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Food hubs growing by helping growers grow

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Food hubs can take many forms, but their main purpose is to connect farmers and other growers with the burgeoning market for their produce. In order to focus on this role, one western New York organization has launched an on-line survey for both producers and consumers.

Field & Fork Network, which serves producers in Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Wyoming, Genesee, Orleans, Monroe, Livingston, Wayne, Yates, and Ontario counties, including all the westernmost counties bordering Ohio, as well as the greater Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Rochester areas, has received a $175,000 grant to determine the feasibility of a food hub. The organization describes itself thus in its website: "We strive to create a practical economic engine for local, sustainable agriculture and to provide our region with access to fresh, healthy food."

At the westernmost edge of our region, the Illinois food hub Stewards of the Land is doing some of its best work by supporting farmers who are just starting out. Marty and Kris Travis are the Fairbury farmers who saw a need for a food hub in their rural Illinois area. Small family farms join for a nominal fee. They then get reduced liability insurance, and access to a wider market.

"The new generation of farmers is a little over half the group," Marty Travis told NPR on Monday. "Many of them were under the age of 18 when they joined. We're very interested in growing great produce, but we're also very passionate about growing great farmers." This includes 16-year-old entrepreneur Derek Stoller, who joined Stewards of the Land at age 9.

Locally, Green BEAN Delivery is a for-profit business with a mission to connect farmers and consumers. A variety of produce and products is always available, and they deliver to your door. There are CSAs which deliver, also, such as Rice Family Harvest, but they serve a limited area. Green BEAN Delivery is a great option for those whose do not live in these areas.

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