FoodHub Blog News and stories from the FoodHub community

If I Could Buy You Each One Gift…

Posted on January 29th, 2014 by

“It would be a pressure washer,” says professional trainer and long-time farmer, Atina Diffley. Diffley is explaining to the small and midsize mixed vegetable growers who have come to the Wholesale Success workshop why an investment in a few key pieces of equipment, and the creation of a few standard operating procedures, could radically improve the quality and safety of food coming off their farm, leading to increased sales and better profitability.

“Don’t you hate scrubbing those harvest bins by hand, knocking your knuckles and having your hands in cold water for a long time? Makes you not really want to do that job, right? Having a pressure washer lets your pickers clean those things in a few seconds and makes it a lot more likely that the job gets done and done well.”

It was the type of practical advice that came rolling off Diffley’s tongue all day.

Copies of the course manual are still available. Please contact Gorge Grown Food Network, Nourish Yamhill Valley, Ten Rivers Food Web, Thrive, or OSU Extension Small Farms (Central Point).

Pick it cool, keep it cool, put it to sleep.” Getting field heat out of produce as quickly as possible can extend shelf life for days, so picking in the early morning before it heats up saves time and money in cooling.

Fresh produce should be seen and not heard.” If produce is audibly hitting the box or bin as it’s being packed, the crew is not being gentle enough and the product will probably have bruises. Because those bruises often don’t show up for a day or two, farmers may think they’re delivering pristine produce, but buyers may unpack boxes of bruised tomatoes.

If you didn’t write it down, you didn’t do it.” It’s the rule of food safety regulation compliance – if you didn’t write it down, you didn’t do it. Diffley coached growers to treat record-keeping like brushing their teeth: make it quick and easy and part of shutting down for the day. A great tip was to create a permanent grid on a white board and then fill in daily details with a dry-erase marker. At the end of the day, just snap a picture of the board with a digital camera or smart phone and save the picture in a dated file. Record-keeping done!

Wholesale Success is a program developed by FamilyFarmed.org with support from the USDA, and brought to four Oregon locations in January by FoodHub, in partnership with local community-based food organizations and a host of collaborators. Heaps of thanks go out to workshop hosts Gorge Grown Food Network, Nourish Yamhill Valley, Ten Rivers Food Web, Thrive and OSU Extension Small Farms, and to statewide partners Friends of Family Farmers, Oregon Food Bank, and OSU Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems.

If you’re a produce farmer and missed the workshops, you can request the course manual by contacting one of the workshop hosts above, or by picking one up from FoodHub’s home office in Portland. Just email us at meet@food-hub.org. You can also access many of the course materials online by visiting Diffley’s website, www.atinadiffley.com.

‘Tis the Season to Connect

Posted on January 27th, 2014 by

The holidays are over and the seeds have yet to arrive, which makes February and March great months for chefs and producers to start making agreements for this year’s growing season. A host of upcoming events make it easy to connect live and get those important relationships rolling:

Can’t make it to one of those events live? Use FoodHub to search for the products you’ll want or have to offer this summer and get those connections going now!

FoodHub Connections: Genki Su gets Experimental with Seaview Cranberries

Posted on September 23rd, 2013 by

Takako of Genki Su samples some of her flavors at a yoga event. Photo courtesy Genki Su

When Takako Shinjo started Genki-Su Japanese Drinking Vinegars, she wanted to bring a taste of her Japanese culture to her Portland kitchen. About two months ago Takako joined FoodHub to find local flavors for her internationally-inspired product.

“I test a lot of different fruits, herbs and vegetables and I’ve always wanted to have seasonal flavors,” she said, “but now I want to work with local farms. I really like to look at FoodHub because I can tell what’s going on in the food community.”

Soon after joining, Takako created a Marketplace post looking for berry producers. Even though her Marketplace post said she was looking for strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, Scott McKenzie of Seaview Cranberries saw her post come through on his weekly Fresh Sheet and he thought his berries might be a good fit.

“I offered to give her a 25 pound case to experiment with,” said Scott. “I sell cranberries to a company called Stone Barn Brandyworks that makes a cranberry liqueur. I connected with them and did the same thing and that’s turned into a really good relationship.”

Cranberries from Seaview. Photo courtesy Genki Su

And while she still in the testing phase with Seaview’s cranberries, Takako is already thinking of ways to market a cranberry seasonal flavor to her customers.

“I’m thinking about making a holiday flavor,” she said. “Right now it’s summer and people want strawberry and blueberry flavors. Cranberry is going to be perfect for the holidays.”

