You’ve heard of a food cluster.. many people ask how do I participate in a food cluster? It just seems to be so big and broad – where, what and how…
Every local food business is an important part of the local economy and a cluster. Food Clusters are a great way to re-group and develop your local community and become economically viable.
More people are getting involved in eating healthier, seeking out foods for better health, shop at farmers markets, seeking out alternative ways and places to invest their money. If you lost your money in the stocks or other places it is clear that people are shifting by sourcing alternative places to invest to make a difference, to make a better return and seeing a bigger picture.
Small family farmers, small producers and food entrepreneurs are at the core of the “Food value chain.”
Because of this shift, there is a tremendous need for training, improved distribution systems, storage, processing facilities and commercial kitchens and buyer education. In order for all of this to happen we need private enterprises or public-private or private-nonprofits to partner up, by fostering relationships with each other.
Nationwide, the food industry employs 17 million people, about 11% of the U.S. economy.
What can we “our community” do to be more involved in our local food business? By coming together in a Food Cluster – a cluster is all inclusive with institutional purchasers, restaurants, food entrepreneurs, hospitals, schools and many others..A food cluster is a source for jobs,, distribution and increased profits.
What can you do to be a part of a Food Cluster?
Get involved in a Food Hub, or start one. Food hubs are critically important to link and connect small local food producers with wholesale and retail buyers. These hubs can be virtual, a famers market or Meetups.
- Start a sampling service for food companies who really don’t have the extra time or bodies to get the word out about their food.
- Provide technical assistance
- Develop a packing house for the local grower..you would collect fees from member farmers provide coolers, harvesting, packing marketing and logistics.
- The American Planning Association developed a guide to help people integrate the food hubs one of the first things they say is to start to collect names of people find out what their needs are – begin from there.
- Use Economic Development funding for food businesses to get started.
- Connect with your local food policy council; request staff attend your meetings.