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Building a Local Food Wholesale Distribution Program: Challenges & Solutions



Speaker
Elizabeth Weigand

Affiliation
Agricultural Connections

URL
www.agriculturalconnections.com

Biography
I am a farm-raised, native Central Oregonian. I love food and I love working with farmers. I spent my 20s studying international business, graphic communication, landscape architecture and various cultures around the world during travels and an internship. Through my graduate work I formulated a form-based code to mitigate conflicts that arise between adjacent farm and non-farm land use at the urban-rural fringe. What emerged around this time was a genuine thirst to return to my high desert home. Soon after returning I was hired to run Agricultural Connections while the founder started a new life chapter elsewhere.
Within six months I became the new owner of Ag Connections and I continue to run it today. Over the last four years the business has undergone big changes including a more extensive list of farm partners, a custom website, three more pickup locations including two in other Central Oregon communities, a warehouse/office location, a contracted valley courier, a part-time employee, and a growing restaurant client list. One of the best perks as the owner of this business is very few grocery store visits; I can claim fewer than a dozen times a year! I continue to be active in the local food community, working with Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC) on various food projects, speaking in classes at COCC, and serving on the High Desert Food and Farm Alliance Board. When I'm not surrounded by veggies at the office, I am concocting delicious meals at home, hiking, backpacking, dancing, skiing, crafting, traveling, paddleboarding, and hanging out with her friends and family.

Description
I specialize in selling farm-direct local and regional food to both residential and wholesale customers through online marketplaces. Ag Connections works with 10+ local (Central Oregon) and 10+ regional (Willamette Valley/Oregon) farms and we sell weekly to 9-13 commercial and 40-80 residential customers. Our partnerships with both local and regional farms allow us to deliver sustainable produce to our Central Oregon customers year-round. We are the nearest thing to an authentic LOCAL food broker in our region.

Through my lens as the manager of Ag Connections for the past five years, I have deduced the four major challenges to increasing the amount of food that circulates from local and regional farms to our mouths, whether via preparation in our home kitchens or in the kitchen of one of our many restaurants. I would like to share these challenges with others and offer my suggestions for solutions for each.

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