Food Connects is launching its “Growing Local Food Markets in the Monadnock Region” crowdfunding campaign, through The Local Crowd Monadnock, this March. The goal of this online campaign is to raise $10,000 to go towards building Food Connects’ infrastructure and capacity to sell to larger, wholesale customers.
Food Connects partners with local farmers and food producers throughout the Monadnock Region to deliver their bounty to schools, grocery stores, hospitals, restaurants, and other businesses. Their work creates a vibrant food economy with a vision to make local food accessible to all community members. And to achieve this goal, food producers need access to larger markets, allowing them to scale up production and increase their revenue.
But it’s not as simple as selling to larger customers. “Many large-scale, wholesale customers in the community can only purchase from a limited number of approved vendors,” says McKenna Hayes, Food Connects Food Hub Operations Manager. “It is difficult, if not impossible, to become an approved vendor for small-scale, family-owned operations.”
“One of the neat things about dealing with Food Connects is having a single point of contact for the farmers,” says Troy Bellot, Executive Chef at Keene State College. “They’re a single point of ordering and have one portal to order, making things so much easier.”
“The restrictions to growing my business is the access to the marketplaces,” says Linda Rubin, owner of Frisky Cow Gelato. “I can’t get into larger markets as a little guy. I need a distributor that not only will work with me but has that third-party certification so it is easy for stores to bring in, not just my products, but lots of local Vermont and New Hampshire products.
With the Growing Local Food Markets in the Monadnock Region campaign, Food Connects will become an approved vendor for larger customers, allowing schools, grocery stores, hospitals, and restaurants to easily purchase from over 70 local farms and producers that sell through Food Connects.
Funds from this campaign will go towards portable hand washing stations, shelving and storage, staff training, and a third-party food safety certification and audit. As an approved vendor, Food Connects can distribute local products to larger customers—meaning local food is consumed by more community members across the region.
“Third-party food certifications are important to us for traceability of our food,” says Bellot. “That’s what it all boils down to. Knowing exactly where every cucumber, every tomato, every piece of fish we order—where that came from, the farmer who picked it, the boat that brought it in, everybody who handled it. The traceability of food is key to accountability and safety.”
“This money will have a major impact on our day-to-day operations,” says Hayes. “We will gain operational efficiencies, purchase required equipment, and formally integrate food safety procedures and record keeping into our distribution systems. But, more importantly, this funding will enable us to overcome the barriers farmers and producers face when entering larger wholesale markets, and ultimately, grow our local food economy.”
Find more information at http://bit.ly/3aKEate. Food Connects will also offer a Happy Hour Hangout at Machina Arts Artbar in Keene on Thursday, March 26 for community members to learn more about this crowdfunding campaign.
Food Connects is an entrepreneurial non-profit that delivers locally produced food as well as educational and consulting services aimed at transforming local food systems. The Food Hub aggregates and delivers from over 70 local farms and food producers to over 140 buyers in southeast Vermont, southwest New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts. Their educational services focus Farm to School programming. Acknowledged as a statewide leader, the program supports over 30 schools to increase local food purchasing, school meal participation, and food, farm, and nutrition education. Together these core programs contribute to a vibrant local economy by increasing local food purchases by schools and improving students’ nutrition and academic performance. Additionally, Food Connects is frequently hired to provide leadership and consulting services for efforts aimed at transforming local food systems in the New England region.