The Two Rivers Food Hub will soon be marking three years in operation, and a year of record growth and successful job creation while supporting the local food economy in Lanark Leeds and Grenville counties.
Bruce Enloe, General Manager for the Food Hub, explained that the year 2017 has been a pivotal year for the Two Rivers Food Hub, and represents a period of growth he anticipates will continue to build upon in future years. “We’re pleased with how things are shaping up at the Food Hub, we’re definitely on track for reaching the goals that were outlined five years ago when the Food Hub started out,” Bruce said.
Bruce went on to point out that since, its opening in November, 2014, the food hub has consistently met goals and strategic measures for success in acting as a connection point for buyers and sellers of local foods. Currently, the food hub is transporting local foods to restaurant and wholesale buyers throughout much of Eastern Ontario, with clients that include an Ottawa based casual eating chain, many ‘field to table’ restaurants, and institutional cafeterias.
In addition, the Two Rivers Food Hub sells products from approximately 90 area farms, and reports more than $700,000 in annualized wholesale sales, recording an increase of 36% in the previous quarter alone, a trend that seems destined to continue into 2018, as the food hub strives to reach its goal of $1.2 million in sales annually.
Peter McKenna, Two Rivers Food Hub Board Chair, explained that the upward trend in sales is a good sign for the food hub, and an indicator of the strong support the communities in Lanark Leeds Grenville and Ottawa have for local food incubation.
“We don’t want to toot our own horn, but things are looking good for the food hub moving forward into 2018,” he said, “The support we’ve received from the community, in addition to funding agencies like Valley Heartland, the Ontario Greenbelt Fund, the Trillium Foundation, the Eastern Ontario Development Program (EODP), and the Collaborative Economic Development Program (CEDP) has been, and will continue to be, valuable indicators of the food hub’s success.”
The Two Rivers Food Hub also plays in important role as full time and part-time job creator in the Lanark Leeds Grenville areas, and has, either directly or indirectly, created employment for more than 50 people, with the bulk of the job creation coming from its in-demand commercial kitchen rentals, where more than 30 jobs have been created over the past two years alone.
The commercial kitchen provides local food processors with an incubation space in which to grow their business, and as of 2017 more than 35 food processors have taken advantage of the kitchen space, creating an estimated $2.5 million of retail products each year.
The commercial kitchen space at the hub has supported processors like Loon Kombucha, Oat and Mill, rND Bakery, the Garlic Pantry, All About the Soup, and Agape Gardens. Most recently, Loon Kombucha experienced such growth that necessitated a move from the food hub’s incubator kitchens to larger facilities in order to support its continued expansion. Two other processors, rND Bakery and Oat and Mill, have begun distributing their products into retail stores province wide.
The food hub’s online local food marketplace provides purchasers with easy access to locally grown and processed foods from area producers, making it easy for buyers to find and select products. Bruce Enloe explained the food hub board has targeted expanding local food distribution into the institutional market, and increasing local food content in the menu offerings of more casual dining establishments.