Krupp: Regional food hubs

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(HOST) According to commentator Ron Krupp, a number of innovative projects are underway around the state that are designed to strengthen our local food supply.

(KRUPP) If Vermont is going to cut its dependency on imported food, it will need to come up with some bold and new initiatives. In the past year, nine farm and food groups called regional food hubs have been meeting and collaborating on how best to expand local food access, shorten the food supply chain, promote fair prices to farmers, support the success of food-related businesses and provide healthy food to under-served Vermonters.  

Each regional food hub is unique. They fill the gaps by identifying community infrastructure needs like slaughterhouses and storage facilities, and by developing market opportunities like bringing a local food store to a town which doesn’t have one like Bellows Falls.

The Greater Falls Regional Food Center Project includes Windham and Windsor Counties in Vermont and Sullivan and Cheshire Counties in New Hampshire. One of the main goals of this food hub is to make locally-produced food increasingly available and affordable to all people in the region while providing a fair return to area farmers.

The Rutland Area Farm & Food Link or RAFFL, is the regional food hub in Rutland County. Tara Kelley, the director, told me that their greatest need is a central dry and cold storage, food processing facility for area farmers. RAFFL put out a locally grown guide earlier this year – jampacked with links to farmers, farmers’ markets, value-added food processors, retail outlets, and restaurants. There were articles on health and wellness, kids and gardening and growing grains.

The Hardwick Regional Food Hub has been working for a number of years on solving the food needs of the region. Two examples are the enrichment of the soil through composting at the Highfields Institute and seed production at High Mowing Seeds. Processing and storage of artisan cheese is provided at the Jasper Hill cheese cave in Greensboro. The distribution to low-income families of local food takes place through Salvation Farms and the Vermont Foodbank. The coordination of these activities comes from the Center for an Agricultural Economy located in Hardwick. It sits between the Buffalo Mountain Food Co-op and Clair’s Restaurant.

Some of the regional food hubs have received funding from the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund or NEGEF whose offices are located in Montpelier. NEGEF also funds Localvore chapters, community garden start-ups and other food and energy initiatives driven by community groups. From farmers to funders, from volunteers to venture capitalists, there’s a place for everyone at the table.

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