A Roadmap to Local Sustainable Foods: Part 2

We’re continuing our review of the 2014 Bush Consulting Group’s roadmap highlighting a five-year plan focused on creating a sustainable food sector and increasing regional jobs, revenue, and sustainability by supporting local food and beverage businesses. In this article, we’ll look at the final four interventions that were proposed in the roadmap and see how far we’ve come to achieving the goals outlined in the original plan. If you haven’t read part one yet, hop over here and catch up. 

Intervention 5: Support strategic initiatives of the Ohio Cheese Guild, as roughly 70 new jobs can result from each additional point of attained regional market share.

This intervention had a lot of traction because well, people like cheese. Despite this interest, there hasn’t been a huge boost in activity, and therefore jobs, since the report was published. The industry has been growing steadily, but both Hoy and Gwin agreed that this intervention should be expanded to include all artisan dairy from our grass-fed and organic producers especially. This means products like ice cream and yogurts should also be targeted to really elevate this intervention. 

Intervention 6: Support strategic initiatives of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association to help maintain currently high regional market share of local craft beer. 

It should come to no surprise that beer is big in Ohio. There are over 300 craft breweries in the state, but there are still some areas for improvement. For example, the state could increase hops production and even malt and barley to better support local supply chains. As of 2018, Ohio only grew 2% of the hops brewed in Ohio according to the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. There are several producers like Origin Malt working to that end but for the most part, there is still a lot of importing happening that could be replaced by local businesses. 

Like the previous intervention, this one could be expanded to include other craft alcohols like hard ciders or seltzers. There are efforts in the state to develop apple varieties specifically for hard ciders, for example. 

Intervention 7: Refer manufacturers to existing regional energy efficiency financing resources.

This is a space that seemed very promising, but USDA Rural Development is the key source of the small grants and loans and they offer grants covering up to only 25% of total project costs of total project cost for any project involving renewable energy systems and/or energy efficiency improvements. That being said, coming up with the rest of the funding is still a challenge for most businesses, much less entrepreneurs. 

As agtech grows as an industry, it will be even more critical to grow this intervention in sustainable ways never thought of in 2014. Keeping carbon footprints low while still achieving the food production and job goals can’t be approached in silos for this system to work. 

Intervention 8: Refer manufacturers to existing regional workforce development efforts to improve employee retention.

Creating a partnership between OhioMeansJobs for workforce retention is needed more than ever and whatever progress came before the pandemic is surely lost or in need of updates. Ideas for growing this intervention range from diverting sin taxes to engaging reintegration centers to support a new type of workforce. OhioMeansJobs is supported by beverage sales and it’s a booming sector, especially since the pandemic. But why can’t we dog ear some of those funds for creating jobs for food entrepreneurs that can help shore up our local food system? Unfortunately, there needs to be political will, as with all initiatives. Additionally, can we look into reintegration centers in the region to pilot controlled environment greenhouse production? The pieces are all on the table, they just need to be put in place. 

With all great ideas comes the time to create action. Keep in touch with us as we continue to pave a way for a sustainable food sector in Northeast Ohio. Sign up for our email newsletter or leave your feedback on our contact page

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