SDSU Extension receives grant to plan for potential food hub

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — South Dakota is one of only a few states that have not developed a food hub as a model for marketing local food. This is about to change thanks to a recent grant the USDA Ag Marketing Services awarded SDSU Extension a grant that will give producers in southeastern South Dakota a chance to plan for their own food hub.

A food hub is a means of aggregating and distributing local foods to restaurants and institutions interested in a constant supply of local foods for their establishments, explained Kari O’Neill, SDSU Extension Community Development Field Specialist.

O’Neill has led a coordinated effort to research food hubs in other states and to assist producers in developing a plan that can work in South Dakota. She applied for the grant after producers in the southeastern quarter of the state indicated a commitment to planning for some way to collectively market fresh foods in a more coordinated effort.

The food hub model O’Neill would like to research further is one developed in Illinois which uses an LLC structure which includes 20-member farmers. The group began with only three member-farmers selling to a local grocer. Today the group sells to many restaurants in the Chicago area, even though they are located two hours from the metro area.

How funds will be used

SDSU Extension’s one-year, $25,000 planning grant is funded through the Local Food Promotion Program. In addition to producers, input for the planning will be gathered from many statewide resource providers, most of whom are part of the South Dakota Local Foods Collaborative.

The money will be allocated to accomplish the following:

• Local food producers will host regional meetings this fall for producers interested in learning more about how they can become involved in sales to a food hub.

• Local food producers, resource providers and potential clients are offered the chance to participate in a field trip to Fairbury, Ill., to visit the Stewards of the Land Food Hub. The trip is planned for early December and participants are being sought.

• The group will undergo a session on strategic planning in January to build their structure. Legal aid will be provided.

• A geo-mapping process will be used through the Planning Districts to give producers an idea of where potential aggregation sites could be feasible, and how transportation routes could be developed.

• Potential clients (restaurant chefs, food service managers, etc) will be invited to “Meet the Farmer” receptions this spring.

• Training will be provided by Dakota Rural Action on using an online marketing tool for listing and ordering food products.

• At the end of the year, if the project moves forward, the search will begin for a manager, and the results of the plan will be shared.

To learn more about this project, or how to get involved, contact O’Neill at 685-6972 or