Food hubs play a critical role in connecting local farmers to local markets. The second year of the University of Vermont Food Hub Management Certificate program welcomed several Michiganders.
February 9, 2016
By Noel Bielaczyc, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems
On Jan 11th, 2016 the University of Vermont (UVM) Food Hub Management Certificate program kicked off its second year, and as in 2015, there were several Michiganders among the incoming class of students. In fact last year, more Michigan food hubs enrolled in and completed this training than any other state. This truly enviable statistic was made possible in part through a scholarship for food hub managers administered by MSU Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) and the Michigan Food Hub Learning and Innovation Network with financial support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Helping to make this sort of training opportunity more accessible to Michigan’s food hub professionals provides a simple strategy to increase business viability and the capacity to supply Good Food to all of Michigan’s residents.
In Michigan and many other states, the food hub model has gained traction and hubs now play a critical role in connecting local farmers to local markets. Food hubs, by the USDA-AMS working definition, are centrally located facilities with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally food products The Michigan Food Hub Learning and Innovation Network provides coordinated technical assistance and space for collaboration between food hubs through workshops, webinars, and statewide meetings. To learn about the Michigan Food Hub Network and join our listserv, please visit the MSU CRFS website.
The UVM Food Hub Management Certificate program is the first and only accredited food hub training program in the nation, and offers a unique learning experience that blends in-person class time with online distance learning modules and independent action projects. The course is designed for working food hub professionals, enabling students to study as they continue to pursue their careers and businesses. The curriculum covers business fundamentals as well as the specific opportunities and challenges of aggregating and distributing local foods. The program draws on the expertise of food system leaders and practicing professionals from across the country, including Ann Karlen of Fair Food Philly, Michael Rozyne of Red Tomato, and Robin Morris of the Mad River Food Hub. Combined with the knowledge and real-world experience of food hub participants, the UVM program offers an incredible learning opportunity for current and future food hub managers.
Michigan participants from the 2015 cohort had many words of enthusiasm for the program. In particular, students spoke of the in-person session on the campus of UVM as, “ incredibly powerful and inspiring” and “a great opportunity to network and learn from each other… Both professionally and personally.” While the online portion was more challenging in some ways, students found the content highly valuable: “Going through the [online] modules introduced me to some nuances of managing a food hub that I hadn’t previously considered or had to deal with yet (HACCP, warehousing, financial management and tracking) and built my confidence in speaking about them.” Overall, there was consensus that students gained financial literacy, allowing them to make better, more informed decisions about their food hub business.
This coming year, three hubs were accepted and received scholarships into the 4-month program track: Allen Market Place, Sprout Urban Farms, and West Michigan Farmlink. We are thrilled to have another strong Michigan cohort at UVM in 2016 and look forward to hearing about their experiences at upcoming Michigan Food Hub Network events! To learn more about the UVM Food Hub Management program please visit the UVM website.