Jon Ramsay, executive director of the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) in Hardwick gave a presentation at the JCC on February 20 in Part 2 of “A Food Hub in Jericho...What If”.
Jon’s talk was animated, and his enthusiasm well deserved as CAE is a multi-faceted food hub that’s made quite an impact on food resiliency in Hardwick and across the state. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the nonprofit, which currently employs 31 people.
Jon began by acknowledging the confusion around what a food hub actually is, due to the wide range of food hubs out there. CAE for example, runs several food hub enterprises: 1-Farm Connex, a truck delivery service, that Jericho Settlers and numerous other large and small farms in Vermont utilize; 2- Just Cut, which processes produce and delivers it to schools, hospitals and institutions around the state; 3-The Food Venture Center, which includes a commercial kitchen, communal dry and wet storage (half of the FVC is rented to their anchor tenant, Jasper Hill Cheese).
CAE oversees several community programs in Hardwick which include:
-Grow Your Own, hosting monthly skill-sharing workshops; as Jon says, “bringing the community together around food...people can share the awesome skills they have”. CAE owns 15 acres in which they oversee a community orchard, farmers market, community gardens and hoop houses, as well as a pavilion for hosting community events.
-Produce to Pantries targets small produce growers in Hardwick, creating a supply chain with minimal overhead while supplying food to people in need.
-CAE also runs a place-based education program, whose coordinator has set up a program at the local high school called ‘Recipe for Human Connection’. Here, students are encouraged to lead a variety of activities; gleaning at a local farm and making a community meal, or helping out at the elementary school’s community garden for example. Building leadership skills while supporting local food resiliency- a win-win!
Comments from the 15 or so of us in the audience were indicators of specific concerns and needs in our locale. Laurel Shelmandine formerly of “It’s Arthur’s Fault”, said that supporting a food business in a home kitchen simply isn’t financially feasible; Ben Danowitz said he would love to start a small farm in Jericho and expressed frustration over zoning laws that preclude his living on the farm, thus making it affordable; Chris Simms commented that there are so many food hub models provided by CAE; we need to find which model(s) address the specific needs of our community.
Catch the entire February 20th presentation here: https://archive.org/details/jericho-food-hub-02202023
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