The Oxford Hills Micro-Distribution Project seeks to work with local farmers and growers to provide more of their products to local wholesalers (institutions, restaurants, and other retail establishments). As of fall of 2014, dozens of local growers and buyers had been interviewed in order to gauge interest and readiness for scaling up. A trial run was held that involved connecting local growers and buyers to help supply an October "Harvest Meal." Two meetings have been held since then to update interested growers and buyers on lessons learned to date and to start planning to move food the next growing season.
The Oxford Hills could efficiently feed itself on local food from local farmers and gardeners. A distribution system could be created that aggregates produce and locally-made products from gardens and farms. This system could supply all the needs of the community from individuals, farmers' markets, restaurants, businesses and schools.
The problem with creating this system so far is that farmers, on their own, lack finances to be able to buy refrigerated trucks, maintain efficient cold storage, and ensure that cleaning and packaging requirements are met. The problem of scale presents a gap, between doing it yourself and selling at a farmers' market, or being able to ramp up and sell in large quantities. We're left with industrial-sized food needs that can't be met by local farmers.
The Oxford Hills Micro Distribution project is trying to change all that. We've interviewed all of the farmers in the area and have garnered a clear understanding of what the demand is. Supply and demand need to come together and we are starting to understand how it could be done.
By providing a facilitiy where farmers and gardeners can wash, pack, can, freeze and store their produce we could ensure that all of the food being produced could be available year-round to the whole community. A Micro Distribution Food Hub could serve as an aggregator and coordinate a supply chain that offers refrigerated pick up and delivery. If a hundred pounds of carrots are need by a school, they could order it from the Micro Distribution center, which would then be able to get them from dozens of backyard gardens, market farms, and larger multi-acre farms. The carrots would only travel a few miles, lowering the community's carbon footprint, and be nutrient dense, fresh and tasty. Kids would love this. It would make the school's job easy and worry-free because it would be just as easy as ordering from Sysco! But better.
Farmers and gardeners would also not have to drive all over the area delievering their goods and negotiating prices. They could stay in their gardens and on their farms doing what they do and love best. Their produce and products would be co-branded with farm information so that consumers would know where their food comes from and who is handling it.
If you are interested in being a part of this project, please call Seal Rossignol, CEBE's Program Director, at 207-739-2101. Ken Morse is heading up the project through Community Food Strategies and can be reached at 207-393-0134. Ken is the coordinator of Maine Farm to School Network and Maine Network of Community Food Councils. He is also on the leadership team of Farm to Institution New England.
WHAT IS IT?
A distribution system that enables local farmers and gardeners to supply all the needs of the community from individual scale to restaurants and schools.
Farmers, on their own, lack finances to be able to buy refrigerated trucks, maintain efficient cold storage, and ensure that cleaning and packaging requirements are met.
If a hundred pounds of carrots are need by a school, they could order it from the Micro Distribution center, which would then be able to get them from dozens of backyard gardens, market farms, and larger multi-acre farms.
It would make the school's job easy and worry-free because it would be just as easy as ordering from large distributors. But better.
(Start Date: March 2014) funded by Broad Reach Foundation.
Ken Morse from Community Food Strategies, Oxford Hills area farmers and growers.
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