In order to increase farming and local food production in northern New Jersey, we need to work on ways to successfully bring farm-fresh food to market. While farmers’ markets and on-farm direct-to-consumer markets are proliferating in northern New Jersey, small to mid-sized farms need a way to reach institutional buyers: restaurants, grocery stores, corporate and school cafeterias, etc.
Unfortunately, small and mid-sized farms find it nearly impossible to work with institutional buyers as these farms usually do not have the volume and infrastructure necessary to meet institutions’ needs. Establishing a food hub in northern New Jersey would allow small and mid-sized farms to efficiently and cost-effectively aggregate and distribute their product. Food hubs are an ongoing trend in our nation’s food system; there are more than 300 nation-wide but none in New Jersey.
The Foodshed Alliance has held several meetings with farmers to determine interest in establishing food hub in northern New Jersey. We are researching and documenting existing successful hub-type operations up and down the East Coast, such Red Tomato in Massachusetts and Common Market in Pennsylvania to name just a few. We are also investigating the needs of institutional buyers such as Whole Foods Market, Atlantic Health, Blair Academy, etc. Our priority is to build stakeholder engagement, including institutional buyers, commercial kitchens, farmers and nonprofits to determine the feasibility of establishing a food hub here in New Jersey. We are seeking financial support for staff time to drive this project.