Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Help Us Reach Our Goal: Three Days Left!

Dear friends,
This year has been filled with amazing local food successes. We've helped more than 50 small family farms stay profitable and productive. We've provided fresh, healthy food to thousands of public school children. We've expanded your access to local food in places like UVA Hospital, low-income neighborhoods, and many independent grocery stores and restaurants. And we've graduated three young farm apprentices and four high school interns from our Educational Farm.

Today, we need your help to continue and expand our programming in 2011. When you give a tax-deductible gift to Local Food Hub now, you provide us with the momentum to move forward into the new year, equipped and prepared to keep our local farms growing and our community healthy. It's easy to give using our safe and secure online donation service.

And the best part is, when you give in 2010, your tax-deductible gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $50,000, by the Charlottesville-based Perry Foundation.  This will effectively double the impact of your contribution.

So please give today if you care about:
  • healthy food in schools;
  • more farmland and less development;
  • keeping our area's family farms in business;
  • better access to fresh, delicious, local food;
  • proving that local is more than a trend;
  • combating food deserts; and
  • growing the next generation of farmers.
Your support has gotten us this far — please consider renewing your gift before the end of the year!

Thank you.

With best wishes for a happy, healthy, delicious 2011,

--the Local Food Hub team

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    A Top Ten for 2010.

    Driving down Route 95 Monday, I saw no less than three billboards frantically reminding me that there are only 12 shopping days left until Christmas (today there are only 10). I'm not a big holiday shopper, so those billboards don't really induce anxiety attacks, but they do make me think about how close we are to 2011.

    And that makes me think of lists. December is always full of them: top ten albums, top ten books, top ten movies...even the top 10 tweets! I figured Local Food Hub should get in on the list-making fun, too, so without further ado:

    My Top 10 Favorite Things that Local Food Hub Did in 2010:

    10. Moved more than 45,000 pounds of local watermelons.
    Oh, my aching back!  This one speaks for itself. Our warehouse moved more than 45,000 pounds of watermelons grown by local farmers this summer.  You folks like your melons!  

    9. Hosted the Southwood Photography Project.
    Turning loose a group of kids armed with cameras on a farm has never been so fun.  Check out a firsthand account of the day and view a slide show.  Oh, did I mention they made a book?! 

    8. Benefited from a Dave Matthews concert.
    Thanks to the generosity and creative thinking of our hometown rock stars and their adoring fans, this concert raised more than $75,000 for Local Food Hub.  What an impact. 

    7. Graduated three apprentices and four high school interns.
    Brian, Sarah and Tess spent eight months living and working (and sweating) at Maple Hill. Brian is staying on next year as a senior apprentice (and we're accepting applications for the 2011 season). And our interns, oh where do we start?  How about here, with this video.
    6. Garnered some pretty excellent national attention.
    USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan toured our warehouse.  NRCS Chief Dave White visited the farm.  Know Your Farmer Know Your Food wrote about us. Tom Philpott came to see us, and we got a shout-out in the WaPo. We're making waves, people!

    5. Supplied more than 45 schools with fresh fruits and vegetables.
    We deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to schools in Albemarle and Greene County, the City of Charlottesville, three UVA dining halls, St. Anne's Belfield and Charlottesville Day School. And during Farm to School week, more than 11,000 kids had the option of a fresh, local lunch.  Yum.
    4. Partnered with Boys & Girls Club to host pop-up farmers markets.
    These farmers markets, hosted weekly in the Southwood Mobile Home Park, are helping to get fresh, healthy food into traditionally under served neighborhoods, also called food deserts.  We're expanding the program in the spring to include the Cherry Avenue neighborhood!

    3. Donated more than 50,000 pounds of produce to food banks.
    We think everyone deserves access to fresh, healthy food grown in their community. That's why we donate 5% of warehouse sales and 25% of food grown on our farm to places like the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, the Haven and Bread of Life.
    2. Inspired Perry Foundation to double your gift.
    Thanks to some creative thinkers at this local foundation, every gift we receive between now and the end of 2010 will be matched, dollar for dollar.  These funds keep our truck on the road, our farmers in business, and fresh food in your community. Please help us take advantage of this opportunity by donating today.


    1. Delivered more than $460,000 worth of local fruits, vegetables and eggs from 50 family farms to more than 100 buyers.
    In just 15 months, we've delivered almost half a million dollars worth of local food to our hospitals, schools, restaurants and grocery stores. That's food that was originally being shipped in from out of state; money that's staying right here in our local economy; and fresh healthy food for our kids, our families and our community.

    Congratulations Charlottesville, and thanks to all the big thinkers that have supported our efforts so far.  You made this entire list possible!

    Cheers to a happy, healthy and delicious 2011.

    image credit: Fred Jackson / Creative Commons

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Attention Future Farmers: Now Accepting Apprenticeship Applications

    The month of October was bittersweet.  It marked the end of our first apprenticeship season and the sad departure of Tess and Sarah (thank goodness Brian is staying around for next year).

    But, it's also an exciting time because now we're hiring for next year! And did we mention that the program is expanding? That's right: in 2011, Local Food Hub will be hiring FIVE farm apprentices to work at our Educational Farm at Maple Hill.

    Interested? We are looking for four farm production apprentices as well as one farm education apprentice. Apprentices will work from March through October and on-farm housing is available.

    Application information is available on our ATTRA page.

