Thursday, June 12, 2014

Creating a 'smart grid' for regional foods

Not many people know that Wisconsin is now the second largest vegetable growing state in the nation (behind only California) and that we typically plow under (waste) more than 1/3 of the total crop each year. This is  because there is no system or facilities in place to process those foods for year-round use. Some years it’s fully half the total Wisconsin crop. 

It’s crazy dumb - and highly wasteful, especially given all the issues around helping family farms succeed, as well as food insecurity for many consumers.

Our model is upending regional food systems, creating new ways to market and preserve the value of regional foods for all involved.  A common problem with farm markets we’re helping solve is little understood by many consumers. If produce doesn’t sell at these markets, farmers don’t usually have anything they can do with what’s left and it often gets thrown out. 

In our case, we bring fresh local produce to our own markets.  If it doesn't sell but still tastes great, we can take it from our markets to our Innovation Kitchens. My friends there can freeze it, puree it, pickle it, dehydrate it, etc. 

Our system turns great regional foods that would be otherwise wasted - still perfectly delicious and nutritious - into regional ingredients or foods that can be used year round. I’ve been calling it our virtuous cycle. I don’t know of any other regional foods organization that can claim this kind of capacity. 

We're working hard to change the system and wire up a 'smart grid' for regional foods.  We're scaling up and making it work.  Stay tuned.

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