Nelson Supporters Local Food Distribution Hub

Nelson County has bootstrapped an Ivy-based local-food distribution hub, Erin McGrath writes in the Nelson County Times, providing $10,000 towards its establishment. The non-profit would serve the Thomas Jefferson Planning District (Nelson, Albemarle, C’ville, Fluvanna, Greene, and Louisa), functioning as a badly-needed middleman between farmers and final points of sale like restaurants and grocery stores. It’s the idea of Charlottesville’s Kate Collier and Marisa Vrooman, who figure it’ll take $300,000 to get started. Next they’ll be asking the BoS for $80,000. It’s definitely not a good time to asking any government entity for money, but if they can demonstrate that a significant economic gain will result from enabling this trade, it might be a smart investment for TJPD members.

16 thoughts on “Nelson Supporters Local Food Distribution Hub”

  1. I had lunch at Feast! today. It was delightful, as always, and I would support almost anything Kate thought was a good idea.

    How can we the people help?

  2. Just be patient Will your tax dollars will be needed soon enough for this “noble” hair brain idea. Someone always comes up with ways to spend other people’s money.

  3. It’s ironic, I suppose. I can’t afford to eat lunch at Feast, and yet I would gladly pay a little more in taxes for such a venture, if it’s for the common good and begins to create a more localized food distribution network. This can only be good for C-ville in the long run, for producers and consumers.

  4. This looks like a good idea and a bad use of government money. Sorry but if it wants to work long term, it should get use to no government handouts. Conversely the government should allow this idea to flourish and keep their greedy paws off it. Let the business and farmers get to together and make it work.

    I’m for more local food and will pay more for it at the store but I don’t want my taxes to support it.

  5. Sorry but if it wants to work long term, it should get use to no government handouts.

    But it’s important to understand that the rest of our food network exists solely because of government handouts. So if we want to have viable regional food production, we can either a) eliminate all of those national food subsidies or b) level the playing field for local farmers. Since TJPED isn’t in a position to eliminate national subsidies, the only remaining option is B.

  6. Your link is for alternative energy produced by food and more food stamp funding, which has merit for government. End subsidies for almost all food production would be OK. The answer isn’t “everybody else is doing it” so we might as well. Where does that thinking end?

    For example farmer markets- I think it ok for the government to provide a place for it to happen but they shouldn’t overly regulate it. The city market get paid for the space it rents (I think).

    I’m not saying never/no way more I have yet to be convinced. But can’t the answer be C: let the business and farmers set it up?

  7. Your link is for alternative energy produced by food and more food stamp funding, which has merit for government.

    I wanted to avoid overwhelming you with the whole bill. :) The Farm Bill is largely a food-subsidy bill, providing sizable government checks to factory farms that produce corn, wheat, barley, oats, soy, sugar, beef, pork, chicken, etc. It’s the bill that defines what Americans will eat. There is no strawberry subsidy, no lettuce subsidy, no bean sprout subsidy. We only subsidize the food that’s bad for us, basically. The end results is that our local markets are flooded with food that is a) cheap b) low in nutrients and c) in direct competition with local food that enjoys none of those benefits. The result is terrible for the local agricultural industry, placing our local farmers at a severe disadvantage against out-of-state farmers.

    If one accepts that federal farm subsidies are here to stay as they are (and I’m afraid that’s probably so), then one must also accept that family farms (and, by extension, local food) have only a few years remaining before they disappear, unless they enjoy subsidies. Otherwise they cannot possibly complete.

  8. Will they apply for grants? Might BAMA Works contribute if this is set up as a non-profit? We know already of Dave Matthews’s commitment to local farms.

  9. I’m reading the Times over lunch, and I just spotted Nicholas Kristov’s column, in which he advocates for the elimination of the Secretary of Agriculture, to be replaced with a Secretary of Food. He writes:

    The Agriculture Department — and the agriculture committees in Congress — have traditionally been handed over to industrial farming interests by Democrats and Republicans alike. The farm lobby uses that perch to inflict unhealthy food on American children in school-lunch programs, exacerbating our national crisis with diabetes and obesity.

    But let’s be clear. The problem isn’t farmers. It’s the farm lobby — hijacked by industrial operators — and a bipartisan tradition of kowtowing to it.


