A food hub is a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products, primarily from local producers, to strengthen their ability to consistently satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.
The Developing A Shared Agenda economic analysis of the North Shore region and the subsequent engagement of key members of the regional agriculture community led to the identification of a Food Hub and Learning Center (FHLC) as the critical infrastructure required to support the growth and sustainability of small farms. Among regions with a concentration of small farms, Food Hubs provide a practical solution for farmers and communities wishing to preserve and grow their ag-based economies. For farmers, food hubs allow farms to focus on what they do best, growing crops and pass the post-harvest work on to the hub. For the Community, the FHLC will become a focal point for local agriculture in the region. The goals of this project are 3-fold:
1. Support of Small and Medium Farmers
The primary role of the FHLC is to service GroupGAP certified farms that will lead to access to larger, commercial buyer markets for area farmers. The Food Hub will provide the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of food products from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to collectively satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand (quality, quantity, consistency). This packing house facility fills a critical gap in the agricultural supply chain by being the only infrastructure on the North Shore where produce cleaning, packing, cooling, marketing, and shipping will take place under the umbrella of a comprehensive food safety program, a program that both opens a gateway for small farmers to the previously inaccessible institutional markets and increases the supply and availability of locally grown food island-wide.
2. Community Learning Center
The FHLC will have community accessible space for a variety of learning, training and continuing education events. The packing house, a food safety certified facility, will be designed to host public tours to teach school children and visitors about how food moves from the farm to their tables and the role of food safety in their everyday lives. As a center for ag networking in the community, the FHLC will offer a range of educational activities and events around gardening, cooking, healthy food such as cooking classes with guest celebrity chefs. The community meeting space will also host the GroupGAP Food Safety Certification program for local farmers and various community meetings.
Integration of our largest economic drivers of agriculture and tourism provides opportunities to create new businesses as well as alternate revenue streams for farmers in the region. The FHLC will have a small visitor center and storefront that features North Shore-grown produce and locally produced value-added products (jams, cheeses, sauces, etc.). The visitor center will be a tourist destination point for farm tours, farm-to-table dinners and ag-tourism activities hosted by our supplier farms and booked through the FHLC website. An onsite restaurant, staffed by culinary students in training, will allow tourists and locals alike to experience fresh, healthy, locally-produced food.