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Financing Food Hubs

The National Food Hub Collaboration assembled a panel of funding experts to illustrate the many conventional and unconventional ways food hubs can secure needed capital.

October 20, 2011: Financing Food Hubs: Dozens of Ideas


Food hubs hold great promise as a key component of a sustainable, regional food system. They do face challenges, however. For one, most food hub models require significant infrastructure, which can make starting or expanding operations difficult or impossible without external capital.

Fortunately, being innovative triple bottom line businesses, qualifying food hubs can have a number of opportunities to access that capital. But where specifically should a hub look? Grants? Loans? PRIs? Investors? What is available, and which are good opportunities? Under what conditions Is it wise for a hub to take out a loan? How should hubs present themselves to have the best chance for success? Does a beginning hub have different opportunites than a more mature hub? Are grants only available to nonprofit hubs or can for profit hubs and co-ops also access grants?

The National Food Hub Collaboration assembled a panel of funding experts to illustrate the many conventional and unconventional ways food hubs can secure needed capital. Three hubs from across the country, each quite different from each other, described their operation and their capital needs. Then our expert panel advised each hub in turn on how to best access grants, loans, and other creative financing sources appropriate to that hub (and those similar to that hub). You will be a "fly on the wall" for these fast-paced consulting sessions. Take good notes!



Download the slides (PDF)


Presenter Bios


James Barham – USDA Agricultural Marketing Service

Jim Barham shadowedJames Barham is an Agricultural Economist for the Marketing Services Division of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Jim obtained a MA in Cultural Anthropology and a PhD in Agricultural Economics from the University of Florida. Before joining the USDA, Jim worked extensively in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean with a number of non-profit organizations and government agencies on agricultural development projects targeting smallholder producers. Since joining the USDA four years ago, Jim works to improve direct marketing opportunities for small farmers (this time in the US) through a combination of research, technical assistance, and grant support. Jim’s current work and interests include regional food hubs, food value chains, food service procurement, and target marketing for farmers markets.

John Fisk - Wallace Center at Winrock International

John Fisk, PhD, has an extensive history as a national leader in sustainable and equitable food systems work and currently serves as the Director of the Wallace Center at Winrock International, based in Arlington, Virginia. Under Dr. Fisk’s leadership, the Wallace Center has emerged as a national force in food systems work utilizing a market based solutions strategy for linking a larger number of people and communities to “good food”— food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable.

John Fisk

Dr. Fisk is a founding board member of the National Food Routes Network, a member of the stakeholder advisory panel on corporate social responsibility convened by Ceres for the McDonalds Corporation, and serves as an editorial board member of the Journal of Sustainable Agriculture. He is an active member of the Sustainable Agriculture Food Systems Funders Group and of the Sustainable Food Laboratory, an international consortium of 70 businesses and social organizations whose mission is to accelerate the shift of sustainable food from niche to mainstream.

Prior to joining the Wallace Center, Fisk served as board chairperson and later as Director for Programs and Development at Michigan Food and Farming Systems, a statewide sustainable food systems organization, where he led work mobilizing values-driven markets for sustainably produced agricultural products. Fisk has provided food systems consulting to several Michigan-based organizations including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In his work with the Kellogg Foundation, he provided strategic leadership to the Food and Society Initiative (FAS) as well as grantee support and review and for six years has directed the FAS Networking Conference, which has become one of the premiere conferences in the nation for advancing sustainable food systems change.

Fisk is a published author of agricultural research and has written several chapters on sustainable food and farming systems. He has served as a Fellow in the Donella Meadows Leadership Program for Systems Thinking at the Sustainability Institute and was also awarded a C.S. Mott Fellowship of Sustainable Agriculture at Michigan State University. Fisk holds a PhD in Crop and Soil Sciences from Michigan State University, an M.A. in Agronomy from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a B.A. in Environmental Studies-Agroecology from the University of California-Santa Cruz.

Andrew Jermolowicz – USDA Rural Development

Mr. Jermolowicz serves as the Assistant Deputy Administrator for USDA Rural Development, Cooperative Programs. He is responsible for working with the Deputy Administrator to deliver programs and services to agricultural and other cooperatives serving rural America, including the Value Added Producer Grant, Rural Cooperative Development Grant, Small Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant, and Rural Business Opportunity Grant. In addition, his role includes assuring effective and efficient day-to-day operations of the agency. Prior to his appointment, he served two details as the Acting Assistant Deputy Administrator followed by a detail as a Special Assistant in the Office of the Deputy Administrator.

Andy JermolowiczMr. Jermolowicz began employment with USDA January 1986 as an Agricultural Economist with Agricultural Cooperative Service (ACS). From September 1988 to November 1991 served as Assistant to the Administrator with ACS. He occupied the position of Program Leader for the Fruits, Vegetables, and Specialty Crop program from November 1991 through January 2006 where he was primarily responsible for providing leadership in coordinating and overseeing research and technical assistance and serving as the primary technical advisor and in-house resource person for managerial and operational issues concerning the operation of horticultural and specialty crop cooperatives.

Prior to joining USDA, was employed by the University of Kentucky for 5 years in the Department of Agricultural Economics as a research assistant and research associate during graduate and post-graduate study. From January 1985 through January 1986 worked as an Extension Specialist with the Department of Agricultural Economics responsible for cooperative and youth programs.

Mr. Jermolowicz received B.S. and M.S. degrees, both in Agriculture Economics, from the University of Kentucky in 1981 and 1985 respectively.

