The farm to table movement, which has become a staple in local schools, is about to extend further than the cafeteria thanks to Ag Link Food Hub, an online catalogue of locally grown food slated to launch next week.
“Like what we have done in farm to school, we want to be the one-stop shop for buyers to source local, in-season products,” said Ag Link CEO Jana Nairn. “Ag Link gives buyers the opportunity to source from many different local producers consolidated conveniently into one shipment from one vendor.”
As a small business in Merced County, Ag Link will introduce the Ag Link Food Hub to increase awareness and accessibility of locally produced products from the valley, while also helping local producers get their products to market.
“Our company has been doing farm to school local product distribution for the past three years and we’ve seen a high demand from schools wanting to buy local, which allowed the company to expand,” said Nairn. “So we started thinking about what other markets we can meet and found out that restaurants, hospitals and colleges were interested in buying local, but the infrastructure just wasn’t there to get local products.
“We’ve received a lot of interest from both the supply and demand side,” added Nairn.
From Fresno to Sacramento, Nairn reports that the Ag Link Hub is the first of its kind in the region and has already drawn the attention of at least a dozen suppliers and 30 businesses that need help marketing or accessing local products.
Through Ag Link Food Hub, consumers can browse through an online catalogue of more than 50 in-season products, including the Perfect Summer sweet pepper from Live Oak farms of Le Grand, greens from Ratto Bros in Modesto, watermelons from George Perry & Sons of Manteca, and blueberries from Riverdance Farms in Livingston.
Ag Link Hub will not only increase the awareness of locally sourced products available to consumers, but it will also enhance the accessibility of obtaining these products. The company will be providing pick-up and delivery services directly to restaurants, food service, independent grocers and possibly homes.
“Supporting local producers is critical to the economy and keeps our dollars here to create jobs not just within our own company, but with all the suppliers and buyers that we work with,” said Nairn. “We are the link of the chain connecting the supplier to the buyer by raising awareness and accessibility.”
Businesses that opt to have products delivered will receive an Ag Link Food Hub seal in the form of a sticker for their window to let customers know that they are buying local ingredients and supporting local producers and the local economy.
“The engagement from local buyers has been amazing,” said Nairn. “Like their customers, they appreciate knowing where the food is coming from.
“We are excited to represent local suppliers of great quality farm fresh products and share their stories through new local market channels."