Farm to table. Farm to school. Farm to hospital. It all sounds simple enough.
Basic principles of supply and demand would suggest that when institutions like schools and hospitals start seeking out more local, healthy food, farmers in the community respond by growing more of it. But for family farmers such as Darrell Copeland of Copeland Family Farms in Georgia, it’s not that simple.
Organizations like Little Ones Learning Center on the outskirts of Atlanta may want local food from a farmer like Darrell, but they also need consistent deliveries, reasonable prices, and certification that the food is safe for their students. Farmers like Darrell need solid planning and projections of customer demand to avoid growing food no one will buy.
Multiple intermediaries, including trucking companies, food service companies, brokers, and resellers, help to connect buyers with producers. Unfortunately, small farmers like Darrell are often left out of this equation, as these intermediaries have scaled alongside the rest of the food system over time, optimizing for specialization and large volumes. As a result, it is faster and cheaper than ever to send huge amounts of products from one coast of the United States to the other, yet institutions may have a hard time buying a single pallet of produce grown in their own community.
The Common Market is a food hub founded in 2008 in Philadelphia to overcome the multiple barriers that stand between local institutions and the food grown in their region. Not only does The Common Market work with institutions to help them increase local food purchases, it also works with farmers to help them earn quality certifications and implement best practices, and to handle food distribution logistics. After great success in Philadelphia, The Common Market launched a second hub in Atlanta in 2016.
Whereas the relentless pursuit of scale has created challenges for the health of our national food system, The Common Market seeks to reach “appropriate scale,” staying true to its values while distributing large enough quantities of locally grown, healthy food that the model remains sustainable for farmers, buyers, and The Common Market itself.
As part of our goal to improve the health and wellness of over 1 million children and their families across the United States, we support organizations like The Common Market that provide a vital bridge in the food supply chain, connecting small farmers with local institutions to serve fresh, healthy food to people who need it the most. Learn more about our work.