By Scott Blanton   |   July 11, 2012

While eating great Hoosier food and drinking great Hoosier wines and beer are one of the best ways to spend an afternoon, there’s more to Dig IN than just eating and drinking.  The event is a celebration of Indiana’s food and farmers. To underscore the cultural aspect of eating local food, we have a number of entertaining and enlightening experts lined up as part of this year’s speaker series, all prepped with great information about the rich culture behind Indiana’s farm-to-fork community.  To give you a glimpse of just one of the topics, Roy Ballard, an educator in Agriculture and Natural Resources at the Purdue Extension campus in Hancock County, will lead a discussion on a new project – the Central Indiana Food Hub.

What’s a food hub? Good question. A food hub is a system that allows farmers to aggregate their products and then add value to them in some way. That added value might come from washing, packaging, branding, or labeling. A hub offers the farmers a way of collectively marketing themselves to a variety of potential customers at once. The Central Indiana Food Hub is still in the “homework” process. The project recently received a grant from the Indiana Department of Agriculture to help with a feasibility study, which will help Roy and his statewide group outline specifically what they need to know and do to get the hub up and running.

“Not only does it give the farmer combined marketing power,” Roy said, “but it also gives the farmer an opportunity to get back in the ballgame. Small farmers have a hard time marketing into the food distribution system we currently have. The hub opens their production capacity to show up on the radar of a bigger buyer.” The hub will act as an entity that represents them, but also will be a co-op, meaning every farmer that takes part in the hub will have a stake in the overall actions and decisions. By sharing the workload, farmers ultimately will be able to spend more time producing their crops, instead of worrying about producing, marketing, and selling as a whole. Roy thinks the hub’s sales audience will be a crossover between homes and restaurants, but it’s too early to say, he says.

Roy will talk more in depth about the Central Indiana Food Hub project during his session at Dig IN. In addition to Roy, the speaker series will feature a number of others who represent Indiana food and projects surrounding food. Interested in hearing them talk about the state of Indiana food? Get your Dig IN tickets today!