Food Value Chains and Food Hubs

Supporting Local Producers Through Collaborative Planning, Aggregation, and Distribution

Food value chains represent an innovative business model in which agricultural producers, manufacturers, buyers, and other related supply chain actors form collaborative, transparent partnerships that attempt to combine product differentiation strategies with commitment to shared operational values and social mission goals.  Unlike traditional corporate marketing approaches, which focus on the superior attributes of a firm’s products or services, value chains address customers’ desire to promote social improvement.  They incorporate social or environmental mission values within the traditional scope of product differentiation strategies, focusing on such issues as:

  • Supporting the local economy;
  • Farmland preservation and viability;
  • Providing humane treatment and animal welfare;
  • Expanding community access to fresh food; and,
  • Demonstrating environmental stewardship.

Food hubs are an important subset of food value chains.  Many farmers and ranchers, especially smaller and mid-sized operations, often lack the capacity to access retail, institutional, and commercial foodservice markets on their own, and consequently miss out on the fastest growing segment of the local food market. By offering a combination of aggregation, distribution, and marketing services at an affordable price, food hubs make it possible for many producers to gain entry into new larger-volume markets that boost their income and provide them with opportunities for scaling up production.


There is a growing interest in developing methods to reliably evaluate the economic impact of local food investments. AMS assembled a team of leading regional economists and food system consultants to develop an economic assessment toolkit. The results are available in “The Economics of Local Food Systems: A Toolkit to Guide Community Discussions, Assessments and Choices.”  Additional information about the Toolkit, new case studies and upcoming training events are also featured at