Posted on Wed, August 31, 2011 by Slow Food USA
1 Comments | Categories: News, Current Events,
By Maika Horjus
Backyard Bounty Co-op program coordinator
Urban Abundance Intern
Last February, over fifty people squeezed into the historic Minnehaha Grange Hall in Vancouver, WA to learn about a new opportunity opening up through local non-profit Urban Abundance: an “urban farmer’s co-op” geared towards greenthumbed city dwellers passionate about growing good food and looking to earn some income from their garden bounty. The new program, christened Backyard Bounty Co-op by its founding members, aims to support micro-entrepreneurs. It connects aspiring urban farmers and market gardeners with local food markets by pooling resources, sharing costs, building capacity, and providing a range of services to its members. Backyard Bounty offers support with marketing, accounting, market logistics, and—not least—a network of like-minded entrepreneurs and a vibrant sense of community.
During its first season, Backyard Bounty members have worked closely with one another and with Urban Abundance staff to operate market booths at venues throughout Clark County. Growers’ products are aggregated and sold side-by-side or intermingled at the market booth. A 20% consignment fee goes towards Co-op operating costs and the rest of the profit is divided proportionally based on each grower’s contribution. Responsibility for setting up and staffing the booth is shared among growers and volunteers and regular meetings offer an opportunity for discussion, collective decision-making, and community-building. Throughout the process, the goal is to help growers enter and thrive in the marketplace—a task that can be daunting or even impossible for small-scale growers working on their own.
The language of aggregation and cooperation might sound familiar if you’ve been following recent buzz about another model emerging to support regional and local food economies. Lately, the spotlight has been on regional “Food Hubs,” which have proven to be an innovative business model that is effective in providing greater market opportunities for small- and midsized producers. The USDA has highlighted Food Hubs as part of its “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” campaign and provides this working definition: “a centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products.”
These services and strategic partnerships make a tremendous difference for smaller producers, who often face significant challenges in getting their products from farm to marketplace, often due to a lack of infrastructure. Food Hubs help address this need by providing a physical point of aggregation and services ranging from processing and distribution to marketing support and farmer training. You can check out examples of Food Hubs on the USDA website. There are currently over 100 in operation in the U.S. And the list continues to grow.