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A fresh look at the farmers market

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Greater Springfield Farmers Market is just one of a growing number of a popular destinations for consumers who want their food locally grown. Increasingly, markets are offering live music, seminars on preparing food and freshly cooked food.

Smell the vegetables. Squeeze the fruits. Select the freshest foods to put on the table. That’s what shoppers do at the farmers market. For producers, though, the farmers market can take hours away from the primary task of producing these items.

One way to eliminate this downtime is to have someone else market the food, according to Missouri State University’s Dr. Arbindra Rimal.

Rimal has completed a feasibility study of establishing a food hub, a marketplace that connects producers with professional food buyers, such as schools, grocery stores and end consumers — in the Ozarks.

“There’s a huge demand for locally produced food, and buyers are willing to buy locally grown vegetables and livestock products and pay a premium for them as long as producers comply with certain requirements,” says Rimal, interim department head of agribusiness, education and communications in the Darr College of Agriculture.

What producers and buyers want

So is a food hub feasible in this region? Absolutely, according to the findings of Rimal’s study.

The majority of producers expressed interest in selling through a food hub. Of course there are challenges, such as investment of time and money to comply with buyers’ requirements or use more technology for year-round yield, Rimal noted. But he believes the benefits of a food hub outweigh the costs.

The benefits

For farmers, a food hub means less waste, greater productivity and assurance of sales and time savings.

Rimal explains the win-win-win nature of a food hub

For consumers, a food hub offers easier access to a larger variety of fresh healthy foods all year long and the opportunity to support local and regional food systems. This means they contribute to environmental sustainability.

“We don’t have to eat produce that’s being shipped from thousands of miles away or from another country,” said Rimal. “We can help improve the lives of local farmers and decrease our own carbon footprint.”

For more information, contact Rimal at 417-836-5094.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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