The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

Food Hubs – The Key to Expanding Regional Food Systems

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It was 2004, and the re-emergence of local and regional food systems was still relatively novel across the nation—perhaps especially in the Southeast United States (despite the fact that until the last half-century, local and regional food was all there was). And yet it was in Durham, N.C., that some industrious individuals, with the help of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and a $48,000 Tobacco Trust Fund Commission grant, envisioned a company that could work with organic farmers to distribute their goods to retailers.

By 2005, Eastern Carolina Organics (ECO) was up and running as a partially farmer-owned “food hub,” working with dozens of organic farms and making local food accessible to more people throughout the region. The food hub markets and distributes food from nearly 20 farms across the Carolinas and Virginia to various retailers, including restaurants and food clubs. The company also helps farmers who want to transition from conventional growing practices to organic farming.

The majority of ECO’s profits—which are “in the millions” annually, according to CEO Sandi Kronick—end up in the pockets of these small farmers.

“Eighty percent of everything we’ve ever made is sent by check—literally through the United States Postal Service—to farmers that we work with,” she tells TakePart. “So it’s a really great feeling knowing that most of our earnings are going directly to family farms in North Carolina and Virginia.”

The food hub distributes organic produce to big retailers like Whole Foods, but also food cooperatives, natural food stores, restaurants and conventional supermarkets. That broad reach is partially due to the company’s “aha!” moment, Kronick says, which came in 2008 when ECO refocused on becoming a better trucking company. Experts say the kind of logistical focus ECO has developed is vital for the survival of other food hubs.

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Author: Daniela

I was born in Croatia, at that time Yugoslavia. My family moved to the US when I was very young, but I still treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," my grandmother shopping early every morning, at the open air market, to buy the freshest vegetables for the day's meals, and the traditions that were the underpinnings of our society. Someone once noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world; one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

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