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Harvest Food Hub helping local farmers distribute their products to local consumers

Matt Hollinshead, mhollinshead@daily-times.com

FARMINGTON – The COVID-19 pandemic cast a shadow of uncertainty among local farmers and their ability to get their products out to local restaurants, schools and other retailers directly.

That’s where San Juan College’s Harvest Food Hub enters the picture, providing that much-needed avenue to help farmers continue distributions to chefs, retailers and home consumers.

The organization serves as a middleman between farmers and consumers, and has started a farm box distribution service that allows people to pre-order a box of produce for pickup at the college.

“There’s still uncertainty about whether customers are going to feel comfortable shopping at the farmers markets. Some of the markets have had lower numbers this year. At the same time, we can see there’s a lot of demand for local produce across the country,” said Harvest Food Hub Project Manager Erin Havens. “We’ve had amazing feedback from our customers and our farmers… A lot of our vulnerable populations are not as able to get out of the house and come to the farmers market. That’s where having the farm box option has been a really good help.”

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After San Juan College received a five-year grant in October 2018 to launch Harvest Food Hub, the project began operations more than two weeks ago.

“This is a part of an economic transformation of our community… Agriculture is one of those industries that can be identified with significant growth over the next few years. This is part of a larger vision,” said Dr. Lorenzo Reyes Jr., Dean of the Workforce and Economic Development Center at San Juan College.

Reyes Jr. also said Harvest Food Hub looks to implement a commercial kitchen in the next few months as part of its operations.

San Juan College's Harvest Food Hub is increasing market opportunities for local farmers by distributing their products to local restaurants, schools and other retail outlets.

Reyes Jr. said increasing sales of local products will help bring more wealth and job creation to local communities by utilizing assets such as agriculture.

Bread, salsa and vegetables are among the freshly grown products Harvest Food Hub is distributing to not only retailers, but also individual customers.

Customized orders, restaurant orders and wholesale orders through Harvest Food Hub are generated 10 a.m.-10 p.m. every Monday, Havens said.

Distributions for pre-ordered farm boxes worth $10 and $20 are held from 4-6 p.m. every Wednesday at San Juan College’s Quality Center for Business, located at 5101 College Boulevard in Farmington. 

Havens said those pre-orders must be completed by the previous Friday so the organization can stay on top of meeting demands.

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Harvest Food Hub will operate through at least early October in conjunction with the growing season, but eventually hopes to expand to year-round operations.

To place a food box order or for more information, visit https://www.sanjuancollege.edu/harvestfoodhub/.

“That money stays within our community, and it supports other industries in our community as well. Purchasing from our local farmers is really supporting more of our local businesses as well," Havens said. "We’re hoping over time, farmers will grow their production and grow their sales.” 

Harvest Food Hub volunteer Eli Pavlik brings a box containing fresh produce, including corn and squash, to a vehicle on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, at San Juan College's Quality Center for Business building in Farmington.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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