There are more than 300 food hubs operating in the United States. All share a common goal of creating a marketplace where small family farms can thrive. Beyond that, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Food hubs vary in size, structure, legal designation, and methodology. Thanks to their common vision, however, food hubs tend to be very open to sharing ideas, information, and techniques. A few weeks ago, our summer intern, Meg, had the opportunity to visit Intervale Food Hub in Burlington, Vermont. Her experiences reflect the shared goals, open collaboration, and variety of approaches that define food hubs.
Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit The Intervale Center in Burlington, Vermont. The Intervale Center was founded in 1988 on 360 acres of farmland. The mission of the center is to strengthen the community food system and benefit the environment by enhancing farm viability and land sustainability. Intervale has pioneered many initiatives to further this mission, such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), gleaning (distributing excess or ‘imperfect’ products to those in need), large-scale composting, and farm incubator programs. It is a vast and impressive operation that has a hugely positive impact on the city of Burlington and surrounding communities. It distributes its produce through wholesale channels to the University of Vermont and through CSA shares to individuals in the community.
During my visit I walked around the Intervale farmland, and learned about the history of the land itself and how the center came to be founded on it. After the tour I visited the food hub warehouse where I volunteered alongside community volunteers, interns, and the operations lead for the hub. The hub delivers to the city of Burlington and close neighboring areas (a smaller scope than Local Food Hub). They drop off CSA shares at both workplaces and general drop spots, and they recently set up a home delivery service. While volunteering I helped pack out 430 1.2 lb bags of fresh zucchini and squash for CSA shares to be dropped the next day.
It was awesome to see a different, but also very successful food hub in action and get to know its inner workings through volunteering. There are so many similarities and differences between food hubs that become apparent only through actually immersing oneself in the operations. Every food hub has a different focus based on the needs of the community and that was made clear to me through this amazing visit at Intervale. If you ever find yourself in the Burlington area I would definitely recommend paying them a visit!