The Kearsarge Food Hub was formed in the fall of 2014 by four Kearsarge natives and one Maine transplant who felt strongly about protecting the beauty of our natural world and its ability to provide for and nurture us and future generations.
We were all called, in our own ways, to the same paramount challenge: to reforge a sense of community around a localized food system. We came together over meals and informal meetings, not knowing exactly where or how to begin. We reached out to local farmers, producers, and community members, and slowly things began to come into focus...
We started putting down roots in Bradford, NH. We began by cultivating land, feeling strongly about reclaiming the knowledge of how to grow food. We had access to several small plots of land that enthusiastic community members offered to let us use free of charge - a perfect example of how ready people were to see growth in Bradford, and how willing they were to contribute.
From there, we built a roadside farm stand, Sweet Beet. We created our own definition of local: a 30-mile radius around Bradford. We began aggregating from producers within this radius, forging important relationships with the people doing the tough work of growing and preparing food from nature. We sold their goods, and our own produce from Sweet Beet Farm, to eager patrons.
Our team grew from 5 to 6 to 8, and so on...
Our contributing producers grew, too. From 10, to 20, to 30+.
Sweet Beet Farm Stand was a pilot project, a way to start opening new market channels for farmers and create reliable access to local food for locals and visitors alike. It was a relatively low investment project where we could begin engaging with the local food network while remaining responsive to the needs of the individuals within the system and to the system as a whole. We remained flexible enough to adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities that came our way, still not fully knowing our place or the best way to help. We were also careful to grow at a steady and sustainable pace and not bury ourselves in debt. We did this by being resourceful, accepting help, and collaborating with others whenever possible.
After two seasons in the farm stand, we had a new opportunity for growth. A local organization, Unless, LLC. had just purchased and old abandoned inn across town. The old Bradford Inn. They shared our mission of reviving a sense of community in Bradford. We struck up a partnership, moved Sweet Beet to this new space in the fall of 2016 (becoming a year-round indoor market) and began dreaming of more resources to build into this 10,000 sq. ft. building.
This became the Bradford INNovation Project - an attempt at creating community space with an emphasis on local food. For there we helped to designed the first floor with our project partners, raised over $30,000 from our community to contribute to the project, and dug into building renovations led by Bauer Construction.
The Bradford INNovation Project at 11 West Main is about creating connections and opportunities within a community that so desperately needs these thing. The building itself is an important icon, a common link not just symbolically but literally, holding together a constellation of different entities working in and on the space. We are just getting started realizing the potential of the space, and it is a collective effort.
For Kearsarge Food Hub’s part in the process, we are focusing on rounding out our involvement with the local food system by adding another stop along the chain - a kitchen! Our much-anticipated shared-use commercial kitchen will be opening soon, the central component of Phase 1 of the Bradford Innovation Project. We want to cook, bake, preserve, process, teach, and learn! Furthermore, we want the resources of a commercial kitchen available to individuals, businesses and organizations within our area. Details of how the “shared” aspect of the kitchen will work in practice are still unfolding.
It's been four years. Four years of making new fields, growing food, making connections, building structures, carrying out grant projects and making it up as we go along. Four years of community collaborations, new opportunities, school visits, food pantry deliveries, and fundraising. Four years of seeing the big picture while getting into the nitty gritty. There is no one way, no one right answer to localizing the food supply and reestablishing community. It is constant problem solving, communication and innovation...and we love every minute!
We were always driven by our guiding mission, but now we are officially a federally registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. We are delighted and excited to function as a charitable organization based in education and community collaboration.
And it's only the beginning!