Investments in food safety certification processes, business start-up, growth and management supports, financing, and other areas can improve sales and grow businesses for food producers and distributors. Massachusetts is fortunate to have a wide range of organizations and entities that provide technical assistance, including UMass Extension, other universities, buy local organizations, as well as nonprofit organizations. Increasing the usefulness of this technical assistance requires a two-pronged approach: increase the amount of assistance available, which is currently insufficient to meet the needs of food producers and distributors, and increase communication amongst the diverse providers to optimize their services.
Recommendation 4.1: Increase technical assistance for food distribution businesses (e.g., storage, transportation, and aggregation).
Action 4.1.1: Conduct a survey to establish technical assistance needs and create an inventory of existing technical assistance resources. Based on the survey results, develop education and support resources for food business operators and innovators related to creating business connections, becoming finance-ready, and accessing financing.
Action 4.1.2: Engage existing business support providers (e.g., Small Business Association , The Carrot Project, and Conservation Law Foundation) in further developing and delivering needed technical assistance to local food producers, distributors, and retailers.
Action 4.1.3: Support Massachusetts higher education programs in the development and offering of appropriate curriculum to meet the needs of locally based food system businesses. Promote these programs.
Action 4.1.4: Provide education to business owners on the various business structures with a focus on those that best support maintaining local ownership and streamline all forms, reporting, and technical assistance, including through online means.
Action 4.1.5: Support models of food distribution that provide good wages and benefits, full-time jobs, opportunities for career advancement, and safe work environments.
Action 4.1.6: Coordinate a network to encourage peer-to-peer learning and to facilitate the transfer of knowledge of the food wholesale system.