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The Million Dollar Question: What is break-even and viability for different food hub models?

How much volume does it take for a food hub to be a viable business?


How much volume does it take for a food hub to be a viable business?

Food hub managers, funders, support organizations, economic development commissions, planners, and investors are all asking this same question! 

On one hand, this is an impossible question to answer with a single number since there are diverse food hub models and management structures. And context matters: the region of the country, urban vs. rural, and others.

This webinar gives you the tools to do your own analysis for your particular hub. By peering into the operations and financial books of several illustrative examples of different hub models, we tease apart those “magic numbers” – where each model reaches profitability, and true viability. By using an approach based on hypothetical hubs, we can see how the finances change as we adjust certain parameters.

Two of the best respected thinkers on US food hubs will give you the tools to do your own analysis of food hub viability.



  • Download the slides (PDF)
  • A Correction and More Questions Answered (PDF)
    Matson Consulting has created this addendum document to the webinar. There is one correction to the information provided, and quite a few answers to questions - some that we were unable to ask at all during the live webinar. We thank Matson Consulting for this!

Presenter Bios

Jim Barham

Jim BarhamJim Barham is an Agricultural Economist for USDA’s Rural Development agency. Jim obtained a MA in Cultural Anthropology and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Ecology from the University of Florida.  Before joining the USDA, Jim worked extensively in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean with a number of nonprofit organizations and government agencies on agricultural development projects targeting smallholder producers.  Jim joined USDA in 2007 where he has worked to improve marketing opportunities for small and mid-size producers through a combination of research, technical assistance, and grant support.  Jim has presented research and published a number of articles on regional food hubs, food value chains, local food distribution, and foodservice procurement.  He is also currently on the management team of USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” Initiative – a USDA-wide effort to  support the development of local and regional food systems.

James Matson

Jim MatsonJames Matson serves as a business advisor with expertise in in local foods primarily with feasibility, marketing and business organization, Mr. Matson has twenty five years marketing, developing, researching, writing, and teaching experience in management for private, government, and non-profit organizations. His experience includes working on local food projects throughout the U.S. and 20 foreign countries, including work with numerous food hubs throughout the country for more than a decade. He was the lead author of “The Role of Food Hubs in Local Food Marketing” USDA Rural Development Service Report 73 published In January, 2013. He has owned and operated Matson Consulting, LLC since 2001. The firm has assisted food based business operations obtain millions of dollars in grant, and lending financing. He holds a M.S. in Agricultural Economics.



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