Debbie Gibbs: Want More Local Food? Support the Food Hub
Have you noticed that only a handful of our local restaurants serve food coming from local farms and ranches?
Do you wonder why this isn’t more common? After all, we have a vibrant agricultural community, beautiful grower’s markets, and the wonderful Nevada Irrigation District system providing water (to the envy of many other counties) to many of our pastures and crops.
The main reason more restaurants don’t provide locally grown organic food is because it requires placing orders and arranging pick-up with individual farms, a process that is time consuming for both the busy restaurant and farmer.
Nevada County Grown is creating the solution — a Food Hub to connect local farmers and ranchers (producers) with larger-scale buyers like restaurants and schools via the Internet. Once it’s up and running, buyers can place a single online order from many different producers who will deliver freshly picked food to the Hub. The Hub will then fulfill and deliver orders.
The food hub model, which is successful in many communities throughout the country, increases the demand for local food and makes more locally grown food available to restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and other businesses. It’s a winning proposition for everyone who is involved. Right now the hub is focused on wholesale customers, but if successful, will expand to individuals.
Recently, USDA summed up the trend quite well A powerful local and regional food movement is growing inside the United States; a movement that directly connects consumers with how, where and by whom their food is grown. This regional food movement emphasizes consuming locally grown food over food that is commercially grown which may travel long distances. Food developed for its transportability is not necessarily the best tasting or nutritious. We tend to forget that as soon as produce is picked, it begins to lose its flavor and nutrients. Beyond personal health, our current single-crop, industrial food production methods often results in loss of topsoil, use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and substantial amounts of irrigation water.
Most of our local farmers work in harmony with nature, maintaining, restoring, and preserving the soil for future generations. Interestingly, a small, organic, diverse garden can produce more food per square foot than our industrial system. Such “small farming” methods are more likely to be sustainable.
Nevada County was once a flourishing agricultural community. Today, only a fraction of that acreage is being farmed. The Food Hub will help grow the demand for fresh food, encourage growth in local agriculture, and prevent farming from going the way of the once flourishing manufacturing businesses. The average age of farmers is 58 years and many are close to retirement. Without a collaborative effort like that provided by food hubs, local farming could easily vanish. Instead, in Nevada County we want to support a new crop of farmers who are dedicated to preserving agriculture for our community.
So, if local food is important to you and your family, here is what you can do:
1. Try to grow at least some of your own food.
2. Shop at our local grower’s markets and meet our farmers and ranchers.
3. Tour a farm — Sierra Harvest and the Farm Bureau have scheduled tours.
4. Look for the local food section in your grocery store and ask for local food if it is not there.
5. When you dine out, ask where your food comes from and express your preference for local food
6. Encourage your children’s school to buy food locally.
7. Pass the word among your family and friends about the Food Hub.
8. Visit http://www.nevadacountygrown.org to track the Hub’s progress and if you can, please donate to help get the Hub off to a strong start.
Debbie Gibbs lives in Nevada City.
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