    The goal of the Local Food Hub's apprenticeship program is to provide a hands-on training ground for aspiring farmers by teaching the basic concepts and applications of organic food production and distribution, while working within a small nonprofit service organization.

    Apprentices are exposed to all aspects of food production, including irrigation, soil and pest management, harvesting, and marketing through a combination of hands-on learning, workshops and field trips. Although most of the time is spent working on the farm, apprentices may also be required to work with community partners as well as participate in our education and food access projects. This blend of technical training and community involvement is what makes our program a unique and enriching experience.

    Good attitude, excellent work ethic and great communication skills are essential; good sense of humor also appreciated.  Apprentices are expected to work equally well with a team or independently. Some previous farming or gardening experience is required.

    The Farm Education Apprenticeship will have a unique focus on Local Food Hub's education and volunteer programs. The apprentice will spend at least half of their time on these activities and the other half on farm tasks. Education programs include, but are not limited to: school field trips, volunteer activities, high-school internships, and teen service projects. Farm tasks include vegetable production, warehouse work, greenhouse management and chicken care.

    The ideal candidate for this position will have some knowledge of agriculture, farming or gardening. Experience working with kids (preferably at-risk) is required, as is a good work ethic, positive attitude and sense of humor. Apprentices are expected to work in all weather conditions and until the job is done.  This is a invaluable opportunity for someone interested in sustainable farming, food, nonprofit work and community education.

    If this sounds like the right fit for you, hop on over to our ATTRA page for details.  If you know someone who would be a great candidate, please forward it along!

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    Report from Terra Madre (better late than never!)

    Local Food Hub staffer Lisa Reeder took a few days off from the end-of-season hustle at our warehouse to fly to Torino, Italy for the biennial Terra Madre conference, an international meeting of Slow Food delegates from around the world. 

    She was kind enough to write about her travels, so today we feature her report from Terra Madre!

    Terra Madre is an international forum in which food producers, educators, activists and chefs meet to exchange ideas and to further the tenets of Slow Food - that food should be Good, Clean and Fair. As a new member of the new Albemarle Piedmont Slow Food Chapter, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the conference or from myself in that setting. Admittedly, I do enjoy a bit of a love affair with Italian food and food culture, dictated as it is by fierce devotion to regional specialties and a respect for seasonality...

    There were 4000 delegates to Terra Madre, representing 150 countries and, perhaps more importantly, an impressive number of indigenous and native populations. To see people in their traditional dress, and hear their languages, and touch the seeds and taste the food that they brought to share, was to realize that this Earth is a vast and varied place, and that every culture has a living, vibrant relationship with the earth that is, in part, defined by food.

    A highlight of the conference was the meeting of delegates from the United States, some 700 in number and representing all 50 states. Each speaker was more inspiring than the last, and as they gave brief overviews of the projects in their corners of the country, I felt a sense of inspiration, and hope. Carlo Petrini, Slow Food founder and president, issued the benediction that best sums up my feelings: to paraphrase, he said the revolution has already begun, and it happens through our work every day. While change might not be evident on a small scale, farmers are the world’s largest peaceful army, implacable as snails (the symbol of Slow Food) and working in accord with the Earth, and so this movement cannot go wrong.

    I was filled with a fierce pride at his words. To consider our work here at the Local Food Hub, and at other community-minded projects around the country, as part of an international agrarian uprising on behalf of the Earth, is to set aside any personal agenda and instead devote my efforts to a larger purpose. Fortunately, that larger purpose happens to be delicious.

    So I have returned from Terra Madre with tales of wild boar and polenta flavored with juniper, hand-dried golden plum jam from Sicily, and neat rows of cavolo nero, nebbiolo grapes, and hazelnut trees. I have returned with quinoa seeds from Ecuador, hoping to find someone or somewhere to cultivate them. But most importantly, I bring to you a message from Terra Madre: The work we do here is vitally important. Do not be discouraged, and do not be deterred. The revolution is happening.

    Lisa Reeder also publishes her writing on her own blog: A Local Notion.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Where's the Beef?!

    The "We're thankful for..." posts continue today with a recap of Farm to School week and a shout-out to one of our supporters who really made the grade.

    In case you missed it, November 8 - 12 marked the Virginia's second annual Farm to School.  More than 25 schools in our area participated, serving up local apples, potatoes, broccoli, winter squash, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms, and grass-fed beef. By the end of the week, more than 11,000 students had the option of purchasing a school lunch made with local foods.  Impressive!

    Local Food Hub visited a few of the participating schools that week, and had a blast talking to kids, checking out the menu, and of course sampling local apples and local apple cider. One of my favorite parts, though, was talking with the cafeteria managers about how we can make the Farm to School connection last all year, not just during a week in November.

    Public schools face a real conundrum when it comes to lunch programs. With less than $2 per child to spend on lunch (including utensils, napkins, trays and milk), there's not a lot of flexibility; often the choice comes down to what's cheaper, not what's more nutritious. Local Food Hub does our best to work within the constraints of their budget, but it's a delicate dance -- while schools require very low prices, family farmers need to make a fair wage for their labor.

    That's why we were so excited this summer to receive a grant from Sofia Case and the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. Designated specifically to bridge the gap between what local food costs and what schools can afford, this gift allowed public schools in Charlottesville and Albemarle to feature fresh, locally-produced grass-fed beef (a far cry from this) on their menus all week.

    In fact, this $1,000 grant helped feed more than 4,000 kids.  When you think about it, that's a small investment for a really big impact. And that's why we're thankful for Sofia's gift -- it's smart, out-of-the-box thinking that made a serious difference to school kids, parents, and farmers right here in our community.

