Counting Values: Food Hub Financial Benchmarking Study

Farming, Food Hubs, Local and Regional Food Systems, Metrics, Supply Chains


Farm Credit East, Wallace Center at Winrock International, Morse Marketing Connections and Farm Credit Council,

The nationwide emergence of food hubs is an indicator that local food is becoming more readily available in higher-volume sales channels. The more than 300 food hubs operating around the country use a wide range of business models. All share the general function of helping farmers and other local food producers take their differentiated products to market. These intermediaries provide customized aggregation, distribution, and related supply chain services. Food hubs also strive to deliver on local market promises—the good food values driving this sector’s growth. Good food is defined as food products and practices that are healthy for the body, green for the planet, fair for producers and workers, and affordable for all. Good food values range from concerns for public health and social justice to demand for local economic and environmental returns.

Counting Values, published in 2015, presents a set of financial and operational performance benchmarks for food hubs. Business benchmarking is a process of comparing results across a sector to set standards for analysis. This study aims to establish the basis for comparing results across a business sector that is both new and multipurpose. Food hubs operate in the thin-margin food distribution industry, and they take on additional expense working with smaller farmers, offering technical assistance, and filling gaps in other grower and community services. Are food hubs able to support themselves with their operations? What management decisions make the most financial difference? Establishing such benchmarks is an important step in the local and regional food sector’s evolution. The study’s metrics shed light on food hubs as business enterprises. They also illuminate food hubs’ performance as
intermediaries, building access to markets for producers and satisfying consumer and community demand for local food sector products and benefits. The benchmarks also support decision-making. Food hubs and related businesses can use the benchmarks to compare operational and financial results and plan for the future. Investors, lenders, and grant makers can use the benchmarks to assess enterprises and opportunities.

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