Local Food Systems

U.S. Kitchen Incubators: An Industry Update

Adam Wodka

This most recent state-of-the-industry survey describes common characteristics of kitchen incubators, which stand at the nexus of the artisanal food movement, the sharing economy, and small business development. The authors find that the growth of the industry, which has increased by more than 50 percent over the past three years, is not a fad, but rather is representative of sustained and increasing interest in food as a tool for job creation and economic development. The report highlights common services offered by incubators to ensure business viability, such as such as small-business counseling, workforce development, and connecting businesses to affordable capital.

Market at Wright Stop Plaza

Formed in the fall of 2015 by a coalition of partners including Montgomery County, Greater Dayton RTA, Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County, and Homefull, the Market at Wright Stop Plaza aims to provide fresh, affordable, local produce at the Wright Stop Transit Center, an area considered to be at the heart of a food desert.  The Market will also serve as a job training site for clients of Homefull, the Dayton nonprofit that provides shelter and services to people experiencing homelessness.

Garden Station

Established in 2008 on a city-owned downtown lot that was vacant for over 50 years and had become a dumping ground, Garden Station is an art park and community garden featuring locally-created murals and sculpture, community garden plots, concerts, festivals, a regular Sunday farmer’s market, and other community-focused events.  In 2013, it first hosted EarthFest, which has now become an annual festival attracting thousands of area residents that features DIY sustainable living workshops.

Five Rivers MetroPark

Established in 1963 to preserve and protect open space and natural areas in Montgomery County, the publicly-owned Five Rivers MetroPark today encompasses 15,000 acres of forests, grasslands, farmlands and wetlands.  In 1986, MetroParks began a Community Gardening program that helps urban residents develop and maintain community gardens and green projects.  MetroParks also operates 2nd Street Market, a year-round farmers market held in an historic B&O railroad building once slated for demolition, that supports both the growing and buying of locally produced goods.

Intervale Center

Founded in 1988, Intervale Center is a nonprofit committed to strengthening community food systems by improving farm viability, promoting sustainable land use, and engaging the community.  For instance, its Farms Program, started in 1990, leases land, equipment, greenhouses, irrigation and storage facilities to small independent farms, enabling them to grow fresh produce –adding around 60 jobs to the Burlington economy.  Other initiatives include a food hub and a local conservation nursery.  The Center’s programs and enterprises are located on the 350 acres of land along the Winooski River that the nonprofit stewards as a community resource.

Burlington School Food Project

The Burlington School Food Project aims to serve wholesome, fresh, nutritious, and local food to the 4,000 students in the Burlington School District.  To do so, the project supports the creation of school gardens and farm partnerships, and prioritizes farm field trips, cooking classes and nutrition education to promote health and the local economy more generally.  Catalyzed in 2003 by a three-year USDA grant that brought together the school district, nonprofits, and families, the project was strengthened in 2006 when the district hired the first “Farm to School Coordinator” in the nation to source and encourage the use of locally grown foods.  All schools in the district now include a productive garden, and the district serves up to 70 percent local products (depending on the season) in school meals.  The project also encompasses a mobile restaurant that serves as a culinary job training program for local students.

Building Successful Food Hubs

Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, University of Illinois Business Innovation Services, Illinois Department of Agriculture and FamilyFarmed.org

Building Successful Food Hubs: A Business Planning Guide for Aggregating and Processing Local Food in Illinois is a new resource for communities, businesses, not-for- profits, and others interested in establishing food hubs. The guide "includes descriptions of key functions, best practices, and “how-to” strategies for food hub establishment and operation that are based on successful models operating in other regions that have been specifically adapted for application in Illinois." 

Urban Roots

Established in 2007 as a program of YouthLaunch, Urban Roots became an independent nonprofit in 2011.  Aiming to use food and farming to transform the lives of young people and inspire, engage, and nourish the community, Urban Roots’ operations center around its 3.5 acre urban, sustainable farm in East Austin, which aims to grow 25,000 pounds of produce on an annual basis.  The nonprofit provides paid internships to Austin youth who work on the farm.  Committed to local hunger relief, Urban Roots donates 40 percent of its harvest to area soup kitchens and food pantries, and sells the remaining portion through its CSA program and at local farmers’ markets.

Oakland Food Policy Council

Oakland Food Policy Council (OFPC) has been a lead in successful policy initiatives in Oakland. They have worked with local organizations, such as City Slicker Farms, and successfully passed policies that remove barriers for a local, equitable, and sustainable food system. Their work has been local, regional, statewide, and national. Oakland Food Policy Council focusses primarily in areas of urban agriculture, economic security and development, procurement, and food access. Read more about Oakland Food Policy Council...

Planting Seeds of HOPE

Planting Seeds of HOPE (PSH) relies on urban agriculture and food justice programs to transform communities and develop people and families according to its “HOPE” principles: Health, Open communities, People development, and Entrepreneurship.  One current initiative is SWAG Project Newark, through which PSH and other local partners run an urban farm and community center in the South Ward that serves as a hub for local fresh food access and production as well as learning around environmental sustainability, nutrition, food justice, and related topics.  PSH is also collaborating with groups in the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District Facade to develop a farmers’ market, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and sustainable infrastructure including composting and water-saving systems.

