The 2011 Community Food Awards

The Local Food Hub opened its doors just two years ago, in July 2009, after local vendors and buyers alike recognized that they needed an intermediary to connect them to each other. Large buyers didn’t have the resources or time to call up producers one at a time, hoping to scrounge up enough green peppers to serve in the school cafeteria the next day, and local vendors were relegated to selling their produce at farmers markets or through Community Supported Agriculture shares due to a lack of liability and limitations in delivery capacity. The Local Food Hub connects these two seemingly disparate market shares – the small local farmer and the large institutional buyer – in a single cohesive distribution system.

On September 15, the Local Food Hub partnered with VDACS (the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services) to host its first Community Food Awards presentation. The goal was to recognize and honor those vendors and buyers who have made this distribution system such a success, particularly for Virginia’s economy. The speakers and presenters each had different words of praise for the Local Food Hub, but the overarching theme was evident: the Local Food Hub has had significant impact on keeping consumer dollars in the state and on directly benefiting the agriculture industry so as to keep farming a viable enterprise today and down the road.

2011 Community Food Awards program

The crowd assembles

Party favors, Local Food Hub-style

The refrigerated delivery truck

 Three farmers, or ‘partner producers’, were recognized first. The Community Mentor Award, for promoting the current and next generations of farmers through leading workshops, PVCC courses and more, went to Richard Bean of Double H Farm. The Partner Producer of the Year Award, for not merely just consistency and quality of product, but an ability and willingness to go above and beyond in delivery quantities, was presented to Jose and Adolfo Calixto of Singing Earth Produce. (I can attest to their reliability, as much of what UVa Dining purchases from the Local Food Hub originates at Singing Earth Produce.) The Agricultural Endurance Award, for longevity of farming and for carrying on despite the obstacles that may arise, went to Whitney Critzer of Critzer Family Farm.

Next, three buyers were acknowledged. The Small Business Award, for purchasing significant quantities of Local Food Hub product and for advertising it so clearly, went to Integral Yoga Natural Foods. The Trailblazer Award, for working creatively to find ways to bring local food to a sector of our population that doesn’t have easy access to it, went to Alicia Cost and Sandra Vasquez of Charlottesville City Schools Nutrition Services. And the Institutional Leader Award, for getting local products into an institutional niche (the hardest market for local producers to break into), went to the UVa Health System.

MC Terri Allard welcomes the audience

VDACS rep Robins Buck says a few words (complete with props)

Keynote speaker (and LFH Board Member) Lisa Colton makes her remarks

Marisa Vrooman hands Jose Calixto his award

The award recipients are acknowledged

It wouldn’t be an event truly celebrating local food without a sample of some of the delicacies being touted throughout the morning. The formal presentation concluded right around noon with a toast of sparkling grape juice from Oakencroft, and then a delicious buffet of local foods that had been prepared by local school chefs and their cafeteria staff. What a perfect (and beautiful – it was truly a feast for the eyes as much as it was for the taste buds) way to conclude this uplifting event! Bravo to our community for making the Local Food Hub a reality and a success.

Readying the toasts

Everyone helps themselves to the bountiful spread

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