Local growers signing up to sell produce through regional food hub
Article was added on Wednesday, June 24, 2015
LOCAL FARMERS AND GROWERSin Santee Electric Cooperative's
service area are signing up to sell produce through the Pee Dee
Agriporium Food Hub on Hwy. 501 near Marion, set to open sometime
Julie Norman, executive director of the Marion County Economic
Development Commission, says the Agriporium will significantly
boost the Pee Dee economy. "I truly believe this is going to be an
economic driver for not just this county but for the entire
region," she says.
Not a farmers market, a food hub is a facility for farmers to
drop off produce for cleaning, packaging and delivery to
restaurants and stores. Among 227 food hubs nationwide, the Pee Dee
Agriporium Food Hub is predicted to bring in at least $3 million by
year five. The Food Hub will provide farmers and growers- even
hobby gardeners-a new way to sell their produce. The state's only
other food hub is in Charleston, she notes.
Get fresh, get local
The facility's primary market will be Grand Strand restaurants,
which more than ever crave fresh, local produce to satisfy
"Right now we spend $11 billion in this state on food but only
10 percent of that stays in the state," Norman says. "The tomatoes
that we eat on the Grand Strand are all coming from California-they
ripen on the truck. So we want to put some of that money in the
pockets of producers, growers and farmers in the Pee Dee region who
will, in all likelihood, head right back down to the Grand Strand
and spend some of that money in hotels and restaurants, on
entertainment and so forth.
The restaurants along the Grand Strand know that, so they're
eager to participate in the Food Hub and buy fresh, local produce
for our farmers in the Pee Dee region."
Technology will play a part, with restaurants ordering produce
online and growers responding to demand, she says. The Agriporium
will also include a retail store, a small business assistance
center and an FDA-grade commercial kitchen incubator.
A friend to farmers
Jody Martin has been hired as director of the Pee Dee Agriporium
Food Hub. Martin has more than 35 years of agricultural and
agribusiness experience. He is the co-founder and chairman of the
S.C. AgriBiz and Farm Expo Advisory Council, which has a close
relationship with farmers in the region.
Martin says he is excited to help establish the state's second
food hub. "My years working with farmers will help establish
long-lasting working relationships with our Food Hub farmers,
restaurants and grocery stores," he says.
The Pee Dee Agriporium Food Hub offers assistance to growers
preparing to supply the Food Hub, including those who need work and
are willing to help with planting. Farmers and potential growers of
ANY size can call (843) 423-8235 with questions.
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