BOONE — “Eat fresh, eat local” is a food trend that is promoted nationwide. Here in Watauga County, a small nonprofit has taken a step closer to providing locally grown, fresh food in the form of meats, chicken and duck eggs, baked goods, fresh vegetables and a variety of artisan goods.
It's been almost one year since the High Country Food Hub opened its online doors to customers. From the start, the High Country Food Hub has had active and financial support from elected officials in Boone and in the county and from the Watauga County Cooperative Extension.
The venture was started by Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, a nonprofit organization that formed in 2003. BRWIA started as a group of women who wanted to farm but who had difficulty in obtaining financial help, in the form of loans, and the technical support they needed.
BRWIA is working towards creating an equitable food system that protects the environment, alleviates hunger and poverty and improves community health. The women, along with one man, presently on their staff have a number of skills, a breadth and depth of experience and a deep commitment to sustainable development.
BRWIA works in Watauga, Ashe, Avery, Wilkes, Caldwell, Alleghany, Mitchell and Yancey counties and in Johnson County, Tenn.
In 2016 an opportunity arose to use some space on the lower level of the Cooperative Extension building. The High Country Food Hub was able to begin setting up a home in what had been a loading bay and storage area. The food hub has two walk-in freezers, a large walk-in refrigerator and plenty of shelving for items not needing to be refrigerated or frozen. They are also planning a root storage area in the adjoining storage section of the Cooperative Extension building.
In its first year of operation, its producers have increased in number from eight at the start to around 42, while the number of customers ordering has risen from two a week to an average of 40 each week. Almost 250 individuals and families have now placed one or more orders.
Shannon Carroll, the Food Hub coordinator, said that they look forward to an increase in their customer base.
To join up for this online local shopping, visit highcountryfoodhub.localfoodmarketplace.com/Products. Product pickup is normally on Wednesday from 11.30 a.m. until 5.30 p.m.
The High Country Food Hub's first anniversary will be celebrated at its pickup on Wednesday, April 4.