    So thank you, Sofia, and thanks to everyone who's working hard to make school lunches healthy, affordable, and local!

    If you're interested in supporting our work with Farm to School, you can contact us at info (at) localfoodhub.org or donate online!

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    So Much to Say

    After the nuttiness of last week, culminating in Friday night's awesome Dave Matthews Band concert to benefit Local Food Hub, we're feeling plenty thankful for a short work week and an excuse to stuff our faces with mom's mac n' cheese and pumpkin pie.

    But before we head out for the holiday, we have a little thanks of our own to give. The next few posts are dedicated to Local Food Hub supporters that are thinking outside of the box to make an impact in their community.

    First up, we want to thank Dave Matthews Band, the folks at Red Light Management and everyone else (you know who you are!) who made the concert, the VIP reception and the entire event possible, and go off without a hitch.  It was a lovely affair with a lot of really nice, generous people, and we were so proud and honored to have been a part of it.

    We also want to thank every single ticket holder from Friday's concert. Whether you found yourself in the best seat in the house or the worst, splurged for a VIP ticket or decided on general admission, by choosing to attend that concert on that night, you also chose to show your support for Local Food Hub, for small family farms, and for good food grown close to home.

    This, to me, is one of the best parts about working for a small, community-supported nonprofit: seeing the creative ways people come together to leverage their power and show their support.

    Whether it's a famous band holding a benefit concert, fans choosing to buy tickets that support a cause, or individuals making donations, spreading the word, and buying local food, these are all examples of people using their power as consumers and community members to make big things possible. You have more superpowers than than you think!

    Check back tomorrow to find out how a supporter is bridging the gap between farm and school.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Workshop Announcement: Getting Ready for 2011

    Attention established and aspiring farmers! Join us for the last workshop of our 2010 season: Looking Back, Planning Ahead, and Getting Started.

    Anthony Flaccavento will be on hand to review your past season, analyze what worked and what didn't, and help you determine how to best move forward in 2011!

    Bring any and all records from the past season, including:
       -calendars with planting/picking dates
       -production records
       -sales records (for Local Food Hub and other markets)
       -farm plans, including crop layout

    This class will be useful for longtime farmers as well as those just starting an operation, so come one, come all!

    Date: November 11, 2011
    Time: 4:30pm  - 7:00pm
    Location: Maple Hill Farm, Scottsville VA
    Cost: Free for partner producers, $35 general public
    RSVP: please email kate (at) localfoodhub.org.

    image credit: Jay Paul

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Can You Dig It? Farm to School Virginia 2010

    It's been a while since I've ordered from a school cafeteria menu. But, if they're anything like they were when I was in school (and something tells me they are), then it goes like this: Monday: Pizza; Tuesday: Nuggets; Wednesday: Pizza; Thursday: Corn Dogs; Friday: Pizza.

    But next week, that's all set to change for kids in Albemarle County, Charlottesville City and Greene County Schools thanks to Farm to School Week 2010. Started just last year, Farm to School is now an official annual occurrence, thanks to House Joint Resolution 95 passed in 2009.

    And, like last year, Local Food Hub is excited to be a part of the action. The best part is that this year, lots of schools are participating, and they're doing so in a big way. More than 25 schools are purchasing local, fresh, healthy food for their lunch programs in and around Charlottesville. By my math, that means more than 11,000 public school children will have the option to purchase a healthy lunch next week.

    The schools are buying great stuff, too: apples, potatoes, broccoli, winter squash, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms, and grass-fed beef are just a few of the things Local Food Hub will be delivering over the next few days. Chef salads, soft tacos, steamed broccoli, shepherds pie, baked sweet potatoes and lasagna -- all made from local, fresh ingredients -- will grace menus across the city and county, thanks to great effort by school staff and parents. All are a far cry from the corn dogs and frozen pizza from my school days.

    In addition to making the purchase and delivery of this food possible, Local Food Hub will also be providing informational materials about the farms where the food was produced, and a few of us (myself and Steve!) will be attending schools during lunch hours to talk with kids and sample some apples. Fun!

    “Virginia schools spend more than $6 million annually on fresh produce. Farm to School Week gives us a great opportunity to keep those dollars right here in our community, while also providing healthy, fresh foods for our kids.” says Local Food Hub Director Kate Collier. “Our dedicated community of individual supporters and foundations has been integral in making all of this possible. We hope the excitement around local food will encourage more people to get involved with Local Food Hub!”

    One way you can make sure that Farm to School Week 2010 is a success is by participating!  Encourage your kids to buy lunch next week, and spread the word to parents and teachers, too.  If the response from the community is great, we know the schools will keep it up!

    We're also really excited about some creative thinking by Sofia Case and the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.  Check back next week to see how they helped to bridge the gap on pricing for a portion of the foods supplied during Farm to School Week!

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    USDA NRCS Chief Dave White Has “High Tunnel” Vision

    L to R: Director Kate Collier, Farm Manager Steve Vargo, Farm Manager Adrianna Vargo, Director Marisa Vrooman,
    USDA NRCS Chief Dave White, Communications Manager Emily Manley. Image credit: NRCS.
    USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White sprouted energy and enthusiasm when he stopped by our Maple Hill Farm for a look at the Local Food Hub’s seasonal high tunnel last week. He not only greeted our staff warmly but also planted the seeds of a high-energy discussion on future networking and partnering opportunities.

