Category Archives: Transportation & Logistics

You asked, we researched…food transportation

Workshop: Freight innovations to optimize regional food resiliency

Register for the regional food freight workshop in Chicago here:

Tuesday January 5, 2016


Watching farm trucks pull into the Capital Square farmers market in Madison, WI can make one wonder how to get regional food to regional markets more efficiently. Driftless farm and food businesses, such as Driftless Organics, Morningside Orchard, 5th Season and Organic Valley work hard to figure out how to engage with green transportation options to get their products to Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago. Logistics, labor regulations, congestion, docking arrangements make this all very complex.

In April, 2010 CIAS started convening Driftless Food and Farm meetings where food transportation was identified as a top issue, but there were few resources available to address this critical component to resilient agriculture and food systems. In 2011 -2012, we made important links to researchers in logistics and freight transportation. In February 2013, we hosted the first regional food supply chain gathering in LaCrosse, where more than 100 businesses, NGOs, and allies convened to think through transportation barriers and opportunities. In 2014, a research team representing multiple different aspects of the food supply chain and leaders in the field continued to investigate the nature of regional supply chains and look for leverage points to elegantly improve systems. We learned from other nascent regional efforts in the New England States and California, and noted innovations in the private sector. We want to share this with you.

This meeting provides an opportunity to consider systemic improvements for moving food from rural to urban areas in such a way that potentially can meet the needs of all stakeholders and address critical issues like GHG emissions and food access. Much like past meetings, this one is intended to bring practitioners together to share their experiences, observations, successes and lessons learned. The format highlights some speakers from the field to jumpstart our conversations and we expect that much of the work will happen during small group discussions, over lunch and beyond.

If you have a stake in moving food from farm to market, please register. We need you at the table. Please share news of the conference with your supply chain partners and encourage them to come. If we pull together, forward momentum is assured.

The venue has limited capacity, so please register early to ensure a spot. Some scholarships are available. Please contact Michelle Miller if you are interested in one. mmmille6 AT, 608-262-7135

For more information on the conference including speakers and format, as well as information on past meetings and reports on regional food freight, go to the page dedicated to that work on this web site – tabbed at the top right corner “Regional Food Freight”.



New report: Agriculture, Transportation and Climate Change – considering the future of agricultural freight transport in the Upper Mississippi River Valley

A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers took a closer look at how climate change might impact grain production and transportation in the Upper Mississippi River Valley. They surveyed current literature and interviewed 11 people across the supply chain, from private industry, state and local government, and agricultural and nonprofit organizations in this region. Their work sheds light on ways that climate change might affect agricultural production, markets and transportation in this region.

Check out the short report here or take a look at the POSTER climate ag trans 3

Two new reports : regional food transportation and climate

CIAS and USDA-AMS transportation division just released our report: Networking Across the Supply Chain  We are continuing this work, hoping to host a meeting next spring in Chicago for the logistics and transportation sector. If you are working on freight transportation and values-based food supply chains, I would love to hear your thinking on this.

I’ve also been working with the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters on a report we released last Friday: “Climate Forward: A new roadmap for Wisconsin’s climate and energy fuuture”  The Academy will continue its work on this area into 2015. We hope to link CIAS faculty, students, staff and our many community partners (that means YOU) to it through our work on perennializing agriculture.


Transportation and logistics for Driftless food

Watching farm trucks pull into the Capital Square farmers market can make one wonder how to get regional food to regional markets more efficiently. Driftless farm and food businesses like Driftless Organics, Morningside Orchard, 5th Season and Organic Valley work hard to figure out how to engage with green transportation options to get their products to Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee, even Chicago. Logistics, labor regulations, congestion, docking arrangements make this all very complex.

In April, 2010 CIAS convened a Driftless Food and Farm meeting where some of the participants broke out to discuss transportation and logistics. Compared to some of the other topic groups, this group was at relatively early stages of thinking, planning and doing. People in the region were working independently, but were increasingly ready to organize. This part of the food supply chain offers opportunity to grow and diversify the local economy much like other parts of the chain, but the way forward is less clear than it is with bricks-and-mortar projects. There is a strong interest in maintaining a vision of sustainability in the development of new systems.

The topic group identified these next steps:

  • Who in the region can provide leadership for this work? What is necessary for them to build capacity to take on that leadership? Where do we find that support?
  • What is the most appropriate scale to work with? Local, county, multi-county, state, etc.?
  • Where could the region find industry expertise, if only to understand what questions yet need to be answered in thinking about distribution and logistics?
  • How do we build awareness with farmers about the role that this part of the food supply chain plays and the associated costs / savings of working in moving beyond direct marketing into a wholesale model?

CIAS is pleased to report on progress made to address some of these questions.In 2011 and 2012, CIAS made important connections to freight engineering research center on campus – CFIRE – and supported a group of students to understand what issues we face in moving high-value local food to regional markets. Rosa Kozub, Lindsey Day-Farnsworth, David Nelson, Ben Zeitlow, Peter Allen, and Rachel Murray, along with Teresa Adams, Alfonso Morales, and Ernie Perry all worked with CIAS to crack this nut.

In February 2013, CIAS teamed up with USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service’s transportation division to offer the meeting “Networking Across the Supply Chain: Transportation Innovations for Local and Regional Food Systems“. More than 100 participants – the majority of whom had business interests in this topic – participated and shared their expertise.

