March 14, 2012 By Indrajit Basu
The summer season, particularly when it comes after a harsh winter, is a welcome respite. But for many farmers, summer is the peak of harvesting season – a time when it seems like 24 hours isn’t enough time to get through everything on a day’s to-do list.
Still, Cassandra Timms of Deck Family Farms in Junction City, Ore., makes sure that she spends at least 10 minutes every day logged in to FoodHub.
“FoodHub has opened doors by word of mouth to chefs who have tried our products and then referred some of their friends to our farm,” Timms said. “We didn’t have to do the footwork or cold call them when they don’t have the time – they were just referred to us. That makes it worth those 10 minutes a day.”
That’s the concept of FoodHub, an online community for professionals in the food industry. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), FoodHub “is one of the most sophisticated, well-developed (and still developing) networks anywhere in the U.S.”
Launched in 2010, FoodHub has been a collaborative project funded by many organizations and philanthropists. Two of its main sponsors are the USDA under its “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, and the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
“It is a matchmaking site for food producers like farmers and food buyers,” said Amanda Oborne, the community’s acting project director. “FoodHub works very much like an online dating site for food producers and food buyers and it is completely crowdsourced. Everyone in the directory is in there because producers and buyers logged in and created a profile.”
“So the website is created by people who are actually involved in buying and selling of food.”
That means that FoodHub is open to everyone associated with the food business. It’s open to commercial buyers, producers, distributors, industry suppliers as well as farmers’ market managers, trade associations and even the media.
“If you are a restaurant, a grocer, hospital, or school, you can hop online and find exactly what you want. [And] if you are a farmer, fisherman, dairy owner or a rancher, you have access to a community of food buyers,” said Deborah Kane, the former director of FoodHub who recently moved on to USDA.
Additionally, commodity commissions, trade organizations, advocacy groups, and news reporters have a front-row seat for all this action.
FoodHub operates on a simple principle: Food producers who are farmers – located mostly in rural areas – don’t have as much access to marketing and distribution channels as buyers, who are typically located in urban areas.
Vicki L. Walker, Oregon state director of USDA Rural Development said the FoodHub project was of great importance because, as an online platform, it can be propagated across the country. The platform caters not just