FOOD- THE DISH- Local food hubbub: Can a non-profit market make it?

Local buy local champion Kate Collier hopes to have a non-profit "local food hub" operational by May. But one local watchdog group is saying, "Show me the money!"

Update 2/6/09: The Board of Supervisors appears to have taken the ATTA's letter to heart. On Wednesday, the BoS declined to give Collier and Vrooman the $80,000 grant for the local food hub. Said Supervisor Dennis Rooker, "the board made it clear that they do not want to be in the position of acting like a venture capital fund to look at start up companies and putting tax payer dollars into private start up companies."

"We can't let this first set back stop our efforts," writes Collier on the Local Food Hub blog. "But the reality is, this project won't happen without funding. It won't happen without at least $250K in start-up money. If funding doesn't come in the next month, the project won't happen this year and momentum, qualified staff and our energy may be lost."


If Kate Collier of Feast! and her partner Marisa Vrooman, a UVA alum and former director of development for the Virginia Film Festival, can raise an estimated $325,000 in start-up funds, we could have a new non-profit "local food hub" that will make it easier for local farmers to distribute their produce to local food lovers by May. The two have already received $10,000 in economic development funding from Nelson County, and recently requested $80,000 in Economic Opportunity Funds from Albemarle County. 


"Their response was positive," says Collier, "but they want to see more financial data before making a decision."

Currently, locally produced food is distributed via Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, farmers' markets, and direct farm sales, but Collier and Vrooman want to build a licensed wholesale facility that will purchase goods from local farmers, no matter how big or how small they are. 

However, it appears that some free-marketers are not too thrilled about the non-profit idea.

In a February 3 letter to the County Supervisors, members of the Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance (ATTA), a tax watchdog group formed in 2007, opposed the funding of the food hub.

"ATTA believes that the free enterprise system is the most effective and efficient system in the world at satisfying human needs," the letter states, continuing, "while ATTA believes the goal to be laudable, it objects to the ill-prepared business plan, which does not thoroughly evaluate the risks and opportunities inherent in the proposed endeavor."

Basically, the Alliance believes the food hub couldn't possibly make any money. So why should tax payers throw money at it? The Alliance also objected to the non-profit, manager-run model, saying "nothing motivates a fledgling business operator more than the risk of personal loss." 

But, of course, nothing motivates foodies more than the rallying cry "buy fresh, buy local." Stay tuned as The Local Food Hub makes its attempt to get up and running.  


Tough times special at Clifton

If you've ever wanted to dine with a group of friends at the renown Clifton Inn without busting the bank, nows your chance. From now through the end of March, the folks at Clifton are offering what they call a "recession proof code 4-4-2 special." 

Basically, you can bring a group of four and eat for the price of two. But the math doesn't stop there! In addition, groups of five and six can eat for the price of three and groups of seven can eat for the price of 4. The menu for the promotion will be a 3-course Chef's Choice with options available for each course, but does not include drinks. 

"Especially in these times, it is important for people to get together with friends and share great experiences," say Clifton General Manager Niall Reid.  "A dinner at Clifton is one of the best experiences Charlottesville has to offer, and we thought this was a great way share it with lovers of fine food and great times."


Fellini's supports the Big Read

Okay, so it's not Oprah, but the VFH Center for the Book with Virginia First Lady Anne Holton are asking Virginians to read Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God this spring. It's all part of The Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, to get folks reading. And on Wednesday, February 11, Fellini's #9 is getting in on the literary action. The Acme Swing Manufacturing Company, the wacky local band that dishes out music of the '30s and '40s, will celebrate the music associated with the Harlem Renaissance at the downtown eatery. The event is being co-sponsored by the Charlottesville Jazz Society and starts at 6:30pm. So scat on over there!


What's on TAP?

In March, some local restaurants could be asking you to pay $1 dollar for a glass of water. What's next? Fifty-cents for a napkin? Dish knows times are tough, but...not as tough as food borne can be on kids. 

Yes, we were just kidding–sort of. You may be asked to pay $1 for water in March, but it will be going to a good cause. It's all part of the TAP Project, which takes place during World Water Week March 22-28. In a nutshell, local participating restaurants will encourage diners to pay $1 for the glass of tap water that they normally enjoy for free.  The money raised will go to support UNICEF clean drinking water projects around the world.

"I think this is a brilliant project to help solve the leading preventable cause of childhood death worldwide," says local organizer Gwen Goodkin. "Water borne illnesses kill 4,200 children each day.  Each dollar contributed provides clean drinking water for one child for 40 days, or 40 children for 1 day." 

In the next few weeks, Goodkins plans to encourage as many local restaurants to participate. "It's great publicity for the restaurants," she says, " and I think that Charlottesville residents will really support the project if they know about it."

So whata ya say restaurant owners? To find out more about the TAP Project you can visit their website at or give Godkins a call at 984-4649.


1 comment

This really takes the cake and it seems no one's paying attention. The Economic Development Authority is denying the Local Food Hub which would create jobs and promote local farmers by providing another market for their goods because of ATTA's position on this matter. Let's see, the Economic Development Authority (Formerly IDA) has approved all kinds of revenue bonds for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to buy 330 acre mountain for $15 million, The Jefferson Scholars Foundation, The Kappa Sigma Endowment Fund, The Global Country World Peace, The Covenant School, The Catholic School, St Anne's Belfield and the list goes on for all of these non-profits. I'm not real sure of the full economic benefit derived from the financial support given these entities. I'm sure it is probably equal to all those grants that are given under TEA to build museums and parks that require automobiles to get to instead of weaning us off cars which supposedly was the intent of the law. That is why we are losing businesses and jobs to other countries who don't view capitalism or capitalists as the evil empire. Everything I read about Albemarle and Charlottesville extolls the virtues of keeping it rural and promoting its best assets of agriculture and tourism yet your government strips away the wineries ability to direct sell. I can get on the internet and order wine from just about anywhere for a lot less money than locals can even begin to sell because they have to go through distributors. The city farmers market that grossed over a million in sales in as limited a venue as they operate have no permanent home in Charlottesville. Look at Roanokes City Market or St Lawrence's. Beautiful permanent buildings dedicated solely for the farmers and artisans to sell their products everyday year round. What would that mean in revenue for the city and county. Albemarle and Charlottesville by its very existence is a college town that is bringing in research facilities. You have some industry but you don't promote your business or industrial parks at all. They are virtually non existent on the web. You have train service that can bring in tourists from virtually anywhere should we ever go full blown mass transit which would do wonders for the downtown mall and city market. The first step to economic viability and sustainability is to build on the foundations of what you already possess and you are not doing so. You envision an urban high density city where you work, live and play yet I don't see the amenities nor the infrasture permanently in place that would support people there. The purpose of using tax exempt municipal bonds and the revenue they generate in my mind is for roads, water and sewer, start-up businesses that don't have other venture capital sources and other beneficial municipal projects. This approval should have been a no brainer.