Food hub to aid farmers

Published 11:32 am Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Jerry Tuttle

Set to open in South Hill is an organization dedicated to distributing area farmers’ produce more regularly than a Saturday Farmer’s Market.

The Southern Virginia Food Hub (SVFH), slated to open a location in June, involves a board of roughly 14 people from around the region whose agriculture experience ranges from produce to meats to dairy, greenhouse plants and business. The board includes a representative from the Virginia Growth Alliance, and the board chairman, Jerry Tuttle, owns a Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) farm in Lunenburg County.

Southern Virginia Food Hub Founder Ann Taylor-Wright said during a presentation at the Prince Edward County Extension Office on Monday that she had previously worked as a farmer in meat production. She said she had noticed friends and colleagues expressing needs for more venues to sell products — venues that sell for more than four hours a Saturday at area Farmer’s Markets — and a commercial kitchen to create products.

“These people get to be your family,” Taylor-Wright said. “It’s a great community.”

She said the process to become fully funded to open the SVFH was approximately four years. Taylor-Wright said the SVFH has received substantial grants from the Southside Planning District, The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, and the SVFH is fully funded.

Taylor-Wright said the property will be located at the Colonial Theatre in South Hill.

Tuttle and Taylor-Wright said the property will contain displays for consumers to shop and buy products, a commercial kitchen and freezer for farmers and producers to use and a coffee shop among other features.

“It’s going to be a local source for people to find locally-grown vegetables and fruits and meats and dairy products and value-added products, meaning things like jams and jellies,” Tuttle said.

He said Taylor-Wright had approached him about the food hub.

“She’s been working on the idea for about four years,” said Tuttle, who noted they have mutual clients. Taylor-Wright has worked as a meat farmer and producer.

“She approached me because I have a combination of both business degrees and business experience, and having a farm, … I kind of have a little bit of both worlds,” Tuttle said.

Tuttle said he owns a 200-old-year historic property called Brickland, which had formerly been a tobacco plantation but now serves as a vegetable farm where he grows CNG products. The address for the farm is in Kenbridge.

He said the farm has only a few wholesale customers and is not large enough to receive a Certified Organic label.

For those in the county who are interested in taking part in the food hub, he encouraged them to become involved.

“Usually with farmers in this area they have a hard time finding outlets to sell their products and their produce,” Tuttle said about farming challenges he has noticed in the area, “and a lot of the time, the produce that is raised goes to waste because there’s no outlet for it unless they take it to a large city, like Richmond or Raleigh or somewhere like that.”

Taylor-Wright said there are no current meetings scheduled to take place in Lunenburg County regarding the food hub, citing the area extension agent being out of town when she was first scheduling meetings, but said the SVFH has met in surrounding counties and will hold an open house and fundraising event in the spring.

Those interested can contact Taylor-Wright at