The Local Food Hub celebrated its sixth year of operations Thursday by honoring area farms and businesses that are improving the region’s food system.
“Central Virginia’s food system is improving every year,” said Kristen Suokko, the nonprofit’s executive director. “The [award winners] are contributing to better nutrition, a better environment and a more robust local economy.”
About 150 people attended the event at the food hub’s warehouse in Ivy.
“That is a testament to this community’s commitment to food and farms,” Suokko said.
Ten awards, in the form of a cutting board shaped like Virginia, were handed out in all.
The Pioneer in the Field award was given to Sunnyfield Farm of Rockingham County for quickly cultivating new land and for obtaining certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“In my visit with them this evening, I can see they are passionate and committed and I love being around farmers like that,” said Matt Lohr of Farm Credit of the Virginias.
The Rookie of the Year award went to Phantom Hill Farm of Louisa County, which was created by Kathryn Hanks and Chris Pohl in 2012. They produce spinach and other greens.
“They are young and beginning farmers, recent graduates of Virginia Tech and they decided to return to family land to begin their efforts,” said Laura Brown, communications director for the food hub.
Bundoran Farm by Natural Retreats provided a $1,500 cash award for a farm that has demonstrated innovation in agriculture. That also went to Phantom Hill Farm.
Their innovation is a “bubble agitator” that has allowed them to go from washing 20 pounds of lettuce an hour to 100 pounds an hour.
The Retail Leader award went to Greenwood Gourmet, which purchases many products from the Local Food Hub.
“They are always willing to test a new local product, and strive to ensure as many farms as possible benefit from their work,” Brown said. “They are extremely passionate about incorporating as many products from local farms as they can.”
“In this time, Trey has made local food an institutional tradition at the K-12 school and highlights local farms in his lunch, dinner, snacks and special-event menu creations,” Brown said.
Holt is even beginning a Farm to School Coalition to share best practices to increase the amount of local food in areas schools.
The Crutchfield Corp. received the Local Business, Community Impact award for its Farm to Workplace program. Company employees can sign up to receive a share of various fruits and vegetables grown by local farms.
The Trailblazer award went to multiple organizations for their work on the Fresh Farmacy Fruit and Veggie Prescription Program. That allows 76 families with specific health risks to receive food and recipes from local farms. The Fresh Farmacy is a partnership between the Thomas Jefferson Health District, Charlottesville Free Clinic, Sentara Martha Jefferson Starr Hill Health Clinic, JABA/Westhaven Nursing Clinic and the City of Promise.
“Early results have shown overwhelming positive feedback in increasing local health,” Brown said. “When we all work together we can make something happen in this community, and this gets locally produced food into the hands of people who need it.”
The Partner Producer of the Year award went to Agriberry Farm of Hanover County and Shepherd’s Hill Farm of Albemarle. They were both honored for “reliably delivering local products.”
Shepherd’s Hill Farm has been owned by the Bontrager family since 2010. They have more than 600 laying eggs and have been able to grow thanks to the efforts of the Local Food Hub.