San Juan College Harvest Food Hub & Kitchen opens near downtown Farmington
Grand opening celebration planned with live music, food trucks
- The Hub is located in a 4,813-square-foot building that used to house Farmington's homeless shelter.
- It is open from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
- The facility's main attraction is a retail store selling locally sourced food products.
FARMINGTON — The burgeoning local foods movement in San Juan County got a boost this week with the opening of the San Juan College Harvest Food Hub & Kitchen just south of downtown Farmington.
The 4,813-square-foot facility, which is housed in the former homeless shelter known as The Roof at 310 W. Animas St., is open from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. The staff will celebrate the businesses' grand opening at 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 16 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, live music, information tables and food trucks.
The facility's main attraction is a retail store selling locally sourced produce, meats, flour, tortilla chips, cheese, soaps, bread, eggs, preserves, salsa, cornmeal, honey and other products. It also includes a processing and packaging area, walk-in coolers, and a large space that will be converted into a commercial kitchen incubator available for rent by small food business operators.
Project manager Erin Havens said approximately $500,000 is needed to prepare the kitchen incubator space for use. Most of the equipment for the kitchen — sinks, ovens, stoves, etc. — has been purchased, but extensive electrical, plumbing, gas and some construction work still needs to be done. Havens said she hopes to land grant funding to cover that cost.
There is little doubt that such a facility would find plenty of users, Havens said.
"Absolutely," she said. "People as far as Durango (Colorado) would love to have a place like this to lease out."
Havens noted that most small foods companies do not have the resources to build and outfit their own commercial kitchen, and the incubator at the Hub would provide them with an affordable, convenient alternative they could lease on a limited basis.
She said the incubator would have four different stations, so multiple companies could use the kitchen at the same time.
Amy McNelis-Lunn serves as the kitchen manager, and she will be leading classes, including one on basic knife skills, in the incubator space while it awaits renovation. She noted the entire Four Corners region lacks a culinary arts program, and she hopes to see the Hub someday become the anchor for such a program, which she believes is badly needed.
"We would be it," she said. "For a 250-mile range, you're out of luck."
Doing it downtown
Havens said the idea for the Harvest Food Hub & Kitchen came from Judy Castleberry, director of the Enterprise Center at San Juan College. She wrote a grant for the project with Lorenzo Reyes, the dean of workforce and economic development at the college.
Officials always envisioned having the facility located in or near downtown Farmington, and they were eager to be part of the district's revitalization, which is being led by the Complete Streets renovation.
The Farmington City Council agreed in June 2019 to lease the building that once housed The Roof, the city's homeless shelter, to the college for the project.
The Hub is part of the Buy Fresh Buy Local Northwest New Mexico Chapter, a consortium of local food producers and organizations that works together to support, strengthen and advocate for a local food system. It includes organizers of growers markets in Farmington, Shiprock, Aztec, Bloomfield and Kirtland.
The grand opening of the Hub comes in the midst of the Northwest New Mexico Local Food Summit, a four-day event ending July 16 and featuring a mix of virtual and live offerings that promote the development of a local food system.
The Hub also provides a regular retail outlet for food producers in the area. Havens said the Hub's market features the products of 25 to 30 such companies, including Rez Meets Urban Zesty Salsa Inc., a Durango-based company owned by Gallup native Mikquel Matherson and her husband, that produces a line of salsas.
Matherson said she came up with the idea for the company in 2015 after noticing there was an absence of New Mexico-style salsas in the Durango market. The company now has its products featured in 10 locations in the Durango and Farmington areas, and she expects it to see gross sales of more than $100,000 this year. Rez Meets Urban doubled its sales in the Durango area during the pandemic, she said.
Matherson, a Fort Lewis College graduate who is Navajo and Hopi, said McNelis-Lunn reached out to her via social media about selling her line of salsas at the Hub. Matherson was eager to expand her company's presence in the state where she grew up and took McNelis-Lunn up on the offer.
"I liked their vision they have and the goals they would like to meet," she said of Havens and McNelis-Lunn.
Havens hopes to establish relationships like that with many more local foods producers, something that would, in turn, help attract new customers to the store.
"There's room for growth on both sides," she said. "We'd love to have more community support."
The Hub is being funded primarily by grand money, but Havens and McNelis-Lunn envision a day when it is able to sustain itself through retail sales and the commercial kitchen incubator.
Call 505-566-3119 or visit sanjuancollege.edu/harvestfoodhub for more information.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.