her team prepared delicious breakfast items, canapés, and beverages using produce from the 21 Acres farm.

See more photos of the B2B Local Food Showcase here

The B2B Local Food Showcase at 21 Acres was the ultimate precursor to the opening of the 21 Acres Food Hub this month. The new food hub, complete with loading dock, cool and dry storage, processing facilities, and a delivery truck and driver at no cost to regional farmers, is already serving as an aggregation and distribution site primarily for Seattle and Tacoma area deliveries.

Generally, the logistics of selling and buying farm-direct product in large volumes, conducting direct and efficient purchase and sale transactions, and aggregating and delivering multi-farm orders remain obstacles to achieving a sustainable regional food system. Through PSFN, the Northwest Agriculture Business Center and 21 Acres are addressing these challenges and removing barriers on both the supply and demand side. These cooperative efforts will help to ultimately increase the environmental and economic sustainability of Western Washington’s farms.

This new regional food hub is supported an innovative online sales platform, Local Orbit, which enables local food producers to market their products to buyers looking for local products in commercial volumes. Producer participants in the pilot food hub will find it easy to manage their sales online, from showcasing products to printing the pack slip — Local Orbit does it all!  One farmer said, “We are on Whidbey island so delivery is an issue. With the orbit system, some of the issues of a timely and ‘easy’ delivery have been eliminated.”

Farmers and buyers alike are excited about the transactional, inventory management, and reporting features Local Orbit offers. Buyers on the site can preorder local products from diverse producers, make a single purchase order or credit card payment which is distributed to the various producers, and receive a single, aggregated delivery from the 21 Acres food hub truck. Nearly every commercial buyer at the B2B Local Food Showcase said that having a tool like Local Orbit to help facilitate, track, and analyze local food purchasing would be helpful to their business.

The 21 Acres Food Hub will be unique in that the product will be sourced from farmers using beyond organic standards and who use production practices with ultimate sustainability in mind.  These parameters are evolving and farmers who are interested in contributing to the conversation and learning more about the food hub are invited to attend an informational session Tuesday, September 25 from 8-10 a.m. on site at 21 Acres in Woodinville.

The informational session will include a tour of the food hub, an introduction to the Local Orbit online sales platform, discussion about eligibility to participate in the food hub pilot, and of course, coffee and snacks from the 21 Acres kitchen!

We’re so excited about these developments in our local food system! Special thanks to partner and host, 21 Acres, for helping organize the Showcase event, and — through the new food hub — contributing to a sustainable, environmentally and economically sound agricultural industry.

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