By Jess Kleean
The new online marketplace provides a weekly shopping opportunity for purchasing local products from the Food Hub. Over 200 local products are currently available for purchase including bread, eggs, goat cheese, pasture raised meats, stone milled grits, honey, pasta, potatoes, pumpkins, dried apples, granola, homegrown popcorn, caramel sauce, handmade soaps and worm castings. The list of producers and products will continue to grow. Online shopping is available from noon on Friday until 10:00 PM on Monday. Custom orders are packaged and ready for pick-up on Wednesdays from 11:30 – 5:30. Located at 252 Poplar Grove Rd. in Boone, the Food Hub is a central aggregation, storage, distribution and marketing facility for locally-grown food and other value-added products.
Check out the layout of the online market below! These screengrabs can show you exactly what to expect when you test out the new platform, and if these pictures peak your interest you can head over to the website here.
This project is a testament to our community’s collaborations around local food. “The Food Hub will open new markets for our community’s producers,” said Carol Coulter, Executive Director of Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture. The High Country Food Hub’s first round of online ordering for the public began at noon on Friday, April 7th, with significant interest. Initially, twenty producers worked with Shannon Carroll, Food Hub Coordinator, to post their farm or business profiles and list their products. As the online marketplace grows in popularity, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture is hoping to add more producers and products in order to provide a diverse array of goods for our local community.
One challenge farmers and producers in our area face are funding the infrastructure needed to continue to grow their businesses and expand their market options. For example, a livestock farmer may have limited freezer storage on their farm which means they can only process a limited number of animals at one time. This means they end up spending more money and time making multiple trips to the processing facilities. Even with multiple local farmers’ markets and CSAs available to consumers, only a very small percentage of the population is buying food and value added products directly from local farmers and producers.
Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture and the Watauga County Cooperative Extension began to search for a solution to these challenges. In February 2016, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners approved 1,400 square feet of the Watauga County Agricultural Services Center to be transformed into freezers, refrigerators and dry food storage space. After securing a location, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture found financial support from Heifer USA, the USDA’s Local Food Promotion Program and Carolina Farm Credit to renovate the space and buy a commercial freezer and cooler. The Town of Boone provided funding in September 2016 for a second walk-in freezer and grant funding is being sought to add a third freezer. Two walk-in freezers, a walk-in cooler and other storage spaces are now available to farmers/producers to rent for a very reasonable cost. With the launch of the online marketplace consumers now have another option for making the connection with local farmers and producers to purchase their products.
“Having the Food Hub located in the Agricultural Services Center is extremely convenient and cost-effective for our area farmers,” said Jim Hamilton, Watauga County Extension Director. “The Ag Center is now providing more than just educational programming, we have shared-use equipment that farmers can rent for a nominal fee and cold storage space to allow producers easy access to our local markets.”
High Country Food Hub Online Marketplace Details
Website – http://foodhub.brwia.org
Online Shopping: From noon on Friday until 10 PM on Monday
Pickup Location: 252 Poplar Grove Road, Boone, NC 28607
Pickup Schedule: Wednesday from 11:30 to 5:30
More Information: email [email protected] or call 828-266-3215
Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture is dedicated to strengthening the High Country’s local food system by supporting women and their families with resources, education, and skills related to sustainable food and agriculture. We do this by providing opportunities for women farmers to share knowledge, hosting a Farm Tour, providing opportunities for consumers to learn about self-sufficiency and connecting everyone to our local agricultural heritage and landscape. Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture currently serves: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Mitchell, Wilkes, Watauga and Yancey Counties in North Carolina as well as Johnson County, Tennessee.
For more information about the Food Hub online marketplace, please contact Shannon Carroll at [email protected] or (828) 266-3215.