In June, RDA Sydney joined forces with RDA Central Coast and the Central Coast Food Alliance to host a series of workshops aimed to build a local community of practice as a first step to better connect local growers, distributors, consumers, government agencies and industry representatives. The concept of community food hubs was very much part of the conversation.
‘There has been a lot of interest in community food hubs in recent times and in particular a focus on sustainable food production systems. Perhaps not surprisingly given concerns around supply chain vulnerabilities and food security as a result of COVID and the impact of lockdowns in 2020’ said Julie McAlpin, RDA Sydney, who is project managing these activities.
‘One positive impact of COVID has been a spike in demand for locally grown produce which has seen an increase in the profits of local suppliers in the Sydney Basin and surrounding food producing regions’.
What has surprised many has been an immediate post-lockdown increase of farm-gate sales and unprecedented demand for on-farm experiences including “pick-your-own-fruit”, regional short-stays and getaways within a few hours of our major cities.
‘Keen to leverage this demand, local landowners and farmers are looking for innovative ways to capture the growing interest in food provenance and connecting the visitor economy to food production ecosystems’ said Julie McAlpin.
Interest in local food hubs is also trending and it is great to see the NSW RDA network supporting and investing in agribusinesses in their regions.
In May, this year RDA ACT’s “Food in the Capital” showcased local capabilities and opportunities to partner with ag-tech firms and invest in new technologies and innovative strategies to connect and build resilient local food hubs.
It was very pleasing to see local farmers and businesses working together to develop cost effective solutions to support their regional economy at scale as evident by the range of innovative business to consumer sales mechanisms and real-time collaborative networking tools in play.
Finally, it must be said that whilst the multiplier effect, of food production systems and their complex supply chains, is well documented the impacts extends beyond economic advantage.
It is worth noting that local food hubs deliver social and environmental benefits, that are aligned with circular economy principles, and this aspect is of great interest to many consumers, industry and community leaders.
Watch this space; we will be!