According to the USDA, Food value chains are “strategic alliances between farmers or ranchers and other supply-chain partners that deal in significant volumes of high-quality, differentiated food products and distribute rewards equitably across the chain.”
What is Value Chain Coordination?
According to research conducted between the USDA and Wallace Center, Value Chain Coordination is defined as, "a market-based approach to developing local and regional food systems that better serve communities. Value chain work includes the development of collaborative ties among businesses along the food supply chain, with the expectation that the economic position of these supply chain members improves. Value Chain Coordination describes leveraging the soft infrastructure, in the form of skills, competencies and relationships, in a food value chain. With a strong soft infrastructure, individuals and organizations are far more readily able to acquire and utilize hard infrastructure in their communities." Multiple people from nonprofit, public, and private sectors can perform value chain coordination roles in a community food system, however it is increasingly important and impactful to have a dedicated professional to focus on local and regional food value chains to ensure equity and access to markets, in particular those who have been marginalized or shut out of market channels.
What is a Value Chain Professional?
Value chain professionals (VCPs) wear many hats - they work with food suppliers (farmers and food businesses) and buyers (chefs, food services, distributors) to create market channels based on shared values and shared risk. VCPs first and foremost build trust with stakeholders to establish support. Ultimately, VCPs build social and economic networks, laying the foundation for long-term, local business to business connectivity critical for local and rural economies. Value chain professionals serve as a central point of contact for food system stakeholders in the region where they work.
Why a value chain?
Farmers and buyers may have certain values they are seeking in food stuffs that are part of their decision on whether or not to buy. Values can include: local, fresh, high-quality, pasture-based meats, certified Organic, regional, non-GMO. Values can also be part of an adopted standards program such as the Real Food Challenge, Good Food Purchasing Program, Healthcare Without Harm, or the Green Restaurant Association. These programs have standards and metrics that enable buyers to establish criteria for purchasing that will help them choose more sustainably produced food.
2019Established Indiana Value Chain Network with USDA grant
$1.4 million2018-2021 sales
$7.7 million2021-22 sales
The Indiana Value Chain Network is generating economic return for farmers throughout Indiana. New and established value chain professionals work to connect food system businesses together for shared benefit. If you would like to procure or supply local food and plug into our value chain network, please get in touch with any of our VCPs or Network coordinator, Jodee Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dominique Edwards is a Black land steward, local educator, and food systems planner based in Northwestern Indiana who currently serves as the Equity and Engagement Coordinator for the NWI Food Council. Dominique is a 2016 graduate of DePaul University’s Sustainable Urban Development graduate program and is currently obtaining her Ph.D. in Community Psychology from National Louis University where her research focuses on trauma-informed food accessibility in Northwestern Indiana with a special focus on understanding the challenges of Hoosier Black farmers. Dominique is incredibly passionate about revitalizing local food systems through the development of community food projects and was one of the co-founders of the NWI Food Council in 2015, where she still serves today. Dominique previously served as the Northern Region Representative for the American Planning Association’s Indiana Chapter and was the previous Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee that she started in 2020. Since graduating from DePaul, Dominique has advanced her work in food systems and has become multi-disciplined in the field of urban planning. She is featured in the children’s book One Earth: People of Color: Defending the Planet by Anuradha Rao, which highlights some of her earlier work to revitalize local food systems. Dominique continues to work on many levels, including nationally, to educate other urban planners and policymakers about Northwestern Indiana’s food system challenges. She also manages the Walker Street Park Community Garden, a community garden in Michigan City, Indiana’s Eastport neighborhood, a neighborhood in which she was born and raised, and works with residents, local farmers, and representatives of other subject matter areas such as public health and academia to address food insecurity, implement local programming and policies to support systematically excluded communities. Not only does Dominique work on multiple levels to address food insecurity, but she also works directly with residents to grow food, educate, develop programs, and community food projects in surrounding communities as well.
We at Fischer Farms are a Southern Indiana producer of all natural beef. Over the last 150 years, six generations of Fischers have farmed our rolling hills. About 15 years ago, we started selling directly to customers with the mission of making it easier for customers to source local, natural, sustainable meat. We partner with our neighbors to supply pork, turkey, eggs, produce, and other products. Our goal is to make it easier for both customers and producers to get a wide range of fresh, top quality products on the plates of restaurants and the shelves of retail stores.
We are excited to partner with other Indiana Value Chain Coordinators to work to strengthen the network of farmers and wholesale customers. We believe that a stronger network is more capable of addressing the perceived barriers of local food sourcing. We believe we can make a significant impact on the environment, economies, and overall food quality in our communities.
