High Country Food Hub Reaches $2 Million Sales Milestone

The High Country Food Hub is thrilled to announce that it has reached the milestone of $2 million in sales since the online marketplace launched in April 2017.

This is the story of how over 100 local food producers, 4,750 consumers and dozens of partner organizations came together to create a model resilience strategy.

Operated by Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, the High Country Food Hub provides a year-round online marketplace for High Country shoppers to shop for local food items from the comfort of their own homes and pick them up at convenient locations in the counties of Watauga, Avery and Ashe.

Caroline Stahlschmidt, Food Hub customer and Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture Board Member, explained why buying local is important to her: “I love cooking nutritious meals for myself and my family. Starting with locally grown seasonal vegetables and locally raised meat and eggs makes every meal delicious. Locally grown foods always taste better and are more nutritious. It’s a win everywhere.

how it started

High Country Food Hub staff photo

The Food Hub was born out of a need for farmers to sell more of their pastured vegetables and meats. Through a collaboration with the Watauga County Government, Watauga County Cooperative Extension, and Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, the Food Hub started in 2016 with a walk-in freezer and a small walk-in cooler at the agricultural center of Watauga.

In the spring of 2017, the Hub launched its online marketplace with a few dozen meats and value-added products from a handful of farms. Consumers can now find more than 3,000 products from more than 85 food producers throughout the year.

“For many farmers, the Food Hub was their first exposure to direct selling. After diving in and working with the Food Hub, many have expanded the products and produce they offer and are growing their farming businesses. In this way, the Hub has been an incubator for new agricultural ventures,” said Watauga County Cooperative Extension Manager Jim Hamilton.

A resilience strategy

High Country Food Hub Producers

Achieving $2 million in sales means as much to the local community as it does to the High Country Food Hub. Dollars spent at the Hub are dollars that get back into the hands of the more than 85 farmers and food producers who sell in the online marketplace.

Liz Whiteman, Director of Operations for Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, said of this milestone, “Money spent at the Food Hub is money that would otherwise have left our community and gone to national corporations. . Instead, these resources stay here in the High Country, are invested in our neighbors and make the local economy more resilient.

For every dollar spent at the Food Hub, 84 cents go directly to growers in our community.

These producers then use their money to buy animal feed and farm supplies from local stores and hire accountants, mechanics and other local businesses in our community, which keeps the food money in our region.

The Food Hub as a resilience strategy took hold at the start of the pandemic. As grocery store shelves emptied and consumers sought socially distanced ways to support their neighbors, Food Hub revenue grew 6.71x from January-February to April-May 2020.

Since then, the Hub and Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture have worked to establish additional ways to make shopping for local food even more accessible by adding convenient pickup points throughout the region, expanding its Double Up Food Bucks and partnering with food pantries to provide free boxes of healthy food to our neighbors.

This had real impacts on producers in the region. “The Food Hub’s growth has helped us maintain revenue streams and cash flow during traditionally slower times of the year for agricultural commodities,” said James Wilkes of Faith Mountain Farms, “We expect growth continues as the public continues to shift some of their weekly consumption to local produce.

None of the hub’s successes would have been possible without the support of the Watauga County Government, Watauga County Cooperative Extension, City of Boone, Heifer USA, Carolina Farm Credit, Commission Appalachian Regional Council, Watauga County Economic Development Commission, Resource Communities, Appalachian State University. Catering Services, Dr. Pepper of West Jefferson and the Golden LEAF Foundation as well as over 100 local food producers and 4750 consumers and partnerships with FARM Cafe, Hunger & Health Coalition, Casting Bread Ministries, AppHealthCare, Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, Watauga Food Council, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Center for Environmental Farming Systems and Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.

“We all want and need our local farms to succeed. Supporting them through the Food Hub is one way to help them succeed,” said customers Kathy and Wade Reece, “The Food Hub unites local growers and makers with the public, giving us a tremendous opportunity to experience high-quality products. quality, super fresh, handmade, and organic food every week!

About the High Country Food Hub

The High Country Food Hub, operated by Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, is an online retailer for local farmers and food producers that offers community members the opportunity to access quality local produce throughout the country. ‘year.

The High Country Food Hub is expanding its reach and customers can pick up their orders in Blowing Rock, Banner Elk, Vilas/Zionville, West Jefferson and Boone. To learn more about the High Country Food Hub, please visit Facebook @HighCountryFoodHub, Instagram @highcountryfoodhub or www.highcountryfoodhub.org/.

About Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture Established in 2003, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA) is a women-led organization that builds a fair and sustainable local High Country food system by supporting producers and cultivating community connections that educate, inspire and increase demand for food. local foods. To learn more about BRIWA, visit Facebook @BRWIA, Instagram @brwia or www.brwia.org.

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