Introduction to Local
Food systems - the combined interactions and elements of food production & processing, distribution, and consumption - are re-localizing as consumers and governments gain awareness of the true cost accounting of the industrial supply chain. Factoring in the external costs of mass-produced food, consumers are increasingly turning away from the tragedy of the supermarket and towards connected markets that attend to the chain of custody of food and put the onus of production and distribution at the hyper-regional level. As such, local food systems represent environmentally interconnected and geographically-bound networks of production, distribution, and consumption.This new attention to patronizing regional food sheds, for example in the farm-to-table model, has already made it easier for individuals and families to directly support local farms or networks of farms and reduce individual carbon footprints while eating healthfully and sustainably. Participating in a highly local food system is one way of ensuring that we are consuming ethically sourced food produced and distributed in a manner that is good for people, animals, and the environment. But while this locavore movement has made the new main street rife with organic, local produce and food products for consumers – for example,through community supported agriculture programs, or CSAs – local food systems have been slower to service businesses such as restaurants and retail operations. Regional food hubs are emerging to drive financially viable economies of communityto help take the burden of difficult logistics off of farmers and business owners. These food hubs, coupled with and driven by innovative technological and logistical solutions, will address the critical challenges of infrastructure and business management that will make it easier for small to mid-sized farmers to concentrate on what they do best – producing great product – and for consumers to universally access healthful, sustainable food.