DM eat: Best of What's a Food Hub
Best of What’s Around, Dave Matthews' vision for an organic farm operation serving the local community, began as a CSA in 2002, but last year Matthews and his wife, Ashley Harper, announced on the farm’s website that a “difficult decision as a family” was made: to cease operations.
For months, the Scottsville area operation has been dormant, the equipment languishing, the fields barren”Šuntil the Local Food Hub recently stepped in.
“The Matthews have always had a certain vision for a community-oriented working farm and learning place,” says the Hub’s Emily Manley, who says she doesn't know why the couple decided to stop its CSA.
“They approached the Local Food Hub to explore some opportunities," says Manley. "Turns out our goals and objectives were and continue to be in line with what they are looking for–- and vice versa.”
The seventy-acre, certified-organic farm will now become the Hub’s Educational Farm at Maple Hill, a place where food is grown for local distribution, and also a working classroom.
“This information sharing and hands-on training is an integral part of our mission to keep small farming sustainable,” says Manley, “while also inspiring the next generation of farmers and local food advocates.”
Manley says the greenhouse has come to life this spring with thousands of tomato plants and countless broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and onion seedlings. “We’re just waiting,” she says, "for the frost date to pass so they go out in the field."
Asparagus is already sprouting, beets are in the ground, and berry plants have been composted.
“It’s kind of like the calm before the storm,” says Manley, “except for the chickens, which are always crazy."
Manley expects to see approximately five acres cultivated this year, and that 25 percent of the crop will be donated to a range of community soup kitchens, food banks, and pantries, including Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, the Haven, and Bread of Life. The remaining produce will be used for distribution through the Hub’s warehouse to a variety of grocery stores, restaurants, institutions and schools in the area.
Unfortunately, Manley says they will not be operating as a CSA or any other direct-to-consumer model.
“This produce is being grown specifically to fill gaps in supply that our area farms are currently unable to fill,” she says.
Manley says the farm will also enable them to test a range of different plant varietals and growing methods with the end-goal of sharing their findings with the local farming community.
“By using Maple Hill as a true educational farm,” she says, "we're hoping to increase the efficiency, productivity and profitability of small farmers in our area."