To scale up their business and build demand for her product, Genki-Su launched another Kickstarter to begin production on a ready-to-drink tonic using their vinegar flavors as a base.

“We are running a limited a project to do a pre-mix bottle and that will make another market,” said Takako, “but we have to make the concentrate first. The production is the same, but we’ll start using a bottling facility. Right now I hand-bottle everything.”

While Scott’s donation of 25 pounds of berries to Genki Su will allow Takako to make 50-60 bottles of vinegar, as a business Seaview operates at a much larger scale. Scott’s total harvest for the year will likely be 700,000 pounds and he sometimes sells berries by the container load, which weigh out at 40 to 45,000 pounds. One of his clients, Hotlips Soda, (FoodHub’s 3,000th Member) buys fruit by the pallet to keep up with their demand. Despite the fact that Genki-Su and Seaview operate at different ends of the scales, Scott said he finds special satisfaction in working with other businesses in his back yard.

“I really like working with folks with entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. “I want to promote them if I can and encourage them.”

Test, Test, 1-2-3

Building a quality relationship with a client or vendor can often be an exercise in trial and error. Here are three of our favorite quotes about how FoodHub can help businesses take the next step in building the relationships they need to grow:

“Having good vendors is so important. I’ve seen people almost go out of business because they don’t have good vendors in a critical supply. FoodHub is helping me find people that I need to start relationships with.” – Tom Burkleaux, New Deal Distillery

“It doesn’t do us any good to have one-time sales. What we’re looking for is someone who week in and week out is going to be a steady customer. One of things about FoodHub that I really like is that the people you meet there are very in the game. They want it to be more than a sale. They’re looking for a relationship.” – David Hoyle, Creative Growers

“FoodHub has opened doors by word of mouth to chefs who have tried our products and then referred some of their friends to our farm. We didn’t have to do the footwork or cold call them when they don’t have the time – they were just referred to us. That makes it worth those 10 minutes a day that I spend on the site.” – Cassandra Timms, Deck Family Farms

FoodHub Connections: Greenwillow Grains flavors From the Fields’

Posted on July 24th, 2013 by

Paolo at From the Fields’ preps their small batch granola. Photo Courtesy From the Fields’, LLC

Some things you can only get from someplace special. Each region has its own point of pride: Hood River lays claim to strawberries, Rainier has its cherries (roundly contested by Montanans!), Vermont has maple syrup. While searching FoodHub for new sources of ingredients for her all-natural line of muesli, granola and whole grain porridges, Betsy Field found something special from Brownsville, OR, and farmer Clint Lindsey of Greenwillow Grains.

Putting it simply, she said, “They grow the best oats I’ve ever eaten.”

So good, in fact, that Betsy anticipates being the sole distributor of Greenwillow Grains in California as she brings their oats into her San Rafael production facilities, then redistributes the final product to co-ops and other natural markets who buy from her.

A self-described sourcing fanatic, Betsy spends hours poring over lists of producers, visiting farms, and building the connections she needs to feed her growing business called From the Fields’ LLC. When she found Clint on FoodHub, she did a taste test, comparing Greenwillow’s grains to a commodity product. What she discovered was an astonishing texture and taste profile against which she now judges all other grains, and that inspired her to raise the bottom line on her ingredient costs.

“I’m always looking for direct to farm relationship,” said Betsy who buys thousands of pounds of grain every year. “Anything in fruit nuts and seed, we want. It’s been challenging, but it allows us to knock out the middle person, offer the product for less and pay the farmer more. Greenwillow’s oats are more expensive and the taste profile is superior, but I also know who grew it and where they grew it, and how, and that they mill it.”

And Betsy’s diligence makes a big difference to businesses like Greenwillow Grains that are ready to serve regional markets.

Organic, hulless oats grow at the Greenwillow Grains farm. Photo courtesy Greenwillow Grains.

“At first our barriers to expansion were market opportunities. We needed people to be aware that what we had was available,” Clint of Greenwillow said. “We now have ten different organic crops for local markets and that’s been a big deal, but we are also starting to pursue the kinds of relationships that fit the kind of farm we are capable of becoming: We’re ready to pursue customers that need a pallet or two per month.”

To find these new customers, Clint regularly uses FoodHub.

“Once I started to really keep our profile up to date and look at the Marketplace and Fresh Sheet every time they came up was when things really started to happen,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called or emailed someone who might be a good fit. A couple times it’s resulted in killer business relationship. … I know that if somebody is on FoodHub they’re probably the kind of person that I want to do business with.”

