Seeds of Hope are Growing in Columbus

… Brian Williams, a former journalist and longtime food and farming advocate, also sees untapped opportunities in local agriculture. While the farm-to-table movement gets lots of attention, many don’t fully understand what’s involved—in particular, the “to” portion of the equation. About a year ago, Williams started a farming consultancy called Local Nexus and is gearing up to research the viability of a more robust local farm-to-table distribution operation right here in Columbus. “When you say farm-to-table, that’s not going to be the case with pork and beef or poultry—we need the meat processors and the distributors. I want to focus on how we build up that supply-chain infrastructure.”

It’s not just meat, either. Most types of products need some kind of processing to be used by institutions like schools and hospitals. Williams wants to figure out how much processing they’d need—he already knows there is a growing interest from these institutions in providing local food. Ohio State alone has a $39 million food budget. He wonders: What if those dollars—and many more—stay circulating in Columbus?

“I want to … really quantify the potential demand for local food,” he says. His goal is to come up with a figure that accurately reflects the overall potential dollars that can come out of this unmet demand in central Ohio. He guesses that it could be tens or even hundreds of millions. “That would let lenders and public officials realize this is an economic development tool,” he says. “There’s a lot that can happen here.” …