    When Chief White parked his truck on the drive Friday afternoon, he quickly made it clear that he had done his homework about our operations here in Charlottesville. He joined Virginia NRCS State Conservationist Jack Bricker, local District Conservationist Kory Kirkland, and other NRCS field staff on site for a closer look at an operational high tunnel.

    For the uninitiated, high tunnels are portable structures that can increase the availability of locally-grown produce in a conservation-friendly way. Made of ribs of plastic or metal pipe covered with a layer of plastic sheeting, high tunnels are assembled on site and can be easily maintained. Unlike greenhouses, they require no energy, relying on natural sunlight to modify the climate inside to create more favorable conditions for vegetable and other specialty crops.

    Virginia NRCS provided about $200,000 in funding for 63 high tunnels through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and EQIP Organics programs. We received EQIP funding to install our high tunnel, completed in early September of this year, and are already using it to extend our growing season and offer crops that are in high demand for a much longer period of time.

    The chief’s visit coincided with the one-year anniversary of the highly-popular pilot program and he was looking for some solid feedback on the conservation benefits of this pilot program. Standing amid the mesclun mix, Chief White quizzed farm managers Steve and Adrianna Vargo about their experience with the high tunnel and conservation benefits such as reducing pesticide use, keeping vital nutrients in the soil, conserving water, extending the growing season, and increasing yields.

    He and other NRCS field staff were also energized about our use of the high tunnel as a teaching tool to engage participating producers in conservation and organic production. We held one class on season extension techniques and tools in mid-September and are planning other offerings in the near future.
    Established as part of the USDA “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, the high tunnel pilot program is an example of innovative approaches to sustainable agriculture. Where high tunnels are used year-round, they provide steady income to farmers — a significant benefit to owners of small farms and to limited resource and organic producers.

    NRCS District Conservationist Kory Kirkland was extremely helpful in walking us through the application process to secure the high tunnel this year. Virginia NRCS will offer the high tunnel practice again in 2011 and will be partnering with us to offer more information about this and other conservation practices available to Charlottesville-area producers.

    Eat Here and Feel Good!

    Have you been to Brookville yet?  Well, if reviews like this one from Mas to Millers, or this one from edible cville (see best new restaurant, runner-up) haven't convinced you yet, maybe this will!  A new announcement on the Brookville blog states that on every Tuesday and Wednesday of every month, they will be donating $1 per guest to designated charities. 

    Of course, we're partial to the first Tuesday and Wednesday of every month, when the dollars will go to support Local Food Hub!

    We have to commend Chef Harrison Keevil on his dedication to family farms and local food.  Not everyone walks the walk, but Brookville does (we know because he buys a ton of local food from us every week).  In fact, we knew Chef Keevil before he ever opened Brookville -- because he volunteered at our warehouse in Ivy.

    So, starting this week, check out Brookville and get some tasty food that's good for your heart, your mind, and your belly.  And tell 'em Local Food Hub sent ya.

    image credit: Mas to Millers

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Make This Now.

    I spent much of this past Saturday putting in my winter garden at the farm.  A couple modest rows of spinach, kale, chard, beets and carrots should (*fingers crossed*) keep me happy for the next few months... though I'll have to wait until summer to reap the rewards of my garlic.  Thank goodness for scapes.

    Before I left the farm, I loaded up the car with a box full of my most valuable farm harvest this year: butternut squash.  This was the first time I've ever tried growing these, and surprisingly, about eight or 10 plants yielded something like 50 butternuts -- apparently these hearty gourds like the miserable heat and drought-like conditions of our past summer season.  Bonus!

    If you know me, then you know that butternuts are the key to my starchy, golden-orange heart, so this is a rich harvest indeed.  I'm the queen of butternut soup, I know my way around butternut pasta and risotto, and I've perfected my roasting technique, so this weekend I tried something different.  And it was so darn good, I just have to share it with you.

    Sauteed Beluga Lentils & Butternut Squash:

    The squash is seasoned, roasted, and then tossed with lentils, herbs, and a light dressing, and wow -- it's great.  The lentils provide a bit of texture, the Dijon mustard and the vinegar add a little zing, and the squash is, well, you know how I feel about squash.  Thank you, Sprouted Kitchen, for this lovely (and easy) addition to my repertoire.

    I implore all of you who share the butternut obsession to make this recipe as soon as you can.  Our warehouse is packed with fresh, locally grown butternut squash, so I know you can find them now at many of our independent grocers and markets.  Then, after you've feasted, come back here and tell me how you liked it.

    A few notes.  Beluga lentils do not exist within Charlottesville City limits -- or, at least, I couldn't find them (let me know if you do!).  I substituted French lentils and it was still delicious.  I also skipped the basil, doubled the parsley, and subbed white wine vinegar for the apple cider vinegar. 

    image credit: Sprouted Kitchen

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    24 Hours of Tom!

    This just in: On Monday, October 25, Congressman Tom Perriello will be visiting our warehouse to do a bit of volunteer work and meet with interested community members.

    He'll be staying for about 45 minutes, so if you're available, please join him. Bring your questions, your comments, your thoughts and your thinking caps, and get involved in our local democracy! No matter how you're leaning in this election, Congressman Perriello welcomes the opportunity to speak with you.

    The Local Food Hub warehouse is located at 556 Dettor Road, Charlottesville VA 22903. Go left through the chain link fence, and we're around the back of the building.

