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Food hub in works

Southern Virginia Food Hub (SVFH) Founder Ann Taylor-Wright spoke during a Charlotte County Extension Office meeting Monday about the nonprofit organization, set to operate beginning June 2018. The program will provide an indoor venue and commercial kitchen for farmers in the region to prepare and sell their products with more resources than they may have had at an area farmers market.

Taylor-Wright said she grew up working on her family farm, and noticed when she became older and continued working in agriculture and meat production with her husband and three kids, that four hours on a Saturday morning wasn’t cutting it for area farmers to make a profit and help their families.

“We started talking about it and we said, how can we fix this?” Taylor-Wright said. “What needs to be done and what needs to happen?”

Taylor-Wright took those questions, and started the SVFH.

She said the Food Hub involves a board of roughly 14 people from around the region, whose agriculture experience ranges from produce, to meats, to dairy, greenhouse plants and business, including a representative from the Virginia Growth Alliance. Members of the board include Red Oak resident Jacqueline Moyer, who runs organic farm Old Crowe Farm.

Taylor-Wright said the Food Hub will include a commercial kitchen where participants can use the facility to prepare their produce, meats and other foods.

She said barcodes will be placed on the items to track each product sold, in addition to the farm where the produce came from. Proceeds will go to the farmers who provided the produce.

Taylor-Wright said the kitchen, which will be located by the Colonial Theatre in South Hill, will have a walk-in cooler and freezer that will be 26 feet by 14 feet total, with 8 feet for the freezer.

To rent the kitchen, Taylor-Wright said it will be between $14-$20 an hour. The Food Hub will work to charge less for subsequent hours spent in the kitchen.

She said the kitchen will include a vacuum sealer, commercial oven and dehydrated blender.

In performing community surveys, she noted that participants will buy produce and meals that are pre-freezed and ready to eat.

“We found that the biggest thing they wanted to spend their money on was local food, ready to eat meals,” Taylor-Wright said. “They want to support local farmers. They want to support the local food movement. They don’t have time to cook … But if you can put it in a form that they can eat, overwhelmingly that’s what’s going to support this entire project.”

To join the Food Hub, area farmers will not be charged a membership fee, though she said the process may change as years pass.

Farmer Brick Goldman, who has sold produce in Lynchburg and Danville from Goldman Farm in Cullen, asked how the Food Hub could gauge how much produce participants should donate.

Taylor-Wright said the process will be coordinated, where area farmers will know how much of one particular produce they should bring. She encouraged organizations and farmers to bring what they had. She said that there are more than 100 farming organizations in the region that are set to be involved with the Food Hub.

This article was corrected from its original version.