NEWPORT — A grant from the United States Department of Agriculture will allow Sullivan County to study ways to promote and support local agriculture.
Awarded earlier this month, the $30,000 grant is to conduct a feasibility study surrounding farm-based economic development and study the need for an agricultural incubator in Unity.
“We’re looking at what is the feasibility of a food hub, of aggregating local food from small farms and being able to hit bigger markets,” said Seth Wilner, University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension regional field specialist in agriculture.
“We are in the ramp-up phase,” Wilner said. “It will be a fairly robust project that will likely take place over the course of the year.”
Area institutions such as college, university, school and hospital campuses for instance buy food wholesale. However many small farms do not produce the volume to support these markets.
The study would look into the possibility of creating a food hub in the county where local consumers could buy local produce wholesale at a central location.
“The conundrum for mid-sized farms is being able to access profitable wholesale markets,” Wilner said. “We want to know are there enough institutions to support this.”
What are the obstacles and barriers of creating a food hub, and how would the food be stored, refrigerated as well as trucked in and out of the food hub.
The study would also determine whether the existing farm infrastructure in Unity where the old county farm once was could be revitalized for local food production.
“There’s an old root cellar there. And there’s a fairly new orchard there as well,” Wilner said.
It’s an exciting project, he said. If proved financially viable the county would pursue further grants to establish the food hub and agricultural incubator, he said.