    Questions about the campaign? Please contact Perriello representative, Jessica Barba at (434) 882-4163.

    Questions about the warehouse? Please contact us at info (at) localfoodhub.org

    Hope to see you there!

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan Visits Local Food Hub!

    (L to R: Dep. Sec. Kathleen Merrigan, Local Food Hub Director Marisa Vrooman, USDA Rural Development State Director Ellen Davis, and Local Food Hub Director Kate Collier pose with local pumpkins and one very pregnant belly!)

    Back in early 2009, Kathleen Merrigan was appointed Deputy Secretary of the USDA, and sustainable agriculture advocates across the nation sighed. With relief. Championed as "ferocious," "battle-tested," and "a real reformer," Merrigan was even listed as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People. Merrigan has already made great strides to support small producers and regional food systems, most notably with her brainchild, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, a robust suite of programs, funds, and marketing campaigns designed to champion the local food movement.

    With all that in mind, we were honored yesterday to welcome Deputy Secretary Merrigan, USDA Rural Development State Director Ellen Davis, and Senator Mark Warner’s Outreach Director, Drew Denmore to the Local Food Hub warehouse for a tour of our facilities and a lively conversation about local food and small family farms.

    Over freshly-pressed apple cider from Morris Orchard, we told the story of Local Food Hub -- how we got started, how lucky we are to have a community of supporters right here in Charlottesville, and what we're doing to bring fresh local food from farm to table.  Farmers Carl Tinder and Tim Henley shared their experiences and told how partnership with Local Food Hub has helped them connect with buyers and advance their business. Even our apprentices and interns got in on the discussion, explaining how their experience at our Educational Farm has impacted their interest in farming.

    Probably the most surprising part of the visit was when, after she'd heard our stories, Merrigan asked, “So what should the USDA be doing?” How often does that happen!? Not surprisingly, everyone had a lot of suggestions! Kate suggested that assisting in the duplication of successful aggregation models could be a start. And Marisa added that helping small farmers with working capital needs could help established growers expand production and aspiring farmers get off to a good start.

    By the end of the visit, it was clear that Deputy Secretary Merrigan truly understands the challenges that face small farmers, rural communities and local food systems, and we we feel confident that she is invested in overcoming these problems.  Her fresh sensibility, hands-on approach, and creative outlook are incredible assets to the USDA, and we are lucky to have her on our side! 

    Thank you Dr. Merrigan, for a fantastic visit, and thank YOU Charlottesville, for being believers, movers and shakers in the local food realm!

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    So, What IS On Your Plate (for Thursday)?

    If you're interested in the sustainable and local food movement, and craving a bit of intelligent discussion from the media — something we get far too little of these days — then sign out of Twitter, log out of Facebook, stop posting on your blog, and join the UVA Food Collaborative tomorrow (Thursday, Oct 7) for What’s On Your Plate: A Public Forum on Local Food and the Media.

    An all-star panel will be in town to talk alternative agriculture, sustainable food, the local movement, and the media forces that are shaping our perceptions of the sustainable food movement.  Come for the discussion, hear some different viewpoints, and figure out your place in all of it.  Oh, and stay for a local food reception afterwards, too (including lots of Local Food Hub produce)!

    Panelists include:

    Tom Philpott, food editor for Grist.org and full-time farmer at Maverick Farms, a sustainable-agriculture nonprofit and small farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.  Read more of his writing here (including this, one of my favorite pieces from Grist).

    Marian Burros, food columnist at the New York Times since 1992, and award-winning cookbook author and journalist.  She is best known for her work in the fields of health and nutrition education, as well as consumer affairs issues and food safety reporting.  Find more of her writing here.

    James McWilliams, author of Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, a fellow in the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University, and an associate professor of history at Texas State University.

    The discussion will take place at the LEED-certified Jefferson Scholars Foundation building at 112 Clarke Court from 4 to 6pm.  Hope to see you there!

    For more information about the panel and the UVA Food Collaborative, visit their website.

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Community Gardens Bike Tour

    Looking for something to do this weekend?  Look no further!  Saddle up your bike and join the first annual Community Garden Bike Tour of Charlottesville! On Sunday, October 3, tour five of our town's amazing community gardens, by bike.

    Meet at 1pm at the Bridge PAI, and finish there with good food courtesy of Slow Food Albemarle-Piedmont, cold beverages, door prizes and socializing.

    Participating gardens:
    UVa Community Garden
    Hereford Residential College Mini-Farm
    Buford Schoolyard Garden Project
    The Haven's PATCH Garden
    QCC Farms! Garden of Goodness

    The tour is free for kids 16 and younger, $5 for UVa students, and $10 for the general public. All proceeds benefit the Buford Schoolyard Garden Project, the Haven's PATCH garden, and QCC Farms!

    For more information, please visit cvillebiketour.blogspot.com

    Want to join the tour? Space is limited; to reserve your spot, email cvilleopengardens [at] gmail [dot] com.

    The bike tour is made possible by some great sponsors:

    Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation
    Bike Charlottesville
    Blue Ridge Backyard Harvest
    The Bridge PAI
    Charlottesville Open Garden Project
    Community Bikes
    Slow Food Albemarle Piedmont

    image credit.

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Dave Matthews Band Concert Update!

    You may remember a few weeks ago we announced that our friends in the Dave Matthews Band had chosen Local Food Hub as the beneficiary of their VIP concert reception on November 19th.

    That was exciting.