It all started with making small batch kombucha in her home, and next thing she knew Anna was bottling and boxing hundreds of jars of locally made “booch” in Gary, Indiana each week, supplying small businesses throughout NWI and eventually even opening her own cafe and kombucha bar in the Miller Beach neighborhood. Anna is deeply committed to improving healthy lifestyle options for families in NWI, and lifting up local food entrepreneurs in the process!
Allyssas love for food started at a very young age. She began working in the restaurant industry and attending culinary classes in high school. After moving to Chicago and experiencing shopping at their beautiful farmer's markets she learned just how diverse real food actually is. She now lives on a homestead of her own growing and preserving a large portion of my family's food and raising ducks and chickens for eggs. Her passion now is cooking with seasonal whole foods either grown by herself or locally sourced. After eighteen years of working in the restaurant industry, she now gets the opportunity to combine her love for cooking and local food as the Farm to Chef Coordinator of the NWI Food Council.
Porchea McGuire stands for food justice and community engagement. She is working to create equitable access to fresh, sustainable produce and foster strong relationships between BIPOC producers, farmers and food businesses.
The NWI Food Council is a multi-stakeholder alliance that works to build a just, sustainable, and thriving locally-oriented food system for all in Northwest Indiana through networking, education, advocacy, and projects. We are a grassroots nonprofit organization that launched in December 2015 as a result of community input at the Local Food Summit held in April 2015. Through programs, projects, and partnerships, we seek to address the gaps in our regional food system and value chain.
By working collaboratively to rebuild our local food chains and infrastructure, we will ensure that the local food system secures a central role in a transitioning and vibrant local economy. We are committed to providing innovation and leadership in food systems work, with an eye toward food security as a pathway to the improved resilience of our community.
Just as the farmers we work with prioritize the stewardship of their land and sustainable food production, the Council values the stewardship of our local communities and environments in building a more sustainable and resilient region. Improving market access for local farmers and producers will ensure the continued growth of these individuals and their businesses, thus emphasizing a shift to sustainable industries. Our seven-county region spends nearly $2.3 billion dollars on food each year, but less than 2% of that purchasing power is directed towards our region’s farmers and food producers ($3.7million). Institutional and wholesale purchasing programs are uniquely poised to support and accelerate the growth of the local food economy by the sheer scale of their purchasing power.
The Food & Growers Association (FGA) is the oldest local food farmer organization in Indiana and continues to support the regional food economy in SE Indiana through multiple initiatives. The FGA was formed to respond to the needs of farmers, individuals and health professionals who see the connections between community health improvement, sustainable agriculture and a viable local economy in Southeastern Indiana. The FGA is supporting, growing and promoting a local food system to enable area farmers to market their products to individual consumers and institutional buyers.
One way the FGA is supporting the purchase of locally raised and grown items is their support of Hoosier Harvest Market SE. This is an online market operated as a farmer owned cooperative. The farmers determine what is sold and the price of each item. This sub-hub is a way for diversified food growers and producers to tap into a regional aggregation and distribution system.
The FGA also realizes the many hurdles, questions and support a new and/or small farmer needs. We specialize in providing individual technical assistance, resources and support for farmers in our region. We are working to create a network of small farmers for peer support and sharing of resources.
In addition to the focused efforts of Pam Rieke as the value chain professional, the FGA realizes the value of high quality, nutrient dense, locally grown food for all people. One way the FGA is working to increase the accessibility of local food to everyone is building and supporting community gardens and orchards in the communities we work with.
If you are an a farmer, individual, restaurant,or institution interested in supplying or purchasing local food please reach out to Pam
Becca Tuholski has an undeniable passion for local food systems, resilient community building, and community education. From her time as an Agricultural Science Teacher at LaPorte High School, to her ongoing career as a beginning farmer alongside her husband on their farm (Tuholski Produce), to her current role as the Local Food Access Coordinator with the NWI Food Council—Becca is dedicated to strengthening our food system from the ground up.
Anthony Tarullo is the value chain professional for Eat Local Southwestern Indiana. His goal is to improve the region's economy by supporting the growers and farmers in our own community, positively affecting public health by creating equitable food access for under-resourced individuals, as well as local institutions. We endeavor to create and increase resilience among local and regional producers and consumers, attract economic development, and in turn improve quality of place.
For Farmers: Reach out to schedule a time to discuss your market channel access and ideas. As the value chain coordinator for the southwestern region of Indiana, Eat Local SWI spends their time listening to farmers, where they would like to sell, and connecting them with the buyers who share their values.
For Buyers: Reach out if you are interested in buying local food for your business or institution. Eat Local SWI is available to discuss options and strategies with you as a buyer, and to alleviate some of the extra time it takes to onboard local suppliers.