The results are in for the Grand Traverse Regional Market Feasibility Study, a report analyzing the potential for creating a "food hub" at Building 58 at the Grand Traverse Commons. Six months ago the market advisory board and Traverse Bay Economic Development Corp. hired Market Ventures Inc., a national firm that specializes in public markets, to do the analysis which was funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
For those who are unfamiliar with food hubs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's working definition is: "A centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products."
Several development goals were used to guide the planning, development and operation of the regional market: raise income for the region's farmers and food producers; increase availability and access to local foods for area consumers; create a social space for the community; create jobs; and encourage education and knowledge sharing.
Based on those goals and other research and analysis, the following principles were developed to guide the regional market:
n The regional market needs to be diverse and flexible, offering an array of services to accommodate different forms of storage and processing.
n Its development should be phased as emerging ideas are developed.
n Income should come from multiple and diverse sources to encourage economic sustainability.
n The market should be infused with an entrepreneurial attitude, where new ideas and investment are created.
n The market should play a role in increasing access of fresh, local food to low-income, underserved residents in the region.
n It should complement other Village functions.
n It should leverage resources and partnerships with organizations and programs in the region.
n The market must be operationally self-sufficient.
Based on those criteria, Market Venture Inc.'s report suggests a phased approach to development of the market. Phase One components include: storage/aggregation/distribution; food production and processing with a focus on charcuterie and meat processing; commercial test/incubator kitchen, and/or aquaponics; a retail-indoor/outdoor farmers market shed adjacent to Building 58; education and events including a demonstration kitchen with adjustable height cooking surfaces; and office space for food-related businesses.
The results of the market's feasibility analysis are timely because of increasing state and federal interest in food hubs. For example, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development recently released details of a Value Added/Regional Food System grant to develop value added agricultural processing and regional food systems by facilitating aggregation and distribution of Michigan grown products.
Moreover, Michigan State University's Center for Regional Food Systems just announced it received Kresge Foundation funding to develop a Michigan Food Hub Network that will connect food hubs around the state. Rich Pirog, associate director of the center and co-convenor of the network, said the goal is to "facilitate the creation of a learning and innovation space to accelerate food businesses growth and development as well as supply more healthy Michigan food to our residents."
With the long-term vision of the Minervini Group and collaboration from multiple partners across the region, the Grand Traverse Regional Market is one step closer to contributing to the state's growing $92 billion agri-food system.
Dr. Rob Sirrine is a Community Food Systems Educator with Michigan State University Extension.