Up the Ante

Ensure your success on FoodHub by returning to the site and updating your profile on a regular basis. Every three months, edit your product list to include the most current list of what you’re harvesting to make sure the best of what you have is visible season after season.

5 Reasons to Upgrade your Membership Today!

Posted on July 23rd, 2013 by

Hey FoodHubbers! It’s me, Megan. We’ve been getting a lot of questions about why folks should upgrade their memberships. This video covers the top 5 reasons. Check it out, and click here if you’re ready to be highlighted on FoodHub!

Top 5 Reasons to Upgrade from FoodHub on Vimeo.

FoodHub Advertising 101

Posted on July 22nd, 2013 by

FoodHub Media KitFoodHub is designed to be an all encompassing marketing tool. That includes using your Profile and the Marketplace to spread the word about your products, services and business practices. However, taking advantage of one of FoodHub’s many advertising opportunities puts the cherry on top of your marketing efforts, increases your standing in the community and kick starts connections. But where to start? And how do ROS ads work anyway? What the heck is a Member Spotlight and why do I want one?

Keep reading for answers to those questions and more …

What is a Member Spotlight?

The Member Spotlight gives you arguably the most bang for your advertising buck. When you buy a Member Spotlight you appear in front of the audience of your choice (either buyers or sellers OR both!) not only on their dashboard (that page you land on right when you log in), but your ad ALSO goes out in the Fresh Sheet – FoodHub’s weekly Member newsletter delivered straight to Members’ in-boxes every Tuesday.

What does ROS mean?
ROS stands for Run of Site. When you buy one you get a package of 3 ads that could appear on any one of the hundreds of FoodHub pages at ANY time including the Marketplace – arguably the most-visited section of the site!

Can I buy an ad that stays in one spot?
The short answer is ‘Yes’! These are called ‘banner ads’. We have lots of spots, but we can show you what each one looks like, how big your ad should be and what it will look like once it’s live on the site.

How do I appear at the top of the page when a buyer looks for my product?
Easy: buy a search term. For example, if you buy the word ‘apple’ you’ll always appear at the top of the page. There are three spots available per search term so you and two other Members will share the spotlight. Don’t worry: we rotate the Member who shows up at the top so you’ll have your chance to be king of the mountain. At $4.99/week per search term this is one of the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to appear in front of buyers at the height of the season.

There’s so much information I don’t know where to start! Can you help?
Absolutely. Give us a call (855-FOODHUB) or send us an email (meet@food-hub.org), tell us when you want to start your ad campaign and we’ll work up some specs for you that work with your budget. If you’d like to start crunching some numbers for yourself we have them right here in our Media Kit.

Pssst … I want to save some money on advertising? Can you cut me a break?
Didn’t you know FoodHub is the land of ‘yes’? With an upgraded membership you can save 10% on all advertising. Even better, with a month-to-month Advantage membership, you can save money on advertising, spruce up your profile (click here to see an example of an upgraded profile with all the bells and whistles), cancel your upgrade when the season is done, and then – when you want to be highlighted again NEXT year – all that hard work is saved and appears automatically when you renew at the Advantage or All-Access level.

Do I have to be a Member to advertise on FoodHub?
Nope. As long as you’re a food-related seller or service provider you can advertise on FoodHub. (However, it’ll be WAY easier for folks to connect with you if you’re a Member … and it’s FREE so go ahead and join!)

FoodHub Member Connections: Fresh Links Launch Chicken Scratch Farm and Rose City Local Market

Posted on June 25th, 2013 by
Photo Courtesy Chicken Scratch Farm

Carolyn Eddy in Eagle Creek, OR, has always been a farmer, but after raising pack goats for years she and a business partner decided it was time for something different. They bought a few chickens and a few hives and started building a fresh egg and honey business.

“Normally I would tell people to start small and take it slow,” she said, “but that’s not how it went for us.”

Soon after launching Chicken Scratch Farm, Carolyn joined FoodHub and made the business connections that quickly took her to the next level.

“We didn’t have a market for eggs and somebody told us about FoodHub,” she said. “When that first big client jumped on board we were scrambling to keep up and adding more chickens. We’re doing better than we ever expected.”

Her two main clients, both FoodHub connections, are Rose City Local Market and Flying Fish Company.

“I’ve been in business for about four years and as long as I’ve been running I’ve worked with local farms,” said Rose City owner Christina Robinson who looks for no-spray, organic fruits and vegetables, and humanely-raised meat. “At first it was just organic, but now it’s more local. It’s really important to most of my customers.”

When Christina could no longer get in touch with her normal egg supplier she turned to FoodHub to fill the gap. Now, after posting for eggs in the Marketplace, she gets 30 to 50 dozen eggs every other week from Chicken Scratch Farm.

