Bridging the Opportunity Divide

How Do You Increase the Amount of Local Food Sold in Your Community?

June 19, 2014
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How Do You Increase the Amount of Local Food Sold in Your Community?
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The Mad River Valley Food Hub is a model example for how to support small farmers and food processors.

With supermarkets offering countless food options, those selling locally-grown food have to be organized and have a good business plan in order to make a go of it.

In Mad River Valley — an area comprised of multiple small farms, small communities, and tourists looking for skiing and summer bliss — is the perfect place to create a facility dedicated to the growth of the local food movement.

And that’s exactly what a 4,000-square foot building in Waitsfield, Vermont provides. The former warehouse is now the Mad River Food Hub, a gathering and storage point for farmers and food processing businesses in Mad River Valley. Founded by British entrepreneur Robin Morris, the Food Hub is now entering its third year with big rewards and high hopes for the future.

So how did a British entrepreneur with a background in finance end up in Vermont? Morris originally worked as the CEO of Systems Union, Inc. (a financial analyst company) in New York, but then switched to work as the CFO of American Flatbread, a wood-fired pizza company. During his time there, Morris discovered a love of food, and, when his company outsourced, the warehouse became available and he pounced on it.

Now, three years later, the food hub has 50 clients, some of whom are nearby, while others drive an hour to take part. The first year the facility housed $800,000 worth of food, but its second year saw a jump to $1 million. It is currently only operating at 60 percent capacity, but Morris hopes to see a boost to 80 percent this year.

The idea and operation of the food hub is simple: The warehouse is divided into different areas with 1,600 square feet dedicated to freezer and cooler space, another 1,600 square feet for processing rooms and 800 square feet of dry storage and loading docks. Local famers and processing companies bring their products to the food hub, and store it all in there. Morris also delivers the produce for customers in the form of his 26-foot-long refrigerated truck.

In addition to storage and delivery, Morris provides mentoring and consulting for clients interested in increasing their knowledge and businesses.

Funding comes from Morris and foundations and government grants, but the hope is to become independent from government money. That isn’t Morris’s only goal for the upcoming years, however, as he plans for the growth of the hub. Not only does he want the hub to provide 10 percent of the food supply in the area, but also expand to more hubs to truly make food local for the communities in the area.

Morris’ food hub is dedicated to the creation of a community food source and environment. With a little storage space, green thumbs, and dedication from residents, it’s clear that other communities across the country could do the same.

MORE: No Soil? Or Sun? This Urban Farm is Raising Fresh Food in a Whole New Way

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