Farmer's helper: Local Food Hub opens

foodhubcrewKate Collier (fourth from the left), founder and director of the Local Food Hub, celebrates their July 8 opening day with the Food Hub crew.

Back in February, after the Board of Supervisors turned down a request from the non-profit Local Food Hub for $80,000 in Economic Opportunity Funds, the Hub's director and founder Kate Collier worried it would doom the Hub.

"If funding doesn't come in the next month," she said, " the project won't happen this year; and momentum, qualified staff, and our energy may be lost."

What a difference a few months make.

Though the Supes didn't want to support the Local Food Hub, which will act as a wholesale customer to local farms and a distributor of local foods, plenty of others did, including the Nelson County Economic Development Authority and the Piedmont Environmental Council. In addition, a star-studded group of individuals and organizations stepped up to the plate, including Coran Capshaw, John Grisham, the Bama Works Fund, and the Blue Moon Fund.

On July 8, the Local Food Hub officially opened its warehouse space at the old Dettor Edwards building off Morgantown Road in Ivy, courtesy of landlord Capshaw. The 4,000 square-foot sector of the former grocery distribution center was fitted with 1,500 square-feet of refrigerated storage, 1,800 square-feet of cool and dry storage, as well as office space and a loading dock. The Hub also scored a refrigerated truck.

“It is built! We now have the capacity to move high volumes of fresh, ripe and healthy local food to the chefs, caterers and institutions that have been asking for a consistent and quality supply,” says Collier, who hopes the the Hub will be "a large and consistent wholesale customer to local farms, enabling established growers to expand production and afford new growers some security to get started."

Basically, the Hub will act as a middle-man who doesn't want to get paid.  “We do not want to compete with our growers' ability to receive retail dollar for their food,” says Collier.

The Hub is also working directly with Cavalier Produce, a major local food distributor to area restaurants, who will offer the Hub's food to its customers. As for the refrigerated truck, Marisa Vrooman, the Hub's director of farmer services, says its for pick up food from farmers to save drive time. "Then they can focus," says Vrooman, "on growing."

Read more on: local food hub


I believe the further the farm the further the dollar. I think this team is doing an outstanding job. They are working very hard to please lots of people and stay afloat at the same time. As a new business owner I understand the rumblings of the gut when you have to fight for every penny earned. I get all my produce for my burrito cart from the hub, they are great, even though I am a small one man operation, Alan will take the time to help you meet your needs no matter how big or small. Anyway GOOD LUCK.
Buenos Burritos!

I have to agree with Cville Eye. It seemed to me they were trying to create jobs for themselves using tax money.

@SvilleEye, you're not arguing with me. I have said what you are saying o many times that I didn't feel like saying it again. I believe it was reported recently that the city allocations over $13M/year to "non-profits." That's also why I commended the BoS for not giving them any money.

If the government gave money to any and everybody with good intentions that came along...

This is Marisa Vrooman, co-founder of the Local Food Hub. As a non-profit organization, we are happy to provide full disclosure. We are never silent in any dialogue that we are aware of, so I can suggest that if you would like to engage in conversation with us, the best way is to reach us directly by phone or by email, as we do not often check the comments pages of local news. Our office number and our email addresses are all listed on our webstie,

But since I happened upon this page, I will address some of the concerns and comments. Our project is 97% privately funded, the only participating municipality is the Nelson County Economic Development Authority. Neither Kate Collier nor myself were in need of a job when we embarked upon this project. It is something that we both deeply care about and have made personal sacrifices in order to see come to fruition.

Kate dedicated a year of un-paid work toward this project, and I volunteered full-time for three months. We then worked on deferred salary for 4 months until we raised enough money to make sure that we would be able to open and operate this year.

Local Food Hub staff members have almost exclusively undergone pay-cuts from previous jobs & careers in order to work on this project. One's salary has been cut in half, and he accepted this low salary happily, in order to be involved in the upstart of this organization. We did extensive research on the average salaries and benefits for non-profits in the Charlottesville area. We are either directly in-line with these averages or we are below average and do not have in our projected budget any sort of major increase, just the standard percentages for cost of living increases.

I'm sure that some of our Partner Producers would be happy to be interviewed by the press. Unfortunately, we do not control the press or decide who they do or do not interview. Perhaps a note to the editor is a more appropriate response. Or what Victoria suggested above - many of our partners are also at the Saturday markets, completely available for questions, if you are so inclined.

Our website has more information that you might find useful. Our Partner Producers are listed there and many of them have links to their own web pages, some of which we have created for them.

