On May 27th, the North Sound Food Hub opened for business to serve farms in Skagit, Whatcom, Island and San Juan Counties as well as commercial and institutional customers throughout the Puget Sound region.
A USDA Value Added Producer Grant is funding NABC to provide technical assistance to several farmer-owned food hubs, including the North Sound Food Hub at Bow Hill. Meanwhile, contributions from philanthropic foundations and a community fundraising campaign are providing the capital necessary to offer food hub services for free in 2013, eliminating risk for farmers.
NABC is helping farmers to manage three online markets (Farm to Table, 21 Acres, and North Sound) powered by Local Orbit, an online food hub sales and management platform. As of July 3rd, 104 customers have signed up to receive fresh sheets. Participating North Sound Food Hub farmers can choose to sell to local customers for pick-up in Bow, or choose to cross sell to institutions in Seattle through the Farm to Table Store or to Seattle restaurants through the 21 Acres store.
The 21 Acres Food Hub is assisting North Sound Food Hub farmers this year by back-hauling their pre-sold aggregated orders from the cold storage facility at Bow Hill to their own loading dock in Woodinville. There, the produce, meats, dairy etc., are combined with orders from Snohomish and King county farms and delivered to Seattle area customers. Coordination between these two food hub facilities allows farmers in the Skagit Valley to sell their product into the Seattle market without having to spend a day off the farm delivering to customers. Customers can order case-plus quantities of food from multiple farms stretching from Whatcom to King counties, pay a single invoice and receive their full order delivered on one truck. Customers pay by credit card or purchase order if approved. Local Orbit disburses payments to each farm once the products are delivered and paid for.
Bow Hill Blueberries, owner of the North Sound Food Hub, just received their food processors license by the WSDA. They will first be processing their own blueberries into jams, pickles and frozen and dried berries. Owners Susan and Harley Soltes are open to to eventually renting the processing facilities to others who want to process their own foods or who want to collaborate on processed blueberry products.
Next up for the North Sound Food Hub will be to install a walk-in freezer and to explore the cost of providing delivery services next year.
The Skagit Valley Herald ran a feature story about the North Sound Food Hub on June 16th. You can learn more about the North Sound Food Hub, as well as NABC’s role in regional food hub development at our website and blog.