The HVADC Cultivator
HVADC Involvement: Catskills Food Hub
HVADC’s mission is to develop and provide innovative solutions that create dynamic agricultural entrepreneurship and enhance economic growth in the Hudson Valley. One such pioneering program that HVADC has been involved with developing and assisting, is the new Catskills Food Hub in Sullivan County.
Catksills Food Hub is a 5,250 square foot-aggregation and distribution center for local and regional products including fresh produce, packaged meat and dairy products, and shelf-stable pantry items. The Hub is a non-profit with a mission of education and working with local farmers and producers to acquire the knowledge and safety standards necessary to expand their retail and wholesale markets, thus growing the agriculture economy in the region. Working with HVADC, Cornell Cooperative Extension Sullivan County, the County of Sullivan Industrial Development Agency, Sullivan Renaissance, producers, and small business owners as community partners, the Hub was established to improve the viability of local agriculture, access to fresh food, and the health outcomes for Sullivan county and the region.
Through Local Food Marketplace (LFM), an online sales platform for hubs, Catskills Food Hub provides a streamlined way for producers to sell their items to a far larger customer base. The market is integrated with a professional transportation option, allowing farmers and producers to focus on their core business, reducing time and energy spent on marketing and distribution logistics. All parties benefit by their involvement with the Hub; for the producer, the Hub also offers access to training and educational programs meant to increase capacity and marketing opportunities. For the buyer, the Hub provides a seamless transaction for multiple-producer orders and convenient pick-up and delivery options.
Currently the intended market includes wholesale buyers such as restaurants, grocery and retail stores, hotels, schools and other institutions. The Hub serves Sullivan and neighboring counties, as well as Pennsylvania, as its core focus.
Food producers can post descriptions on LFM of their farms, products, productions methods, as well as their available weekly inventory available. Buyers can then use the software to order products for their businesses, contact producers, and learn more about each product. Part of Hub’s mission is to “match-make” producers to buyers to help facilitate sales.
Once a sales cycle has closed LFM will alert the food producer via email of their orders on a “Pick Ticket”. The food producers will then deliver product to the hub in the timeframe agreed upon by the hub and producer each week. After the orders are received, the Hub will aggregate and sort orders for each delivery route and deliver them based on the schedule set by the hub in cooperation with the individual buyers.
Cat Wilson, the Executive Director of Catskills Food Hub, said that all of their customers use LFM to see the storefront and place their orders– between 30 and 40 each week. “We do have a few old-school chefs who call in their order to me, but customers love the LFM storefront. It was a bit of a learning curve for us to find the best way to list each item – but we are very happy with how it is setup now. It’s extremely customizable and it was designed by a former Hub manager, so you know they understand the complexity of working with so many small-to-midsized farms,” explained Wilson.
LFM launched in Sullivan in April with over 30 producers and 25 buyers signed up, according to Wilson, and has been on a positive growth trajectory ever since. “We had one order our first week and now deliver to over 20 businesses weekly, from Liberty, to Honesdale, to Delhi, and sell to 10-15 retail customers each week in our pilot retail program. This week we received product from 26 different producers who sold product through the hub.”
Denise Frangipane, the chair of the board of Catskills Food Hub explained that the idea behind the Catskills Food Hub is “to grow the regional agriculture economy and make regionally grown food more accessible to our communities.” This, she added, serves as economic development, community health and quality of life purpose.
Frangipane joined the Gerry Foundation in 2000 as part of the development team for Bethel Woods Center for the Arts and Sullivan Renaissance. The Foundation, through both efforts, has been very engaged in the community. Her role as Executive Director for Sullivan Renaissance-- a community development initiative of the Foundation-- offered her the opportunity to partner with many initiatives and projects in Sullivan County, she said. Frangipane explained that through the partnerships and collaboration between Gerry Foundation and Sullivan Renaissance came to be involved with the Catskills Food Hub.
“HVADC has been a partner on the project from the very beginning, when it was still in its conceptual phases with the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency,” said Frangipane. “Through [Todd Erling – HVADC Executive Director], HVADC has been at the table to help with development of the Food Hub, provide technical assistance and regional expertise. HVADC has also helped us to work with a variety of professionals that were involved in the very beginning of conceiving the overall mission of the project.”
“By offering this combination of aggregation, distribution, and marketing services at an affordable price, food hubs are granting farms or food producers entry into larger markets that boost their income and provide them with opportunities for scaling up production,” said HVADC Executive Director, Todd Erling.
For a full list of HVADC’s collaborative partners, please visit https://www.hvadc.org/partners.
Photos: Catskills Food Hub