ACORN receives $60K award to help access and distribute local farm product

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The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets announced $300,000 in sub-awards to five regional nonprofit food hubs as part of a 2021 Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) award.

ACORN in Middlebury, VT will use $60,618 to build a centralized aggregation and distribution space for rural farms/producers to store their products. This will allow for larger distribution networks and retail locations to have more streamlined access to Addison County products year-round.A priority focus of this NBRC award is to expand Vermont producers’ access to out-of-state metropolitan markets and support opportunities for farm and food producers of many sizes to access new markets in cities like Albany, Boston, and New York City. 

NBRC is a Federal-State partnership to advance economic development and infrastructure in economically distressed counties across Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont. In Vermont, the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) serves as the State-side of this partnership, identifying those opportunities for NBRC investment that will strengthen the local economy and quality of life for all Vermonters.

This investment will support Vermont food hubs with critical infrastructure needs, allowing them to support more farm and food businesses, expand their workforce, and advance ongoing efforts to access larger markets. These awards recognize the need for more local food collection and distribution experienced by Vermont food hub organizations and the supply chain disruption impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is a “food hub”? A food hub is a business that offers local supply chain support to collect, distribute, and market local food products from various farms and producers. They may sell local produce, meat, dairy, value-added products, or baked goods to wholesale, retail, or institutional markets, and ensure the buyer knows where each product came from through source-identification. Many of Vermont’s food hubs also provide farm to school program support, consumer education, transparent pricing, and high-quality customer support.

This award recognizes the importance of bolstering regional food system infrastructure. Food hubs play a critical role in supporting farm and food businesses of all sizes, offering an ability to aggregate, store, distribute, and market products from all over the state, maintaining source identification, transparency in pricing structures, and values-led relationships with producers. While many businesses rely on robust markets outside of Vermont to sustain or grow their enterprise, distribution bottlenecks make this difficult.

The Vermont Agriculture and Food System Plan notes that a “lack of in-state warehousing and cross-docking makes distribution throughout the state less efficient” and that “delivery to metropolitan areas is logistically challenging,” even though these larger cities offer significant market opportunity. NBRC funding aligns with the Vermont Agriculture and Food System Plan’s Priority Strategy #7, which calls for “significant investment in storage, processing, and distribution infrastructure to…expand regional market access for businesses and increase the resilience of local supply chains.” This funding will not only support each individual entity, but allow for increased collaboration, shared infrastructure, and greater efficiency between food hubs in different parts of the state to reach beyond Vermont’s borders.