“The Marketplace is a great place to connect with people and find things that you’re looking for,” Christina said. “If I’m looking for a product, I go to FoodHub first.”

To keep the connections going, both Christina and Carolyn will continue to rely on FoodHub: Christina, who is launching an online storefront for her customers, will be using FoodHub to vet new vendors and invite them to join her list of providers. Carolyn, who doesn’t yet have website for Chicken Scratch Farm, will continue to use FoodHub as her primary marketing outlet.

“A lot of people don’t do advertising,” she said, “but with FoodHub we don’t spend a lot of time working on marketing. We were fortunate to get good clients right off the bat.”

3,2,1 Liftoff

Launching a business can be hard, but getting started with FoodHub is easy:

3 … If you’re new to FoodHub, log in and spend some time filling out your profile, searching for your primary customer type or the vendors you need, and sending an initial round of introductory emails. Carolyn said many of her clients have reached out to her through the Message Center – don’t be afraid to use it right away! – and make sure your other contact information is up to date as well.

2 … Every month or so, update your product list and Hot Sheet to make sure any new potential connections are finding your profile when they search the site. Christina told us she found a farmer in her area who she knew had strawberries, but they didn’t show up in her list of results when she searched for that product on FoodHub because they hadn’t added it to their profile.

1 … Carolyn said she spends an hour a week with FoodHub, usually every Tuesday when she gets the Fresh Sheet. Use your hour to respond to any messages, create a marketplace post of your own, and see who’s new in your area.

Empowering school food directors to buy local

Posted on June 20th, 2013 by

Stacey Sobell, Ecotrust Farm to School Manager

This is a repost from the Ecotrust blog, which is designed to inspire fresh thinking, spark innovation, and encourage investment in natural economies. Read more stories about Ecotrust’s work, and that of our partners and friends, at blog.ecotrust.org.

Four years ago, under the fluorescent lights of the Salem Conference Center, I stood at a table heaped with Oregon apples free for the taking, trying to catch the eyes of some 300 school district food service staff. I found myself engulfed by the scents of hot pizza and french fries and the sound of clanging metal warming trays. The attendees of this annual trade show have the daunting task of collectively serving meals to over 300,000 Oregon schoolchildren, many of whom rely on school meals as their primary form of sustenance.

My goal was to encourage these food buyers to begin building relationships with local farmers, food processors, and distributors and to use Farm to School programming to revolutionize their menus in support of our local agricultural economy.

But much as it can be hard to coax a kid to choose a carrot when a chicken nugget is within reach, it was equally difficult to lure these food buyers from the hot food samples that other vendors had to offer. And so, as my crisp apples remained untouched, I became determined to make it easier for local food suppliers to have a strong presence at this trade show, and for school food buyers to make new relationships closer to home. So many decisions are made within those halls. How could we make it possible for local food to be a viable option, when up against powerful national food companies?

For the last three years, we’ve transformed the entrance to this conference into a hall of Oregon ranchers and fishermen, farmers and food processors, and suppliers of local grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, and more. We call it the Farm to School Showcase, and within this hall, Oregon’s farmers and food suppliers meet and connect with school food buyers face-to-face. We entice conference attendees with a Farm to School trivia game, support vendors with scholarships to attend, and make it easier for those 300,000 daily meals to include a little bit more local food.

Stephanie Powers (left) from Camas Country Mill near Eugene shares a sample and information about their Oregon-grown grains with a school food buyer at the 2013 Oregon School Nutrition Association food trade show.

As a result of connections made over the past several years, the Bend-LaPine School District is now purchasing Oregon-grown wheat from Camas Country Mill near Eugene; Salem-based Truitt Brothers is supplying locally-grown beans to cafeterias across the state; and school food service staff have an abundance of new sources for fresh and frozen local produce.

I’m excited to introduce the Farm to School Showcase Toolkit, published by Ecotrust, in which we’ve compiled our resources and lessons learned, typed up our checklists, and included lots of photos from the past three years. This toolkit makes it easier for Farm to School and sustainable food advocates in every state to put on Showcases of their own, paving the way for more local producers to make headway in the school food market.

In Oregon, that means approximately 300,000 meals per day, but nationally it’s over 31 million. That’s an $8.5 billion annual market. The potential impact of putting more of those dollars into the pockets of local food producers is astounding.

Together, school districts across the country have the power to radically shift institutional purchasing away from business as usual and towards the vision of a new economy represented by those Oregon apples – one that offers fresh, healthy food to all residents, economically viable food value chains that fairly compensate and respect the dignity of all participants, and methods of food production that renew our resources. Our schools are the place to start.

