Vegetables

A group is studying creating a food hub in the Walla Walla, Wash., area.

Organizers studying the feasibility of a food hub in the Walla Walla area hope area farmers return a survey before a Feb. 12 meeting.

A food producers workshop is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds Community Center.

The Blue Mountain Action Council received a USDA Local Food Promotion grant of nearly $134,000 in September to study the feasibility of establishing a food hub in Walla Walla.

“Instead of just having a farmers’ market or grocery store, we’re looking at the potential to bring back processing to Walla Walla,” said Jeff Mathias, food bank director for the action council.

The hub would process fruits and vegetables and distribute them throughout the region, he said.

The council is surveying suppliers to get a “snapshot” of production in the Walla Walla Valley, including Hermiston and Pendleton, Ore., and Asotin, Wash.

“We want to know what people are growing and what they’re doing with it,” Mathias said. “Are they doing any processing or value-added stuff?”

Information from the survey will be included in the workshop, to build scenarios of what a food hub could look like, he said.

“The more we get, the better that meeting’s going to be,” Mathias said.

A consultant is looking at USDA and conservation district data to compile information.

Mathias said the council sent out surveys to more than 175 people. He hopes to see 100 to 125 people in attendance.

Mathias said the meeting will give growers a better understanding of what a food hub is, how they could fit into it and possible benefits for them.

“It’s going to be really exciting for this area,” he said. “We used to have tons of canning and packing plants. It’s kind of gone away. This is going to be exciting to bring some back.”

Registration is required. Register by calling 509-524-5218.

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