    One measure of the absurdity of the system: Every year you, the American taxpayer, send me a check for $588 in exchange for me not growing crops on timberland I own in Oregon (I forward the money to a charity). That’s right. The Agriculture Department pays a New York journalist not to grow crops in a forest in Oregon.

    I wonder how much I’m owed; I’ve never grown a thing in Oregon. :)

  10. Waldo,

    I know that the downtown mall gets a lot of grief here from people who don’t realize yet that Walmarts and more roads represent the death of downtowns and the downfall of American culture. To a certain degree, given the number of posh shops on the mall, I agree that the mall is no longer useful to many, selling things people want rather than need. Frankly, I wonder about the mall’s prospects, given the lack of anchor establishments, such as a grocery, for example.

    To survive on the downtown mall and have competitive prices, would a grocery store, in your opinion, need to be subsidized?

  11. Well, for starters, Reid’s is downtown, and that’s working out just fine; folks who are too snooty to shop there can go someplace else. But whether or not a grocery store would need to be socialized just isn’t relevant to me. While there are persuasive arguments to be made for subsidizing food production (from national security on downward), I’ve never heard nor can I imagine an argument for subsidizing food distribution under American capitalism.

  12. If you google “subsidizing Walmart,” you will find that there are quite a few instances of public tax dollars being used to entice Walmarts. I think the perception was that Walmart coming to town meant jobs; therefore, let’s entice Walmart. I’m just wondering if we should be thinking about this as we consider the true vitality of the downtown mall. While Reid’s is downtown, it’s not on the mall. I’d much rather entice a grocery store than pay oodles for rebricking. And, frankly, the beer selection at Reid’s is just awful.

  13. While I agree that the beer selection at Reid’s is not great, that’s a good reason to patronize the excellent wine shop only a few blocks away. {grin}

    In re: enticing a supermarket Downtown, from previous discussions on this site, I had gathered the impression that the problem is one of siting as much as anything else. There’s no obvious place on the Mall to put a store of the size that most people associate with a chain grocery.

    To get back to the larger view of this question, I could argue that American food-shopping habits (as well as eating habits) are going to be changing over the next few decades in such wise as to reduce the influence of large chain groceries. I don’t claim that smaller business will take up the “slack”. They may, but they may not. I’m inclined to think that institutions like farmers’ markets and CSAs will be increasingly important. Perhaps trying to encourage the building Downtown of another chain grocery, or even another locally-owned firm is not the best plan. Perhaps we might invest in supporting some of these other modes of distribution?

  14. Actually, there used to be a grocery in the block of buildings adjacent to Vinegar Hill Theater. The building now houses a local furniture store (where Thorn used to be) and a hearing-aid dealer among some others.

    There’s parking and it’d be a great location for a Whole Foods satellite store. or even, dare I say it, Trader Joes.

    Back to the food issue, I’d vote in favor of local governments promoting local food by buying locally for schools and other public food needs. Cut out the chains and national high-fructose pushers in favor of local producers (strawberries can be frozen).

    I’ve often thought Virginia (and other states) should view planning as though they were nations (without the military need). This would be a great way to do it. Promote local wines, produce, cheeses, meats… and just help with interstate commerce as the businesses grow and begin to sell out of state. This would tie into a more efficient rail system (why don’t the Feds ask GM to build a new generation of trains and rolling stock to get out of their troubles instead of just giving them money?).

    It’s almost as though we were splitting atoms just to make a cup of coffee. Uh, wait, we are doing that… never mind.

  15. JABA is thrilled to see a local food distribution hub being created for our area. This past year JABA made a commitment that each meal it prepared for its senior clients (200,000 annually) would contain at least 20% local food. It was a lot of work but we did it! The biggest problem we ran into was the lack of an infrastructure that could address issues such as required traceability, delivery reliability and year round supply. We are just one of several area organizations who have expressed and interest in bringing nutritious local food into our meal programs but have not had an infrastructure to accommodate us. The hub’s ability to buy splits, bruised and second quality produce enables non-profits like JABA to bring foods with higher nutritional value to a segment of the population (low income and disadvantaged) who otherwise do not have financial and/or geographical access. This hub will not only make it possible for organizations like ours to improve the health of those we feed but it will also allow us to contribute to the financial health of the local farmer, the economic health of our local community and the health of our environment. Thank you Nelson County for your support in assisting the start up of this venture.

    Kay Jenkins

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