Agriculture experts are trying to determine whether online farmer’s markets, called regional food hubs, would be feasible in Indiana.
Meetings and surveys conducted around the state over the next few weeks will help gauge farmers’ and consumers’ interest in the idea.
This is how the process works at the Hoosier Harvest Market, a farmer-owned food hub based in Hancock County.
Farmers post their products online for order. A week after online orders are collected, the farmers deliver the food to an aggregation point. From there, customers can pick up their orders at specified pick-up points.
Roy Ballard, Purdue Extension Educator for Agriculture and Natural Resources, says at the Hoosier Harvest Market, the Purdue Extension takes care of the marketing, the transactions and delivery of the product to the pick-up points.
The model allows farmers and customers to connect.
“There’s an increasing number of folks who want to access local foods. They want to know who their farmer is, who produced their food and where it came from, how it was grown,” he says. “But some of those same folks are not able to actually drive out to all the farms and pick up their food every week, or they don’t have time to go to the farmer’s market first thing on Saturday morning. So this gives them one more connection to their farmer.”
The study is funded by a United States Department of Agriculture specialty crop block grant, directed by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.
The USDA defines specialty crops as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.
As a part of a feasibly study, meetings will be held in several communities around the state including Columbus, Indianapolis and Muncie where local Purdue Extension educators will talk to residents to determine the size of the demand for more specialty crop food hubs across the state.