Along with its usual mix of local produce, the Local Food Hub in Charlottesville also drew together a diverse combination of people last week, as 25 residents of West Virginia and the Chesapeake watershed toured the food hub’s distribution and aggregation center.
Inside the former grocery store loading dock where the Local Food Hub receives and stores products, Executive Director Kate Collier provided a detailed, inspiring, and down-to-earth account of how the nonprofit food hub operates. After opening two years ago with a delivery of watermelon and squash, the Local Food Hub now purchases and aggregates locally grown produce from more than 50 small family farms within 100 miles of Charlottesville, VA. They sell and distribute this food to more than 100 locations, including public schools, hospitals, restaurants, institutions, and other local markets.
The organization’s mission is to build a sustainable and replicable local food distribution model. So far, Kate told the group, the Food Hub has boosted local farmers’ sales by an average of 30% — and allowed many to hold onto their farms.
The Local Food Hub also runs an educational farm that offers sustainable agriculture training to apprentices, high-school interns, and local farmers. An outreach program connects community groups, non-profits, low-income neighborhoods, and public schools to create greater access to fresh, local food.
We learned about the Local Food Hub from a group of residents from the Eastern Panhandle interested in touring the facility, and both the WV Food & Farm Coalition and Future Harvest CASA (Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture) supported the trip. The tour participants represented a wide array of backgrounds – from farmers to local foods advocates, policy analysts, food writers, educators, Extension agents, Department of Agriculture staffers, and economic development committee members.
We’re grateful to Kate Collier and the Local Food Hub for taking the time to introduce us to a multi-faceted organization that has clearly made an impact in its local food system.
For more information, visit http://localfoodhub.org.
Above: Executive Director Kate Collier (in blue) answers questions about the Local Food Hub's work.
Far left: Fayette County farmer Rick Rutledge examines tomato packing boxes.
Left: Jefferson County fruit farmer and businessman Derek Kilmer (standing, far left), Fayette farmer Rick Rutledge (far right), and Fayette community gardener Lorien McAuley (seated in center) listen to the presentation.