Like an online dating site for the local food trade, FoodHub is an online platform that connects farmers, ranchers, fishermen and specialty producers with wholesale food buyers in their region.
A community of more than 6,000 located in states across the West, wholesale food buyers and sellers of all kinds from restaurants to schools, fishermen to ranchers, have searched FoodHub to find beneficial business connections.
“FoodHub is a giant rolodex,” said Rachel Reister of Reister Farms Lamb in Washougal, Wash.
Rachel searched for restaurants on FoodHub and found “a key list of clients who we shared common values with and wanted to sell our products to. The first restaurant we called responded.”
The FoodHub Member Directory catalogs the site’s reach, currently listing more than 500 restaurants, nearly 230 schools, and more than 1,400 farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and specialty producers. Well known and loved members include the likes of BEAST, Carman Ranch, Tails & Trotters, Shepherd’s Grain, Portland Public Schools, and the Oregon Food Bank.
“FoodHub lists 500 restaurants, 230 schools, and 1,400 farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and specialty producers.”
The community spans the urban rural divide, connecting producers in rural communities with urban markets.
FoodHub is an excellent tool for farm to school programs.
FoodHub also helps new and beginning farmers grow and diversify their business. When Rachel Reister and her husband Jake started direct marketing their lamb, they sold nearly 100 percent of their product through farmers’ markets.
Now, that number is closer to 10 percent, 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. In 2012, they attributed more than $35,000 in sales to direct connections they made using FoodHub, or referrals from FoodHub clients.
The farm now serves buyers who come back year after year. Rachel’s current client list includes Bon Appetit, a corporate caterer, the popular New Seasons Market in Vancouver, Wash. and Laurelwood Public House & Brewery in Portland — all FoodHub Members. Even with this success, Rachel said she goes back to FoodHub week after week to continue looking for new opportunities to connect.
“Every time we make a growth jump, I log in and make a new prospect list and start all over again,” she says.
Even if producers new to FoodHub aren’t using it to drum up 100 percent of their business, Rachel says the opportunity to use the powerful search function to define or discover their ideal audience is invaluable.
“The info that FoodHub has is more specific to the decision maker than what you find on a public website.”