Food hub connects farms, tables this winter

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A new initiative is bringing fresh, locally sourced food to people in Winnipeg this holiday season — but it isn’t stopping there.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/12/2018 (1453 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A new initiative is bringing fresh, locally sourced food to people in Winnipeg this holiday season — but it isn’t stopping there.

The Farm Fresh Food Hub community service co-op just launched its winter community-supported agriculture boxes, which include everything from garlic and squash to bread and preserves to bone-in ham — all sourced from six local farms.

Farm Fresh board member Anna Sigrithur said the seven-person board is planning to eventually expand and open Manitoba’s first “food hub.”

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Farm Fresh Food Hub board members Nathan Enns and Arianna Hildebrand show off farm-fresh vegetables they supply all winter.

The space will aggregate food from local farms and sell to everyone from individual consumers to larger buyers such as restaurants and hospitals.

“It’s just sort of like voting for local producers instead of large-scale national and international producers,” Sigrithur said.

“It’s a cost-effective way for consumers to get their local vegetables, and it’s really helpful for the small producers as well.”

Miranda Hutlet — whose St. Claude family farm is supplying chickens for the Farm Fresh winter boxes — said the initiative is helping widen her farm’s customer base.

“We’re excited to be able to be a part of it,” Hutlet said.

“Our heart’s in there, so we appreciate when other people really appreciate our hard work.”

The boxes work like a subscription service for a farm. Because customers pay before they receive the product, Hutlet said, the community-supported approach can also help farmers mitigate some of the financial risk that comes with the profession.

“It would help us just be more secure,” Hutlet said.

“(Farming involves) a lot of sacrifice, but it’s what we want.”

Nick Rempel, a Farm Fresh board member whose farm is supplying the winter boxes with some of its storage vegetables such as spaghetti squash, buttercup squash and red kuri squash, said the initiative can also cut down on food waste.

Rempel’s four-acre farm, Natural Collective CSA, has been using the community-supported agriculture model since the farm started three years ago.

“It allows us to kind of budget how much we grow for the season,” Rempel said. “If we know we have 60 families signed up…, we don’t have to guess as much with the quantities of things we’re planting.”

Because customers are often more involved with the community-supported approach than they would be when buying from a grocery store, they also get the chance to learn more about farming, Rempel said.

“People learn to use what’s seasonal. They’ll be asking you for tomatoes in mid-June, and then you have the opportunity to explain that they only ripen up later in the season,” Rempel said.

“They also kind of get an education in how difficult farming can be. If we have a crop failure, or certain pest problems in a given year, then we explain that.”

Because customers buy directly from farmers, the initiative also creates a sense of community, Rempel said.

“It’s nice to see the same faces every week and every year,” he said. “It’s good to get to know the people we’re growing food for.”

caitlyn.gowriluk@freepress.mb.ca

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