MDARD shows support for local Grand Rapids food hub

A Grand Rapids Food Hub, West Michigan FarmLink, was recently awarded over $70,000 from MDARD through the Value-Added & Regional Food Systems Grant.

West Michigan Farmlink, entering its fourth year of operation, recently received some good news from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). The only local food hub operating in the Grand Rapids region received over $70,000 through MDARD’s 2015 Value Added/Regional Food Systems Grant Program. The $70,000 will go towards improving the Farmlink website as well as adding greater distribution and storage capacity.

Farmlink was developed as a way to connect local farmers with produce to sell to local restaurant chefs who want to source more local foods for their menus. It works as an online exchange that allows farmers to post products that they have for sale each week with restaurant and institutional buyers having the opportunity to shop for products they need from Friday until Monday. The farmers then prepare the orders and drop off at the Farmlink headquarters on Wednesday morning. Buyers then have the opportunity to pick up their orders or have Farmlink deliver to their location. This allows chefs’ access to multiple different producers of local vegetables, fruits, meats/poultry, dairy products, and other value-added products all in one location. It also allows producers’ access to several different customers while only having to take the time to drop off their product at one location every week.

Farmlink is one of several food hubs that is operating around the state and exist to help build connections between local farmers and local purchasers. Food hubs are filling the void in regional distribution and aggregation that was created when food production and distribution grew to have a national and global focus. MDARD has been actively supporting food hubs and other local and regional food systems projects through the Value Added and Regional Food Systems Grant Program which in its fourth year awarded over $700,000 to 12 different projects across the state. This is the second time that a Grand Rapids business or organization has been given funds through this grant program with the Grand Rapids YMCA being awarded $25,000 for their Veggie Van project in 2012.

According to Paul Quinn, a partner in FarmLink, “The grant funds awarded to FarmLink will have a tremendous and immediate impact on helping us fulfill our mission of bringing local buyers and local sellers of food together. The funds will be put to good use and in short order.” Quinn has also pointed to Michigan State University Extension as a valuable partner in the continued success of WM Farmlink. “MSU Extension has been a tremendous help to FarmLink on many fronts. In particular they assisted us in navigating and finding resources within the University to help us better run our business and understand the competitive landscape. They have also helped in spreading awareness about what FarmLink is doing and how the FarmLink model can help buyers and sellers of local food.”

These grant funds will allow FarmLink to continue to build upon their success and expand the services they can provide for both their buyers and sellers. If you are interested in learning more about selling or purchasing local food through West Michigan Farmlink, contact Paul Quinn at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). For more information on food hubs and local food distribution and aggregation, visit the MSU Extension Community Food Systems Workgroup and search for a local food expert in your area.

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