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US (OH): Center for Food Innovation proposes year-round agriculture to bolster local farming

The Center for Food Innovation, a nonprofit organization started at Oberlin College in 2020, wants Northeast Ohioans to eat more locally-grown produce. CFI aims to have 25 percent of the produce consumed in Northeast Ohio be produced in the area by 2026. According to Jeff Heinen, CEO of Heinen’s Grocery Store, about 70 percent of the store’s produce is sourced locally during the summer months. However, large purchasers that require consistent food volume year-round find it difficult to source from local farms.

Lisa Roberson, National Director of Wellness and Sustainability for Morrison Healthcare, spoke at a webinar titled “Getting Local — Why Do Groceries, Hospitals, Restaurants, and Others Want More Local Food?”

“[Seasonality] is a big barrier for us in purchasing [local] in many cases,” Roberson said. “If they had a year-round and consistent availability, [so] that you could actually meet distribution volumes that are the minimum requirements on a consistent basis … you could gain access to distribution in some markets that require larger volumes or more consistent volumes.”

To increase the availability of local produce year-round, CFI is a proponent of controlled-environment agriculture, which includes hydroponics, aeroponics, and vertical farming. According to a 2020 report by Oberlin Research Group titled “The Economic Potential of Vertical Agriculture in Northeast Ohio,” there are many viable properties for controlled-environment agriculture that have been zoned for agriculture or commercial use in our region, including abandoned malls and factories.


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