KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Federal plans to short up America’s food supply chain are already in action in a local Kansas City area grocery store chain.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing more than $1 billion in a long list of incentives to boost local farming, urban agriculture and a more decentralized food supply chain.

The goal is to make it less susceptible to disruptions like the kind seen during the pandemic and Russian invasion of Ukraine, which made it very hard to export wheat from that nation.

That effort benefits farmers like Cortland, Kansas’ Dan Kuhn.

“It’s a lot of fun to grow this stuff, but you need a place to sell it,” Kuhn said.

That’s why he’s so happy with his more than 20-year relationship with Hen House, which sells his asparagus, watermelon, squash and other produce.

“From here to Cortland, Kansas is not as far, as say, watermelon growing in Florida or Georgia, or Indiana,” Kuhn said.

But the way America’s food supply chain is currently set up makes it easier for many grocery store chains to do business with a few, massive, food growers and processors.

Instead, Hen House stocks more than 30 stores under various names around the Kansas City metro with produce from farmers like Kuhn, who are often within 200 miles of their stores.

“The reason [other grocery stores] don’t do what we do is it takes a lot of effort,” said Hen House Director of Advertising and Marketing Bill Esch.

Esch said Hen House is able to stock local produce when it’s in season because of its transportation and storage system that gets produce from the farm to stores quickly. That allows them to tell customers their food is coming from local farmers with a series of stickers and signs.

“The big reason you want to do it is because your produce is thousands of miles fresher,” Esch said.

That makes a difference to Kuhn because it gives them stability in what is an inherently unstable farming industry.

“They can buy stuff cheaper sometimes, but the relationship is important, and they rely on trust,” Kuhn said. “We trust them, they trust us.”

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