Although agriculture is Georgia’s largest economic sector, ironically 80 percent of the food that the state buys is from out-of-state. 

The Georgia Sustainable Agriculture Consortium wants to bring local food back to Georgia.  Within in the next five years,  the state wants to create  two food hubs to shift agriculture back to local markets by making it easier for farmers to sell their produce locally  or regionally.

Food hubs, a new concept, allow smaller-scale producers to directly sell produce and meats to consumers.  “This is something that can affect all of our farmers,” said Julia Gaskin, coordinator of UGA Cooperative Extension programming in sustainable agriculture.

Frank Riley, a farmer who grows corn and pumpkins, would like to develop a farmers market in Hiawassee, Ga.  “Food hubs are good for the community. They are good for everyone,” Riley said.

Food hubs are locally managed, have the potential to generate jobs, improve rural economies and increase the capability of mid-scale farms. However, the creation and implementation of food hubs can be difficult.

Additional Consortium goals include:

  1. Form a working network structure that will facilitate interaction between key institutions and stakeholders;
  2. Quantify barriers and infrastructure needed for local/regional food hub development;
  3. Conduct life cycle analysis of vegetable and grazing systems;
  4. Begin research on multi-species grazing systems; and
  5. Increase research and extension on small to mid-scale vegetable production systems.

The Consortium was formed by the University of Georgia College and Agricultural and Environmental SciencesFort Valley State University College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology, and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Other key partners are in this effort are: Georgia OrganicsGeorgia Farm Bureau, Community Health WorksUSDA Agricultural Research ServiceGeorgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association andGeorgia USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.