Just over two years ago, the Pee Dee Food Hub in Marion County, South Carolina got started under the name of Agriporium. While the mission remains largely the same, putting produce from the farm directly on the tables of consumers, the methods have evolved. Director Jody Martin:
“There’s a lot of things happening. We kind of reorganized things last year under the banner of the Pee Dee Food Hub, a lot of directions, we kind of had to tweak some things, but we got through our first year, along with a storm thrown in there as well.
“And we’ve kicked off our second year of delivering product to our customer base, we got started back in April, which was very interesting this year, because you know what happened back in March with some very cold weather, but that’s farming for you. We’ve had to make some adjustments and tweaks to make things work with limited product with a lot of our product damaged by the freeze. But, we’re on the move and we’re servicing a lot of different customers in different markets.”
The original plan was to supply restaurants on South Carolina’s Grand Strand with fresh fruit and vegetables. Martin says that plan has evolved as well:
“We’ve had to make adjustment to try to find the right customers that were really looking for local, fresh product. So, we’re working with several different markets, one of them is farm-to-restaurant, and then farm-to-grocery, farm-to-workplace, working on some things on farm-to-institutions.
“The restaurant business is a tight business because of the small amount of volume for the higher end restaurants that really appreciate our products, but we’re working with some restaurants in Florence and Hartsville with plants of going into a specific area of the Grand Strand in the near future.”
How the food hub works with farmers has changed a little bit too, from the original model explains Martin:
“We work with those farmers and we work that crop plan in advance. We work closely with Tony Melton with Clemson Extension Service, and others to make sure that that is done properly. We work with a group of growers that have come to us, and we’ve been able to connect with that have to follow food safety guidelines, of course, and grower guidelines, we have to be very specific and have to be, as everybody in the food industry in these areas.
So, we’ve kind of worked with a group of farmers to spread our risk, and our variety of product, and it’s given us an opportunity to keep that moving. But, when the weather changes things get tight, we just have to adapt and adjust accordingly.”
We’ll visit further with Pee Dee Food Hub’s Director, Jody Martin tomorrow on Inside Agriculture on plans for the future. To learn more visit peedeefoodhub dot com.