The Kearsarge Food Hub was formed in the fall of 2014 by young adults fresh out of college 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 knew we wanted to be active in reclaiming the knowledge of how to grow food. We also knew we wanted to help local farmers and contribute to small scale agricultural viability. By starting a small farm ourselves, we set out to gain important, first-hand insight into the challenges inherent in New Hampshire agriculture, and thus be able to better aid and assist the local food system.
Several enthusiastic community members - Mike and Claire James, Rob Blank, and Chuck and Deb Spaulding - lent us small plots of land on which to grow food. We did not need to take out big loans or overextend ourselves financially to start growing vegetables, which was huge for us. The people of Bradford were ready and willing to contribute to new growth in the town. Sweet Beet Farm was born.
The other piece of the puzzle was distribution. In order to stay true to our mission of slow, manageable growth, we decided to build a seasonal roadside farm stand, where we could sell our own produce but also aggregate and distribute goods from other growers and producers in our area. The architectural plans for the stand were another community contribution, and we built the structure ourselves. All told our initial investment was about $10,000 from personal funds and small personal loans. We did not go into major debt starting this project.
On July 4th, 2015 we opened Sweet Beet Farm Stand. The farm stand was our opportunity to sell vegetables from Sweet Beet Farm and establish working relationships within the local food network. We began gaining trust from local farmers and producers as we helped to market and sell their products through the stand. We created our own definition of local: a 30-mile radius around Bradford. The logistics of organizing the supply within this radius has been a major source of legwork for us, but it is something we have learned is desperately needed in our area. Our suppliers grew from 10 to 20 to 30, and varied from organic vegetable growers to jam makers to meat producers.
Sweet Beet began to make a positive impact in our community, proving itself to be a welcome and necessary local food marketplace and an effective mechanism for making the fruits of agriculture more accessible and the business more viable. It became clear, however, that to achieve our goals as a community food hub - specifically to create year-round access to local food - we were going to need more space to grow into.
In the fall of 2016 an interesting opportunity presented itself: a small local company, Unless, LLC., bought the old Bradford Inn - a giant 10,000 square foot building that had been sitting abandoned on the corner of West Main Street for 15 years. The owners of Unless have been long-time hub supporters and they had a keene interest in actively contributing to the community through the development of this old building.
We struck up a partnership with Unless to help co-develop this space into a resource center for Bradford and the surrounding Kearsarge/Lake Sunapee area. We share a passion for creating space for community to connect and thrive, with an emphasis on local food, the arts, and local economic and business viability. Our efforts have become Bradford INNovation Project - revitalizing main street for our little town through innovative rehabilitation of an old building, spaced out in phases.
We moved Sweet Beet to 11 West Main, where it has become a year-round market, after renovating the space ourselves. We then set off to build a commercial kitchen. We purchased equipment from a beloved bakery, German John’s, so the couple could retire. We fundraised over $30,000 for renovations and equipment, and we built the space up from scratch ourselves. Now we can proudly say the kitchen is up and running, becoming our third Sweet Beet branch, operating alongside the farm and market. In the kitchen we are baking regularly, planning for more food processing and value added production, and exploring opportunities for education and events.
11 West Main is now abuzz with fresh energy and momentum. The Village Café, anchor tenants of our commercial kitchen, have opened for business, providing a much needed breakfast, lunch, and coffee spot for the community. The second floor of the building is home to the Circular Blu office and is about to open with Evergreen Healing Arts, a yoga studio and treatment space. Collaboration is in high gear and we are honored to be a part of all the exciting developments in our small town!
It's been five years. Five years of making new fields, growing food, making connections, building structures, carrying out grant projects and making it up as we go along. Five years of community collaborations, new opportunities, school visits, food pantry deliveries, and fundraising. Five 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 are nonprofit organization because our mission is centered around contributing to community and providing education, whenever and however we can. Through transparent and public development of our organization, we strive to share all the we have learned with anyone who wants to join us. We are devoted to our schools, institutions, partners, donors, and customers, and will continue to demonstrate our commitment by showing up every single day, doing the hard work with a smile.
Spring 2018: Received Capital Area Wellness Coalition's Well Done! Award
Summer 2017: Raised over $30,000 for the Bradford INNovation Project
January 2017: Received NOFA-NH's 2016 Outstanding New Farmers of the Year award
2016: Donated 2,600 lb of food to local pantries.
December 2016: Sweet Beet Market opened in a new location at the old Bradford Inn.
Summer 2016: Began distributing to local restaurants
Summer 2016: Raised over $6000 through our first fundraising campaign
2016: Launched a grant-funded business development workshop series
Summer 2015: Sweet Beet Farm Stand opened it doors!