June 2014 USDA-AMS and UW-CIAS released a report that describes what happened at this meeting and our best thinking to date on some of the fundamental questions facing the local food movement. To view a summary of the meeting, go to:  Emergent strategies that we’ve documented include:

  • strengthen regional supply chains by helping like-minded businesses find one another, and provide a venue for business communication and supply chain governance;
  • improve logistics at the region level, recognizing that LTL freight requires terminal markets that can de-aggregate products and TL freight, especially around metro regions, may benefit from innovative infrastructure investments; and
  • investigate multi-modal and dual purpose approaches to increase efficiencies

We now have a nimble team of researchers, staff and students on campus with growing expertise on supply chain development for regional food. Thanks to all who participated in the six Driftless Food and Farm meetings who helped shape subsequent investigations and whose input resulted in research with real-world usefulness.

Next Steps

CIAS, CFIRE, the Center for Coops and the State Smart Transportation Innitiative (a project of another UW campus research center – COWS)  are working together with Organic Logistics, the Wisconsin Local Foods Hub, Fresh Taste, and other partners to take this work to the next level. We are writing proposals to vet some of the emergent ideas with stakeholders and further engage the region in creating the world we envision.

Watch for further updates as we make progress. And please let us know what you think of our work in this topic area, at any time.

Networking Across the Supply Chain – LaCrosse 2/20-21/2013

100 regional food supply chain entrepreneurs are gathering in LaCrosse this week to shape a public R&D agenda for getting local food to market in a way that is economically viable, socially just and environmentally sound.

Visit this link to see the agenda, speaker bios and a list of organizations attending.

Can’t join us? A proceedings will be published later this year.


Networking Across the Supply Chain: Transportation Innovations in Local and Regional Food Systems

Join us to set a research and business development agenda for transporting local food in the Upper Midwest. More than 20million people live in our region and most are dependent on a brittle national and global food system. Business leaders from the local food movement will discuss issues central to moving local food regionally.

February 20-21, LaCrosse, WI

To learn more about this free event and register on-line, go to:

Meeting sponsors

This Project is supported by Cooperative Agreement No. 12-25-A-5639 between the Agricultural Marketing Service/USDA and the Center for Integrated Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

FRAN– The Food Resource and Agribusiness Network  is a network of agribusinesses working together to improve the competitive advantage of businesses and the economy of the Seven Rivers region. FRAN is a geographic concentration of similar companies that share common technology, markets, suppliers or workforce skills in Western Wisconsin, Eastern Minnesota and Northeast Iowa. FRAN is providing a platform to address common opportunities and synergies that exist among regional food processing and agribusiness companies. The region has over 85 food processing manufacturers, a nationally renowned organic farming industry, 12,000 farms and 1.7 million acres in agriculture assessed lands provides great opportunities for joint ventures between suppliers, manufacturers, transporters, retailers and consumers.

USDA-Agriculture Marketing Service– Transportation and Marketing Program economists and marketing specialists at USDA Agricultural Marketing Service facilitate the development of local and regional food systems through research and analysis of agricultural transportation issues, food aggregation facilities, farmers markets, and other direct-to-consumer marketing, as well as assessment of wholesale markets and facility design.  This Program area of USDA-AMS also manages the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, DC.

For more information on agricultural transportation, please visit:

For more information on marketing services, please visit:

UW-Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) is a research center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. CIAS was created in 1989 to build UW sustainable agriculture research programs that respond to farmer and citizen need and involve them in setting research agendas. The goal of work at CIAS is to learn how particular integrated farming systems can contribute to environmental, economic, social, and intergenerational sustainability.


Chicago’s Red Meat Market

Red Meat Market is working in Chicago to drive consumer events,community, commerce and consolidation of the local meat system here in the midwest. They just launched, “Empower the local meat system” with a national campaign at Daley Plaza called Eat it! Tweet it! Two hastags to drive the movement: “#GoodMeat #ChooseLocal”. Blog post:

Many providers, chefs, butchers are on board as well as government leaders. They’ve come along way in 5 months since launch.

Innovation in aggregation at Northland

New Local Food Effort in Northern Wisconsin College
Northland College (Ashland) began a new local food initiative this fall. Local farmers bring food to a nearby coop, and after the product is aggregated, a weekly delivery is made to the college’s food service provider, Chartwells. So far, it’s going great! They sourced 15% local in September and expect to source more in October now that they have added several meat vendors. Student feedback has been positive, and many students are familiar with the farms where the food is grown. Fresh green beans are reportedly a new favorite. Northland serves between 500 and 600 meals per day. Read more in this
Superior Telegram article.

1.3 million servings of WI veggies, please

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is in Madison today to award our project a grant!

CIAS is working with farmers, processors, and distributors  to go from zero Wisconsin veggies in Wisconsin public schools to 1.3 million servings in 2014.That amounts to targeting 60% of Wisconsin school districts with two new food service-friendly products.

Andy Dierks, Coloma Farms, Teresa Engel at DATCP, Anna Maenner at the Wisconsin Fresh Market Vegetable Growers Association, Mary Pesik with DHS, June Paul with DPI, Cheryl Piel with the School Nutrition Association, and Mike Bell (CESoc) and Alfonso Morales (URPL) at the UW,  supported the project proposal.

The project encourages two new products to the school lunch menu: Harvest Medley – a mix of root vegetables, squash and herbs – and a roasted potato blend. Both products have been successful in St. Paul and Milwaukee school lunch program trials.

Fifth Season coop in Viroqua will be working with Reinhart to get the new products to market. Maglio’s in Glendale is working with SYSCO.

Not too shabby.

Congratulations and thank you to Sarah Tedeschi and project partners for making this happen!



Ever wonder what Ontario is up to?

Our neighbors to the north (and southeast) are actively engaged in the local / regional food movement. Ontario Fresh is a web community for growers and wholesale buyers to find each other. I’ve met Wisconsin distributors who regularly buy “glass house” peppers from Ontario farmers and know that their provincial department of agriculture is very much engaged in planning for increased horticultural production. Ontario gets a lake effect, too!