For convenience, do you hit the big-box chains and bury your prepackaged factory-food crimes deep in your canvas tote? We understand—spending hours going from roadside farm stand to farmers market just isn’t that practical. Roy Ballard, a Purdue extension educator from Hancock County, has a plan to help us out with that. In the coming months, he will be working on getting an exciting new food venture off the ground, a food hub in central Indiana.
TRISHA LINDSLEY: What exactly is a food hub?
ROY BALLARD: There are several definitions. But to us, we hope to have a place to aggregate, process, store, market, and certify local produce made by local farmers. We’d then distribute it to consumers, along with schools and hospitals. Simply put, it’s just a way to get local product back into the regional food trade. We’re essentially going back to where we were long ago.
TL: Is there a name for this hub?
RB: It’s still TBD. We’re currently generically referring to it as the Central Indiana Food Hub right now.
TL: Where are you in this planning phase?
RB: We’re early on in the process of assessing the feasibility of a hub. We’re currently interviewing farmers and getting their feedback. We’ll have our research results back by the end of the summer, so we should have more information then. There are also two different hubs in Cincinnati and Terre Haute that are evolving as we speak. We’re a little ahead of them in the planning process, so we might be able to build a network that will support one another.
TL: Is this the first food hub in Indiana?
RB: Depending on what this hub turns into, it may very well be. There’s a virtual food hub in Indiana called Purple Porch and there’s Green Bean Delivery. They may not identify themselves as a hub, but they do fit the model in many ways. This project won’t take anything away from the existing marketing systems out there. We’re not trying to replace farmers’ markets or roadside farm stands. We’re just trying to add another level to facilitate further what they’re doing already. Our goal is to go as year-round as possible, considering our limited growing season. We’ll take the practices of canning and jarring and do it in a cook-safe way for others. Like flash-freezing sweet corn, broccoli, and cauliflower.
TL: How will you be different from, say, Green Been Delivery?
RB: From what I understand, Green Bean is primarily focused on home delivery. And I don’t believe they’re doing any processing. My plan is to have our system be as multi-faceted with virtual marketing as they are as well as have a wholesale side of the business. Grasshopper in Louisville, Kentucky, is one of the closest food hubs to what we hope to accomplish. They also work with many Indiana farms. Since they’re just across the river, I hope they become a great resource for us.