Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Cincinnati Local Food Distribution

I'm pretty excited about the city's Urban Gardening Pilot Program. I'd really like to help out at one of these plots, so I'll be keeping my eye on the project. Let me know if you know of any groups that are planning on applying. ( Predictably, I've started a page for this program on the hereincincinnati.net wiki. )

I've been thinking a lot about local food lately. I've been a part of a discussion with some people from DIYcity.org, I've been reading a few threads on the CinciLocavore mailing list and I've been reading The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved by Sandor Ellix Katz and I just read the chapter on urban food production. I also recently dug out my copy of Toolbox for Sustainable City Living by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew.

Right now there are farmers markets, and CSA's. And there is what some people refer to as RSA - Restaurant Supported Agriculture. In Cincinnati we have many farmers' markets and CSA's. I know there are some restaurants out there that have relationships with local farms too. It seems to me that there are many, many producers of local food as well as many, many different consumers of local food that can be matched up to each other in creative ways.

Producers / Products
- farmers / vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, dairy
- gardeners / fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, seeds
- beekeepers / honey, pollination services
- value-adders: winemakers, cheesemakers, bakers
- mushroom growers
- fish farmers

- chefs
- school cafeterias
- restaurants
- teaching kitchens
- party planners
- individuals
- churches
- soup kitchens
- food co-ops
- caterers

I'm imagining that there may be room for other forms of distribution to be tried. I found a number of exciting projects around the web that don't seem to have any local equivalent in our area.

Indiana MarketMaker MarketPlace Buy&Sell Forum:

A project of Purdue University New Ventures Team, Indiana Market Maker is "an interactive mapping system that locates businesses and markets of agricultural products in Indiana, providing an important link between producers and consumers." In addition to being a large database of business and demographic data for the state of Indiana, there is an area of the site that lets buyers and sellers find each other directly. The Buy & Sell Forum lets sellers (all across the country) list goods and services that are available. Buyers can also list requests for items they are looking for. The listings can then be browsed by buyers searching for products in their local area or sellers looking to sell to locally. In addition to produce and other farm products, listings can be created for value-add services or transportation services.

Fresh Fork Market

Fresh Fork Market in the Cleveland area is an organization that provides a supply chain solution that matches up the needs of restaurants that would like to buy locally produced food with those of local farmers. In this system farmers set their own prices and restaurants can search through the listings by farm or by product category. Fresh Fork also gives farmers the opportunity to detail their growing practices so that restaurants can be choosy. Fresh Fork delivers products twice a week and requires a 2-day lead-time for all orders. Since products are delivered straight from farm to buyer and never stored, the produce is always delivered within 24 hours of harvest. Over 20 restaurants and over 50 suppliers have joined Fresh Fork.

City Fresh

City Fresh is a nonprofit program of the New Agrarian Center a 501(c)3 organization focused on growing a sustainable local food system in Northeast Ohio. "The City Fresh program impacts the local food system through the development of neighborhood food centers called Fresh Stops, nutrition education, facilitation of garden installations in urban areas, the cultivation of direct farm to business connections, and the City Fresh Youth program." City Fresh guides a network of urban farms, educating people about food production and business in the process. City Fresh also operates a series of "Fresh Stops" that act like traditional CSA pickup points but they are different in that they allow buyers to purchase on a week-by-week basis. City Fresh has a network of around 22 supppliers. I really, really like this chart of how food flows through City Fresh (inspiring!):

Farm Fresh To You

Farm Fresh to You is a set of services in San Francisco based around the distribution of food from their farm Capay Fruits & Vegetables. Amazingly, they offer their products via home delivery, office delivery, restaurant delivery, wholesale, farmers markets, and a retail store.

Door To Door Organics

Door To Door Organics is a direct-to- home, office, and co-op delivery service that offers variously sized subscriptions in several markets in mid-west / east coast. The service allows subscribers to select a box size and a few vegetable/fruit types when ordering, rather than setting up individual relationships between each buyer and supplier. The products are not all produced local to the buyers, but they are organic certified.


Sprouts Box

Sprouts is a student-run organization at the University of British Columbia. They've started a basic CSA that they're calling the Sprouts Box. I include it here because of the unique distribution method. They've teamed up with a local bike co-op to have all the weekly deliveries carries out by bicycle. Nifty!

Where to go from here?

I'd be interested in any efforts similar to the ones that I've mentioned going on in the Cincinnati area. I really think there is an opportunity for some sort of service to spring up, whether it be a website for locals to buy and sell or some sort of supply chain solution. My guess is that there may be other novel ideas out there for better connecting locally produced food to local eaters. Comment here or join the discussion at the CinciLocavore mailing list if you have any thoughts on the subject.

UPDATE: I've posted again on this topic with some more ideas here.