We have a very important organization here in Charlottesville called Local Food Hub. Since 2009, the Local Food Hub has been facilitating the distribution of fresh, local food to restaurants, schools, hospitals and more. The Hub works with over 70 farmers and producers to ensure their products make it onto tables and menus.
Our former employee Matt now works for the Local Food Hub, and he invited me out to the warehouse on a chilly Tuesday morning to learn more of the ins and outs of the Hub’s business.
Rather than a commission or consignment model, the Local Food Hub actually buys the produce and then sells it under the Local Food Hub brand. This means that maximizing quality, moving produce efficiently and minimizing waste are now the Hub’s responsibility. Because the Hub is pooling produce together, farmers don’t have to worry about meeting minimum orders or the consistency demands of restaurants. Therefore this model benefits both the growers and the chefs. We home cooks know how tedious it can be to keep vegetables from going bad in the fridge, so I was impressed to hear that last year they had only 2% waste.
About 70% of the Hub’s goods is produce, and the rest is everything from honey to meat and eggs. At the warehouse, they have big rooms to store food of all kind whether frozen, refrigerated or cellar temperatures are required.
In addition to the buying and selling of local food, the Hub also offers several programs: Grower Services provides tools and training to farmers, Farm To School helps local schools use more local produce and relationships with community partners work to break down barriers to accessibility.
In a nutshell, the Local Food Hub is doing everything it can to improve the consumption of local food for everyone in Charlottesville and the surrounding areas. We at the bakery have used the Hub for our sandwich ingredients and eggs. The Local Food Hub is, however, a nonprofit, and while it makes some revenue from mark-up, it relies heavily on private donations and grants to make ends meet.
Thus, the Food From Our Farms dinner was held in honor of the organization’s five year anniversary. This dinner was a fundraiser, and most of the tickets were sold in table form to community sponsors. Matt and I were so appreciative to get to attend and capture the merriment in photos.
On Sunday night we drove out to the gorgeous Verulam Farm and stepped into a warmly decorated barn.
Dress was “comfortable, warm, fall festive,” and the atmosphere matched.
The tables were set for dinner and decorated with what else – local food!
Each table had a cake as a centerpiece – cakes that we ate later in the evening!
For cocktail hour we feasted on hors d’oeuvres by Feast! Bluegrass by Gallatin Canyon flowed as did bar offerings from Wisdom Oak Winery, Michael Shaps Wineworks and Starr Hill.
Passed hors d’oeuvres included sweet potato biscuits with Edwards of Surry ham (these were GREAT!)
And dates stuffed with Caromont Farm chevre. Plus several other delicious bites – like pimento cheese stuffed peppers!
The dinner was prepared by a team of all-female chefs. Each course had a wine/cider pairing as well.
Our first course was prepared by Gay Beery of A Pimento Catering. I have blogged about A Pimento quite a lot lately and continue to be impressed! The soup was butternut and delicata squash with a garnish of capicola from the Rock Barn. It paired well with Jefferson Vineyards’ 2013 Pinot Gris.
Our main course was prepared by Melissa Close-Hart of Barboursville Vineyards’ Palladio Restaurant – an establishment I have yet visit!! We were served dinner family-style, which I love!
The main course included Spring Gate Farm leg of lamb, Woodson’s Mill five-cheese grits (my fav!!) and a ragu of five vegetables from the Barboursville garden. Everything tasted wonderful! With it we sipped Barboursville’s 2012 Cabernet Franc.
A cheese course by Gail Hobbs-Page of Caromont Farm came next. Gail introduced the five cheeses to the group while we tasted and sipped Blenheim’s 2012 Painted Red.
Our final course began with Albemarle Ciderworks’ Pomme Mary cider, which went perfectly with…
The most amazing Morris Orchard Apple-Bourbon Caramel Cake. What I would do for another slice this morning!! The cake was by Rachel Greenberg Willis of Cakes by Rachel.
We also passed around Agriberry raspberries and Saunders Brothers Asian pears drizzled in a caramel sauce.
Matt and I had the pleasure of sitting next to the Local Food Hub’s co-founder, Kate Collier, who also owns Feast! and across from Bridget Meagher, who owns Alexander’s Restaurant in Roanoke. It was a memorable night for sure, and we hope to support the Local Food Hub any way we can.
Disclosure: Matt and I were invited as guests of the Local Food Hub in exchange for this post.