We are a non-profit so that we can focus on how to best serve the farmers in our area and how to best reach the under-served populations that need more access to fresh, healthy produce.

It's a non-profit, maybe they are volunteering.

@Marisa Vrooman, it was very kind of you to comment. I did go to your site and loooked at your list of producers. It seems to me that the volume of produce that your organization will be handling will not be sufficient for you to run a for-profit, so I'm glad you took the initiative to find private funding. Since you are not receiving a substantial amount of public funding, I, for one don't care what anybody's salary is or your budget.
Out of curiosity, since most of the producers have already established a distribution network, is your organization set up to supplement or supplant their networks? If so, I hope that Nelson County just provided you with a one-time start-up contribution. Good luck to you all.

Yeah Kate- you are a star !

WOW! This sounds like a great project for the local economy.
Best of luck to you!

My opinion about this group's receiving tax money is not interpreted as my being negative towards local farmers.

Cville Eye and others- The food hub will enable local farmers to get their crops into the hands of food professionals more quickly and efficiently. As a chef and caterer, it not only benefits my clients and customers when I provide them with fresh and healthy local food, it also pumps money right back into our area economy.

In the summers, I cook for the children at Camp Holiday Trails. We're proud to shift the paradigm on the traditional "camp food" and give our kids delicious AND healthy meals! It's long been a dream of mine to be able to meet some of their food needs locally, rather than via produce that has been shipped in from other states and even from other countries. Since I already use Cavalier Produce anyway, this will enable them to offer me more local options at a hopefully competitive price.

Thankfully, the local food movement isn't about yuppies and star chefs anymore. Simple healthy food should be readily available to all, regardless of income. I'm thrilled to be keeping some of the dollars in the Camp food budget closer to home!

While it's perfectly understandable that you personally might not want your tax dollars to contribute to this enterprise, there are others who would gladly see some of their taxes go to help support what they see as a win/win for consumers, farmers, and the economy.

It's a long stretch to go from saying you wouldn't want to contribute, to accusing people of cynically trying to create tax-supported jobs for themselves.

quote: "It’s a long stretch to go from saying you wouldn’t want to contribute, to accusing people of cynically trying to create tax-supported jobs for themselves."

Victoria, what do you think JAUNT was.... and became? Look at their annual budget and the high paying positions that organization has, with the public footing the bill now of course.

Time will tell with this new food hub. CVille might be right as soon as the "director" and "associate director" are sitting around making $125,000 a year. Will we see it? I would bet on it.

wOOOO hOOOOOOOOOO we neeeeed money!!!

Then wait tables or get it from your parents.

If they are organized as a non-profit, then I invite them to provide a full disclosure in this forum. They have been very silent in the dialogue. I have also found it interesting that in all the coverage they have received, I do not recall any interviews with the farmers the program is supposed to benefit.

Sville Eye-- have you looked at their website? It's full of information.

I don't get it. Are you inviting them to come on this blog to defend themselves against the suspicions of an anonymous person-- yourself? Based on what? Do you know any local farmers, or go to the Wednesday or Saturday markets? If so, then go ask 'em yourself, and stop throwing around accusations that have no basis in reality.

Marisa, if the Local Food Hub is happy to provide full disclosure, what is the current salary of the founder and co-founder? I would like to compare these figures to the average salaries and benefits for other non-profits in the Charlottesville area myself.

"The Hub is also working directly with Cavalier Produce, a major local distributor of foods to area restaurants, who will offer the Hub’s food to its customers. As for their own refrigerated truck, director of the Hub’s Farmer Services, Marisa Vrooman, says they’ll ââ?¬Å?primarily use it to pick up from farmers to save them the drive time. Then they can focus on growing.”" This is fine, but, I don't think it's worth tax payers' economic development funds. For years, local farmers would bring their produce into city neighborhoods and sell them directly to residents in front of their homes like the ice cream truck. I guess while they were driving their minds were focusing on growing because they came year after year. Again, I have nothing against people serving as a middle man to the local farmers who choose to participate in this venue for their product distribution any more than I oppose their selling goods at the various farmer's markets or through those arrangements where people can join their distribution clubs for a fee and then pick up their goods from the farm itself. However, I don't see why it should be done on the backs of the tax payer just because there's a pot of money laying about with "Economic Development Fund" stamped on its face.

I am glad the Albemarle County BoS had enough sense not to give money to this enterprise. What is this group doing that Cavalier Produce is not already doing?
It is not clear if this group plans to ever be self-supporting (??).

Dont think I would like to eat anything this group touches