The Great Falls Food Hub is the most interesting local food solution that I have ever seen. The Great Falls Food Hub would act as a “hub” for local food – it would offer processing, storage, a commercial kitchen, and a retail space.
It is the single most innovative solution I have seen to the challenges local food faces in competing with the incumbent system. It could offer New England a way to have local food year round (as the food could be frozen and packaged in the facility). It could offer farmers the opportunity to turn over ALL of their produce (instead of leaving it in the fields if demand isn’t high enough to support selling all of the crop). It could offer new businesses that want to create local foods access to a commercial kitchen and begin production (without having to incur the costs of buying or leasing the big equipment). It also would offer cooking/food education classes to the community. All of the food could be sold at through the retail storefront. That is sustainable, that is change that works, that is innovation. It is also totally transferable, this system could be put in place anywhere that grows food. It could build community around the food. It really would be awesome.
One of the things that sets Antioch New England apart from other Green MBA programs is the consulting work that we do with local businesses. We have worked with three organizations so far in the program, and it has been an incredible experience for everyone involved. As students, we are getting valuable and tangible experience. The businesses are getting top-notch help with sustainability issues. It’s a true win-win.
The Great Falls Food Hub project was spawned from Post Oil Solutions, a Brattleboro Vermont group that is seeking (you guessed it) energy solutions for a “Post-Oil” world. My classmates that worked on the project created a business plan for the group, complete with a presentation for potential investors. The presentation focused on the need for local food safety and meeting the increasing consumer demand for local food. It was great work.
I was really impressed, and wanted to share about the project in this space. I asked Sarah Sullivan, fellow Antiochian Green MBA and Composting Queen of Antioch, if she would be willing to answer some interview questions about the experience. She agreed.
Her responses follow:
Zack: What is the Great Falls Food Hub?
Sarah: The Great Falls Food Hub is a combination of social and physical infrastructure designed to increase the availability and supply of local food for Windham and Windsor counties in Vermont and Cheshire and Sullivan counties in New Hampshire. There are several components to the project that will each be incorporated separately, but all go under the name of Great Falls Food Hub. The part of the project that I was working on was the processing and storage and distribution facility that will be the majority of the physical infrastructure involved in the project. There will also be an education component as well as a retail store in the Bellows Falls downtown area.
Zack: How did you get connected?
I got connected through a class project at Antioch University. I’m in the Green MBA program and we had a year-long group project to write a business plan. My group members were Becky Elias, John Costa, Eric Merberg and Frank Rizzo. The five of us decided that we wanted to try to create business that could help our local area get increased access to local foods while supporting the farmers in the area at the same time. We came up with the idea of doing a food processing center, and then became aware of the Great Falls Food Hub group, who were working on a very similar project. We teamed up with the group and offered to write a business plan for them that would cover one portion of their whole project.Their project is not only a processing center, but also an education center as well as retail outlet. From November ’09 until April ’10 we met with a few members from the Great Falls Food Hub regularly to update each other on our progress, and continue to generate new ideas as a large group.
Zack: Why does the Great Falls community need the Hub?
This piece of infrastructure is a crucial piece in increasing our local food movement so that we not only have more supply in our local area, but also increase access to nutritious local food to a greater number of our community members. This hub will have the capacity to work with farmers, distributors, retail stores as well as community members to increase information sharing and education. We are hoping that we have created a business that will be able to grow and sustain a local food system and help support everyone involved in the process.
Have you seen any great local food innovations lately? What is your community doing to support local food?