South Central PA Harvest Hub Thriving in Third Year

The South Central PA Harvest Hub, housed on grounds of Northern York County School District (NYCSD) at the northwestern tip of York County, was established in June 2015 and is still going strong at the midpoint of its third year of operation. The implementation award of a $99,000 USDA grant was used to establish a system to aggregate and distribute local produce from area farms to local schools and other institutions via a Food Hub Coordinator position funding salary, travel, and Farm to School STEM education through base aquaponic equipment. The Harvest Hub has become a sustainable approach to removing procurement barriers and creating a fluid supply chain of local produce for school districts. In 2016, a USDA PA’s Rural Business Development Grant program funded a refrigerated Sprinter van with standby electric. Now, almost doubling in size since initial inception, the Harvest Hub sells to 12 school districts and one Pre-K through 8th private school, with locally grown produce to over 45,000 children in four counties. An online marketplace was created through Local Orbit, http://scpaharvesthub.localorbit.com, to facilitate communications, ordering and invoicing. Services include regular communication and promotion of our farmers (Facebook and Twitter, Get to Know Your Farmer Profiles, and Hub Banners) and their products verbally and virtually, and assisting our producers with additional food safety certifications as needed.

The original goal for the Harvest Hub was for the food hub to be financially self-sustaining. With that end in mind, Keystone Development Center, a non-profit that helps groups start cooperative businesses, has been contracted to help start a farmer cooperative. That process is well underway, and Capital Area Farmers Alliance is taking steps towards incorporation. Once incorporated, the farmer cooperative will partner with the Harvest Hub in its farm to school mission. The Harvest Hub now has another non-profit, Capital Resource, Conservation, and Development, as its temporary fiscal sponsor, and is in the process of researching a more permanent non-profit partner with a similar mission.