Northern Plains wants to create an agriculture revolution by establishing a Billings-area food hub

Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council food hub plans to serve Billings fresh local food

Northern Plains’ affiliate group Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council is in the early stages of creating a food hub that will serve Billings and the surrounding region. From now until November 2018, YVCC is raising funds to complete the project and begin connecting local farmers and ranchers to the people of Billings directly.

What is a food hub?

food hub small-scale farmingA few decades ago, 70% of Montana’s food needs were met by Montana family farmers and ranchers. Now, only a fraction of the food Montanans eat comes from local producers. Over the years, the consolidation and corporatization of farming and agriculture infrastructure has created roadblocks between farms and consumers. While farmers’ markets and other farm-to-table initiatives are making some headway, food hubs take a big swing at breaking down those barriers.

Food hubs manage the collection, processing, marketing, and distribution of farm-fresh produce, ranch-raised meats, and specialty foods. Farmers and ranchers won’t have to drive hundreds of miles making deliveries. Producers will have more time to do what they do best. And customers will have a single location that they can go to get local food from multiple producers. The food hub streamlines the process for efficiency and convenience on both ends.

Marketing by the food hub is one of the most important aspects that make it a great deal for producers. “If I wanted to [market the farm], I would’ve gotten a degree in marketing,” says Northern Plains member Carol Nash of Nash Farms. Her farm was one of the first farms to sign on to the hub and readily admits that she’d rather be in the field than self promoting. “We really want to be out here working and doing and trying some new things and experimenting.”

Food hubs offer benefits for consumers beyond just convenience. By making it possible to access fresh, local food, food hubs provide better nutrition for families. They also help keep the dollars we spend on food circulating through our communities, rather than leaving for corporate offices elsewhere. All of those things add up to communities with more vitality.

Check out the video to learn more about the YVCC food hub and its producers, as well as ways you can support the Yellowstone Valley Food Hub. Maybe their model can one day be the model for a food hub in your own community.