University of Vermont launches nation’s first food hub management certificate program

Posted: August 15, 2014

In January 2015, 25 students will arrive at the University of Vermont to begin the first higher education certificate program in the US focused on food hub management.

The program addresses a nested set of food system development challenges through a precise leverage point. Food hubs are a potential solution to value chain gaps in local/regional food systems. Yet, many food hubs are emergent businesses whose staff are not deeply trained or experienced in the skills involved in food hub-related activity. High quality staffing is one of the greatest challenges food hubs face, but also the greatest contributing factor to their success.

Food hubs facilitate the aggregation, marketing and/or distribution of products from local farmers and ranchers to consumers by developing scale efficiency and improving distribution. Food hubs represent a strategy for producers, particularly small and mid-sized producers, to market their production locally.  However, food hubs represent an emerging business model often characterized by early stage enterprises. Sixty percent of the food hubs in the U.S. have been in existence for five years or less.

The program features one integrated curriculum, with two options of varying duration and depth:

  • Food Hub Fundamentals 4-Month Option (Vermont Session I + Online Portion)
  • Full Certificate 10-Month Option (Vermont Session I + Online Portion + Action Project + Vermont Session II)

Vermont Session I features face-to-face learning, during which the students develop leadership capacity and build relationships with each other, while gaining exposure to the fundamental skills of food hub management. A fifteen-week online skill development session will enable students to go into more depth. Some students will then complete an experiential education Action Project in conjunction with a food hub. The face-to-face structure will be repeated at the end of the process, to share learning and reinforce relationships.

Program design has been supported by a national advisory board that comprises recognized leaders in the field. These include practitioners from three effective hubs, technical assistance providers who specialize in food hub development, and several members of the National Good Food Network. The advisory board focused its efforts on the curriculum architecture and the marketing framework for the program, using an iterative design process in collaboration with a VT-based task force of food system leaders. The NVA/NERCRD What Works conference in May afforded further opportunities to refine the program model through input from leaders knowledgeable regarding the value and challenges of food hubs.

The program is intended for the following audiences:

  • People planning to create, lead, and/or manage a food hub
  • Adult learners seeking skills to develop and manage local/regional food supply and value chains
  • People seeking to enhance or change their career to a focus on the sustainable food market
  • Professionals striving to be at the forefront of sustainable food system development—and of the dynamic local food movement
  • Consultants or technical assistance providers who work with, or seek to expand their knowledge of, food hubs and regional food value chains
  • Key staff who are poised for leadership development within enterprises meeting the increasing demand for regionally sourced good food

Desired outcomes in the field include market diversification, increased economic viability, and better investment decisions. The program will also build cohorts of practitioners who are positioned to communicate throughout their careers regarding best practices and pass on transferable skills.

For further information or to apply, visit:

By Eric Deluca

Eric DeLuca convened and facilitated the program's national advisory board. He previously managed the US program for the UN-declared 2012 International Year of Cooperatives, as well as the development of the 30-co-op New England network called the Neighboring Food Co-op Association. As a board member of the VT Working Lands Enterprise Initiative and VT Agriculture Innovation Center, he has played a collaborative leadership role in over $3.5M of funding decisions since 2010, driving over $4.8M in match.