County Releases Report on Path to Regional Local Foods Hub

October 11, 2011
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 843-8858
County Executive

Facility Would Create Jobs, Provide Increased Revenue for Farm Families

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced the publication of a new report outlining the benefits of, and a path to, a regional local foods facility in Dane County that could create local jobs, reinvest millions in the county’s economy, and increase sales for family farms and food related businesses across southern Wisconsin.  Over 325 growers, grocery, and foodservice buyers participated in the study.   


“Dane County continues to be recognized as an innovator in local foods and a national leader in agriculture,” said Parisi.  “A regional food facility holds the promise of more economic development opportunities in this emerging sector of our agriculture economy, and could give our local farmers more paths to sell their products and expand their operations.”


The facility identified in the Southern Wisconsin Food Hub Feasibility Study (attached) would enable area farmers to aggregate their produce, and provide storage, packing and distribution, limited processing, and private labeling for interested large volume buyers in the Midwest.  Buyers could include distributors, grocery stores, hospitals, hotels, and schools.  Report findings show that the facility would create 12 full-time and over 30 part-time jobs. 


The food hub study was conducted to explore the possibilities for development of a facility that could supply the overwhelming demand for local Wisconsin-grown produce by harnessing the tremendous production of farms in Dane County and surrounding areas. 


Foodbuyers surveyed identified a demand for $18-$26 million worth of produce per year, and up to 800,000 pounds of produce per week.  Report findings show that 1,800 acres would be required to meet buyer demand at full capacity.  Almost half of that was identified by Wisconsin growers in their survey responses.


The food hub facility would be privately funded, owned, and operated by stakeholders in the area’s local agriculture economy.  In the months ahead, feasibility study partners will work to recruit the investors, growers, and food purchasers necessary for a successful launch of the facility in late 2012.

“Making local foods more accessible to our citizens benefits everyone,” said Dane County Supervisor and Chair of the Dane County Food Council, Melissa Sargent.  “This food hub study builds on the county’s previous efforts in this area, and is a great new step in showing the opportunities that could arise from partnering our farmers with more large scale buyers.” 


In 2005, the Dane County Board voted to create a Dane County Food Council, dedicated in part to expanding availability of local foods in the county and identifying resources for local growers.  In 2006, Dane County created the Institutional Food Market Coalition to link these local farmers and producers with large food buyers like universities, hospitals, hotels, and conference centers.  This effort successfully sold and delivered well over 1.5-million dollars of locally grown products - - vegetables, meats, and cheeses - -  to dozens of public and private sector users in 2010.


The Southern WI Food Hub Feasibility Study was conducted by the Dane County Planning and Development Department, in partnership with, Dane County Extension, UW Extension and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection.  Funding for the report was made possible by a federal Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant, Dane County, the City of Madison, and Madison Gas and Electric.

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