Crossroads Community Food Network

Crossroads Community Food Network works to improve access to fresh, local, healthy food through programs and models mutually supportive of community residents and growers. Read more about Crossroads Community Food Network...

Wangari Gardens

Named after Professor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, an environmentalist and social justice activist who empowered women to plant more than 47 million trees, Wangari Gardens is a 2.7 acre garden park in Ward 5 designed, created, and sustained by the community.  It includes a 50 fruit tree forest garden, public vegetable garden, herb garden, medicinal garden, berry garden, strawberry patch, outdoor classroom, a free CSA program for low-income residents, a tool sharing program, and DC’s first public hammock.  It is also the site of free Sunday classes, which include yoga, gardening, and other community-focused topics, and a new “community composting cooperative” for residents interested in composting their food waste and creating high quality compost.

DC Greens

Founded in 2009, DC Greens aims to bridge gaps in the District’s local food system to ensure that all DC residents can access and afford fresh, healthy produce.  In 2013, the nonprofit’s accomplishments included the establishment of six School Garden Markets, through which students sold produce from their own school gardens and local farms while boosting their math and marketing skills; developed standards-based tools to help DC teachers find quality farm-based learning opportunities; trained over 50 teachers to become garden educators; hosted a free all-day urban gardening forum at which 800 DC residents participated in more than 60 hands-on workshops; and provided matching dollars to low-income residents using their federal benefits at five D.C. farmers’ markets.

Common Good City Farm

Farming on a half acre plot on the grounds of a DC Public School that closed in June 2008, Common Good City Farm focuses on growing food, educating, and helping low-income DC community members meet their food needs.  To do so, the farm offers a range of programs targeted to low-income individuals and families that provide hands-on training in food production, healthy eating, and environmental sustainability.  To help off-set the costs of its programs and provide free and reduced-cost produce to residents, the farm sells a portion of the over 5,000 pounds of food it grows a year to local restaurants and businesses.

Rochester Roots

Rochester Roots aims to develop community self-reliance by helping low-income people obtain nutritious, locally grown food and then develop and market urban produce and products.  To do so, it works with schools and community partners to transform underutilized schoolyards into urban gardens that rely on sustainable agriculture techniques and to develop and market garden-based products that are sold to the public.  The group currently works with 3 elementary schools in low-income areas of the city, where it grows over 3 tons of produce a year. Read more about Rochester Roots...

Peacework Organic CSA

Founded in 1989, making it the oldest CSA in the Rochester area, Peacework Organic CSA grows organic produce on its 20-acre farm, which it leases from the Genesee Land Trust, thus protecting the land as open space in perpetuity.  Members join for its 26-week season and pick up their share once a week.  To ensure an authentic connection to the community and affordable membership costs, the CSA requires its members to work at its farm and distribution warehouse.  The CSA also donates about 5 percent of its harvest to a local food pantry. Read more about Peacework Organic CSA...

Foodlink

Headquartered in Rochester, Foodlink aims to end hunger in Rochester and surrounding counties.  To do so, Foodlink distributes food to its network of 500 nonprofits, serves meals through a commercial kitchen, and offers more than 30 food-related programs. In 2012, Foodlink launched a value-added processing (VAP) program to extend the shelf life of local agricultural products and train unemployed residents in preparing, processing, packaging, and marketing raw local products.  In 2014, the nonprofit distributed over 18 million pounds of food, offered more than 200 nutrition education courses, and earned 63 percent of its $32.8 million budget.

Exploring Economic and Health Impacts of Local Food Procurement

Jess Lynch et al.

Minneapolis-based Crossroads Resource Center and the Illinois Public Health Institute contribute to the growing body of research on the health and economic impacts of local food procurement by institutional purchasers. The authors examine how communities in southern Arizona, Kentucky, southwest Wisconsin, San Diego County, and Burlington, Vermont foster collaboration and structure local procurement activities and identify the policies, systems, processes, and procedures that maximize health and economic benefits. The study outlines several key principles for expanding and enhancing support of local food procurement and outlines practical strategies for building networks, educating stakeholders, and marketing local food programs. 

Urban Patch

Founded in 2011, Urban Patch is an Indianapolis-based, family-owned enterprise with a mission of making the American inner city better.  It relies on a holistic model of social, environmental and economic community development and a “past forward” approach, meaning that it aims to build on the legacy of a community’s past in building strong and resilient neighborhoods today and into the future.  Current projects include The Stone Soup Kitchen, which is creating a series of classes and to teach community members “garden and seasonal nutrition” and how to can and preserve produce, and the Leslie Allen Urban Apiary, which will produce honey, other bee products and lavender while providing open community space.

Indy Urban Acres Farm

Indy Urban Acres is an 8-acre organic farm located on an undeveloped, urban property owned by Indy Parks, the municipal entity responsible for operating and maintaining the city’s parks and recreation facilities.  The farm aims to provide low-income city residents with healthy fruits and vegetables, and to serve as an educational resource for user groups, community organizations and youth programming.  To meet these goals, Indy Urban Acres donates 100 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables harvested to local food pantries, and offers numerous tours, workshops and other educational programs that engage several thousands of community residents each year.