19 Nov Supporting the Washtenaw Food Hub
Since opening in May of 2011, The Ravens Club has been pleased to support many worthwhile community efforts like the Wild Swan and Performance Network Theaters, WEMU. We’ve also supported those organizations working to improve our local food shed, like Selma Cafe, Slow Food Huron Valley and the Tilian Farm Development Center. Using our purchasing resources, we join a great network of dedicated chefs and restaurants willing to take the time needed to source the local and sustainable ingredients which make our menus special.
What of the chefs and purchasing managers who would like to also buy local products, but have limited time to spend or are unsure of where to start? These include those working in academic and healthcare institutions, as well as restaurant and catering venues. Considering the volume these institutional food service providers handle, incorporating even a small percentage of local foods will have a significant effect on our region’s economic stability and food security.
In the last couple of years there have been many efforts in our region to create new distribution channels to address these needs. The newest of these is the Washtenaw Food Hub located on Whitmore Lake Road just north of downtown Ann Arbor. New food hubs are beginning to emerge and existing ones are being revitalized as communities realize the positive impact of improving and creating new access to local foods for all residents. However, like so many efforts currently underway in the food movement, there are some important models here from recent history. Centralizing an area’s agricultural output for distribution and processing primarily occurred within that region, until recently.
The site for the WFH began as a farm operation in the early part of the 19th century and was last used as a conventional agriculture supply depot. Shortly after this 16-acre property was purchased a year ago, initial improvements were made to the farmhouse and former store area. Group discussions and potluck gatherings were held on site and a planning team formed, visioning for future activities. These will include not only aggregation and wholesale distribution, but also a variety of community based events, support services for local farms and providing space for local foods businesses to develop and expand.
The Ravens Club has offered encouragement for this effort by preparing and donating dishes to many of the gatherings to date. Many of the suppliers we use are also involved and our opening chef, Dan Vernia, is now working with the planning team as they prepare for operations to begin with the 2013 growing season. Assisted by the award of a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Regional Food Systems Grant, work will be conducted over the next few months to prepare space for storage, distribution and light processing.
TRC will continue to support organizational activities for this promising and important community resource invested in improving our region’s sustainable food system. You can learn more about the Washtenaw Food Hub and sign up to receive their newsletter at their WFH website.