David Norman - Winrock International

David NormanDavid Norman is an agricultural economist with of experience managing rural development and credit projects in both the United States and internationally. He is the Vice President of the Enterprise & Agriculture Group at Winrock International. Most recently he headed Winrock International’s Volunteer Technical Assistance division, which focuses on recruiting qualified U.S. volunteers to assist farmers, businesses, and organizations to share their knowledge, expertise, and monetization programs, that sell U.S. agricultural commodities abroad in order to fund local development projects as well as create markets for U.S. goods. Prior to joining Winrock in 1994, Mr. Norman was Director of Technology Operations for AgriBank in St. Louis, MO. Until recently, Mr. Norman was on the board of directors for AgriBank, a $60+ billion cooperative bank serving 15 states. He also chairs Winrock's Information & Communication Technology oversight committee which establishes technology priorities for the entire institution. He holds a master's degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Arkansas. He and his wife, Vivian, live in Little Rock with their two daughters, Beth and Anna.

Nessa Richman, Brightseed Strategies -

Nessa RichmanBrightseed Strategies provides information and resources for people and organizations working to build healthy food systems. This includes public institutions and governmental agencies, private foundations, non-profits, community development financial institutions, food industry enterprises, and food policy councils.

Brightseed Strategies founder, Nessa Richman, has been working in the food systems field since 1994. She started in the field as a VISTA Volunteer with the Sustainable Food Center (SFC) in Austin, Texas. In that capacity, she managed a producer-only farmers’ market in a low-income neighborhood. She then moved within SFC to coordinate the Texas Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. After receiving her Master of Public Policy Degree from the Kennedy School of Government, she worked as a Policy Analyst with the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture (now the Henry A. Wallace Center at Winrock International). She has been an independent consultant since 2002. She assists umbrella organizations and private foundations in leveraging federal grant funding for their stakeholders, and is a sub-contractor for the Treasury Department’s Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) Fund “Financing Healthy Food Options” Capacity Building Task Order. In this role she has developed educational training materials, organized "Meet the Practitioner" panels for workshops, and created follow-on technical assistance resources for CDFIs.

Leslie Schaller – ACEnet

Leslie SchallerLeslie Schaller currently serves as the Director of Programs and provides contract services on behalf of the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks. ACEnet is a community-based economic development organization located in rural Appalachia Ohio founded in 1985. The mission of ACEnet is to build the capacity of Appalachian communities to network, work together, and innovate to create a dynamic, sustainable regional economy with opportunities for all. Leslie secures public and private funding through grants and fees for services to create regional brands, innovative product design, marketing strategies, business plans, and financial management systems within the targeted local food sectors. As an entrepreneur, Leslie also has extensive cooperative development expertise as the business director of a worker-owned cooperative for 26 years.

Elizabeth Ü - Finance for Food

Elizabeth UElizabeth Ü is founder and executive director of Finance for Food, a nonprofit which develops written materials, workshops, conference tracks, and other educational opportunities to help sustainable food system entrepreneurs identify and secure values-aligned financing. She was previously manager of strategic development at RSF Social Finance, serving on the management team and helping launch a new loan fund to support high-impact food ventures. She has served on BALLE’s staff, and was program officer of Slow Money (then a project of Investors’ Circle).

Elizabeth regularly gives workshops on the topics of impact investing, social finance, and sustainable food systems (usually all three!) at conferences geared to foundations, financiers, investors, philanthropists, nonprofits, and social entrepreneurs. 
A recent Food and Community Fellow (a program of the Institute of Agriculture & Trade Policy), Elizabeth holds a BS in Geography from McGill University and an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. She is currently writing Finance for Food: A Sustainable Food Entrepreneur's Guide to Raising Mission-Aligned Capital. This groundbreaking guide will help entrepreneurs with food-based businesses navigate the complex and ever-evolving capital markets landscape. She lives in Bolinas, CA.


Johnice Cross, GROWN Locally -

Johnice CrossJohnice moved to Decorah, IA from Eureka Springs, AR in October of 2007 to become the Coordinator for GROWN Locally where she deals with all aspects of the business of the Cooperative.

She has a degree in Finance from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, AR. She was the previous owner of her own IBM Midrange Computer Consulting Company and owned a restaurant in Eureka Springs, AR.

In addition to working with GROWN Locally, she is a member of the Northeast Iowa Farm to School team, handling local procurement, and is an active member of the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition. She owns a eco-friendly lodging, Cedar Dreams Inn in Decorah, IA that she opened in 2010.

Dr. Jifunza Wright, Healthy Food Hub

Jifunza WrightJifunza C.A. Wright Carter M.D., M.P.H. is a family physician, a public health advocate, a mother and co-founder of the Healthy Food Hub along with her husband, Fred Carter. Boarded in holistic integrative medicine, healthy food is frontline therapy in her 13 year 3000 plus patient based practice. With the economic downturn, Dr. Wright-Carter has been able to approach her higher healing quest: to facilitate families and communities in becoming healthier. After collectively buying food with her patients for many years, the Healthy Food Hub was born from Trinity market goers demand to have access to healthy food for continued health improvements. The Health Food Hub is potentially the full expression of a holistic system that has allowed her to get out of the exam room and into the lives of her patients to improve the well being of people, the economy and the planet.

Ellen McGeeney, Grasshoppers Distribution -

Ellen McGeeneyEllen McGeeney joined her first Community Supported Agriculture program as a consumer and mother fifteen years ago, and has been a passionate locavore ever since. As both a member of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s Food Policy Advisory Council and in her role as President of Grasshoppers, she is enjoying the opportunity to expand the market for local foods, and to support a sustainable existence for family farmers in Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

During Ellen’s tenure, Grasshoppers has reached several milestones, including passing the one million dollar mark in payments made to family farmers in our area and shifting to a year-round, online grocery service. Placing a high value on both environmental and financial sustainability, Ellen has worked successfully to increase Grasshoppers’ base of farmers who employ sustainable agricultural practices, and to double Grasshoppers’ subscriber base and manage costs to achieve profitability.

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