Cooperative brings small-farm produce to supermarketsThe Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative (WFHC), a unique new produce-distributing organization, is having a successful first season.
By: Noah Ovshinsky, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
The Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative (WFHC), a unique new produce-distributing organization, is having a successful first season.
Traditionally, small fruit and vegetable growers have had to rely on public markets and farm stands to sell their produce. The WFHC is turning that model on its head by serving as a middleman between growers and large customers like supermarkets and distributers. This is their first season and they have already picked up some big customers like Roundy's, Sysco, and Midwest Foods.
“I'd say it’s the perfect storm, but a good storm,” says interim general manager Sarah Lloyd.
Lloyd says with interest in local food exploding the market is now ready for the services her organization offers. “We can certainly thank popular interest and the strength of the local food movement in Dane County and in the region, which we all see through farmers markets, she says”
The Food Hub has 11 members and the list is growing. It offers a range of services including marketing, training, and liability insurance which many distributers require.
Perhaps most importantly, Lloyd says, the cooperative helps farmers with logistics.
“If you can imagine a restaurant or a hospital or a grocery store — it would be difficult if 25 different farmers were coming with a couple boxes of vegetable here and there,” she says. “On the other side, it would be difficult for farmers too if they would need to themselves bring their vegetables around to 10 or 15 different places.”
Lloyd expects the WFHC to bring in over $3 million this year.
As for future plans, Lloyd says she'd like to move into a headquarters of sorts and begin offering processed foods like chopped potatoes and products like salsa and jams.