FoodHub Member Connections: Rural Schools Tag Team on Local Purchases

Posted on May 22nd, 2013 by
Vicky Brown works with students to grow food for the cafeteria at North Powder Charter School’s school garden.

Chuck Lowry has been raising beef cattle for 30 years. And while he has been selling cuts to friends and family from his ranch in Baker City for years, as well as into the conventional market, it didn’t occur to him that there was another local market he was missing out on.

That is until Vicky Brown of North Powder Charter School in North Powder, OR, found Lowry Family Beef on FoodHub. This year, she purchased ground beef and roast, and plans to do it again for the next school year.

“Chuck was very excited to help us out and very proactive in promoting his beef,” she said, “and it is a fabulous product. FoodHub is a great resource for me. I can check out product and communicate with my lap top rather than getting on the phone.”

And while it may be easy to find beef in cattle country, as a recipient of HB 2800 funds, which granted nearly $200,000 to 11 Oregon schools to purchase more Oregon product, Vicky said her school district and others in Eastern Oregon are still struggling to procure other local items and have them distributed to their dispersed locations.

Some distributors do have routes through the area, but many broadliners usually arrive from Boise or Spokane and, according to Vicky who is charged with tracking the provenance of her HB 2800 purchases, don’t carry Oregon-grown products. Many farmers regularly drive upwards of four hours to distribute their product into the Portland market, but, Vicky said, it’s been a challenge to encourage them to look in their own back yard for customers.

“Here in Eastern Oregon it’s all about distribution, distribution, distribution,” said Vicky.”We have until the end of June to spend the money but getting product is hard. Our time is precious and these food service ladies are going to farms and getting product on their own.”

According to a survey conducted by FoodHub and Ecotrust’s Farm to School staff of schools and pre-schools in Eastern Oregon, 142,700 meals are served daily to children by these kitchens and cafeterias. Roughly speaking, if all of these schools and preschools purchased Hermiston watermelon for just one of these meals or snacks (about 125,340 servings), it would support the purchase of 20,548 pounds of watermelon, and return about $15,411 into the local market at $0.75 per pound.

“This is my second year tapping into other local schools and trying to gather our purchasing power,” said Vicky who regularly coordinates purchase and delivery of product not only for her own kitchen, but also for others in a similar situation including the staff in Joseph, also HB 2800 recipients, who will often drive nearly two hours on their own time to pick up their portion of joint purchases. “The need is here,” she said.

Flex your region’s connections.

Build a business case for your region’s local food system by searching for other buyers in your area to start coordinating purchases. If you’re a seller looking for new local markets, use the Knowledgebase to find direct marketing tips and best practices. Have something to offer that’s not food? The Marketplace is ideal for advertising cold storage or commercial kitchen space that’s available for others in your community to use and may also be easy one-stop pick up sites for any coordinated purchases.

FoodHub Member Connections: Reister Farms Rounds Up Perfect Prospects

Posted on April 24th, 2013 by

Sheep graze at Reister Farms.

“FoodHub is a giant rolodex,” said Rachel Reister of Reister Farms Lamb, who joined FoodHub in 2010. “When we started looking for customers on the site we put in how many miles we wanted to travel and what buyers we were looking for and got a huge list of prospects. Then we looked at their menus and made a key list of clients who we shared common values with and wanted to sell our products to. The first restaurant we called responded.”

According to our research into how to make money using FoodHub, Rachel’s approach to prospecting is a winning formula.

Rachel and her husband Jake started Reister Farms Lamb after college and, having come from farming families, entered into the business fully aware of the challenges that would come along with it.

“We adopted a lot of sustainable methods for our farm,” Rachel said. “They were practices we believed in, but we realized that if we went the traditional route for selling our animals we wouldn’t make any money.”

Jake and Corbin Reister with one of their working border collies.

When the Reisters started direct marketing they sold nearly 100% of their product through farmers’ markets. Now, that number is closer to 10% as the Reisters have shifted to a direct to wholesale model and work with clients who buy product year-round, many of whom they found with FoodHub. Last year, Rachel said, they attributed more than $35,000 in sales to direct connections they made using FoodHub, or referrals from FoodHub clients.

“I would be at a loss without FoodHub because it saves us so much time,” Rachel said. “And no one likes to make a cold call. That’s the most intimdating part of marketing a product. FoodHub warms up a cold call for us because at least you know they’re engaged enough in the industry to put up their information. It helps me determine where my most valuable time is spent.” Read the rest of this entry »

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