What is a food hub?
~a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.
Plowshares Food Hub is a local food distribution co-op opening in Fort Wayne that will bring specialty crop farmers and ranchers together to create convenient access to locally grown and produced foods that are not readily available through existing distribution channels to wholesale & institutional buyers. Plowshares Food Hub is a privately held, for profit business, that will facilitate, support and promote the growing Northeast Indiana regional local food network. Organized as a multi-stakeholder cooperative, Plowshares is owned and controlled by the people whose interests it serves, such as the warehouse workers, farmers and producers, buyers, and even community organizations!
A multi-stakeholder cooperative, Plowshares will provide efficient, convenient market opportunities for farmers and processors through transportation, aggregation, & distribution of local food products.
After three years of preparation, studying the needs of buyers and sellers, a year of working with seven local restaurants and test-marketing a CSA-style seasonal box to a hundred retail buyers, we have launched!
Pain Point for Local Food Commerce
Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, and Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership studies all found that lack of distribution infrastructure was the primary barrier to local food access in Indiana.
Plowshares will market locally sourced food products to develop consumer demand and promote their value in the local economy. We will increase wholesale market-readiness of specialty farms by organizing group GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) cohorts, technical assistance and training for On-farm and ServSafe food safety requirements. Technical assistance will be available to farms in completing certification forms and documentation as preparation for food safety audits, as well as other electronic documents and paperwork, primarily for Amish farmers.
Plowshares Cooperative begins in 2019 with a virtual market for retail and wholesale buyers. Farmers will post available produce, meat, dairy, eggs and value-added food products and the order cycle opens Wednesday. Buyers can make purchases as long as the produce is available, paying at time of order with a credit or debit card, and the market will close on Monday at midnight. Wednesday is Market Day when the farmers harvest the ordered produce and deliver it to the aggregation point by noon. Customers will pick-up at the central hub, or it can be delivered to wholesale buyers and buying club drop-off points..
A Community-wide Project
Plowshares Project was initiated by the Workers’ Project as the Food and Jobs Initiative, and carried out by The Stewards of Heartland Communities, both local Northeast Indiana nonprofit organizations. Plowshares Project is a community economic development project to organize farmers and food workers and develop a local food aggregation, processing and distribution system for local consumption in new and established markets, while creating jobs and job training for new food workers.
Other important community partner organizations that are involved or have contributed include Allen County Purdue Extension Service, Community Harvest Food Bank, Parkview Regional Health Center, Associated Churches, Northeast Indiana Local Food Network, Food Council of Northeast Indiana, and Fort Wayne Urban League.