    Well, now we're back with something even better!  We have a very limited number of super-VIP ticket packages available for our supporters, friends, Facebook fans and blog readers!  That's right, YOU!

    The offer includes:
    • a meet-and-greet with Dave himself (!)
    • an exclusive backstage reception hosted by DMB and Red Light Management
    • concert ticket with your choice of reserved seats or general admission floor seating
    • gourmet dinner buffet and beverages
    • parking on site at the venue
    • and a raffle ticket for a great package of signed DMB items
    Packages are limited and on a first come, first served basis, so if you're interested, hop to it and email Marisa: marisa [at] localfoodhub.org right now!

    Packages are $750 each, and all proceeds will benefit Local Food Hub.

    Hope to see you there!

    image credit: wittlz/Creative Commons

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Video: Finding a Cure for Hospital Food

    When you think about hospital food, the last thing that likely comes to mind is healthy, fresh, delicious food. It's probably something closer to this: mushy, tasteless mystery meats and veggies, pureed beyond recognition. Isn't it ironic that in the very place you go to get well, the food they serve could be so very bad?

    But things are changing...at least they are at the University of Virginia Hospital. Together, Local Food Hub and UVA Health Systems (the department that handles food purchasing) have created a unique partnership that is both improving hospital food and supporting local family farms.

    Feeding the Change
    UVA Health Systems Purchasing Manager Dale Haskins is a personal believer in local food and is a major part of why the hospital has become one of the Local Food Hub’s most successful buyers. With an annual budget of around $600,000 dedicated solely to purchasing produce, Haskins has made a great effort to keep much of that spending local by buying directly from the Local Food Hub.

    On any given day, the hospital serves food to all of its patients, 125 children in a day-care program, 225 ‘meals on wheels,’ and operates a full-service cafeteria for staff and visitors.  Produce from Local Food Hub often makes the menu whether through the use of local tomatoes, onions, squash, green peppers or whatever happens to be fresh and in season that day.  Patrons swear that the the food tastes fresher than it used to, and have even marveled about eating the “best tomatoes” they’ve ever had.  In a hospital, no less.  Can you believe it?!

    In addition, the hospital also hosts a weekly indoor farmer's market open to anyone passing through,  including staff, visitors, and patients.  The tables are piled high with fresh, local offerings provided by Local Food Hub and sourced from small family farms surrounding Charlottesville.  

    Making it Work
    Large institutional buyers and small local farms haven't always been able to play nicely.  Often, big businesses can't (or won't) source produce from many individual farms when they can purchase everything from one conventional produce supplier.  And small farms face insurmountable barriers like liability insurance requirements and accounting challenges that prevent them from accessing these markets in the first place. 

    Local Food Hub helps to connect buyers and farmers in a way that benefits both.  By purchasing food from local farms for a fair price, and then selling and distributing to institutions, restaurants and markets, Local Food Hub has created "one number to call" for local food while also supplying the required liability insurance, traceability, and refrigerated delivery.

    When large buyers like UVA Hospital keep their spending local, it can have a big impact on the economy. According to a recent report by the Wallace Center and the BALLE, every dollar spent at a local business can have two to four times the economic impact of a dollar spent on a non-local business by generating jobs, income and wealth.

    Supporting local farmers has been one of the best takeaways from this partnership, and it is at the core of what the Local Food Hub strives to accomplish. Alan Moore, head of sales at Local Food Hub raved about working with Dale and the hospital. “It has been a pleasure seeing firsthand how UVA Hospital really believes in supporting its local community and has been such a steadfast supporter of the Local Food Hub,” Moore said.

    Not only has the partnership between UVA Health Systems and Local Food Hub been successful, it's also providing a model for how large institutions can move away from imported, industrialized vegetables and towards a sustainable, healthy local food economy that benefits patients, farmers and the community alike.

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    A Homecoming: Exciting News!

    The sad news: Dave Matthews Band is taking 2011 off from touring.

    The happy news: They're wrapping up their 2010 tour schedule with a homecoming!  The band will be returning to their old stomping grounds of Charlottesville for two concerts scheduled in November at the John Paul Jones Arena.

    The even happier news:
    We are thrilled and excited to share with you that Local Food Hub has been named the beneficiary of the Friday, November 19th VIP pre-concert reception!  As part of the promotion, special VIP ticket packages will be sold through the band's fan club site -- and all proceeds from those sales will go towards the work of Local Food Hub.

    On behalf of our local farmers, our local community and our local kids, all of whom will undoubtedly benefit from this honor, Local Food Hub would like to extend an enormous thanks to the Dave Matthews Band for their support!

    More information on the VIP tickets can be found on the Warehouse website.  VIP packages are available to Warehouse members and are listed as separate event listings on the Request Tickets page.  The VIP Packages are $275.00 per person (plus applicable convenience and handling fees) and include a concert ticket (choice of Reserved seating or GA Floor Standing) access to an exclusive hospitality area with a complimentary gourmet buffet and beverages and a limited-edition souvenir laminate.  Members may request up to 4 regular priced tickets and 4 VIP Packages for each of the Charlottesville shows.  Please note there will be no dedicated VIP viewing area on the arena floor.

    image credit: FromTheNorth/Creative Commons

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Back to Your Roots

    Last week, we worked with JABA to host a fantastic group of Scottsville-area seniors to the farm.  The trip was part of a larger program that will allow seniors in Charlottesville and Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa, and Nelson counties to visit local farms and farmer’s markets, promoting healthy eating and aging with opportunities to exercise and socialize. Indeed, many of our visitors spent their childhoods on farms around Virginia, so it was a real pleasure to hear their experiences (and advice)!  We hope they come back soon!

