State Funding for Food Hubs Expected

04/1/2012

Attendees at a food hub visioning session. Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. (view larger image)

Attendees at a food hub visioning session. Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

By Rich Pirog, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems

Governor Rick Snyder has allocated $1 million in his budget toward the development of regional food hubs and value added agriculture grants and programs in order to increase economic and rural development in the state. If approved by the legislature, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) will use the funds to hire in-house technical expertise and implement a seed grant program to fund value added agriculture and regional food hub enterprises.  

The MSU Center for Regional Food Systems (formerly known as the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems at MSU) has agreed to collaborate with MDARD to complement its role in this statewide food hub/value added agriculture initiative. The Center will take the lead in finding resources to conduct research on food hubs and develop and coordinate a food hub learning and innovation network. 

The second visioning session for a Michigan-based regional food hub initiative was co-convened by MDARD and the Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) in Lansing on March 8, 2012. More than 60 participants representing eight existing (or developing) food hubs and a variety of state and local agencies, MSU, and non-profit organizations were in attendance.

Participants discussed local financial and technical assistance needs and the value of local and statewide learning and innovation networks in developing profitable food hubs in urban and rural Michigan. MDARD is using comments and suggestions generated at the meeting to inform development of a Request for Proposals (assuming the legislature appropriates funds).

CRFS learned that food hubs want a statewide learning network to coordinate information on best practices, related programs, and resource databases.  Connecting to the National Food Hub Collaboration, led by the Wallace Center at Winrock International, and developing local learning and innovation networks were also deemed important for building food hub capacity to supply good food to underserved markets and populations in Michigan.