The Hub on the Hill has received a grant for a refrigerated food truck.
ESSEX — The Hub on the Hill is adding a new delivery vehicle, a solar-powered, refrigerated truck.
The new equipment is being added through an Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) grant award from The Conservation Fund for Transporting Healthy Foods, according to Josh Bakelaar, ANCA’s director of local economies and agriculture.
“We are working to buy a vehicle with insulation already in place or to insulate it, probably a used vehicle, and outfit it with the solar powered refrigeration equipment,” he told the Sun.
It would be set up to take food from the Hub to buyers, possibly to areas where there is not much local distribution, he said.
“It might work like a mobile grocery store or mobile farmer’s market,” Bakelaar said. “We’re still in the process of working it out. The Hub is currently searching for a vehicle and the plan is to have this vehicle available this year.”
The solar-powered refrigeration system would allow the truck to keep farm products cold while parked or in transit for extended lengths of time.
“This could be streamlined and create a real convenience for the customers. When schools are looking and want to purchase from local farms, for example, sometimes buying from scattered locations can be difficult,” Bakelaar said.
The grant award was one of 11 given nationwide and comes as the Essex-based facility is planning to develop an online ordering platform for farmers, a system coordinated through the Hub website.
“We’re still figuring out how that would work,” Josh said.
“But the goal is to create an ordering system that really works for the farmers and for the buyers, including wholesale and direct buyers. It has the potential to make a giant step toward wholesale accounts.”
The Hub would accomplish the marketing aspect in cooperation with small farmers, something growers and producers don’t always have time for during the busy growing and harvest season.
“An online ordering platform could help drive business,” Bakelaar said.
“And it might be able to accommodate different sized services for different farms and provide market exposure via an online marketing system.”
The coordination effort is very much in development phase, Bakelaar said.
And it is very much attendant to careful planning for measured growth through the Hub’s cooperative services.
ANCA has continued to support the Hub via grant-writing efforts and won $95,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for start-up efforts used at the Hub last year.
Asked if the proposed 21 percent federal budget cuts to USDA might impact the small farm economy here, Bakelaar said it is definitely a concern.
“The USDA is a vital department for rural farm economies. Any cuts to their programs could impact local farms,” he said.
The current administrative budget in Washington D.C. is looking for a $4.7 billion (approximately 21 percent) proposed reduction to the discretionary USDA spending budget, Bakelaar said.
“Details on what services might be eliminated are not available at this time. But there is real concern that rural business services are among several areas that could be affected.”
According to reports last week from Reuters, proposed USDA spending cuts would not impact “mandatory spending established by law, like farm subsidies, only ‘discretionary’ programs where lawmakers can adjust spending.
“The USDA oversees agriculture, rural communities and nutritional programs, including funding for school lunches.”
The full budget is due from the White House mid-May.