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Grow It Year Round!

    Summer is winding down, but that doesn't mean you have to pack up the garden and twiddle your thumbs until spring.  It is possible to grow food year round, you just need the right techniques! 

    Join us on Thursday, September 9th for a season extension workshop, led by nationally-acclaimed sustainable agriculture guru, Anthony Flaccavento.   From low tunnels to high tunnels, pre-fab kits to original designs, learn strategies and crop choices to improve your yields, access new markets, and keep your garden going strong through the cold weather.  Cover cropping and soil amendments will be discussed, and you'll be able to check out the newly built 30'x72' Farm Tek high tunnel.

    When: Thursday, September 9, 4:30 pm - 7:00 pm
    Where:  Maple Hill Farm, 7129 Scottsville Rd, Scottsville, VA
    How:  Free for partner producers,  $35 for general public

    Please RSVP to marisa [at] localfoodhub.org or (434) 286-2176.

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    Fresh the Movie: Upcoming Viewing!

    Have you seen "Food, Inc."?

    Did you walk out of the theater feeling bummed?  Yeah, me too, kind of.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the film and I do think everyone should see it -- the message is certainly powerful -- but it wasn't an altogether hopeful film.

    "Fresh" has often been called the antidote to "Food, Inc."  While the latter focuses on the overwhelming power of and problems with industrial agriculture, "Fresh" is gentler, folksier, and brings with it the solutions and ideas for positive change.

    It features the regular cast of characters you're used to hearing from (Joel Salatin, Michael Pollan) and some you aren't.  Off topic:  how strange is it that all the characters are male, while all the film makers are female? 

    "Fresh" hasn't seen a wide theater release in these parts, but you now have a chance to see it for yourself.  On Thursday, September 9th, the UVA Food Collaborative  and Hereford Residential College will host a viewing of "Fresh" at 7pm at Clark Hall.  Admission is free (!), and the film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring community members involved in our local food movement.  More details here.  Hope to see you there!

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    Hey, We've Got Merch!

    If it seems like months ago since we did our t-shirt design contest, well, that's because it was.  But now we're excited to finally share with you the finished product!  Our new "food grown close to home" shirts are printed on organic cotton (women's and kid's shirts are American Apparel and men's are Anvil Organic) and are super comfy.  They feature the winning design and our slogan on the front, with our logo and website on the back.  The best part is, they only cost $12 for adults and $10 for kids and 100% of the purchase price for the shirts goes to Local Food Hub!  One note: sizing runs a little small, especially for the ladies.  Buy a shirt here.

    Special thanks to Pete Hanson for his rockin' design!  

    We're also excited to show you these new tumblers!

    Made of BPA-free hard plastic, these cups come with a reusable straw, and are insulated to keep your beverages hot or cold.  These are so handy, we absolutely love them over here at the office.  Perfect for car trips, class or work.  Guaranteed to increase your water intake!  Only $10, and 100% of the purchase price goes to Local Food Hub.  Get more details here!

    We've got other stuff for sale too — tote bags and jar grippers — so head over to our merchandise page to check them out.  First person to send me a photo of themselves decked out in Local Food Hub gear wins something special.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    Total (Egg) Recall and Some Scary Math

    It's been hard to avoid the recent news about the massive and on-going recall of salmonella-tainted eggs, which has now reached a grand total of more than half a billion (with possibly more to come).  When you're immersed every day in the dealings of small, family farms, it's hard to comprehend how a food grown or raised in one place could spread so far and so wide (14 states (!), 1,300 people (!)).  I thought it might be an interesting exercise to explore just how that kind of thing happens.

    According to Food & Water Watch, half of the United States' egg production is concentrated in just five states: Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and California.  In 1987, there were more than 2,500 producers that had operations larger than 75,000 hens.  Today, that number has dropped to 205 — and these 205 produce 95% of the eggs Americans eat.

    The USDA states that there are 338 million laying hens in the U.S.  If 95% belong to just 205 producers, that means the average egg producer keeps 1.6 million hens.  That's a lot of hens.

    But, that's not even the full picture, because ten of the largest producers actually keep 40% of the nation's flock.  Hillandale, one of the companies involved in the recall, has 14 million hens.  DeCoster, the other, keeps 9 million.

    Are these numbers creeping you out yet?

    The argument for this kind of system often relies on the added benefits and efficiencies that come with large-scale production and consolidation.  And sure, it does keep prices low, averaging about 10 cents an egg at Wal-Mart, for example.  However, what is often overlooked is this:  While this super-efficient distribution system excels at transporting millions of eggs from a few states to millions of consumers, they also move pathogens — like salmonella — just as efficiently. 

    When 205 producers are responsible for 95% of all the eggs eaten in the United States, all it takes is one instance of illness, infection, or willful negligence to risk the health and safety of millions of people.

    This is where the argument for small farms, regional food systems and eating locally really hits you in the gut (no pun intended).  Food that is produced with care, by people you know — for example, local eggs from producers where hens aren’t kept in conditions that could lead to the spreading of disease, like crowded cages and hen houses — means accountability, trust and safety.  Not to mention better taste and variety, and the added benefit of supporting your local economy and community.

    Paying a little bit more for piece of mind and healthy food — it's worth it.

    For more info, check out this article by Tom Philpott at Grist.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Peachy Keen.

