Commission hears food hub study results
By Stephanie Johns
Members of the Morgan County Commission heard about a feasibility study for a regional food hub in Morgan County.
Bob Hughes, president of the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce, shared results from the recently conducted study.
He reminded those present that the county contracted with the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development in May of last year.
The center then held three town hall meetings: one each in Madison, Athens, and Monticello. They had 35, 30, and eight attendees to each meeting, respectively.
Surveys collected showed “a significant interest” in the food hub with the largest interest being in a livestock food hub as opposed to a produce one.
Hughes noted that livestock producers “are primarily interested in a kill floor and value added processing” while produce producers look at the hub “as a means of accessing new institutional and retail outlets as well as a means to ensure a fair market price.”
He said that the next phase will be to “determine the economic feasibility of a multi-species processing facility for Morgan County.”
When it comes to USDA inspected processing facilities in the state, Hughes said there is “a very, very severe” under capacity.
Part of the study deals with marketing: consumer preferences, marketing channels, market area, market potential, and expected price ranges.
One critical question: what will the ownership look like? Two possibilities include a fee-based processing facility and a business model.
Another question to be answered deals with management requirements.
“Because you don’t just build a barn and walk away from it,” he said.
The study, which Hughes said was 95 percent complete, will be presented at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 31 during the Cattlemen’s Association meeting in the Morgan County Planning meeting room.
Printed in the January 24, 2013 edition.