    Last week's peach gleaning operation, despite a rainy setback, was a big, sweet success.  The owners of Tupelo Farm, a gorgeous spot tucked away in Free Union, complete with tranquil mountain views...
    and 50 organically grown peach trees, invited Local Food Hub volunteers out to do some picking, with the resulting harvest being donated to local kids and community members.  The morning was sunny with just the slightest crisp hint of fall, and we were greeted with coffee, juice, bagels and some gorgeous dew-covered spider webs.
    The trees over in the orchard were heaving with lush, ripe peaches, and our volunteer crew went right to work.  I guess motivation is easy to find when you're working for a good cause (and when you get to sample the goods as you work!).
    In addition to some of our grown-up volunteers, we also had some of the smallest -- and most efficient -- peach pickers around.  Seriously, while everyone else was taking a bagel and juice break, these two were non-stop.  Pretty awesome stuff.
    When all was said and done, after just three hours of work, we had picked more than 740 pounds of fresh, local, organic peaches.  Impressive!  And as we speak, these peaches are headed out to Clark and Jackson-Via Elementary Schools for back-to-school snacks, as well as a few other places in the Charlottesville area. 
    Thanks again to our fabulous volunteers and the owners of Tupelo Farm for lovely morning and for making a tasty commitment to healthy, local, fresh food for our kids.  Bravo!   

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Postponed Peaches and a Rain Date

    First the bad news: Peach picking today was postponed due to rain.

    Now the good news:  we've rescheduled!  We'll be at the orchard this Friday (8/20) from 8am until 11am (or until the peaches are gone!).  We've got a good crew scheduled to join us but we'd love it if YOU came, too!  Everything we pick will be donated to a good cause -- chosen by our volunteers!

    Email emily (at) localfoodhub.org for directions and details.

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    Basil-Scented Thanks...

    Remember when we had a call for pesto-making volunteers?  Well, we're sending big, basil-scented thank-yous to Jenn, Allie, Donna, Katherine and Justin today.  This past Tuesday, these nimble-fingered volunteers helped sort 16 pounds of basil, and then worked together to make and freeze several batches of pesto.

    But first, we held an informal tasting to decide whether almonds or walnuts yielded a better flavor. The results?  Tossed with sliced cherry tomatoes and sprinkled with salt, consensus was that the batch made with almonds let the flavors of basil and Pecorino Romano shine through...but the real powerhouse was our locally-grown garlic.  It's a force to be reckoned with!

    Thanks again to the terrific volunteers -- if you're interested in volunteering at the warehouse or at the farm, email emily (at) localfoodhub.org.

    image credit: futurowoman/Creative Commons

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Help Us Get Peachy!

    Friends,  we're back with another awesome volunteer opportunity.

    The good folks at Tupelo Farm in Free Union want to donate all the peaches from their 50-tree, organically grown orchard to local kids so they can have healthy, fresh snacks.  Local Food Hub is helping make this happen...

    But there's a catch: we need help picking them!

    Join us on Wednesday, August 18th for a morning of peach pickin' at Tupelo Farm, and help us get these delicious ripe peaches from farm to plate!  Tupelo Farm will provide ladders, snacks, water, and of course the peaches!  Volunteers will also help us choose where to send the peaches!

    If you're interested in joining us, please email Emily for more info: emily (at) localfoodhub.org.

    image credit: wanderingnome/Creative Commons

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    An Update on School Lunches and the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization

    Here’s some news that might make you happier to send your kids to school every day. On August 5, 2010 the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry passed the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.” This legislation hopes to improve nutritional quality of meals in schools, promote health, and address childhood obesity. The passage of this act takes us one step closer to reauthorizing the current child nutrition legislation that is set to expire on September 30, 2010.

    The move by the Senate committee follows an August 15 vote on the House side of Congress led by Congressman George Miller (D-CA). The House Education and Labor Committee passed similar bipartisan legislation, the “Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act,” to improve federal nutrition programs for children and their schools.

    Both the Senate and House bills aim to help assist schools in meeting meal requirements proposed by the Institute of Medicine. The House bill specifically addresses increasing the reimbursement rate for lunch by 6 cents per meal -- the first real increase in over 30 years! Both pieces of legislation aim to increase total nutrition spending to about 4.5 billion over the next ten years.

    Fresh, local food is a theme that runs through both bills. The House bill specifically hopes to connect more children to healthy produce from local farms by helping communities establish local farm to school networks, develop gardens and use more local foods in school cafeterias. Local Food Hub works to make that a reality every day by helping to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to local schools. In fact, we provide fresh, local food to 45 schools in the Charlottesville-Albemarle region!

    With the time frame for the current legislation set to run out by September 30, 2010, Michelle Obama has made her opinion clear that this needs to get signed into law. “Right now, our country has a major opportunity to make our schools and our children healthier. It's an opportunity we haven't seen in years, and one that is too important to let pass by.” Michelle Obama urged both sides of Congress to move this piece of legislation to the floor to get it passed.

    What’s next for child nutrition? Now that both bills have been passed out of their committees, it is time to take this legislation to the floor of Congress for a vote. If both the Senate and House can agree on one piece of legislation, the hope is that President Obama can have this signed into law before the old law expires in September.

    If you believe this is important, make sure to call or write to your representatives in Congress to let them know what you think!

    This post was researched and written by our summer intern, Tricia.  Thanks, Tricia!

    image credit: WBUR/Creative Commons